We Built This City
Construction workers have a bad reputation, and romantic comedies are mostly to blame. Not every construction worker is going to whistle when an attractive woman walks by. Why, do you ask? Oh, you know, because they are operating heavy, deadly machinery and working on attention-consuming things like building infrastructures and foundations—those little things that keep tall office buildings upright. To the surprise and occasional chagrin of many rom-com fans (PM staff included), construction workers have more important things to do than gawk at passersby. Their safety and the safety of their coworkers are more important to them, and they should be important to you too. Here is why you should sell to construction workers and other rugged markets, and the products you need to ensure a long-term safety program.
REASONS TO SELL
1. Safety gear has few notable changes year to year.
Kevin Xiao, vice president of Atteff International, Ontario, Calif., mentioned that there have been no significant changes to rugged gear in the last year. That is a good thing, because it means the items are working. "Demands have been stable," he said. John Perez, marketing associate for Tri-Mountain, Irwindale, Calif., added that changes occur only when ANSI safety standards are updated, which occurs every five years. The last update was in 2010, so work wear will remain the same until at least 2015.
2. Most industries need safety products.
"Safety products are widely used in different industries," Xiao pointed out. He listed strong markets as construction, oil and gas, transportation, automotive, trucking, utility, manufacturing, landscaping, education, agriculture and shooting ranges. Perez gave an example of a construction company that uses safety products. "Safety apparel is in demand from the public sector and organizations like CalTrans, California's state agency responsible for planning, maintenance and construction of highways, bridges and railways here in California," he said. "Construction companies who work on similar road projects are also looking for this type of apparel," he added. "And all of them need it for good reason too, to stay safe on the job by increasing visibility in the midst of hazardous traffic, heavy equipment and inclement weather or any other hazards."
3. There's a piece of safety gear for every season, but they are not seasonal products.
Xiao mentioned that every time of year has its best-selling safety item, but every piece is still perennial because workers always need to be safe. "Gloves are better in the fall/winter season, while safety apparel/glasses tend to be better in spring/summer," he said. "But compared to other items, safety products are less seasonal," Xiao added. Perez mentioned that Tri-Mountain sees a spike in work wear sales in fall and winter, but for the most part safety gear sales stay strong all year. "Perhaps it's because of the ongoing demand for safety wear; it's not necessarily a seasonal product. People will always be in need of safety wear, and that's a good thing," he explained.
4. They are functional, consumable and growing in popularity.
"Besides a good media for promotional purpose, safety products are functional (good for everyday use) and mostly consumable (good for repeat orders)," Xiao explained. Though safety vests are not as integral to the promotional industry as pens or T-shirts, they have a steady place because of repeat orders, and those orders are growing. "As more and more distributors realize safety gear/work wear products can make good promotional items, the exposures of these items to end-users will increase, and thus demand of promotional safety products will be on the way up," Xiao said.
5. Everything is imprintable.
Safety accessories like glasses, gloves and hard hats can easily be imprinted, and so can their apparel counterparts. "Screen imprint is the most popular imprint method," Xiao noted. "It is more flexible in size and color, and normally the most economic way for decoration." He added that pad prints are also popular for safety glasses and hard hats. For apparel, Perez and Xiao mentioned embroidery, though it does have limitations. "Embroidery can be used for apparel, it gives the item higher perceived value, but logo size is normally limited and cost is much higher," Xiao said. Perez championed heat presses for safety wearables. "We like heat transfer using 3M Scotchlite reflective material," he said. "Heat transfer, in general, is cheaper than screen printing and very durable. In terms of design, you also can use a variety of colors, incorporate lots of detail, gradients and so many other things that are not possible with screen printing or embroidery," he added.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
1. Durable materials.
Long-lasting materials are important for gear that is meant to keep workers injury-free, but not every material that touts durability will work. You need to know which materials are right for which products. Xiao listed the top materials for safety wear. "Cowhide leather and canvas are most popular for gloves, polyester mesh materials are most popular for safety apparel, polycarbonate lens is good for safety glasses, while high-density polyethylene is good for safety hard hats," he said. Perez added a few more and offered an example. "For safety wear, polyester oxford woven fabrics work best and can be found in our 8980 Industry (pictured right)," he said. He also mentioned cotton canvas woven fabrics as good for outdoor rugged wear.
2. Tech-heavy items.
We don't mean tech like tablets and MP3 players, but moisture-wicking, waterproofing and anti-microbial technology. They ensure rugged gear will last longer and through inclement weather conditions. "These advancements in fabric help workers to maintain a comfortable body temp throughout the work day and equally important, get home at the end of the day not completely drenched in sweat or smelling unpleasant," Perez explained. Xiao mentioned flame-retardant apparel as another go-to for the safety market. "Fabric with flame-retardant treatment may be a good feature for some working environments, like welding," he said.