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Ways to Sell More Accessories
By C.J. Mittica, Robert Carey and Daniel Walsh
Research by Larry Basinait
Nov-Dec, 2010

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It’s too easy to overlook all the accessories available in the marketplace, and just concentrate on bags and hats (by far the two most popular options). So what else is out there, and how do you sell it?

Wolfmark (asi/98085) began as a tie company, but branched out, as ties are less common in some lines of work. "As long as they’re calling us for ties, we figured out what other items can we throw in," says President Bruce Everakes. "About 10 years ago, we started to expand into blankets." Now Wolfmark offers everything from blankets and fleeces to vests and scarves. "We have a lot of accessories that other people don’t have," Everakes says. Wolfmark carries accessories because people will buy them – but first, clients need to know about the products. Wolfmark does this via an online store and by simply telling the clients about these other products. Sometimes the supplier will even include free accessories with an order for other products.

For Wolfmark, it can be easier to stand out in the promotional apparel world simply because the supplier offers something other than T-shirts, which are most common. "If a distributor is going to see one of their clients, and everyone’s showing shirts, they’re going to get shirt shock – that may be the best way to say it," Everakes says. "You’re bringing them something different." That’s what accessories can do – change things up and make the potential client remember you among other pitchers.

Susan Gagainis, owner of Pro-Visions (asi/202900) in Mequon, WI, says that because accessories are different from standard shirts, distributors need to present them to a client more often than other items. "You have to show a client or prospect the item, in my experience," she says. "With accessories they can’t visualize the product if they don’t see it. And if anyone is considering an accessory, they’re looking at a larger item anyway," she says. That means multiple potential sales on the same call, sometimes for things that clients might not even think of. "Along with that accessory, what do you do with your cell phone when you’re not on the cell phone? There’s an accessory for that," she says.

The trick is to be willing to try these other items. "It’s easier for distributors to sell a shirt because they’re more comfortable with it," Everakes says. Lose that discomfort, and there could be more sales on the horizon. Eventually, those accessories could become a viable and equal part of your sales. "If I had a buck every time someone came up and rubbed our bamboo blankets, I’d be collecting dollar bills," he says. "We wanted to try something new."

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

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