Though the housing crisis last decade stifled construction, the market has been on the rebound in recent years, with more projects being greenlit as the economy continues to improve. That’s good news for the 41% of decorators who told Stitches they court the construction market. Build up your own client portfolio with these tactics.
Tactic 1: Work those people skills
Like any other market, construction requires smart networking. Consider attending local groundbreaking ceremonies to shake hands – and exchange business cards – with the builders on site.“You have to network and go places that are out of your comfort zone sometimes to get to know the community,” says Fran Kolb, owner of Fran’s Promo City in Las Vegas. It’s also a good idea to join a professional organization and attend trade shows to help keep up with the latest industry trends.
Tactic 2: Put safety first
Most construction employees are required to wear high-visibility fluorescent gear to satisfy government safety regulations, says Larry Miller, corporate administrator at Nevada Ready Mix, which supplies concrete for Las Vegas hotel and casino projects. To meet those needs, Kolb heat-presses the Nevada Ready Mix logo on bright yellow interlocking polyester shirts with reflective striping and long sleeves to protect workers’ arms.
Tactic 3: Offer performance features
Outdoor workers especially need breathable, durable garments. Apparel suppliers like SanMar (asi/84863) offer multifunctional performance fabrics that combine features like UV protection, stain- and odor-resistance and moisture wicking. Nevada Ready Mix employees, for example, work in summers as hot as 120 degrees. Most find T-shirts more comfortable than the traditional safety vest, Kolb says.
Tactic 4: Help clients with branding
One challenge when working with contractors is convincing them that their T-shirts and hats don’t have to replicate their business cards. Information like websites, addresses and phone numbers clutter up apparel, and are especially unappealing on items being used as promotional giveaways, says Weston Caple, of DGI Creative in Hanover, PA.“If you’re giving the shirt out to somebody, they really don’t want to be a walking billboard for you,” he says.“In the age of Google when it’s so easy to find people, all you need is your brand identity on apparel.”
Tactic 5: Don’t be afraid to try something new
Construction clients often need more than just custom safety shirts and promotional caps. If you’ve established yourself as a reliable decorator, such clients may bring in other types of jobs for you to tackle. Kolb went beyond shirts for Nevada Ready Mix, creating large safety banners for the company as well.“I’m their go-to gal, and it strengthens our business relationship,” she says.“Listen to the customers’ needs." –TH and MW
From the Buyer’s Mouth
Larry Miller, corporate administrator at Nevada Ready Mix, says he works with Fran Kolb of Fran’s Promo City because she not only knows the requirements of the construction industry well, but also works with his tastes: “Our industry is very safety-sensitive. As a ready-mix concrete supplier, we have to think about three different locations: the plant, the transit and the job site. We have to satisfy OSHA, MSHA and DOT specifications. Working with Fran has been great because she knows firsthand the requirements. It’s never like I have to teach her about her business. She’s a pro. Instead of just being an order-taker, she’s a facilitator. Beyond that, she’s a joy to work with.”
How I Landed Nevada Ready Mix
Fran Kolb has always believed in giving back, but the owner of Fran’s Promo City in Las Vegas soon realized that her philanthropic impulses yielded a business-boosting bonus: When she provided free embroidery services to local organizations, people wanted to meet the woman behind the donation, often becoming paying clients as a result.
That’s how Kolb ended up working with Nevada Ready Mix. A new acquaintance told her he was looking for a shirt that could be seen “a mile away,” yet be comfortable enough for extremely hot weather. “He mentioned more than once in our conversation, safety, safety, safety. Neon yellow shirts with 3M reflective tape and moisture-wicking properties came to mind,” Kolb says. “At the time, I had no idea he worked for Nevada Ready Mix, which is the largest concrete supplier in Nevada.”
To help ensure she would get the job, Kolb researched the requirements of the construction industry. Impressed by her knowledge, her contact ordered a dozen shirts. Kolb incorporated the Nevada Ready Mix logo onto CornerStone shirts from SanMar (asi/84863).
Now, Nevada Ready Mix orders a new batch of shirts from Kolb every two months. Kolb has decorated more than 100 shirts for the company. In addition, Kolb has created 12-foot-long banners for Nevada Ready Mix. Logoed hats may also be on the horizon. “With the economy growing in Las Vegas and construction projects booming again, I am confident my customer will need many more shirts,” Kolb says.
What You Need to Know Now
Construction makes up 41% of decorator business, according to this year’s Stitches State of the Industry. Check out these statistics to gain insight on what tactics will work with this hot market.
Top five states for construction:
(source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov)
Tip: Many construction companies turn to local sources first to buy employee uniforms and promotional wearables.
The amount nonresidential construction spending is expected to grow this year (source: Associated Builders and Contractors, abc.org).
Tip: Anirban Basu, chief economist for Associated Builders and Contractors, says lodging, office space, manufacturing and natural gas-related construction will likely see the largest gains in 2015.
Hot Apparel:This ANSI/ISEA 107 Class 2 certified 5.9-oz., 100% polyester interlock T-shirt from SanMar’s (asi/84863; circle 116 on Free Info Center) CornerStone collection, which is superior when safety and comfort are a must. The 2”-wide reflective taping on the front and back add to the demand for high-visibility outdoors; decorated with thin-stretch heat transfer by Fran’s Promo City in Las Vegas.
Top decoration methods for this market:
Embroidery • Screen printing • Heat transfers
Tip:When decorating items that include reflective tape, consider using a heat pillow to raise the printable area and keep the tape from taking damage, says Fran Kolb of Fran’s Promo City in Las Vegas.
Top ways decorators connect with construction clients, according to the State of the Industry Report:
Residential building construction employment was up 7% – or 45,300 jobs – year over year in February. Nonresidential construction employment also rose 4.6% – or 31,600 jobs – in February (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, bls.gov).
Tip Look beyond home builders when seeking prospects in this market. There are many commercial builders and construction support companies that also have custom apparel needs.
Out of 3,929 worker fatalities reported in 2013, about 20% came from the construction industry, so safety gear is key (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, bls.org).