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Create More Apparel Programs
By C.J. Mittica, Robert Carey and Daniel Walsh
Research by Larry Basinait
Nov-Dec, 2010

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Apparel programs: Simple, straightforward and unappreciated? Apparently so, after distributors remarked that clients look for them for service, price and creativity instead of their ability to run an apparel program. So are the programs that difficult? For Taraynn Lloyd, director of marketing at Edwards Garment (asi/51752), the key is understanding exactly what clients want. When asked for tips on putting together apparel programs, she doesn’t rattle off answers, but rather a list of questions – questions that should be asked of clients right away. For example, take a restaurant that needs uniforms. “What’s the end-user’s style and image policy?” Lloyd asks. “What’s their brand strategy? Are they trying to brand it with the same colors of the restaurant? Is it an American restaurant? What are the colors that are going to harmonize with the image?”

Knowing the roles is vital, Lloyd says, and her questions go on:

If there are different roles the buyer has to outfit, such as hostesses, bartenders and waiters, should those groups get different products? Are staffers prone to getting dirty? Then maybe you should suggest material that washes easily and is stain-resistant.

Is safety a factor? Choose clothing accordingly.

Are there seasonal changes that affect weather and temperature? Then maybe they need a warm-weather shirt and a cold-weather shirt.

How long do they want this program to go on? That will factor in when choosing available colors and replacements for later. “You also want them to look similar. If a person has been there over a long period of time, you want the colors to still look the same,” she says.

Those questions are key not only for a distributor to tailor their apparel program for a client, but to also get the client to realize that a dedicated program may be in its best interest. “I think that oftentimes, distributors don’t ask enough questions on the front end,” Lloyd says. “They should bring in samples that the purchaser can touch and feel. If it’s in the right size, that’s great, because they can try them on.”

The Icebox (asi/229395), an Atlanta-based distributor, has an agency-style approach and often deals with larger companies. That means answering requests for proposals (RFPs) and finding out that RFPs are out there to begin with. The key thing is to know what your company can handle and what the client wants, without overreaching to pull off the job. “The biggest pitfall, I would say, is there are companies that will pitch to win no matter what,” says Adrian Sasine, director of marketing for The Icebox. “They will pitch the lowest price no matter what and then figure it out later. We don’t do that. We figure it all out up front.” This way, The Icebox doesn’t have to come back later to change orders after it realizes it can’t do the work the client wants at the quoted price. It gets it right the first time.

C.J. Mittica is editor, Robert Carey is a contributing writer and Daniel Walsh is a staff writer for Wearables. 

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