Dressing the Part
Uniforms are a growing part of the branded apparel market. Styles are becoming more fashion-forward, fabrics are becoming more sophisticated, and companies are becoming more conscious of the value of branding employee dress. It has never been a better time to get into the uniforms market, and with that in mind, here's what's new, popular and helpful in selling uniform apparel
2014 has brought a lot to the uniform market. Taraynn Lloyd, marketing director for Edwards Garment, Kalamazoo, Mich., explained some of the new uniform offerings the company has planned. "Edwards just launched our 2015 new uniform styles, which includes Synergy Washable Suiting and more fashion-forward styles for industries that service hospitality, restaurants, entertainment venues, health care and transit," she said. "The suiting offers upscale styling, and the lightweight twill weave has a natural stretch for all-day comfort. It's easy to care for, and the suiting performance is washable, colorfast and wrinkle resistant-tested at 50 home wash/dry cycles," she explained.
If you're looking for uniform apparel with more of a safety/heavy workwear slant, Atteff International has plenty of new offerings as well. "In addition to the safety apparel we have been carrying, we have added other safety/protective products in our line, like safety hard hats, safety glasses, ear muffs, knee pads, etc.," Kevin Xiao, vice president for Atteff International, Ontario, Calif., said. "We've also added a few higher-end anti-impact gloves recently. The new additions help expand our safety product collections and make us a one-stop shop for promotional safety products, providing conveniences and options for distributors."
Sometimes, knowing what a company's top-seller is can be just the information you need to get the product selection process rolling with your client. Knowing what's popular can help identify trends in the market that you might not be aware of, and also give you a solid jumping-off point for a style profile.
Xiao noted his company's most popular product. "The V-N16020 (Traditional Surveyor Safety Vest) is one of the most popular items in this line," he said. "It is functional and practical, with good pricing. Its solid fabric allows easy decoration on this vest, even with a logo with many details."
Grethe Castberg Adams, president of Southern Plus, Hartwell, Ga., noted her company's most popular apron style. "Our most popular style is the 7603CQ Butcher Apron," she said. "It's a full-length apron with a great price point, available in eight colors. It's a clean design with no pockets."
Lloyd described some of Edwards' best-sellers as well.
"Edwards' Easy Care Oxfords, styles 1077 and 5077, and the Rugged Comfort Casual Pant styles 2551 and 8551 continue to be best sellers," she said. "The shirt has been a mainstay for many years, and end-users like its classic style and easy care," she said. "Dress it up with neckwear or wear it casually-this shirt is easy to embroider to build a company's brand. The Rugged Comfort Casual Pant is popular because it offers new styling to a blended chino and provides soil-release and moisture-wicking fabric that doesn't fade."
What You Can Do to Increase Sales
Adams, Lloyd and Xiao all offered some advice on selling uniform and apron pieces. Adams mentioned the importance of planning for reorders. "Ask if the item will be available by the supplier beyond the current year," she said. "Reorders will be needed as the aprons wear out and new employees are added.
"Lloyd also gave advice on planning, recommending distributors pay attention to the logistics of fitting programs. "Distributors who move from selling a shirt for a special event to selling a uniform program should think beyond the sale," she said. "What I mean by that is they need to know how many employees there are, how they take measurements, and if all employees are in one or multiple locations," she explained. "Selling the garments is really just the first step."
Xiao pointed out the value of bundling the sale of safety apparel along with other safety items.
"Sell safety apparel along with gloves, glasses, etc., as a package if possible," he said. "It will help build your image as a safety product supplier and may get more business and repeat orders in the long run."