September '22

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G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 2 • G R A P H I C S P R O 8 1 variety to the mix, you have a selection of weights of many of these different kinds of fabrics. And to make things even more challenging, many of these fabrics are now available in many product categories. TALK WITH YOUR PREFERRED SUPPLIERS AND REPS Back in the early days of our business, we ordered nearly all the blank apparel and products from two or three suppliers. e sales representatives from those companies reached out and let us know when they could stop by. ey would come into our business and show us the newest products and colorways that were available in their catalogs. We could touch product sam- ples, compare similar products and see the color palettes of each of the brands they offered. ey would ask us what our custom- ers were looking for, and then make recommendations based on what they knew about their products. Today, it is likely that you order inventory from more than just a few industry suppliers. is is probably in part due to inventory shortages and supply chain issues and the toll the pandemic has had on all industries. Yet, I suspect that even before the pandemic turned the world inside out, you did not know the name of your sales reps, and that you cannot even fathom the idea of someone coming to your business and providing you with an hour or two of product education on a regular basis. Talk with your preferred suppliers. Find out who your inside sales reps are. Prowl their websites, as many of the industry lead- ers have a wealth of information available for apparel decora- tors. Some suppliers even offer free or reduced prices on market- ing support materials or marketing services. You may be eligible for an allowance towards free samples based on the volume of business you do with them, or at least be able to request grom- meted samples. e fact that you are reading this article indicates that you want to succeed in your business, as you are doing something different than many of your competitors. You are seeking information. You are looking for ways to think about your business differently. You are not satisfied with the status quo. While Google is an amazing and endless source of information, it is not always your best bet for applicable knowledge. e suppliers in our indus- try are experts in their lanes. ey succeed when you succeed. erefore, they have a vested interest in how much you know about their products, and how easily and effectively you can use them, decorate them or with them, and ultimately, sell them to your customers. Your suppliers and their knowledge may be the best yet most underutilized and hidden asset that you can lever- age to ensure your success. GP Jennifer Cox is one of the founders and serves as president of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), an organization that supports embroidery and ap- parel decoration professionals with programs and services designed to increase profit- ability and production. You can contact her at " Talk with your preferred suppliers. Find out who your inside sales reps are. Prowl their websites, as many of the industry leaders have a wealth of information available for apparel decorators."

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