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From The Editor's Desk
Stitches' State of the Industry 2010
May 2010
By Nicole Rollender

Across the country, home-based shops, retail operations and big contract shops are confident 2010 is going to be a great year. And, all signs are pointing to that economic recovery: Retail spending rose sharply – about 4% – in the January-to-March period, which shows that consumers are spending again. Auto sales were up 24% in March, compared with a year earlier. And, big banks are reporting lifted first-quarter earnings (JPMorgan Chase & Co. at $3.3 billion and Citigroup at $4.4 billion), indicating that financial institutions are starting to put the crisis behind them.

And, the Stitches State of the Industry survey data reveals that decorating companies are forging forward, as well: Forty percent of you reported a decline in profits between 2008 and 2009, but a larger number – 52% – experienced either flat sales or an increase. And, while nearly two-thirds (64%) of you didn’t add new equipment or software to your shops in 2009 (up from 58% in 2008), 35% of you added affordable heat-press and single-head embroidery equipment to up your production. A majority of you are smartly investing in your people and your marketing efforts. Nearly 75% of you either increased your number of employees or kept your staffs and their compensation intact. And, a whopping 93% of you are either increasing (37%) or keeping your marketing budgets the same (56%), even as you’ve cut other expenses.

That’s why we’ve dedicated the 2010 State of the Industry issue, our annual edition that analyzes where the industry was and where it’s headed, to providing a blueprint for how decorators can keep succeeding right now – we’ve packed it with smart strategies, quick tips, success stories and statistics.

In our 11-part guide, we’ll give you proven success strategies from the experts to keep your business in the black. You’ll learn how to get more business from your current customers – and start a referral program that can bring in leads on day one. Wondering how you can stretch your marketing dollars? We’ve got some cheap, but effective, marketing ideas (think podcasts). Curious about what markets are buying decorated apparel? We’ve got the answers. (Hint: Choirs and masons.) Wondering where to invest your extra dollars? We’ve got advice on what equipment and software you should buy to stay profitable.

We asked business experts and decorator industry veterans to weigh in on your sales, marketing, customer retention, operations, personnel and pricing challenges – their advice will give you great strategies to use in 2010. You’ll also meet decorators who’ll inspire you.

Take Heather White, who runs Sherman, NY-based Triple E Manufacturing with her family. They hit the jackpot by embellishing halters, head stalls, reins, grooming bags and saddle covers for the equestrian market. About 40% of Triple E’s sales are in the equine business, which the family took on a few years ago.

“We took a huge risk, but it’s paid off,” White says. “We do thousands of halters a year. We’re steady as far as where we were last year. People are still buying their horses stuff, which is good.”

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