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From the Editor's Desk: Optimism Is Key
Stitches State of the Industry 2009
May 2009
By Nicole Rollender

It hasn’t been an easy year economically. Unemployment numbers have been on the rise. More homes have gone into foreclosure. And, most business owners have to contend with a whole host of challenges: generating new business; dealing with the credit crisis; eliminating staff; reducing employee compensation; and marketing their business in new and unique ways.

That’s why this is the perfect time to publish our first-annual Stitches State of the Industry report. Earlier this year, we conducted an extensive survey of the embroidery industry to find out everything from how decorators rate the industry’s health, to what capital investments you made in 2008, to what your top three sources of competition are. We reveal that data in this report to give you insight into how you can leverage your company’s strengths this year. We offer nine separate how-to articles that provide successful decorators’ best tactics for tackling this economy’s unique business challenges.
 
The good news is that decorators seem to be a generally optimistic group, as more than half rated the economy at the end of 2008 as “fair” – amazingly, 32% rated it as being smack in the middle of “fair” and “robust.” That’s not to say, though, that decorators aren’t struggling to retain key staff, drum up new business, purchase new equipment, and most importantly, compete against other decorating businesses.

But savvy decorators are dealing with their competition in very smart ways. For example, Jane Cibulskas, owner and president of National Embroidery & Transfer Services Ltd., has developed an interesting way of dealing with the competition. “We look for ways that we can partner with our competition,” she told us. “We’re a 50-machine shop that offers direct-to-garment printing, heat transfers and promotional products, and we sub out screen printing.” Instead of trying to beat out small local competitors, Cibulskas develops relationships with them. “If they get a job for 100 shirts that they aren’t able to produce, we hope they refer the business to us, the same way we refer 1,000-plus jobs to a larger shop,” she says.

In the Stitches State of the Industry report, you’ll learn how to keep your decorated apparel sales up when buyers stop buying – and we’ve got the lowdown on recession-proof markets. Curious about how you can become a Web 2.0 marketer with no money down? We’ve got the answers. Are you worried about how to compete against other local decorators? Don’t fret – we’ve got some ideas to keep you head and shoulders above the competition. Want to make sure your best clients don’t defect because of price? Learn what you can do to make yourself irreplaceable to your top customers. Can’t offer your employees a raise this year? We’ve got some other unique ways to keep your top people. Are your clients asking you about product safety? We’ve got the goods on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, along with how you can work with your suppliers to ensure products you purchase from overseas are safe and aren’t made with child labor or in sweatshops.

Overall, what we learned from this survey is that decorators who are succeeding in this economy know the value of what they have to sell – namely, decoration expertise and top-notch digitizing skills. “As a decorator, I have total control over the end product, over when it gets done and how it gets done,” Jeff Taxdahl, owner of Thread Logic, told us. “If you’re buying golf balls from some factory in Tennessee, you lose that control. As a decorator, you add value to how you digitize, how you do the embroidery. It’s commodity, baby.”

We hope that this issue will help you weather any rough spots your business may hit this year. And, I’d love to hear what your business plans are for 2009. Where do you think your pressure points are? What are your strengths? E-mail me at nrollender@asicentral.com.

Cheers,

Nicole Rollender

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