"How Can I Use Apparel Samples to Increase Sales?"

When Beckie Diltz attended a golf tournament a few years ago, she brought a sample golf bag bearing the logo of the nonprofit holding the event. The group liked the gift so much, they ordered golf bags for everyone attending the following year’s tournament. “To us, it’s a no-brainer,” says Diltz, co-owner of Proforma Solutions for Printing & Promotions in Bakersfield, CA. “Once they see the product and see the logo on it, they want to buy. Nine times out of 10, it get us a sale.”

Few distributors deny the power of apparel samples. Allowing your clients to see, touch and even try on a sample in your showroom often helps turn a maybe into an unequivocal yes. “By having customers see the pieces live, it can help save time browsing online, and also gives the customer the power to see the product and know exactly what they are getting so there are no surprises,” says Natasha Nunes, inside sales representative for alphabroder (asi/34063).

Samples are also a great way to upsell, Nunes says. When a customer shops online, they’ll often consider price alone, opting for the lower-end “good” garment. When you meet with a client in person, be sure to bring along good/better/best options with you, and be prepared to show off – and explain – the key features of the higher-end garments.

“They may think they want the least expensive option, but once they see a different product that they fall in love with, you may notice that their original budget stretches a little,” Nunes says. Of course, she adds, if you’re working with a client that has a high budget and wants top-of-the-line items, it would be in your best interest to show only “best” options with different styling and similar pricing.

Samples can also be employed to sell a client on new decorating techniques or unusual logo placements. Diltz recently worked with a car dealership that was going to provide all employees with new logoed polos and dress shirts. She brought in five shirts in different colors with logos in three different locations, including on the cuff of the dress shirt, a spot that few customers consider, until they see it in person. “It adds class, but they wouldn’t see or think about having it done if they didn’t have a tangible product in hand,” Diltz says. Purchasing the sample shirts was worth the investment to Diltz, since she was expecting a large order – with the client purchasing multiple shirts for each of its 250 employees.

Diltz also frequently gives decorated samples as gifts to regular clients to keep her firm top of mind. Typically, she’ll get to know a little about the “girl in the front office” and other employees, figuring out their sizes and getting an idea of the kinds of items they’d most appreciate, before dropping off the gifts. More often than not, the gesture results in more sales, she says.

When it comes to costs, samples don’t have to break the bank. Most suppliers have robust programs to help distributors and decorators get started. At alphabroder, for example, private label sample orders are 50% off net. The supplier also offers a “generous sample allowance” so customers can offer plenty of samples to the end-user each year, Nunes says. Since the company doesn’t grommet its samples, decorators can make an extra margin on those pieces once the order is won. If it doesn’t work out, however, decorators can return undamaged, undecorated samples within 120 days, she adds. –Theresa Hegel

Best in Showroom

Now that your showroom is stocked with great apparel samples, how to best show them off? Here are a few pointers to help:

Add Your Logo: Put your shop’s logo onto some of the sample garments in your shop, suggests Joyce Jagger, a long-time industry trainer known as The Embroidery Coach. It’s a way to show off the quality of your work and market yourself at the same time. When a particular style is discontinued, you can give the decorated garment away, building goodwill with the client and increasing the odds that your logo is seen around town.

Keep it Fresh: The promotional world echoes trends in retail fashion and thus is always changing. “Each time there is a new line, or a seasonal launch, you should select new hot key pieces to show, so that you are the first one to present something new to your customer,” advises Natasha Nunes of alphabroder (asi/34063).

Rotate Your Display. Don’t be afraid to rearrange your showroom, Nunes says. You can put older styles in the back to make room in the front for new pieces to entice your customers. “If you sell a lot of polos, you are going to want to be the first person to show the newest polo on the market,” she adds. –TH