I've had a lot of time to review and reflect on the corporate apparel industry during the past sixteen years that we have actively participated in it. Things have changed dramatically during that time, especially in our embroidery side. One of the big changes has been the consistent decrease in order size and the increase in number of orders processed. The other aspect that has changed is the speed of output required.
It is interesting to see how this affects the way we approach both marketing and production as well as how we compete.
A whole lot of things have conspired to create a very dramatic change in the way we do our own business at
Team Mates. First, the larger jobs are actually becoming smaller and more of them are sent overseas. The first example of that was the cap industry, which has migrated overseas during the past few years to the point where there are very few (and very expensive) U.S. manufacturers. I'm not going to spend a lot of time belaboring the ability of our overseas competitors who can produce caps and clothing for far less than we can. The fact is, they do it well. The quality is high and the import cost is very low. The end result is that we, at the decorator end, do very few caps compared to the quantities we did in the last decade. The decoration is usually done on the caps during manufacture and this sort of eliminates our participation in the actual market.
The manufactured clothing industry has also gone overseas. All of the major factories have migrated to either the Orient or to the NAFTA countries and again, there are no hard feelings. Adaptation for the locals is what is needed. We just have to learn some new tricks.
In our case, for instance, we have encouraged smaller runs. We eliminated any thought of minimums and have worked on programs that allow us to reduce pricing in order to be competitive. All in all, the change has been good and we find ourselves involved in the performance of fulfillment work which requires the addition of services like drop shipping and consolidating orders. In some cases, we have carried inventory in order to help distributors reduce their own carrying costs and improve turnaround to customers.
The key, for us, is to continue to improve our production and turnaround. It always will be. And I'm sure that I'll have more thoughts later.