Thanks to all of you who commented on my recent blog on the National Debt. I appreciated your feedback. With the winter tradeshow season in full swing, here is a reprint of my recently published article in Imprint Canada. Some of you may be at the Toronto Imprint Show right now, taking place from Jan 11-12, 2013. I know the folks from Stahls’ Canada and Transfer Express are there to greet you and answer your questions. You can read the digital version of Imprint Canada right here, the story starts on the cover and is continued on page 14, or I have copied it here as well for you to read.
The Store of The Future Revised:
What Does 2013 Hold for Garment Decorators?
About 10 years ago, I wrote an article for a trade publication talking about “The Store of the Future.” It talked about the challenges we were facing back then, such as the digital revolution that was transforming the way graphics were created and applied to garments, as well as the fact that the competition for the graphics customer’s dollar has grown more intense than ever. Seems like times haven’t changed much.
As we head into 2013, custom garment specialists are still wondering what impact more recent technological and economic changes will have on their businesses. Like I said back then, “Smart retailers know they can’t take a business-as-usual approach if they hope to continue.”
Trends to Understand
When it comes to consumers, convenience is still a main shopping concern, perhaps even trumping the need to save money in some cases. But whether a consumer is more interested in price or convenience, the transparency offered by the internet today makes it almost impossible not to offer both to your customers.
You can’t offer decorating services when you don’t have the right garments. For many consumers, it comes down to whether or not you have the right brand names. However, the big guys don’t always want to play with smaller decorating companies, making it difficult for you to offer their famous brands. Big mistake. To combat this, some middle to small-sized manufacturers are consolidating in their manufacturing processes and sales processes. Look for smaller or mid-sized garment manufacturers who will be getting together to “join forces” and compete against the big guys. Someone is going to create a brand that will be able to compete by offering a wider variety of quality garments that will be comparable and more accessible to smaller decorators. This cooperative type of marketing will allow smaller garment decorators to offer a brand that is competitive in both price and quality. There’s always room for another rival.
We’ll also probably see a rise, as they have in Europe and Asia, in more and more sports teams using manufacturers that also do the embellishment in the factory, especially in “made-to-order” uniform situations. With labor costs being what they are, sometimes this is the most inexpensive option. However, it also opens a niche to those who are able to be more flexible and affordable when it comes to after-market decoration.
If you’re still concerned about the number of decorating companies appearing on the internet, you should be. However, don’t dismay. While they may be your competitors, they are also helping to create a bigger marketplace. When awareness is raised, it can also have the effect of raising the price points people are willing to spend. I’ve seen it happen in the classic car marketplace—as certain reality shows fan the flames of interest in cars, prices go up. The same thing is happening in the custom printing marketplace.
Heat Printing Trends
We will continue to see an increase in the use of heat printing to decorate garments of all kinds, especially as more and more performance and sublimated fabrics become popular. There is more acceptance than ever in heat applied transfers and materials by major garment manufacturers, materials that can breathe, that offer sub-blocking and special effects like metallic and reflective.
My most important prediction is more of a statement of fact than a premonition—all is well in the world of garment decorating—and those of you who are working hard to keep up with changes in your customer’s needs will benefit and grow. Like everything else, the industry is moving at a faster pace than ever before, so don’t be afraid to get out there and get some of that new business for yourself.
I have some more predictions coming soon…thanks again for reading.