Top 10 Apparel Sales Challenges – and How to Conquer Them Jimmy Lamb, Sawgrass Technologies & Dana Zezzo, Pro Towels Etc. Tuesday, July 13 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Room 180 All education handouts are available to download at www.asicentral.com/handouts Top 10 Apparel Sales Challenges And How To Conquer Them Jimmy Lamb & Dana Zezzo This is an interactive presentation that includes role-playing by the Instructors. You are encouraged to focus on the “details” of the dialogue, as this is where you will get the most value out of this class. Both of the Presenters are highly experienced Apparel Decoration Professionals with over 40 years of experience between them and the points that will be covered are the results of many real-world encounters. The class handout should be considered as a supplemental resource as the presentation will not follow the sequence or structure of the information contained herein. Brand Names Are Everything Many of your customers will be hung up on brand names and demand that you supply them. Unfortunately, many brand name items are not available to you, so of course you are unable to comply with their request. There are a couple of points to consider with this challenge. The first is that brand name does not mean exclusivity in terms of garment construction. Thus, the more you know about popular brands the better, as it will arm you with the information you need to counter their request and to find alternate items. Let’s use Under Armor as an example. They use 100% polyperformance apparel, moisture wicking fabrics in their garments (exclusively). Thus, finding alternative sources (such as Vapor Apparel) that manufacture the same types of garments is the key to complying with a request to supply Under Armor. The second issue is that alternative brands are usually much lower in price, yet higher in quality. Brand name does not mean high quality, but it pretty much guarantees higher pricing. So you are doing the customer a favor by coming up with different “lesser name” options. The third factor is that most name brands are manufactured by the same companies that produce most of the blanks for the decorated apparel industry. Though this information is highly confidential and hard to come by, you may be able to deduce some of the sources simply by becoming very familiar with blank apparel choices and name brand choices, and making some hands-on comparisons. Visiting Industry Trades is a great way to do this. Useful Hint: VF Brands does a lot of work for name brand companies. Apparel Is Unisex True, many blank items such as sweatshirts and t-shirts are traditionally uni-sex in nature. But when it comes to quality garments that are a bit more form fitting such as polo’s and dress shirts, there is a difference between male and female versions. This is especially important in regards to staff uniforms, where the goal is to present a professional image. Let’s face it, men and women are built differently, so with more high end products, manufacturers design two different versions for many of their products, so as to create a better fit for the intended user. In addition, styling tends to be different between the sexes. What appeals to women may not appeal to mean and vice versa. If you are dealing with a man, he will be more inclined to focus on unisex merchandise, because in most cases he doesn’t know, care about or want to deal with the difference in male and female versions of apparel. (A woman will know!) That means education on your part. Bottom-line, people will happily wear what they like and avoid what they dislike. Price Is Everything No matter what you are selling, price always seems to move to the forefront. But there is a lot of truth in the phrase “you get what you pay for.” So how do you counter this challenge? The list is long, but here are a few things to consider: 1. Provide samples of low – medium – high quality for each item you are presenting. This lets the customer feel and touch and make a logical decision based on reality rather than conjecture. 2. Point out perception is reality. If you use products that “appear” to be cheap in construction, the impression is that your company is cheap in nature. 3. ROI. In most cases, better quality items are actually lower in cost in the long term. If they spend $500 and get 3 years of wear-ability, versus $250 and 1 year of wear-ability, the tables are turned on cost. Creativity Is For Art Class Not For Apparel More often than not, a customer chooses the most boring combination of apparel style, garment color and logo placement. The end result is mediocre at best. The key here is to create excitement! The reality is that most customers are just too conservative and boring themselves, thus their ideas reflect their personality. However, if you are able to “jazz up” the offering without being too extreme, it can easily translate into a larger first order and plenty of successive follow-up orders. If people are excited with their products they tend to buy more! The first order of business is to figure out what the purpose of the garment is. In all likelihood promotion is a key element, thus the item must deliver the message. Thus, it’s important to prominently display the logo or message and to use colors that catch the eye. Color is important in both the logo and the garment itself. Too conservative with either and the messaging is lost. The second concept is to identify who is wearing the garment and choose styles that work for that type of person, yet deliver the message. In the case of polo’s for example, its customary to place a small logo on the left chest using embroidery. Spice that up by adding something on a sleeve and also right below the collar on the back. Back locations are awesome, because when standing in a line, the message is delivered to the person behind you. Also, front, back and side locations mean the message is going out 360 degrees. Apparel Is An Expense, Not A Benefit Wrong! On a cost per item basis, apparel could certainly be considered as an extravagant expense, but when you look at the effectiveness of the medium, the cost versus benefit changes dramatically. Many traditional promotional products get put in or on a desk and thus have limited exposure. Apparel on the other hand is large in size compared to many other products and thus more prominent. Plus it gets worn in public which means a high level of visibility. With the right customer, apparel products can be sold to the end-user, which means they are paying the business to advertise for them. Think about Hard Rock Café. Their entire promotional campaign is based on promotional products, with apparel being one of the most successful advertising products. Fabric Is Of No Concern – 100% Cotton Works Fine True, 100% cotton is very popular, but its only one piece of the fabric puzzle. The reality, is that the garment and fabric needs to be chosen based on the user. For example, 100% cotton breathes well and is ideal for high temperature conditions. But it also wrinkle very easily. 50/50 (poly cotton) may not be quite as cool, but it is truly wash and wear. In actuality, advances in fiber technology have produced poly based fabrics that are every bit as cool and comfortable as 100% cotton. Poly-performance products are 100% polyester, yet they are cooler and more comfortable than most 100% cotton and 50/50 garments on the market. Today’s poly products are not in the same league as those of former years – they have advanced tremendously, but require a bit of convincing when trying to introduce to older clients. In addition to fabric content, you must also look at the fabric surface. There are a lot of popular styles as jersey, pique, microfiber, moisture wicking, scupltered knits, corduroy, etc each with a different type of surface texture. The texture may affect the type of decoration. For example, uneven surfaces can be a challenge for embroidery. Moisture wicking fabrics depend on small pores to allow the process to work, thus surface printing applications such as screen-printing, directto-garment, and heat transfers may cause interference. (Sublimation is the best process). So in addition to affecting wear-ability, fabric content may also affect the choice of decoration. Headwear Is For Teenagers Headwear is a very cost-effective method of delivering a message with apparel and it’s not limited to teenagers. Plenty of adult men and even some women wear caps and visors. They key is to match the style of headwear with the targeted end user. Teenagers definitely wear different styles from adults. If you have a message targeting a teen demographic, then you want to invest in styles that they like and then find a way to get it on their heads. The same goes for adults. Headwear is a marketing strategy, not an apparel decision! BTW – 75% of what teens are wearing today (headwear that is) will find its way onto the heads of adults within 2 years. One Style – All Seasons! Unless you live in the desert, it’s not likely that you wear the same type of garment year round, as different seasons many different weather patterns. The effectiveness of apparel as a promotional tool depends on it being worn as often as possible. A polo shirt works well in the summer and even gets worn in the winter. But in a colder climate it gets worn UNDER a jacket or sweater during the winter, thus the promotional value drops to ZERO. You must emphasize to your client that they will need to different garment for different seasons for this reason. In addition, variety is good, as people get bored with wearing the same thing all the time. Being able to mix it up, means the chances that a garment gets worn frequently increase dramatically. Green Is More Than A Label Providing eco-friendly garments is much more challenging than it may seem. And in the long run, items that seem green may not be. Just like the term “sale”, “green” is overused and abused with very few if any standards that define how it is applied or what it means. So with that in mind, be aware that truly finding eco-friendly apparel may be much harder than it seems, with the end result being something that costs more but is not necessarily any “greener” than anything else in the long run. For example, a product may taut that it’s composed of organic cotton, wool or bamboo. But what kind of dyes were used to color the fibers? Technically, the dye process may have negated the green characteristics of the fabric. Same thing goes for the decoration process. Some inks are environmentally friendly and some are not. Embroidery threads oil based for the most part. Because there are so many details that go into a garment from beginning to end, it’s nearly impossible to really guarantee that the final product is truly environmentally friendly. With that said, from a marketing perspective, eco-friendly products are hot, so it pays to become as familiar as possible with the concepts so you use them to your advantage. For example, organic t-shirts printed with water-soluble digital inks. Embellishment Is More Than Decoration The type of embellishment is a critical part of the puzzle. Not only does it affect price, it also affects how the garment feels and looks. It should also be appropriate for the situation. For example, embroidery conveys an image of higher quality and is perfect for higher-end garments and headwear. But it’s only cost effective in small doses, meaning large designs are prohibitively expensive to produce. Embroidery also works much better on heavyweight fabrics than lightweight fabrics. In contrast, t-shirts by their very nature are not considered to be high end garments, so embroidery is not really necessary, nor is it cost effective, as t-shirts make for an ideal billboard when to comes to decoration. Think screenprinting, digital, sublimation and heat transfers. Another aspect is logo detail. Embroidery is not capable of reproducing photo-quality graphics and struggles with small details. Screenprinting can produce minute details, but has color limitations. Digital can typically produce high resolution images, with precise details, in millions of colors. However, digital printing typically costs more than screenprinting, especially in higher quantities. So embellishment is important, but needs to be selected carefully.
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