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Purchase Quality Equipment and Software
From Stitches' State of the Industry 2009
May 2009
By Shane Dale

Stitches readers invested heavily in their businesses last year as a smart way to keep revenues up. Two-thirds of decorators (66.5%) purchased new software, and more than two out of every five decorators (42.1%) bought new decorating equipment in 2008.

Bill Richards, senior account manager for SWF East, says decorators recognize that investing in software and machinery is essential. "For people in the business, it’s important to diversify," he says. "People want to go to one place for everything. The same could be true for their decorating needs, too. If they screen print and bring in the ability to embroider, that’s going to keep more customers."

Among those who purchased new equipment, three-quarters of respondents bought new, rather than used, machinery. "It’s very important to keep up with the latest technology, as equipment has changed over the years," says Ron Long, national sales manager for Pantograms. "Machines are smarter, they’re more efficient and they’re a little quieter these days."

As for software? "Technology changes monthly and some have wireless capabilities," Long says. "The key is time management – being able to spend your time wisely."

Dennis Fankuchen, embroidery manager for K&K Embroidery Services, the largest bowling pro shop in the world, just purchased Melco’s DesignShop Pro software, along with six single-head Tajima NEO embroidery machines, just to keep up with the demand for bowling shirts. "The good thing about our industry is that even if the economy goes bad, people want to take out their frustration on the pins," he says.

Indeed, single-head embroidery machines were the top hardware investment among decorators in 2008 (46.4%). But while things are going great for Fankuchen, he says that buying additional equipment shouldn’t be a top priority for struggling decorators. "If you’re not doing well, it’s time to invest in some marketing, not equipment," he says.

Jody Young, owner of Young at Heart Embroidery, is one of those decorators who has seen sales level off recently. In fact, she’s become frustrated at the number of people who have purchased auto-digitizing software – the number one software add-on by decorators in 2008 (31.8%) – and are taking up a lot of online advertising space. "Unfortunately, anyone who gets this software now believes that they can sell designs," she says. "The market is saturated right now. It makes it harder to sell designs with the increased volume of designs out there."

However, Young admits that the inflated market can be a good thing. "In a way, I think it’s positive because people have more choices," she says.

Of course, your software’s no good if you can’t learn how to use it. Richards says it’s important to make sure that your investment comes with outstanding technical support. "There are some people that are selling and walking away, or only giving e-mail support," he says. "That’s not always the best answer."

When Pat English decided that she wanted to create her own clip art, rather than rely on stock designs, Hirsch International was able to convince her to upgrade to its Pulse Illustrator software, in part because of the company’s above-and-beyond customer service.

"Hirsch gives you a year to go to their offices to learn its software," says English, owner of Juniper Trail Embroidery, adding that she joined a paid online embroidery forum to further familiarize herself with the software. "I really learned the software because of the forum itself and people coming in with questions daily," she says. "People who know what they’re doing answer them."

But English didn’t need a tutorial for her recent shrewd machine purchase: a brand-new Tajima single-head NEO to complement her six-year-old NEO. "Hirsch had a sale in December that had the NEO at a discount," she says. "I was closing my shop all the time and I couldn’t keep up with the orders because I only had one machine, so that’s why I invested – so I wouldn’t have to close. I can make two shirts instead of one at a time, and there wasn’t a learning curve because it’s basically the same machine." – SD

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