With reliable apparel decorators as allies, reps are empowered to deliver clients standout service and quality. These insights will help you find a decorator that's perfect for you.
• Identify Great Decorators By…
…Talking to Suppliers: Trusted apparel vendors will be able to suggest quality decorators to whom they frequently ship product.
…Asking Other Reps for Advice: Colleagues already doing a fair deal of apparel sales probably have found good decorators. Talk to them about their partners.
…Attending Trade Shows: A trade show related to the ad specialty business or decoration field could prove fertile ground for connecting with decorators. You'll be able to speak with multiple potential partners, in person, in a short timespan.
…Reviewing Industry Publications: See which decorators consistently contribute articles or serve as expert sources in established trade magazines. Learn which shops win awards that publications and industry associations give out.
• Know What You Are Looking For
To an extent, the best apparel decorator for you is contingent on the type of apparel sales you do or plan to do. For example, reps that sell high-volume apparel programs that require cutting-edge, multimedia embellishments are going to need decorators with the capabilities to meet those demands. "It's important that a distributor knows what they most need in a decorator so they can find the right partner," says Andy Shuman, general manager at Rockland Embroidery (asi/734150).
• Traits Of Top Decorators
Responsiveness: Good shops communicate clearly and consistently with reps during the order process, says Robert Strem, executive vice president of Superior Decorating (asi/90240), a division of Pro Towels (asi/79750). "If you call with a question, you want a decorator that's going to get you an answer in an hour or two," says Strem. Excellent customer service can extend to things like checking in goods and swiftly notifying reps if there are problems. Drop-shipping and special packaging options are other services top decorators may offer.
Reliability: Exemplary decorators meet deadlines. They do what they say they are going to do.
Flexibility: Many decorators pledge to fulfill orders in five to seven days. Some offer even quicker standard turn times. Regardless, there will be times when you need shops to produce orders quicker than the normal fulfillment period. Talk to prospective partners about their ability to accommodate rush orders.
Consultative Acumen: Shops worth their salt provide advice on which designs will work in printed and stitched formats – and which designs won't.
• Best Practices For Selecting Decorators
Visit the Shop: Spending a couple hours in a decorator's shop to see their operation will give an excellent indication if the company is right for you.
Do a Test Run: Before trusting a client's order to a new decorator, consider having the shop print or embroider apparel with your company logo on it. Evaluate what it's like working with the decorator.
Watch for Red Flags: Be leery of decorators that offer low pricing that's considerably below what others charge. "They could be cutting corners," says Strem. Also, find out to what extent, if any, decorators sell directly to end-buyers.
Have Back-Ups and Regional Partners: Having more than one go-to decorator is wise. If your primary provider is swamped, you'll have an alternate to which you can turn. Also, if you're providing apparel solutions for clients around the country, it's smart to have decorators in different regions. This can dramatically reduce shipping costs and get clients their orders faster.
Case Study: Same-Day Delivery
Harry Ein knows a great decorator partner can be the difference between coming through for a client – or not.
A short while ago, a sponsor for an NCAA college football team contacted Ein with a desperate last-minute request. "They needed about 100 hooded sweatshirts for a game immediately," says Ein. The owner of Perfection Promo, an affiliate of iPROMOTEu (asi/232119), swiftly contacted a decorator with whom he'd forged a strong relationship. The shop agreed to work the job into its schedule, and the screen-printed hoodies shipped the same day.
❑ Ask a trusted apparel supplier if they can recommend a good decorator.