Magazine article Marketing

Sales Promotion Made to Measure

Magazine article Marketing

Sales Promotion Made to Measure

Article excerpt

As the recession continues to curb growth in sales promotion budgets, leading suppliers of promotional clothing are attempting to woo price-sensitive customerrs through "added value" in the form of higher quality garments, a wider choice of colours and sizes, and improved levels of service.

Cost-conscious clients are certainly opting for better quality but, it seems, they are also squeezing suppliers' margins, placing lower volume orders and insisting on shorter lead times.

"Consumers are becoming more demanding," says Pelmark chairman Stuart Findlay. "We are now expected to achieve more in terms of value for money, speed of delivery, product choice and quality -- while margins are coming under growing pressure."

"Each year," he adds, "we see a greater difference between supplying wholesalers and retailers and serving the promotions industry. Retailers place orders several months in advance. Promoters expect delivery within three weeks -- sometimes three days."

Ray Barnes, managing director of Fruit of the Loom (which also manufacturers the Screen Stars T-shirt), observes that kpurchasers of promotional clothing now tend to wait "until the last minute" before making buying decisions. "They then want to be able to place repeat orders -- and not necessarily for large quantities," he says.

This is a reflection of the growing pressure on promoters' budgets, according to Graham Wood, managing director of Colchester-based Unique Promotions. Companies are more careful about how they spend their money and they are delaying purchasing decisions for as long as possible.

"Most clients are trying to get more for their money because their budgets are not increasing," adds Wood. "They are certainly doing more homework before placing an order. By the time they get to us, they already have a clear-cut idea of what they want. Blue chip companies in particular now have very professional buyers who are demanding higher technical specifications than ever before."

Fruit of the Loom's Barne says: "In the past, customers did not pay too much attention to the fact that an item of promotional clothing needs to make a statement about the product or service being promoted. Now, although people still go for the lowest price, more companies kare realising the danger of putting their name on an inferior garment."

While the recession has highlighted the trend towards higher quality -- at the expense of quantity -- there has been little change in the type of garments being bought for promotional purposes. As Unique's Wood puts it: "The high-volume products are still the same, only the specifications are changing."

For example, suppliers are becoming more flexible in the range of sizes and colours they offer. More promotional garments are how designed to fit smaller adults and children.

Most suppliers of promotional clothing agree that T-shirts and sweatshirts still dominate the market, although polo shirts and hats (especially baseball caps) are becoming increasingly popular. Even socks are getting in on the act -- with golfing socks now sporting discreetly embroidered logos.

According to Bourne Publicity, silke is now the preferred material for promotional ties. Designs are becoming more sophisticated and logos are less prominent, with branding often restricted to the tip of the tie, or the tag at the back.

While the Rugby World Cup has helped to stimulate interest in the promotional use of rugby shirts, there is a general feeling that these products are unlikely to become high-volume items because their heavier material makes them more expensive.

"Because of the cost factor, the standard white T-shirt still commands the greatest volume in terms of orders placed," says Ian Watson, managing director of Birmingham-based ATS Promotional. He sees only a limited demand for more innovative products, such as the environmentally-friendly T-shirt (made of non-bleached, non-dyed cotton) and T-shirts which change colour when subjected to heat or light. …

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