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Easy Money-Saving Tips For Sourcing Decorated Apparel

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Sourcing Goods

Apparel decorators have reliable vendors and well-stocked shelves (Inventory has improved since the pandemic). Our distribution chain is a fundamental dichotomy of manufacturers and distributors. For the gamut of basic and mid-range T-shirts, fleece wear, and golf shirts, the prime manufacturers include well-known national and international firms such as Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, Gildan, and Jerzees, among several other large, reputable firms. Due to their minimum order and capital requirements, Sourcing directly from these larger firms is essentially limited to buyers with massive warehouses and multimillion-dollar financial resources.

Branded Garments

Obtaining these branded garments is accomplished through a network of wholesale distributors, major national players such as Bodek & Rhodes and San Mar, and larger regional firms such as Imprints Wholesale in the West and New England Sportswear in the Northeast brands, among others. In addition to carrying the better-known consumer brands, these firms also offer their own branded apparel lines and wide outerwear selections. Most distributors also stock limited choices of caps, bags, and aprons, among other specialty textile product categories.

Young Man in wearing a black t-shirt
Direct-to-garment printing is excellent for clothing lines that don’t want to invest much money.

Pricing

Standard pricing for most apparel categories among and between the wholesalers is relatively similar, though there’s considerable latitude regarding their proprietary offerings. Occasionally, all distributors conduct special sales to trim unsold inventory on selected items or categories for periods ranging from a few days to a few weeks, especially toward year-end and late summer. For creditworthy buyers, all provide reasonable credit terms. However, if you’re new in the decorated apparel business, you’ll likely be required to pre-pay via check or credit card or pay C.O.D. with cash or a certified check.

Most wholesalers offer free-shipping deals from the warehouse to your door when you buy a specific annual volume or meet thresholds of a specified amount (usually a few hundred dollars) on a single order.

Who can buy from wholesalers?

Many people wonder if they can buy from wholesalers to get decorated apparel. However, most suppliers only sell to businesses that have a proven track record in the trade, as documented by an industry-specific organization that monitors the activities and credit of trade buyers. Additionally, buyers need to provide proof of holding licenses to collect sales tax. Generally, the general public can’t purchase from wholesalers, because they don’t make their wholesale-to-the-trade pricing available to end-users online or otherwise. Only buyers with a password can access this information. Published pricing for end-user accounts is displayed at twice the standard trade price, while trade buyers receive a 50% discount on the prices shown to end-users.

Some apparel decorators merit built-in discounts below the standard trade price, usually in the form of “case pricing,” or having the ability to buy units at the case price but without being required to purchase entire cases. Additional discounts and concessions accrue to more loyal, more prominent buyers who satisfy stated purchase-volume or per-shipment-volume thresholds. The lowest pricing tiers include perks such as an added 2% discount below case pricing, free freight on all orders, advertising allowances or rebates, and for the very largest volume buyers in the trade, additional support in the form of yet further discounts, extended credit terms, and promotional and display allowances.

Free Shipping

Most wholesalers offer free-shipping deals from the warehouse to your door when you buy a specific annual volume or meet thresholds of a specified amount (usually a few hundred dollars) on a single order.

Almost all wholesalers offer their customers limited quantities of free catalogs and price lists for use with their accounts. More worthy buyers are awarded larger quantities of promotional catalogs with their customized cover imprints.

Build a Relationship with One Vendor

Whom you buy from is, of course, up to you. However, knowledgeable buyers learn in time that it pays to place as many overall general purchases — T-shirts, fleece wear, golf shirts, etc. — with ONE wholesaler and develop an alternative, smaller-volume relationship with a second vendor. That’s because gaining advantageous pricing or other exceptional leverage with any wholesaler means demonstrating a consistent pattern of loyalty and predictable purchasing volume.

A common mistake of newcomers and veterans who get into a perpetual lousy habit is to shop the wholesalers every week, every day, or, for some, on every order to save a few pennies on every garment. Achieving those per-unit savings is pretty doable, but making this procedure the rule in your buying practices rather than the exception means spreading your purchasing among too many vendors and not becoming a regular, valued — and noticeable! — buyer to any of them. Measured over time, this practice usually doesn’t save money. It costs money — and affects the unintended consequence of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Buying in the industry is done for the most part over the telephone, a declining preference, or online, as more and more companies do for most of their buying. Over 99% of all wholesalers’ orders are shipped to the decorator or contractor. Specific key customers, however, in major metropolitan areas avail themselves of direct deliveries offered once or twice a week by some wholesalers. At the same time, some folks pick up their goods in person at the warehouses.

A Word to the Wise While Sourcing Decorated Apparel

A word to the wise: Endeavor to deal with wholesalers whose distribution center is within one day’s UPS delivery if possible. It saves time, but more importantly, it saves on shipping.

Newcomers can be assured they’ll have ample opportunity to locate sources for their garment and accessory needs. Once a business has registered on various websites and had its e-mail address captured on search engines, it’s only a day or so before industry vendors begin to solicit the new enterprise’s patronage. While veterans have good reason to limit vendors’ e-mail access to those they care about, newbies are advised to communicate with all trade solicitors during their umbilical period.

Establish Direct-to-Garment Printing Partners

Once you have established a blank supplier, you must locate reliable decorators. As of November 2023, many embroiders and direct-to-garment printers have left the industry due to finances and lack of business. We recommend working with well-established decorators such as Northwest Custom Apparel, which has been stitched since 1977. They are located south of Seattle and have a 1-day ship from Sanmar in Preston. They specialize in embroidery, direct-to-garment, and heat transfers. Please fill out a contact form, and a sales rep will contact you.

Direct-to-Garment

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Northwest Custom Apparel
Northwest Custom Apparel
152 Google reviews
Janice Herron
Janice Herron
2024-02-09
Love their amazing customer service! From ordering over the phone, through email, or in person at Northwest Custom Apparel, everyone is very helpful, and very nice! Always! We have been ordering our apparel for our local small business through them for many years! Thank you Thank you!
Morgan Pero
Morgan Pero
2024-01-26
Excellent people, products and customer service!
Drew Halverson
Drew Halverson
2024-01-23
Great product offerings/results, swift communication, and helpful staff. Highly recommend!
Tim s
Tim s
2024-01-12
Northwest Custom apparel always does great work! We have been a customer for over 25 years and are always satisfied with the products we get!!
RPD
RPD
2024-01-12
NW Custom Apparel treats us like we’re their only customer! Everyone is always so friendly and helpful. They’re great!
Randy Birch
Randy Birch
2024-01-11
We us Northwest Custom Apparel for our work shirts and they are incredible. The staff is super friendly, the quality of workmanship is outstanding and they stand by the work they do. I love this place.
Heidi Christiansen
Heidi Christiansen
2024-01-10
Eve
Eve
2024-01-10
The company I work for has been buying custom apparel for the team members for years now. We love working with NW Custom Apparel because the process is easy, delivery is timely, and materials are high quality. Anytime I’ve ever had an issue, they’re quick to resolve it. We’ve purchased both embroidered items and DTG graphic tees. We’ve purchased blankets, shirts, jackets, hoodies, etc. Everything ends up looking super professional, and our team members always have positive things to say. Ally is always there at the warehouse with a smile and a friendly greeting when I pick up materials. She is so helpful and respectful. Taylar is a wonderful customer service rep. I’ve sent her some complicated orders—like 20 different items with all different colorways and styles or 150 items with three different styles—and she is so good at getting everything just right. I plan to continue purchasing from NW Custom for high-quality custom apparel.
Hoa DeBusk
Hoa DeBusk
2024-01-09
Have used them for years. Knowledgeable team that is always so helpful in recommending options or creating designs. Great quality too for embroidery or digital prints. Very happy with them as a vendor.
Stacey Perez
Stacey Perez
2024-01-09
We use Northwest Custom Apparel for all of our professional embroidery needs for the orthodontic office I work at. They do great work, are quick and have never missed a deadline. Highly recommend if you need any custom apparel needs.