WEARABLES SALES FORECAST
Consider Adding In-House Decoration
By Christopher Ruvo
Little more than a year ago, Kim Boone’s distributorship began embroidering, screen printing and heat-pressing to gain more control over quality and production. The CEO of All My Best Inc. (asi/117012
) in Rocklin, CA, has achieved both. “I’m not dependent on anyone else’s schedule or quality,” she says. Decorating in-house has also increased profitability and customer acquisition. “There are people who come to us now because our decorating ability gives us even more creditability,” says Boone, noting sales are up more than 150% over last year, a rise driven, in part, by in-house decorating.
Boone is one of many distributors who have in-house decoration capabilities or have considered added them. Todd O’Bryan, director of sales and marketing at Impressive Imprints (asi/230512
), says a key advantage to having in-house decoration equipment at the company’s facility in North Tonawanda, NY, is quicker turnaround times, especially on rush orders. “We get the garments and we can work the production schedule to meet the most pressing demands of our clients,” says O’Bryan. “A lot of clients need that flexibility.”
By embellishing, distributors can offer especially competitive prices, an impactful differentiator in an increasingly budget-conscious marketplace. “Sometimes, because we’re making money on the product and the embroidery, we can offer a lower price to the customer,” says Robert Albert, owner of Impressive Imprints. Another upside to embellishing in-house is that you can nix fees associated with shipping garments to and from a contract decorator. That expense elimination could become even more attractive as freight costs rise.
At Impressive Imprints, the embroidery operation was initially intended to serve just the company’s needs. But other distributors began coming to Albert for embroidery. Seeing an opportunity, he increased the stitching setup from one four-head machine to multiple machines comprising more than 20 heads. He then launched Thread Branders, a wholesale decorator stationed in the same building as Impressive Imprints. The wholesale work is a significant stream of revenue that Albert wouldn’t have had he not ventured into embroidery. And to avoid potential conflicts, a confidentiality agreement ensures Impressive Imprints’ reps will not have access to or pursue the other distributors’ clients, says O’Bryan.
Of course, if doing decoration in-house was easy, everyone would do it. There are constant daily challenges and considerable start-up and recurring costs. For example, Howard Potter paid upwards of $25,000 for the equipment and supplies required to start screen printing at his A&P Master Images in Yorkville, NY. He says a basic embroidery operation with a good single-head machine, which wouldn’t be sufficient for large-volume orders, runs $12,000 to $15,000.
Meanwhile, Boone needs to profit $20,000 to $25,000 a month to pay employees, cover the expense of renting 6,000 square feet of warehouse/office space and pay for and maintain two embroidery machines (a six-head and a single-head), screen printing presses and a heat press. “We need to make a quarter-million annually to keep the machines running and the lights on,” says O’Bryan, who adds that finding quality employees for a reasonable wage can be difficult.
Efficiently managing a production schedule is an integral – and challenging – part of decorating. Albert is fortunate to have an experienced production manager who coordinates the flow of orders, putting efficient processes in place and creating precise daily updates on exactly when an order will run, finish and ship. Even with a capable controller in place, though, distributors must understand decorating so they can ensure efficient production strategies are implemented. “You can’t just be a sales rep,” says Boone. “You need to man the production part, too.”
Before leaping into decoration, do your research and seek training, says Potter. He spent more than 18 months researching various embroidery machines and took classes with embroidery coach Joyce Jagger before beginning to stitch. “You really need to talk to experts,” says O’Bryan.