What Promotional Products Distributors Wish Their Apparel Decorators Knew

Published: 2023-04-27T17:44:32+0000 Updated: 2023-04-27T20:43:13+0000 Author: Jim Owen
What Promotional Products Distributors Wish The Apparel Decorators Knew
When tasked with writing an article that explains what PPD’s wish their apparel decorators knew to complete excellent and timely work of high quality screen print and embroidery projects it’s probably good practice to start with the reverse…What do industry contract decorators wish distributors knew before submitting orders they “hoped” would deliver wow moments for clients.  

By most industry estimates, apparel accounts for upwards of 30% of Promotional product sales.  Include headwear and some bags that may get shipped to outside, contract decorators, then some may see almost ½ of their sales in the hands of decorator partners.  If such a large portion of our business success and or potential failure is reliant upon outside supplier partners, we better make sure we both understand the needs of each other’s businesses.  This process MUST start with educating the PPD’s about methods of decoration, processes and costs to complete each, the technicalities of the different processes and the things that can go wrong with each, these are all important factors but so much more to learn for PPD’s.   


Now more than ever, there are potentially dozens of ways to decorate garments, caps and bags.  Technology has provided better Direct To Garment (DTG) machines for all categories, as well as heat seal, applique, laser, 3D/Puff embroidery and others.  For simplicity purposes in this discussion, we can focus on direct embroidery and screen print since they likely provide a large majority of the volume.  In choosing a supplier partner for outsource decorator needs it’s advisable to have multiple options that specialize in either embroidery only, or screen print only.  As with most service offerings you may find this old adage true, you can have fast servicehigh quality, and low price- pick which 2 you’d like.  This example may hold true, and that’s fine, just make sure to have several options in your supplier base that cover the 2 you need for each specific job. 

What do we wish our decorators knew?

I'd start with how important they were to the overall happiness of the client, which leads to the ongoing success of our business.

When was the last time you shared a positive client comment on their garments with the decorator?  Transparency…as I’m writing this- I’m smiling thinking of which of our important decorator partners will email me that they haven’t heard this from us in a bit!  How many of your clients think you are fully responsible for delivering the finished goods?  It’s time for EDUCATION, both for the PPD’s and our clients.  When hiring new inside or field sales people, make the time to take them into several of your decorators.  Ask the embroidery manager to explain why changing thread colors for a 12 piece run takes time, especially if the design includes 6 or 7 colors not frequently used. Have you ever changed threads on a 12 head machine?  Have the print decorator show them screen making, how many runs through the press of a 7 color- on a DARK garment.  These details are critical to pricing the item properly and projecting a production timeline.  All very important and detailed information that we, the PPD should know AND information we should be conveying to our clients to set expectations for the order.  

Many of the miscommunications between PPD’s and our decorators can be traced to our lack of educating our clients on proper design detail matched with the garment we’ve chosen to suggest to them.  Want to sell a high pile fleece jacket?  Sherpa maybe?  Is the logo or graphic 1 word in thin font?  I would highly suggest a pre-production sample, thin lines are often covered by the fleece making the logo illegible.  Are you selling striped polo?  Have a horizontal logo?  Even if you do a pre-production sample that’s correct and approved, there is a chance that some in production may appear to be crooked or not aligned properly with the stripe.  Humans must match up the embroidery hoops, there is potential for mistake goods, clients reject, pre pro was approved?  What happens- who pays?  Maybe it’s best to discuss this potential outcome with our clients first and either move to another garment design or change the graphic.  I can promise you our decorator partners WISH we knew this before sending hundreds or thousands of garments like this to them without nailing the details of this prior to shipping them pallets of garments and expecting 5-7 day production. 


None of these topics even mention the needed details on clean and complete purchase orders that include reasonable production “in hands dates” or appropriate art submission before we submit PO and not 3 days later.  And perhaps the MOST important 

detail our decorators wish we knew, they like us, need timely and accurate payment for work done.  Smiling again at the number of our decorator partners who might text me an inappropriate emoji on this one!   If we strive to be a growing and thriving distributorship, then it’s imperative we partner with professional contract decorators to help us wow our customers with excellent service and quality decoration and then treat one another as true business partners who are vital to each others success.

In the many years I’ve been privileged to work in this industry, I assure you I’ve made each of these mistakes, some multiple times but have a fantastic group of business partner decorators who have bailed us out and kept us in business…thanks go to them!!