Increase Apparel Sales By Targeting 4 Key Markets In 2014
When it comes to selling imprinted apparel and accessories, the two top markets remain the same: education and clubs/associations. While it obviously makes sense to pursue business in those markets, it’s also important not to overlook ample opportunities that exist in other sectors poised for growth in 2014 and beyond. Here are industry profiles, success stories and sales strategies for four growing markets that will help you rev-up revenue in the next year.
After bailouts, recessionary turmoil and slower-than-hoped growth, things are looking up for the financial industry. Consider that the six largest U.S. banks all increased revenue in the first half of the year. In June, the financial industry regained its previous place as the U.S.’s most profitable sector in Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, ending technology’s reign. More broadly, revenue within the financial/insurance industry has been rising; the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the industry’s second quarter tally reached $879.9 billion, a 4.2% jump over the same quarter the previous year.
Meanwhile, the data on jobs is good, too. Wages are rising, and the federal government predicts total employment within the sector will increase by 16% between 2010 and 2020. Looked at even closer, sub-sectors that could perform particularly well include investment banking, retail banking and commercial banking, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Among their key clients, husband-and-wife team Jill and Jay Harman count a large holding company that has 42 banks under its umbrella. The Harmans, Georgia-based marketing consultants for American Solutions for Business (asi/120075), beat out a host of competitors for the account, going through a process that involved RFPs, multiple suit-and-tie presentations and more.
To keep this massive customer happy, the Harmans focus on providing outstanding service. Those efforts have included building a comprehensive online store stocked with a range of apparel, including crisp wovens, traditional polo shirts and attractively imprinted jackets. New products are frequently added to the store. “When I go to the trade shows, I’m always looking for new fabrics and styles to present to them,” says Jill Harman.
Of course, the Harmans do a lot more for this top account. They’re always creating unique promotional packages for the various banks within the network. To do this effectively, the pair has invested much time in learning about the goals, expectations and needs of each bank, some of which are small and others of which have scores of branches. “We’re definitely seeing a growth trend with this client, especially over the last six months,” says Jill Harman, who believes financial market is a hot one to target. “They buy a whole gamut of products, so there’s a lot of potential.”
Help financial planning firms hit a hole in one with a select golf outing in which their top clients receive imprinted retail-brand golf shirts and caps, along with golf balls and gloves, all delivered in a golf bag embellished with the firm’s company logo.
In August, output from U.S. factories surged, driven by a six-year high in motor vehicle manufacturing. The same month, production of consumer goods, machinery, appliances, and aerospace and high-tech equipment also increased. Such a performance could be indicative of a longer-term positive trend in America’s manufacturing sector.
Over the next several months, U.S. manufacturing is on target for 3.5% growth according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Continued gains in automotive, aerospace and machinery could power the increase. “In the coming years,” says Chad Moutray, the association’s chief economist, “we could see 3% to 4% growth.”
Such advancement would build on a positive 2012 in which manufacturers contributed $1.87 trillion to the U.S. economy, an 8% increase over the prior year and a contribution of 11.9% of total gross domestic product. While high taxes and regulatory burdens could slow manufacturing’s acceleration, there is much in the U.S. industry’s favor, including rising global transportation costs and the highest worker productivity in the world.
Through cold-calling, networking and persistence, HDS Marketing (asi/216807) has built a thick book of business with industrial and electronics manufacturers. Given their vertically-integrated businesses, such companies have many departments, and HDS strives to saturate each one of these with its services. “From marketing to sales to executives to production departments, there are so many different avenues you can pursue with each manufacturer,” says HDS Owner Howard Schwartz. “If you focus on service and relationship-building, you can have 15 different programs with a single company.”
For its manufacturing clients, HDS delivers everything from online stores to imprinted apparel that serves as rewards for employees who follow safety procedures. HDS also sets up temporary stores, traveling to clients several times a year with merchandise to be sold on the spot. Says Schwartz: “We expect manufacturing to be a growth market for us.”
So does Joe Meininger. The account executive at HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000) works primarily with human resources departments at manufacturers. Business has been booming. “The last year or two, I’ve seen 10-15% growth with this client base,” says Meininger, who sells apparel through employee purchase programs or inventory the HR department holds and gives to new hires. “I also supply hard goods, which are used as employee recognition gifts, career fairs and holiday gifts.” Meininger’s advice for cracking the manufacturing market? “Start with the human resources manager and employee benefits manager and grow from there. Make it easy for them with service.”
Create safety rewards programs. As employees meet safety goals over time, they earn logoed apparel and other imprinted products. The longer employees go without accident, injury or protocol breach, the nicer the rewards for which they’re eligible. Include durable work jackets, hooded sweatshirts and caps.
Travel, Tourism & Hospitality
With job security and increased discretionary spending, people can afford to eat out and travel more. That is contributing to the rising optimism for this sector. In 2012, travel and tourism’s total contribution to the U.S. economy was $1.348 trillion, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council – a tally that was predicted to rise by 2.1% by the end of 2013. In fact, growth is projected through at least 2023, with the sector even accounting for a slightly greater share of U.S. GDP over that time. As this industry gains dollar and economic share, employment within it is expected to rise too, from 5.57 million jobs in 2012 to 6.57 million in 2023.
In travel, tourism and hospitality, Mallory Dempster has found fertile ground for sales. Based in Los Angeles, Dempster has generated a wealth of business from property management companies whose holdings are populated primarily by hotels, restaurants and nightclubs.
A promotional marketing account executive at Jack Nadel International (asi/279600), Dempster leveraged her fashion training and hip sensibility to impress buyers within the nightclub division of these management companies, which are based primarily in Las Vegas and the City of Angels. The creative apparel and hard-good solutions Dempster devised, along with her always-pick-up-the-phone-and-help service, helped her earn referrals to other divisions. Before long, Dempster was doing business with the management companies’ restaurants and hotels, too. “It’s grown from positive word-of-mouth,” she says.
When it comes to providing apparel to this sector, Dempster has dabbled in everything from custom-dyed crop tops and cocktail dresses to T-shirts for the Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas. She sees potential to expand into providing uniforms for everyone from valets and security personnel to hotel staff. Diversified beyond apparel, Dempster has also delivered solutions like high-end invite boxes that beckoned the well-heeled to attend the launch of an upscale restaurant in Las Vegas and Beverly Hills. “It’s a great industry to pursue if you like to get creative,” says Dempster. Her advice for pleasing clients in this industry: “Be easy to get a hold of. Listen to what they have to say. And then put your creativity to work to give them something special.”
Don’t overlook tourism bureaus. Staff uniforms that evoke the essence of the locale the bureau is trying to promote are just one route to take. T-shirts that promote the locale with the bureau’s branding printed subtly somewhere on the shirt are another option.
Despite turbulence resulting from federal health-care reform, the sector figures to be one of the nation’s biggest and strongest for the foreseeable future. Health care’s contribution to gross domestic product has grown from $790.1 billion in 2004 to $1.16 trillion last year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. Plus, with demand for health care growing at a rate of twice that of the national economy, the industry is on track to create 5.6 million new jobs by 2020, according to a study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce. (There’s no secret where the demand is coming from – the aging Baby Boomer population.) Such job growth would build on employment gains of the last decade, which saw the health-care sector increase its workforce by what the Brookings Institution says was 22.7%.
Years ago, Proforma Marjac broke into the health-care market with a sale of imprinted umbrellas to a local hospital. Since then, the Norcross, GA-based company has vastly expanded its business with this client, providing everything from scrubs, lab coats and T-shirts to sweatshirts, jackets and hard good items like pens. Fortunately for Proforma Marjac, the hospital has grown too, blossoming into a network of five health-care facilities. That expansion has resulted in more sales of apparel and other promotional items for the distributor. “This is one of our top clients,” says Lisa Nixon, account manager. “We focus on them very closely.”
Not surprisingly, competitors are focused closely too. They’re always trying to break Proforma Marjac’s connection with the account. Still, the firm has beat back the would-be usurpers. “We’ve done it with service,” says Co-Owner Mason Israel. “Of course you have to be strong on price, but service and relationship-building are even more important. We do things for them others won’t do.”
For instance, Nixon and Israel once rented a U-Haul and drove nearly two hours to hand-deliver 300 packages for an executive retreat the client was holding. The packages consisted of an insulated grocery tote, inside of which were a custom-imprinted umbrella, blanket and tumbler. Both the blanket and tote were wrapped with satin ribbons. Nixon and Israel delivered the packages because they wanted to ensure they would be in perfect condition when received. “It may sound like a small thing,” says Israel, “but that sort of effort endears us to them.”
Beyond providing uniforms and logoed casual wear for health-care employees, be sure to capitalize on sales opportunities that arise from community events with which health-care clients are involved. For instance, provide T-shirts to be given to runners at 5K races a hospital is sponsoring.
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