April '19

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 9 A P R I L P R I N T W E A R 3 7 ground in movies and commercials," Parker adds. For example, kids these days don't necessarily know who the Rolling Stones are, but their parents do. Because items in the kidswear category change quickly, connecting with the cus- tomer's interests and emotions is critical to gaining their attention and ultimately turning them into a repeat customer. Ivy Mai of Kavio! suggests closely following the gaming industry, music, animation shows, and movies for inspiration. This will help producers hone in on building a niche market. In some cases, less is more. For Jackson, subjects like animals and "radical robots" are working. Parker stress- es the importance of keeping things simple and tells decorators to "let the apparel do the heavy lifting." MAKE IT HAPPEN Childrenswear is an undeniably lucrative market, with plenty of opportunities to get in the game. But, be prepared, it is a competitive one. Get a slice of the billion- dollar pie by building brand recognition and choosing the best marketing avenue for your target audience. As Gupta puts it, childrenswear provides an excellent market for decorators and re- tailers alike. For those interested in capi- talizing, Jackson says although marketing can be a tough road, the key is to focus on brand recognition. "What we need to do to stay competitive is focus on those things that kids can identify with that aren't someone else's copywritten work," he adds. To get around designs like licensed TV cartoon characters, try using universally recognized subjects. For example, there was some craze around the song "What Does the Fox Say?" and Tiny Planet Ink's fox shirt gained traction with the correla- tion between an image of a fox and what's popular in mainstream media. He adds, "I'm sure someone right now is killing it with a baby shark shirt." In terms of active marketing efforts via social media, sources have mixed reviews. Jackson has found more luck getting in- volved with his local community and pop- up markets than with staying extremely present on Instagram, while Parker en- dorses social media platforms as great marketing tools. He suggests embedding a purchasing platform through Facebook and Instagram, which can make it easy for a brand to grow awareness within a par- ticular community. He also points out that moms are by and large the ultimate deci- sion makers for kidswear purchases and building a great story behind a brand can help give it the boost it needs. Parker asks, "Who loves a story more than moms?" Aside from building brand recognition and navigating the right marketing tac- tics, another essential element to consider is working with distributors and suppli- ers. Communication is everything, espe- cially when starting a new venture. Time is money, and the fewer times business own- ers have to revisit their needs and wants the better. Not all products are created equal, so decorators should ask questions about sizing and delivery whenever working with a new distributor. Inks can be differ- ent, and toddler sizes from one brand may not coincide with sizes from another. Be- cause of the inconsistencies in inventory, producers need to be flexible in their ex- pectations. If decorators find a new blank garment they enjoy printing on, buying in bulk isn't a bad idea. Additionally, pur- chasing a style in many sizes can minimize any downtime headaches. As long as producers are incorporating variety, popular styles, and delivering a design that connects with the interests of today's customers, Gupta says they can stay competitive and attract new clientele. For those looking to go the extra mile, Mai reminds business owners of custom rela- beling programs. These types of programs, she explains, can not only take a T-shirt brand to the next level but also increase the overall value of a brand, as well as keep a brand well ahead of any competition. The kidswear marketplace isn't selling anyone short on trending fashions, so don't sell your potential customers short on a finished, decorated T. PW Left: Soft tri-blend Ts and vintage looks with minimal prints are huge for the new year. (Image courtesy S&S Activewear) Right: Depending on the market producers want to serve with their kidswear line, per- formance hoodies, shorts, and leggings are popular items year round. (Image courtesy S&S Activewear)

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