7 Hot Markets to Penetrate Now: Break Into the Health-Care Market

Health care is one of the top markets for decorators, with 34% of shops selling to hospitals, doctors and other providers, according to this year’s State of the Industry Report. “Health care is one those industries that’s going to continue to grow,”says Paula Gossett. The senior consultant for Geiger (asi/202900;) may be on the money with that assessment. The Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects that total health-care spending in the United States will grow at an average annual rate of 5.8% through 2022. By that year, the health-care portion of GDP is expected to reach nearly 20% – up from 17.9% in 2011.

Tactic  1: Understand your buyers’ requirements.

Health-care organizations can be large, but at any size it’s important to understand their current purchasing habits and requirements. “Do they practice consolidated purchasing from the same vendor or can various departments purchase from different vendors?”says Andy Shuman, general manager of Topton, PA-based Rockland Embroidery (asi/734150). “What are they purchasing? Are they using an online store? The answers will help you formulate a marketing approach.”Speaking of online stores, Black Duck Inc. in Albuquerque, NM has created online stores for its health-care clients and handles the entire uniform fulfillment process. “That requires bookkeeping,”says Erich Campbell, e-commerce manager/digitizer. “Be ready to do that kind of work.”

Tactic 2: Ensure a steady garment stream

Hiccups with your suppliers can’t stand in the way of fulfilling orders or being consistent in your product. “If you can’t get supply as you need it, that’s an issue,”Campbell says. “Any industries with high turnover need uniform garments. Plus, they may have security reasons why garments are a particular color.”

Tactic  3: Have the right product mix

Hospital uniforms – scrubs – continue to be the biggest request from health-care providers, Campbell says. Polo and sports shirts, however, earned the top garment spot in the State of the Industry survey for administrative staff. “What can the garment do for your person?”Campbell says. “What environment does the garment need to live in?”

Tactic  4: Pay attention to details

“With pocket size and positioning, you have to look at small imprinting features,”Campbell says. “There are also things you might not expect, like patient advocates who wear vests. We have everything from fairly retail-style looks they’ll occasionally do for events to uniform work wear.”

Tactic 5: Cast a wider net

Approach stores that sell scrubs and have no affiliation with a decorator, or target hospital gift shops, for starters. “For scrubs stores, make a framed sample stitch-out that displays three simple font style choices,”says Deborah Jones, owner of “Offer the store a 30% discount and make a pick-up and drop-off arrangement.”This is also a good way to get referrals to medical offices that order uniforms from scrubs stores. – CD

From the Buyer’s Mouth

When Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center combined earlier this year under one name – the Mohawk Valley Health System – it turned to Utica, NY-based A&P Master Images (asi/702505;) for apparel featuring its new logo. “One of our awareness strategies includes the use of logo apparel throughout the system,” says Debra Altdoerffer, vice president of communications and development. “Visibility of the new brand to our patients, vendors, employees and medical staffs helps reinforce our new name, who we are and what we do. Quality apparel is important for our staff and for items we may give away to promote the brand.”

Case Study

How We Landed the Largest Hospital in New Mexico

Headquartered in Albuquerque, NM, Presbyterian Healthcare Services oversees eight hospitals, a statewide health plan and a growing multi-specialty medical group. Its flagship hospital is the largest in the state, and the health system is the state’s second-largest private employer, with more than 10,000 employees.

For the past several years, Presbyterian has turned to Black Duck Inc. for its uniform and apparel needs. To woo the health-care giant, Black Duck created a full online store for employee ordering. “The decorator previous to us had a very lackluster website,” says Black Duck E-commerce Manager/Digitizer Erich Campbell. “It was no-color, outline pictures of what a garment was supposed to be. You looked at what you wanted, wrote it down on paper and called. It was barely a catalog. They weren’t keeping orders coming quickly enough.”

Already accustomed to direct sales through its work in the real estate industry, Black Duck created a robust order and fulfillment program for the hospital. “We said, ‘We can make a website that’s in the style of Amazon,’”Campbell says. “That was a big thing. We can complete the order, and we can process the order and have it entirely fulfilled from our location.”

Health Care Market

What You Need to Know Now

While hospitals and health-care providers continue to seek ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies in delivering care, they continue to devote a good part of their budgets to marketing, and health care remains a top industry for decorators.


$5.8 million Average marketing budget for big U.S. health systems, according to a Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development study. Smaller, independent hospitals spent an average of $1.3 million on marketing costs. That figure represents about 1% of a hospital’s overall budget (source:


The average marketing budget for pharmaceutical and other health-care companies in 2014, according to the MM&M/Ogilvy CommonHealth Healthcare Marketers Trend Report. That’s up 5% from 2013. While budgets among medium and large companies remained flat, small companies reported a 26% increase in spending.
Tip: Don’t, however, take that spending for granted. Make sure to offer solutions to the customer, says Erich Campbell, e-commerce manager/digitizer at Albuquerque, NM-based Black Duck Inc. “People want things to be easy. People need you desperately to take this off their plate.”


Hot Apparel:This Ladies Dri-FIT Classic Polo (286772) has clean styling and Dri-FIT moisture management comes from SanMar (asi/84863; circle 116 on Free Info Card). The superior construction includes a flat-knit collar, two-button Y-placket and rib knit cuffs, finished with pearlized complementary color buttons; decorated by Albuquerque, N.M.-based Black Duck Inc. (circle 117 on Free Info Card).

6% Health care’s percentage, by revenue, of the overall decorating market, according to the Stitches State of the Industry report. That’s tied with restaurants/travel/lodging for the fourth-largest market segment.

Percentage of decorating firms that sold into the health-care market in 2014, according to Stitches’ State of the Industry report.

of hospitals have a presence on at least one social media platform, according the Journal of Medical Internet Research. That was up from just 21% in 2010. Facebook is the leading choice.
Tip:“The most important word is social,” Campbell says. “It’s still referrals in a different manner. Referrals are always where you get your business.”

$1 millionAmount that Florida-based Baptist Health planned to spend last year on new, germ-resistant garments for staff (source: Baptist Health).

Tip:Accommodating custom orders is important, Campbell says. But so is helping your client control its brand. “Don’t let weird things happen to their brand,” he says. “The heart people always want 8 million heart-shaped things.”

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