Yes, decorated-apparel shops are dropping prices to win post-pandemic work. Lucas Guariglia, CEO and co-founder of Chicago-based Rowboat Creative, has definitely noticed, and doesn’t think it’s a good idea. “While shops are using this as a survival tactic to get back above water, it’s setting the tone for us to be taken advantage of due to low pricing,” he says.
When you’re simply trying to survive the pandemic, it’s easy to justify taking orders without thinking enough about profit margin, fit for your equipment, or alignment with your goals. Even before the virus, pricing was an issue, leaving decorators trying to find the “magic number” to appeal to customers, while still netting a profit.
“The decorators who’ll enjoy long-term success are those who’ve pursued new products and different imprinting methods to serve their customers’ changed needs, while reducing costs and maintaining a profitable position,” says Erich Campbell, program manager for the Commercial Division at BriTon Leap. “Rather than shift to a lower-margin pricing scheme, many retooled their equipment and processes to decorate new products and to serve markets that haven’t been as adversely affected.”
The Impact of ‘Low-Price Shoppers’ During COVID-19
In two months, the United States lost over 36 million jobs. This translates into much smaller budgets for buyers, especially on the marketing side. Because of this, many decorators are steering away from raising prices, even with increases in production costs and materials. “Ultimately, you get what you pay for,” Guariglia says. “We’ll always stand firm on wanting to provide superior products with superior service.”
With fall right around the corner, don’t miss out on a major merchandising opportunity—college team wear and Greek organization gear for the back-to-school and football crowd. Although, we’re still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a CNBC article, “The Chronicle of Higher Education has tracked over 1,000 colleges since April and has found that roughly 65% of schools are preparing for in-person classes this fall. That also means that all signs point to students still needing some gear to represent their schools, which may now also include PPE.
If you’re already in the business of selling decorated apparel, the process itself for getting a license may look murky. So, let’s talk about what licensing entails, how to go about it, and the pros and cons of selling licensed merch (with a little expert advice).
Companies, schools, teams and organizations all want to protect their market brand. For example, The Walt Disney Co. doesn’t want (or permit) unauthorized Mickey Mouse prints on T-shirts. That’s where licensing comes in.
To legally print a branded product such as a college logo or sorority letters, a printing company must be licensed by the copyright holder to print the artwork. When you apply for a license, the owner of the image (known as the licensor) gets a fee in advance for allowing you to use their images. Usually, this can be a flat fee or a percentage of income from the sales of these licensed products.
As part of this agreement, the printing company (known as the licensee) verifies quality control and the licensor approves the image usage. “If a sorority wants its letters on a crop top that advertises a year-end keg party, the licensor usually won’t approve it,” says Steve Farag, co-owner of Urbana, IL-based Campus Ink Printing. “Ultimately, a lot of the responsibility falls on you, the licensee, to ensure you’re protecting the licensor’s rights and reputation.”
The Process of Getting a License
Getting a license to sell logoed products for colleges, Greek organizations or sports teams isn’t something you can do in an afternoon. It’s a complex, multiple-step process that takes time. But, it can ultimately lead you to a great opportunity to make more sales.
The year of 2020 has definitely been a challenging one on many fronts. But, one thing that’s really stood out, especially since COVID-19 reared its ugly head earlier this year, is how art and creativity have helped carry us through it all. It’s helped us raise money for those in need, keep local businesses afloat, spread powerful messages, celebrate graduations in unique ways, and given us much needed distractions from the seriousness of the times.
Streetwear and decorated apparel, in general, has absolutely been a huge source of this creativity and support. Many in the streetwear community are among those, who, even while struggling, have used their popularity and creativity to put a smile on people’s faces, while trying to stay in business at the same time.
The Social Distancing Club
Take, for example, a new streetwear company “The Social Distancing Club,” out of Los Angeles, CA. They spawned from a desire to turn social distancing into something that felt cool and positive vs something negative, in an effort to encourage people to do it. The two founders also started the line out as a way to help the World Central Kitchen, a group working across the country on safely distributing individually packaged fresh meals to communities in need. For every piece of apparel (which consists of t-shirts, crop tops, hoodies and of course, face masks) that is sold, five dollars will go to the WCK.
Another popular brand, HUF, started creating capsule collections that benefit healthcare workers, small businesses and local employees, who have been affected by COVID-19. There are 3 versions of the collection, each being dedicated to workers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
British streetwear label, Palace, transformed their logo to support the efforts of the National Health Service, by switching it’s color to the NHS blue. Using the new logo, they created a line of apparel that will see 100% of the proceeds go to helping healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
Fundraising For Social Justice
Social justice has also been at the center of streetwear more recently, with brands like “A Cold Wall,” out of the UK, making a £25,000 donation to support black independently owned businesses; Alife, out of NYC, raising $18,500 in sales of their “Justice for Ahmaud Arbery Hoodie,” which will be donated to his mother; and Savage x Fenty planning on donating to four different organizations, those being Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, Color of Change, Movement for Black Lives, and The Bail Project.
What It All Means
The events of 2020 have made society much more hyperaware than it was yesterday. Large reductions in pollution, due to shelter in place orders, for example, have made it abundantly clear to many people of our impact on the environment. And, the recent social justice movements across the country have influenced brands, big and small, to start taking action.
Because of that and the many other social causes we’ve all been supporting these past few months, consumers will most certainly be looking for more apparel made by companies, who are socially conscious, respect human rights and are practicing sustainability.
The actions we’ve seen from the streetwear community and other major brands, during these turbulent times, are a reflection of the power a piece of apparel can have on society and the importance of making sure your brand stands for something more than just making money. Soon, that could be the defining factor between your business surviving, or fading into the sunset.
Being a musician these days may be tougher than it’s ever been. The evolution of how we consume our favorite tunes has taken some money out of musicians’ pockets and forced them to get creative with how they make some of it back.
Gone are the days when fans would rush to the stores to buy that new CD, or visit iTunes to download their album. Today, most of us simply stream our music and the rise of these services has made tour and merch revenue much more important to artists worldwide. Business Insider found that the highest paid act in 2017, U2, made $54 million in total revenue. About 94% of that came from touring and less than 4% came from streaming or album sales. Imagine what that means for a local band or an artist without the cache of U2.
Streaming Is Sucking Artists Dry
According to Billboard.com, by November 2019 album sales fell 19% compared to the same point in 2018. “And, for the full year of 2018, album sales dropped by 17.7% to 141 million — the lowest number of albums sold in a year since Nielsen Music began electronically tracking sales in 1991.” This is largely due to streaming.
NPR interviewed independent musician, Erin McKeown, and found that her accountant mentioned she was only making $0.004 per play on Spotify. At that rate, it would take 250 streams to earn $1 in royalties and 2,500 to earn a typical album download cost of $10. Keep in mind that is because McKeown is an independent artist, she gets 100% of her streaming royalties, but if she had a label, she’d be splitting even that small amount of earnings with them too.
The coronavirus has recently made things even more dire for musicians. With the pandemic effectively shutting down their #1 revenue stream, most acts have been forced to cancel or reschedule their tours. So how are musicians surviving these days?
Apparel Bundles and Merch Are Saving Musicians
Enter the apparel bundle. Because no one really buys music anymore, musicians need to entice their fans into purchasing albums. In an article for Rolling Stone, J. Cole manager, Matt McNeal, says that bundles are meant
“to trick people back into buying full albums…Fans are probably already listening to the album [on a streaming service], but because I sold them this t-shirt, I also get a CD sale within it.”
T-shirt bundles like these can sell for upwards of $30 and get paired with either a physical copy of the album or a digital download. But, some artists are skimming on using quality apparel and taking a hit on margins, with these bundles. On average you’d pay $10 for an album and between $20 to $30 for the artist’s apparel. Some bundles, like the one Nicki Minaj had put out for her “Queen” album, have gone for as low as $15 dollars, which seems crazy to some, because it leaves so little margin for profit. So why would someone do such a thing, especially when merchandise is such a huge revenue stream for artists today?
Apparel Catapults You Up The Charts
These days, almost all the albums on the top 200 are getting their rank boosted by a bundled album, and we’re talking about the likes of Taylor Swift, The Jonas Brothers, Kanye West, Ariana Grande, Thomas Rhett and Billie Eilish. Your Billboard ranking is dependent on your total album sales, but since everyone is streaming, musicians need to bundle decorated apparel with album downloads, to raise their ranking.
It takes 1,250 paid subscription streams to equal 1 album unit and 3,750 ad-supported streams to do the same, making it almost impossible to rely on streams alone to raise your Billboard ranking.
When Travis Scott first released his album “Astroworld,” he bundled it with exclusive merch that spanned 28 items. For the first 9 days of the release, every 24 hours he updated his site with brand new exclusive merch. One of those pieces included a t-shirt collaboration with the ever-popular Off-White founder, Virgil Abloh. As you probably know, his strategy worked, because “Astroworld” would eventually hit #1 on the Billboard charts.
In a way, this has sparked what some are calling a “bundle war” in the music industry. Your position on the charts is becoming more about how creative you can be in developing unique promotions and apparel than whose music people enjoyed more. That’s why some artists are willing to settle for less on quality and margins. Their main goal is to sell as many units as possible, by any means necessary. In Rolling Stone, Michael Cherman, designer of merchandise for A$AP Rocky and Lil Wayne, says:
“If [artists] can move the numbers up, that will get them more attention. It’s just a marketing game: The more you can trend, be the album that’s talked about, the more people are going to go and see what’s happening.”
Of course, bigger acts are going to be able to play this game more than the smaller ones. Some musicians aren’t able to skimp on margins and might sell less albums because of it. Some won’t want to skimp on quality, because it’s a bad reflection of their brand. The main takeaway is that all of them need you.
The one constant within the industry is the need for decorated apparel, and not only is it increasing, it’s becoming a vital part of an artist’s success. Knowing the ins and outs of how apparel affects a musician’s image, ranking, and survival will be key in your consultations with them. Your ability to help recommend the best approach in choosing the right design, quality and quantity to achieve their goals is what will take your business to the top of the charts.
Iconic sports brand adidas has made a huge sustainable splash—and the world has taken notice. That’s why it’s so exciting for S&S to be the exclusive distributor of premium adidas products to the wholesale market. We’ve now introduced the wholesale market to more than 30 adidas styles that contain recycled polyester, or are made from 100% recycled polyester, and more are on the way.
The prestige of this brand, coupled with its compelling recycled-product story and sustainable message, speaks to Gen X and Millennial end-users in a whole new way.
This year, and into 2021, distributors and decorators should start embracing the opportunity to present clients with adidas’ sustainable story and styles, as people are looking for more responsible brands to buy from. Here’s a few reasons why.
Celebrity Love for Adidas Is Blowing Up
When you take adidas’ sustainable efforts and then add in major star power, you get an unbeatable formula for brand success. Collaborations with artists like Pharrell Williams and Kanye West have led to the creation of highly sought after sneaker collections. Beyoncé’s “Ivy Park” athletic apparel line, just launched—capturing more of the urban and streetwear markets. Their newest brand ambassador, NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is the inspiration behind their recently launched collection, Pat’s Closet, and the talent keeps on flocking to adidas.
As distributors and decorators begin to see “stay-at-home” restrictions slowly being lifted across the country, people are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But, the question of what business will look like, even after restrictions are lifted, still looms large.
Because there’s lots of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its lasting effect on our society, we may see businesses and the general public continue to take precautionary measures for the foreseeable future.
As a result, our society may start to think differently about how we interact and do business with each other on a daily basis. That kind of change, can often open up new markets of opportunity, and decorated face masks are becoming just that.
As small businesses across the country have been scrambling to figure out how to cope with the sudden impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our economy, decorators have turned into a lifeline for many of them. Thinking outside-of-the-box is exactly what will help us all get through a tough time like this, and decorators have been extremely active in helping to find new ways we can all support businesses, families and schools in our local communities.
Marshall Atkinson and Tom Rauen, industry gurus and founders of the Shirt Lab workshops, are masters at thinking outside-of-the-box. In the video below, they’ll share what some of these decorators have been doing to keep themselves afloat, and also touch on their own creative ideas, which you could use to continue generating business now and in the future. Watch the video below to hear what they had to say.
When we all put our heads together, problems get solved, new relationships form and new opportunities present themselves to us. Marshall and Tom, know how important it is to collaborate and share knowledge, so they’ve rounded up an incredible group of OVER 30 successful industry experts to bring you the Shirt Lab Summit.
Taking place on June 1st, 2nd and 3rd, the Shirt Lab Summit is a series of webinars, which will help you take your business to the next level, and REGISTRATION IS FREE!
Click below for more information on the speakers and to register for access.
Off-White founder Virgil Abloh was born in Chicago in 1980 to Ghanian immigrant parents. After earning an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he established a Chicago art gallery and streetwear boutique called RSVP Gallery.
Around this time, Abloh interned at high-fashion label, Fendi, in Rome, where he connected with rap superstar Kanye West. West made Abloh the creative director of his agency Donda, where he designed sets for West’s concert tours and created the artwork for West and Jay-Z’s album Watch the Throne.
In 2009, Abloh and West launched Pyrex Vision, an innovative streetwear design company. According to Highsnobiety, Pyrex Vision’s first garments consisted of Ralph Lauren flannel shirts purchased for $40, screen printed with the word “Pyrex” and the number 23 (a nod to the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan), and resold for $550.
In 2013, Pyrex Vision relaunched as Off-White ℅ Virgil Abloh. The name is a reference to “the gray area between black and white.”
Off-White often uses quotation marks in its designs, with Highsnobiety saying that, “By presenting words as citations, Abloh is taking them out of context, and questioning their seriousness. When he puts “Sculpture” on the side of a handbag, he’s provoking the viewer. What’s the difference between a handbag and a piece of art, really?“
Off-White’s Fashion Aesthetic
A quick look at Off-White’s spring/summer 2020 collection shows how much they’ve expanded their offering over the years. Their line covers everything (Tracksuits; bombers; puffer jackets; sweatshirts for men; jackets, crop tops; dresses and activewear for women). All of these styles use a mixture of both muted and bright hues, so there’s something for everyone. Brand lovers can even extend the style to their living space, with home goods like blankets, towels, pillows and more.
A Rise In Popularity
According to an interview conducted by Business Of Fashion, Federica Levato, a partner at Bain & Company, says:
“Customers are becoming younger, and that is very good for the mid- and longer-term survival of this industry. There is a big market of €2.5 million for luxury T-shirts, for example, that is growing very fast.”
Off-White has merged the worlds of contemporary art, high-fashion and hip hop culture in a way that’s appealed to consumers of all ages, from teenagers on up. With 10.3 million followers on Instagram, the brand has definitely used social media to grab the attention of that young generation of buyers and keep their image fresh. That influence has also demanded the attention of major brands and fashion designers around the world, allowing them to keep creating more collaborative collections that people are continuously lining up for.
In 2014, Abloh debuted collections at Paris Fashion Week and has shown no signs of slowing down, establishing the brand’s first concept store in Tokyo and followed that up by launching a furniture collection called Grey Area in 2016. One year later, he was awarded the British Fashion Award for Urban Luxe Brand. Following a steady rise in popularity, in 2018, Abloh was named artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear division.
One thing is for sure: Off-White isn’t going anywhere. According to HYPEBEAST, during Q3 2019, it beat luxury brand Gucci as “Hottest Brand.” It held on to the top spot for Q4 2019, with Gucci and Balenciaga taking the second and third spots, respectively.
Throughout his career, Abloh has also formed partnerships with a variety of brands, including Nike, Levis, Jimmy Choo, Warby Parker, Sunglass Hut, Converse, Dr. Martens, Timberland and more. He’s even gone as far as collaborating with IKEA, and creating exhibits like the one at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which launched in 2019.
So, what’s next for Abloh and Off-White? Footwear News reports that Off-White and the Jordan brand will release new Off-White x Air Jordan 5 sneakers later this year. Virgil Abloh and Off-White are certainly here to stay.
Lots of decorators (including you) wrestle with the big questions: how and when to diversify. You risk sinking your shop’s profitability when you jump in at the wrong time. Don’t worry—we asked industry experts to weigh in on how to expand your offerings smartly and strategically.
There are lots of great reasons to diversify. “You separate yourself from your competitors,” says Marian Hinebauch, owner of Las Vegas-based Logo Droppers. “You give them more options. You become a consultant, as you bring new ideas to your customers’ attention.”
During the COVID-19 lockdown though, diversification’s more complicated. “There’s no crystal ball for what our new normal is—people are in survival mode,” says Marshall Atkinson, a decorated-apparel success coach, who also offers hands-on training via his Shirt Lab events. “Wayne Gretsky said, ‘You skate to where the puck is going to be.’ You diversify successfully if you see where the puck’s headed.” Right now, for example, if you’re a screen printer, diversification might mean heat-pressing masks.
Streetwear has gone in many different directions that have, at times, seemed a little overboard. With companies like Supreme going as far as putting their logo on an Oreo cookie, there seems to be no limit on what a streetwear company may do next.
Enter face masks. Although wearing them has been fairly common in a few countries, here in the states, fashionable masks are generally an unnecessary luxury that just seemed like another over-the-top reach for more sales.
However, times have changed and masks have suddenly become one of the hottest pieces of streetwear on the market. How hot are they?