Headwear Market Tips & Tricks

Promotional-products expert Don Sanders joins us this month and going forward with insightful commentary designed to help apparel decorators bridge the gap between merely embellishing garments and selling promotional apparel.

Q: I do embroidery work for a promotional-products distributor who places several repeat orders with me each year. He always reorders the same style and color of cap using his customer’s logo. I gather from this work that this is a nice account, and I’m wondering how I can encourage him to order more caps from me for this customer without appearing too pushy?

A: The best way to find out if your customer offers more potential for you is by taking the bull by the horns. The next time he places this order, take the time to find and show him a couple of new caps from your wholesaler. Print them with his customer’s logo, then send the samples to your customer along with a note explaining you discovered the styles and thought he might want to show something new to his customer. After about a week, be sure to follow up by phone to make sure he received the cap samples. If you do this, I guarantee your client will appreciate your initiative, and start expanding his business with you. Pushy? Not at all.

Q: I’ve been a screen printer for years and recently purchased two pieces of used embroidery equipment with the plan to expand my business. I know many of my customers have embroidery needs, but how do I introduce my new service to them the right way?

A: As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. You need to show people what you can do for them. Look at your account list to determine your best 25 customers. Pick a previous job you have done from each one of them and have each design digitized at your expense. After you do, sew a couple of caps with these logos and drop them by your customers’ place of business. If they are in the office, present the samples in person. If not, leave a note with the samples, then shortly follow up by phone. This effort will get the ball rolling.

Q: My customers seem to think I’m some kind of headwear expert since they always ask me questions about what’s new in the world of caps. Some want to know about new closures and other features, while others want to know what materials sell best in the market today. Since I have never thought of myself as much of a salesman or expert, how do you think I should respond to these questions?

A: First of all, be thankful that your customers are asking you these questions. They are doing so because you are doing something right and they consider you to be a valid source of information. The next time you attend a Printwear Show, make sure you ask detailed questions of the personnel working in the exhibits of suppliers who feature caps. They know the answers to these questions. Then, when you return to your office, create your own cap Q&A sheet that you can mail and/or email to everyone with whom you do business. Never pass up an opportunity to be an expert at anything.

Q: I just saw some samples of wave visor inserts and double-stripe caps. As these styles seem to be new and untested, what can you tell me about their market potential?

A: Caps have come a long way during the last few years in the promotional-apparel industry. At one time, the only choices available for you to sell were cheapo gimme caps or an occasional new fabric in a golf cap. Today’s cap selections are changing frequently and new styles are being introduced all the time. Since it seems there is now an endless choice of new selections, the best course is to keep up with things as best you can. You will stay current with new trends by attending trade shows to meet suppliers and see their products. In between shows, take the time to visit supplier websites to check out what’s new or coming down the pike. With styles changing as quickly as they do now, you must keep up with what’s new, or you’ll be left in the dust by those who do.

Q: Some cap suppliers are pushing knits this time of year, even though warmer weather lies ahead. Do you think I should offer them to my customers since they seem to be items that are seasonal?

A: You should, especially if your business is in a location where colder temperatures are even occasionally experienced. When it’s cold outside, there is nothing more useful than a knit cap. But even in warmer months, warmer-weather locales, I’d be recommending that you offer such caps to your customers. In sales, you never know what button to push to get someone to buy from you. Never set limits on what you can offer your clients, including knits. Almost everyone can buy them at some time of the year, and many end clients will wear them year-around.

Q: At this time, I only offer screen printing and embroidery, but have been thinking about creating some other sources of revenue for myself. I’ve seen many new decorating processes for caps such as thin embossed rubber, liquid metals, and rubber patches. Since I don’t have the capability of doing this type of embellishment in my own plant, how can I ensure I don’t lose customers who are looking for such decorating options?

A: You’re smart to not offer everything to everybody. Embellishers who diversify themselves too much run the jack-of-all-trades risks of doing nothing well. On the other hand, you should never leave opportunity on the doorstep if you can help it. If someone requests these decorating techniques, of course you can supply them! You will be able to do so by having relationships in place with other promotional-products suppliers who specialize in them. Many decorators make the mistake of thinking that if they cannot do something themselves that they shouldn’t handle the job at all. But if you want to expand your operation, make sure to be schooled on numerous products and processes that you may not offer under your own roof.

Q: What is a snuggle cap and who do I sell them to?

A: Snuggle caps are the hottest thing right now in the medical/hospital market, typically designed as gift items that hospitals give to parents having new babies. Obviously, they come in two basic colors: blue and pink. If you are looking to expand your sales, order several samples of each color and use them as calling tools in order to grow your market in the healthcare industry. This is a particularly good time to focus your efforts on this market because it is one that holds up well in any economic climate. Distributors and embellishers who understand this are the ones who do well in strenuous times and knock the ball out of the park when things turn around.