Selling Custom Apparel to Summer Camps


This article was found on the Inksoft Blog

With an estimated 12,000 summer camps attended each year by more than 11 million children and adults, you don’t want to miss out on this lucrative market.

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to the great outdoors and one of the greatest seasonal profit centers known to garment decorators: summer camps. With thousands of traditional and specialty options at local, regional and national levels featuring a multitude of activities, camps represent a potentially limitless market for logoed apparel, uniforms and more. And there’s now an unprecedented number of ways to capture camp sales, but you have to do your homework. Camps come in all shapes and sizes and getting a feel for what’s out there allows you to target your efforts for maximum success. The type of camp determines volume, product and service needs and, of course, budget. It also factors into the time frame for sales. The traditional summer camp season is from around Memorial Day to Labor Day and planning for it usually begins about 11 months out. But even as late as a month out from the first day, there still may be opportunities for sales depending on the type of camp. Established camps, such as those sponsored by national organizations or those with a long history With an estimated 12,000 summer camps attended each year by more than 11 million children and adults, you don’t want to miss out on this lucrative market. Capturing Summer Camp Business (and long-time vendors) typically are more structured in their purchasing; hence they may require a longer lead time. However, newer, smaller camps may still be getting their staff, schedule, etc. in place and may welcome your service and personal attention during what’s a busy time for them and your potential competitors. A local startup might buy a month before camp begins. Camps range from those sponsored by nationally and regionally known organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, Camp Fire and 4-H to local groups. There are overnight and day camps; youth, adult and family camps; and camps focusing on specific interests and activities from academics to photography to sports. The good news is that once you have a proven track record with one group, it can get your foot in the door with others and the going gets easier.

What to Sell

Just as there are many types of camps, there is a wide range of potential merchandise you can offer. It can be a selling point to specialize in certain types of items such as apparel, but the key is offering the right mix in terms of garments and accessories. For example, don’t discount offering specialty items relating to specific camp needs like flashlights, water bottles, lanyards and tennis visors. If you are selling from a web store, these can easily be added even if the camp itself will be filling those orders. In developing your product mix, think beyond “summer camp T-shirts.” A good place to start is by looking at where and how camps use logoed apparel and accessories. In addition to basic categories like campers’ T-shirts and caps and staff uniforms, there are opportunities relating to special teams and events, commemorative and recognition items, souvenirs and alumni/family apparel. You also should find out if there are any needs for banners and signage in your quest to be a one-stop shop. A good place to start is by looking at the general camp process. Where and how do camps use products you can supply? From the time campers get on the bus to ©2016 InkSoft Capturing Summer Camp Business when they divide up into subgroups, there is a need for ID shirts for them and for staff. When they get there, there will be things that were forgotten or need to be replaced, as well as events and activities that could be promoted and memorialized with apparel or awards. And before camp even starts—and after it ends—there are opportunities in helping to build anticipation and remember the experience. When putting together a package to present to a specific camp, checking out its schedule of activities will likely spark product ideas or at least enable you to create virtual or physical samples that are targeted to its particular program. A combination of offerings that includes apparel and nonapparel items with mockups of the camp’s logo/branding will showcase your capabilities and make your company stand out


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!