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Markets - House Hunters

Target real estate sector clients with apparel to ramp-up sales.

One market that’s clearly experiencing a rebound – especially in the amount of dollars buyers have to spend on marketing – is the real estate industry. Over the last couple years, the hard-hit sector has been steadily bounding back, as housing starts reveal monthly gains and the prices consumers pay for homes has rebounded to pre-recession levels.

The churning activity equates to opportunity for distributors, who can capitalize on real estate’s momentum with everyone from residential realtors and mortgage brokers to property management companies. “The real estate market is perfect for image apparel programs in 2014,” says Taraynn Lloyd, marketing director at Edwards Garment Co. (asi/51752).

Consider that from 2011 to 2012, new home sales increased 20%, according the U.S Census Bureau, and were up similar levels through most of 2013. Meanwhile, existing homes were moving, too, with units sold up 6% year-over-year through last October. Hiccups in the broader economic recovery could potentially stall gains, but the National Association of Realtors predicts that Americans will buy 5.2 million existing homes this year, a 2% rise over the trade organization’s estimate for 2013.

Forward progress has been underway in the commercial real estate industry, too. Deloitte reported that the sector’s 2013 performance was marked by continued recovery in asset prices, transactions and capital availability. In fact, asset prices moved close to 2007 peaks in major metropolitan markets. What’s also encouraging is that private equity and international investor interest in stateside commercial real estate increased.

“Real optimism has emerged as a key theme in the real estate market for 2014 as trends are progressing significantly through the economic and real estate recovery cycles,” says Mitch Roschelle, U.S. real estate advisory practice leader at PwC, an auditing, tax and consulting company.

Some imprinted apparel providers are already capitalizing on the real estate market. Black Duck, a distributor with extensive in-house decoration offerings that include screen printing, is a preferred vendor for Keller Williams. Twice annually, Black Duck attends the nationwide real estate agency’s trade shows to set up an apparel-packed booth that resembles a pop-up retail shop. Additionally, Black Duck runs a Web store where Keller Realtors from across the country can purchase an array of apparel and other products.

Business has been brisk, with Black Duck selling performance polos, stylish button-downs and T-shirts. Other products like nametags, key chains and caps appeal to this market too, says Erich Campbell, e-commerce manager at Black Duck. “There’s been a lot of movement going on,” says Campbell, noting Black Duck first got in with Keller by networking through a mutual contact.

For those interested in courting real estate industry prospects like Realtors, keep in mind that buyers often want fashionable, comfortable, easy-to-care-for options that identify their brand, says Lloyd, adding: “The real-estate market is all about servicing the public or corporate client and building a trust bond with them. The image they present must convey this strategy. Discuss how you can help contribute to this strategy while developing a look that complements their selling program.”