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hospitality market

Capture the Hospitality Market

Kristine Shreve EnMart

Kristine Shreve is the Director of Marketing for EnMart and parent company Ensign Emblem. She developed and writes two blogs—the EnMart Threaducuate blog and the SubliStuff blog. Shreve also maintains the EnMart Twitter account and Facebook page. She can be reached via email at kristine.shreve@myenmart.com

The hospitality industry is a profitable market for an embroiderer, but it’s often seen as the province of larger companies. To some extent, this is true. Larger hospitality chains often want to receive their decorated garments from the same company for a consistent product and look. Smaller companies also may have trouble handling the demands of a larger hotel or restaurant chain. Some orders are simply too big for an embroidery shop that only runs a few heads or employs a small staff, but this shouldn’t prevent smaller shops from pursuing jobs within the hospitality market. With the right niche, even smaller shops can compete in the hospitality market.

Find the right clients

Before creating a list of potential hospitality clients, consider the capabilities of your business. What sets you apart from your competition? What can you offer hospitality clients that other companies cannot? What is your potential work capacity, and how willing are you to grow and expand if demand for your work increases?

These answers will help you decide what clients to pursue and what clients should be left to larger embroiderers. Once you’ve established your strengths and work capacity, you’re ready to find potential clients.

At first glance, it seems that the big fish in the hospitality industry are the chain hotels and restaurants, but it’s possible to build a profitable business by serving boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, or single-location restaurants. The hospitality industry even extends to country clubs, casinos, theme parks, and spas.

Contact the local chamber of commerce in nearby cities and towns to find all the possible venues in your area. Local business expos and specialty shows, such as a bridal exhibit, are also great places to start. Exhibiting at an expo or trade show allows you to establish contact with several potential clients at once as well as present samples of your work. Also, consider using Trip Advisor or Expedia to find potential clients in your area. These sites could point to venues you might miss.

Another option is to get on the bid list for any large chains in your area. While a smaller business is unlikely to dislodge a larger embroidery business for most work, even chain venues have needs for one-offs or quick turnarounds. For placement on a bid list, find out the name and contact information for the purchasing agent of the chain and send a letter requesting to be added to the bid list. The letter should list your capabilities, stress that you can handle quick turnarounds and small orders, and provide references from similar clients. If the prospect adds you to the bid list, be prepared to produce samples of your work on request.

Make quantity a priority and don’t limit your market. Proper research of the local markets allows you to pinpoint the venues that are single-proprietor establishments or those that are willing to consider working with another small business. Once you’ve established a list of prospects, create samples of what you can do for each business and set up an appointment to talk to the decision-maker. 

Differentiate your business

After securing appointments, create a professional presentation, such as a brochure or press kit, which includes information about your capabilities and experience as well as testimonials from similar clients. A brochure or press kit is also a great place to emphasize why your shop is a better choice than a large uniform or embroidery company. Highlight your flexibility in scheduling, quality, personalized service, and products. The idea is to emphasize what sets you apart.

Keep in mind that seasonal flexibility is a big selling point for a small embroidery business. Many hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality venues have a busy season and a slow season. A small decoration shop can offer flexibility by ramping up its employee roster and adjusting the production schedule to facilitate seasonal business in a way that a large decoration shop cannot. Flexibility in order size also comes into play. A small embroidery shop can better accommodate two- or three-garment runs, a job size that may not appeal to large embroidery businesses. This is a huge selling point for a business with seasonal staff or substantial employee turnover.

And don’t just focus on apparel. Restaurants and hotels often look for more than just decorated garments. Many restaurants sell customized glasses, plates, or other souvenirs, and hotels usually have gift shops that offer decorated items for travelers. Hotels and restaurants need name tags and identification badges for employees, as well. An embroidery business that also offers sublimation is well positioned to service this type of business because it can decorate those identification and gift items.

If you’re a small shop that can’t entirely capture a hospitality vendor, consider partnering with a large embroidery business to handle the overflow. Many embroidery shops partner with smaller businesses to handle one offs and other low-run jobs. Contracting out work also allows a smaller business to increase its workflow and market share without investing in new equipment until revenue flow is established.

Ultimately, illustrating that your business can create more than embroidered polos is a huge selling point. Show clients that you’re willing to help them increase their sales, and it could be what gets you in the door.