Industry Tips

Industry Tip: Types of Garments to Offer Your Customer


Offering Your Garment Selections

Now, allow me to give veterans and newcomers alike some wisdom about selling garments and what you should be offering your customers. There are three philosophies on offering various styles and brands to customers: One philosophy says that you should open your favorite wholesaler’s catalog or link it to your website and simply let your customer choose exactly what he wants without regard to brands or other limitations. Assuming the vendor stocks everything well, it sounds fair enough. Right? If the customer is a knowledgeable, experienced buyer, the system works. But only to a point, a matter that we’ll look at shortly.

A second philosophy says that you should open several of your favorite wholesalers’ catalogs or link all of them to your website, giving the customer maximum selection flexibility and without limitations. This way a customer gets the best of all possible worlds — as some might think. Sounds OK, assuming all the vendors carry deep inventories of everything they show. Right? If indeed the customer is a very knowledgeable, experienced buyer, this system works to everyone’s advantage, or at least some would argue.

A third path — namely, mine — is that the customer should be able to select only from those brands and styles the seller designates. There are several reasons why I advocate this system and not the others. First, with the exception of only the very most astute customers, most buyers haven’t a clue as to which brand is really better, how wide or deep your preferred wholesaler stocks everything offered, or how the garments print or embroider; nor do they care. The typical customer doesn’t understand the differences and nuances between similar-looking terms, such as “heavyweight,” “BeefyTM,” or “megaweight,” much less more specialized terms such as “ringspun,” “open-end,” or “moisture management.” Most customers basically know just colors and fabric content (100% cotton or a cotton-polyester blend).

While some customers may have insisted on receiving Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, or Russell brand products years ago, the fact is that today they buy what you tell them to and they don’t challenge your choice.

What YOU know (or will learn sooner rather than later) is which wholesalers stock which brands better than others and in what depth. You also know which brands (in your opinion) print or embroiderer better and/or run more efficiently on your equipment, which wholesaler offers you deals (free freight, extended terms, etc.), and which brands carry a wider latitude in sizes. The system I advocate you follow means that by taking control of the brands you sell in the various categories, you gain significant benefits by limiting your purchases wherever possible to those brands YOU want to buy and decorate. Here are more reasons as to why I preach about limiting choices.

? You speed up the selling process. Your customers are shown only those items you want them to see, particularly when it comes to brand. They won’t have to spend time — wasting it really — to see the same items from another manufacturer and another and another, dwelling on esoteric perceived differences in color.

? Being “invested” in a brand means if you need to buy additional goods to accommodate possible overruns on a particular order (especially on larger orders) and replacements for errors, you can make your purchases in a brand that helps you build some on-hand inventory if you use little or none of the add-on units you brought in for a particular job.

? When you calculate that ordering some additional stock when for orders on hand will help you meet a threshold level that gets you free freight from your supplier, you don’t risk ending up with lots of odd-ball leftover items of diverse brands. Such garments will likely sit and accumulate on your shelves for a long time, tying up space and money. One thing newcomers probably don’t know when they go into this business is that customers don’t like to receive shirts of the same style and color that are delivered to them in assorted brands.

? Because sourcing just a few garments in extra-big sizes (2XL — 5XL) of goods in your preferred brand likely means you pay extra for freight. You can save money and time by keeping some on hand and avoid delays occasioned when these items are out of stock at your supplier’s warehouse. And ordering only the few XX+ pieces only when you need usually means you might well have to delay production on the order until these needed items arrive.

? Accumulating inventory on selected items in your preferred brands means from time to time drawing down those holdings for routine orders or drawing down for a panic rush order where the customer will buy whatever you say you have on hand. On these orders, your stock has been purchased at the lowest possible price and without immediate freight costs, which is the dividend for intelligent buying and planning.

? For companies that do retail sales of “one-sies” and “two-sies” to individual customers, the extra stock for retail customers purchased in the preferred brand always is available in a pinch for custom orders as well, bought right, and without paying freight. Each of these advantages gives you a few pennies of pure profit every time you draw from them. In the normal course of business over the year, it can add up to savings of hundreds of dollars in outlay and hundreds more in labor savings and/or freight charges.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!