Creating your own uniform program from scratch can be done. According to Jeff Nero, regional sales rep for Tri-Mountain (asi/92125), many suppliers already have the necessary elements in place in order to help distributors put them together: website development, product design, fabric development, inventory housing and order fulfillment.
Once the supplier partnership is established, Nero says distributors should target end-users that have a classic corporation infrastructure, where the decisions are made by a person or group of people – procurement departments, marketing teams, etc. “Customers with multiple locations and a high employee count are great targets,” Nero says. “Always make sure to pre-qualify the client beforehand and make sure they are doing enough volume to make it worth your time and money investment.” By contrast, corporations with a franchisee structure can be difficult, since individual locations will make their own purchasing decisions separate from the corporate headquarters.
When a client target is acquired, Shurli Allinott, president of Brandwear (asi/41545), says distributors must ask eight questions about that client’s uniform needs:
- What is your budget?
- What are the demographics of those who will wear the uniforms?
- What is the durability/wearability need?
- Are storyboards required?
- What is the expected turnaround time for fulfillment orders?
- Are special sizes such as “tall” or “oversize” required?
- What types of decorations are required?
- What is the expected length of the uniform program?
Allinott says that last question is critical. “It can cost corporations dearly if they have to replace an off-the-shelf item that is discontinued after one year,” she says. Durability becomes a key factor too, since garments may need to last a long time and still look good – especially if they are laundered frequently at home or in industrial washers. She adds that offering clients private labeling is an inexpensive touch that provides another branding location on the uniform.
Once you win the business, Nero says crucial uniform program components include developing a website or using existing client technology for program promotion and ordering functions, and deciding upon appropriate inventory levels in order to maintain the program. “Running out of stock is the number-one problem to avoid,” he says. And Nero says distributors should always have a signed contract in place. “That way, all parties are protected and have a clear understanding of what their responsibilities are,” he adds.
Once the program’s foundation is set, Allinott says the rest of the program becomes unique to the clients. “The wonderful part with being able to create a uniform program is that almost anything is possible – depending on budgets, of course,” she says. “You want your client to have their staff looking smart yet feeling comfortable at the same time.”