Private But Not Peculiar
Understanding the purpose and provisions of private label apparel
THE KEY TO anything is to first understand it and then decide how best to use it. Consider the human tear duct and its byproduct. It is widely understood tears are the body’s mechanism for cleansing the eyes of foreign objects as well as for lubricating the eyeballs. However, most people would readily agree that tears are best used to pull at heart strings and ultimately to get one’s way! Although customized promotional apparel is hardly anything to cry about, the same principle applies to the notion of private labeling in the industry. The term must first be understood and then decided where it could work best.
In an effort to provide a quick primer on the subject, Paul Kunitz, general manager at Scottsboro, Alabama-based Valtex, defined
private labeling as “the means of creating a product, usually a garment, with the customer’s identification in it, [rather than] the manufacturer’s brand name.” He further said the term frequently means “substituting a customer’s label when the garments are manufactured, usually to order.”
And it is the “to order” part, also known as custom manufacturing, that defines the best practices of private labeling. Businesses looking to stand out from the crowd by designing a unique garment will find this apparel niche most useful. “A very important part of Valtex’s private-label business is custom manufacturing a product to the specific requirements of the customer,” Kunitz explained. While Valtex primarily specializes in private labeling for infant and toddler wear through its Kiddy Kats line, Kunitz said the company can produce
“adult goods to special order,” as well.
Like Valtex, Vantage Apparel, Avenel, N.J., specializes in custom manufacturing of private-label apparel. “We can design custom products or collections,” noted Gina Barreca, director of marketing.
While custom manufacturing consists of most private-label offerings, both Barreca and Kunitz stressed the apparel category is just as effective when combined with a supplier’s in-stock merchandise. “We have numerous accounts that order our standard styles, but with their own labels substituted,” Kunitz noted. Furthermore, he said it is common for his company to get requests for “small quantities
of our in-stock styles relabeled when the quantity is not enough to pre-order a full cutting.”
But it’s not just end-users jumping on the private-label bandwagon; so are distributors. Kunitz said a large number of his distributor customers are interested in the highly personalized service. “It is not unusual for a customer to want his own name in [a garment], so that his own customer thinks that his supplier is bigger and more influential than his competitors,” he explained.
Barreca concurred, stating, “The majority of the time, the client logo is used as the label, but occasionally we are asked to private label with a distributor company name.” Furthermore, Kunitz said when a distributor is able to offer a customer his own line of private-label merchandise, “he is telling his customer that he has his own marketing capability, and is big enough to be able to offer his own
line of goods.” It is evident private labeling provides a bit of clout for distributors.
Aside from the standard neck labels prevalent in brand identification of most dress shirts and T-shirts, Barreca said there are other ways to don a private-label brand. “Custom hangtags, zipper pulls and buttons can be used to brand the products with a client’s logo,” she offered.
The list of markets that can benefit from private labeling is growing, Barreca continued. She said companies that promote lifestyle products or those that offer uniform programs are ideal targets. On the other hand, Kunitz said the glass office is a sure sell. “The corporate market would be most interested in a private-label offering because it would be influenced by the distributor’s capability to offer its own brand,” he said.
And, for those wondering about the cost of private-label apparel when matched up against standard branded apparel, Barreca said, “When a distributor or client chooses to label with their own name, then they have more control over the price and margin since it’s basically a blind sale.”
Kunitz agreed, saying the costs are comparable. “[Private labeling] can be done without a major investment because the merchandise can be obtained at costs not much different than branded goods, if planned right and supplied by flexible manufacturers,” he said.
Speaking of being flexible, Barreca further urged distributors to be fair and honest when it comes to selling private-label apparel. “When creating a private-label line for a company, it’s important to keep the level of quality equal across the products,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to mix lower quality garments with higher-end products and market them under the same label.”
Private-label apparel continues to make inroads in the industry. There is a small but growing list of suppliers that offer the service, and oth distributors and their clients can benefit from this unique form of self promotion.