Strategies - Safe and Secure
How To Sell The Latest Offerings In Security Apparel
Polished uniforms give security teams an air of professionalism and cohesiveness that is essential to the task at hand. Whether it's greeting guests at a hotel's doors, conducting parking lot surveillance or patrolling the streets of a major city, the job is made more official with high-quality uniforms.
One of the most important elements of security uniforms are performance qualities. "We carry men's and ladies' tactical polo shirts that feature our UltraCool moisture-wicking fabric," says Danny Tsai, vice president of merchandising at Tri-Mountain (asi/92125). "We have jackets, from lightweight ones to ANSI-certified, high-visibility raincoats. Buyers often look for radio loops, utility pockets and reflective trim, so we offer those too."
Hans Blechschmidt, sales manager at Rothco (asi/83708), says his company offers virtually everything for security uniforms, including shirts, trousers, jackets, headwear and footwear. "We even offer handcuffs and pepper spray; we have pretty much any accessory you could need," he says. Wolfmark (asi/98085) carries a complete line of neckwear accessories for uniformed security professionals, from police to guards to hotel staff. "For those in security, it's important to have a tie that comes off easily in case of an emergency," says owner Bruce Everakes. "We offer all of our neckwear in a clip-on style, including patterned ties and ladies' crossovers."
Meanwhile, the team at Panther Vision (asi/75825) specializes in lighted headwear for first responders, security workers and distributors' safety programs. "We sell them to the Chicago SWAT team," says director Chuck Freeman. "They're great for anyone who needs hands-free lighting."
Freeman says one of the most popular light options for hats features small LED bulbs on the brim edge, which are perfect for overhead work. "We have green and red lights for night vision," he says. "They're perfect for a cop sitting in his car at night doing paperwork, because he doesn't have to wait for his eyes to adjust in the darkness."
For the most part, styles for security workers haven't changed significantly over the years. "In the last five years, I think there has been a shift toward performance fabrics driven by retail brands and what you're seeing in sports apparel," says Tsai. He adds that uniforms will continue to feature performance properties. "There will be more emphasis on functionality and features like moisture-wicking treatments, solar protection and the like, just like in the broader apparel market."
Make the Case
Across the board, say these suppliers, emphasizing the functionality of uniforms and accessories is imperative to piquing a client's interest. To pitch neckwear to clients, Everakes of Wolfmark stresses how an easy change can make a big difference in a uniform. "The shirt, pant and blazer are pretty much the same day in and day out, but with a different tie, an employee can have a new, noticeable look," he says.
Tsai likes to bring pre-decorated samples to his sales calls, which often help seal the deal. "It can be very effective to go with a piece that's already decorated, whether with embroidery, heat-transfer or something similar," he says. "Also, outside of law enforcement, many security firms have different colors or may want safety colors, so be sure to go in with some pieces that aren't your standard navy, black or white."
But even with all the benefits of well-made, functional, professional pieces, clients may still balk at the cost. "Everyone is concerned about price right now," says Blechschmidt. "But we emphasize durability and a more modern function. These items have demonstrable styles and features, which is more than you can say about other apparel types. When there's pushback and a client says, ‘Wow, that's expensive compared with this other item,' I ask, ‘Are we comparing apples to apples?' Always be able to defend what you're offering."
Freeman has the same experience with the functional caps from Panther Vision. "Clients compare it with the cost of a conventional cap, but we're combining a hat with a flashlight and batteries," he says. "You actually have to sell it as a useful tool."
Tsai agrees that it takes patience and time to sell a high-quality product, even if the vendor feels the benefits should be obvious. "When you explain different details of an item – weight, fabrication, functions, treatments – you start to justify a higher price and earn more margin versus being trapped in a commodity situation where the lowest price wins by default," he says. "Also, offer decoration options to further differentiate yourself from your competition."