While many companies prepare for the onslaught of rushed holiday orders and increased sales, the custom apparel industry tends to cool down with the weather. Students are home for break, people get busy with the holidays and production usually falls to the wayside. Have no fear, winter isn’t coming just yet (no need to brace yourselves, GOT fans). You still have a few months to prepare for the slow months ahead. We’ve listed five strategies to make sure your printing business can continue to press on in the future.
1. Develop a Plan and Budget
A slow season usually happens at some point for every industry, so use your previous business history to help you plan for the upcoming months. Creating a plan and budget starts with knowing when the lull will hit. Take a look at sales from around late winter of last year and notate when the numbers began to drop and how long until they picked back up again. This can help you determine how much money you need to set aside each month to stay afloat when business is slow.
It can also help you make decisions on when and where to cut expenses during those times. Maybe you reduce your hours of operation, determine when seasonal employees need to be let go, or use less machinery to meet your lower production demand. The important thing is to have a plan and budget in place so that you don’t have to temporarily close shop.
2. Find New Ways to Sell
Before sales start to cool down, explore new avenues to get your business out there. One of the best things you can do is find ways to increase word-of-mouth buzz. Consumers trust peer recommendations from family, friends or influencers more than any other form of advertising. A few things to try:
- Print some cool company tees and start wearing them around town. Give some away free to loyal customers!
- Reach out to previous customers with positive experiences and ask if they’ll give you a review on Google or Yelp.
- Go on your social pages and try and find micro-influencers in your industry who would be willing to partner with your brand for free merch or a low cost.
While peer recommendations are important, it doesn’t mean you should forgo all other options available to you. Learn the basics of running Facebook or Instagram business ads and start promoting some of your leftover inventory on sale. Go the old-fashioned route and print a few flyers and leave them at local hot spots. Look into selling online on sites like Etsy, or adding an ecommerce page to your website. The point is, find new ways to sell.
3. Offer an Incentive
Consider implementing and promoting incentives now, that will drive business back during the slower period. For example, you can email current customers an e-coupon that’s only redeemable during those months. For loyal customers who make recurring orders, think about offering them a deal now if they commit to buying a certain number of custom apparel items during the winter as well. For example, you could launch a raffle where every customer who makes an order during the slow period is entered to win a tour of your screenprinting business and see the process in action. Use the time to think about what your business has to offer and strategize low budget ways you can motivate your audience.
4. Keep Your Customers Engaged
Never let your customer relationships go cold, no matter the weather. Ending communications with new companies or customers after the order has been fulfilled costs your print shop valuable time and money. In general, it costs five times as much to recruit new customers as it does to retain current ones.
Keep your customers engaged by sending a handwritten “thank-you” card or delivering a few orders in person when possible. This way, when business starts to slow, they’ll remember you when you reach back out. Put together a list of customers who ordered from you a few times (or who haven’t ordered in awhile) and send them a small holiday basket letting them know how much you appreciate them. It’s the little things that matter.
5. Research Trade Shows to Attend
Continuing education is important in any industry to remain knowledgeable on current trends and best practices. The fact that 46 percent of customers would take their business elsewhere due to employees’ lack of knowledge says it all. Take some time to research upcoming tradeshows and determine which one would be a good investment for your custom apparel business to attend during the slow months. A few shows coming up that we suggest looking into include The NBM Show, ISS Shows and the Decorated Apparel Expo.
Not only are trade shows a great place to improve upon and/or learn new printing techniques, they’re also an important marketing channel. With a multitude of brand suppliers, distributors, and buyers in attendance, it’s a great way to make networking connections that hopefully lead to future business.
Every industry experiences a production slowdown at some point, the key is to anticipate the lull and prepare for when it happens.
How does your business usually prepare for slower seasons? Let us know in the comments!