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Growing as an Industry

Posted by Justin Lawrence on 6/26/19 9:10 AM

Blog_THREADX_AudienceNotesThe apparel decoration industry has changed my life. I’m sure if you are reading this, you can share in my sentiment. What I haven't fully wrapped my head around yet is if it is going to send me to an early grave, or be the true catalyst in securing my family and my staff’s financial stability — maybe both?



The pursuit of the challenge to add value to our shop is one of the primary drivers that gets me out of bed each morning. Daily struggles with production capacity, staffing sustainably, customer service and leadership development are just a few of the giants that I face.

One of my go-to data sources is SGIA’s Industry Benchmarking Reports. I find encouragement specifically from their Garment Decorators Scorecard. Use this tool to measure (not compare) yourself and your shop to the rest of us. I’m going to sample a few of the statistics here for you, but I implore you to go check out all the reporting.

Who are we?

  • 78% — less than 20 employees.
  • 78.2% — sales up to $3 million
  • 68.3% — 10 or more years in business (31.7% — less than 10 years old)

This small excerpt points out a strong correlation about our businesses, and reminds me that a lot of us are very much alike — “my people” as I like to affectionately refer to our collective. We are builders, hustlers, innovators and doers.

Where are you on this sampling? In the majority? The minority? Neither is right or wrong, as long as you are doing it sustainably. For me, the biggest takeaway from this data is the first two points. The correlation between the number of employees and sales is very interesting. Using some quick math, you can derive out a “soft” metric … Each employee is (should be) worth around $150k in gross revenue. Are you there? Are you over? Are you under?

SGIA Research Apparel Decorators Scorecard

Markets Served

  • B2C — 73.5%
  • Athletic — 71.1%
  • Corporate Branding — 69.9%
  • Educational Institutions — 61.4%
  • Non-profits — 61.4%
  • Retail — 55.4%
  • Food Services — 53.0%
This benchmark was a bit of a wake-up call for our business. I immediately went to my sales manager and asked, “What is our percentage of business for each sector?" The one where we are missing the most opportunity is certainly in corporate branding. This is a small pivot that we can make, that can quickly add value to our top line and our bottom line. Where is there an opportunity for your business to dip a toe into a new market? Or a market that you are underserving?

Don’t get stuck working in your business. You know as well as I do that the work of a screen printer, embroiderer, graphic designer, fulfillmenter (ok, I made that up), screen reclaimer, salesperson and bill payer — to name a few — is never done. This is what you hire for. Make sure you are investing time working on your business.

riCardo crespo at THREADX for Apparel DecoratorsOne of the best ways you can invest in yourself and your business is to attend a very special, refreshingly different experience designed by apparel decorators for apparel decorators: THREADX. This is  NOT a “how-to” conference! It is designed specifically for apparel decoration business owners and managers to capture the spirit of consumer culture and how it will affect the industry.

THREADX features sessions on business strategies, marketing and more. SGIA’s Apparel Decorators Committee created the conference to motivate business leaders to better understand the apparel decoration industry so they can capitalize on consumer trends that are driving the marketplace. Some of the sessions I am personally most excited about in 2020 are:
Networking at THREADX

  • A Design Workshop with Aaron Draplin
  • Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers with Jay Baer
  • Culture Eats Strategy
  • Moderated Discussion: Business Challenges You Currently Face
  • Moderated Discussion: Innovations in the Industry
  • Panel Discussion: Subscription Models

Custom apparel decoration is certainly not for the faint of heart. Make sure you are not doing it alone. Join me at THREADX 2020 (February 23 - 25; Scottsdale, Ariz.). I need you there to make me better.

Stay tuned for more THREADX 2020 updates later this summer and sign up to receive notifications.

Topics: Research and Reporting, Apparel Decorators, ThreadX, Branding, Business Operations, Marketing