How can embroiderers best manage inventory and plan for product selection?
Control the amount of inventory you keep on hand. It is almost guaranteed that if you have 25 navy T-shirts, the next customer will want red ones. That is why this industry operates on a just-in-time inventory model. This is good news because it means that you do not need to have that deep of a product mix or inventory. Pick your favorite wholesale suppliers based on their variety of products, their promotions, and how close they are to you so that your shipping costs will be as minimal as possible.
Select your favorite products from the wholesale distributor that you like working with and is within one-day shipping if possible. Pick up a basic 50/50 shirt that you like. Also decide what 100% cotton shirt and piqué you want to work with, as these will be the workhorses you always show customers.
Order a size scale of these shirts; one of every size from XS through at least 2X if not 3X. You can stick with one color or go for the rainbow, with each size in a different color, but select colors that are classics for corporate and school logos if you go with the rainbow approach. When your customer is uncertain about what size to order, you will have samples on hand to help them make that decision. If you sell a lot of T-shirts, you may also want to pick up a 50/50 blend and an all-cotton T-shirt in a range of sizes and colors. While this may seem like a lot of inventory, we found that having these items on hand often helped us close the sale, moving the customer from “Should I get it?” to “What size should I get?” or “What color should I get?”
It is also beneficial to have a full-length mirror available and even a dressing room so that customers can try on products.