Trendy Thursday – 5 Fashion Trends We Really Wish Would Disappear

Fashion,  a few people don’t care about it at all,  some people are absolute slaves to it,  and most are probably somewhere in the middle.   They want to be fashionable,  but aren’t dedicating huge portions of their lives to this quest.  Fashion is fun,  but it can also be a problem for decorators,  particularly when they’re asked to decorate something that’s trendy,  but not easy to embellish.  I’m sure you all have your own lists of fashion trends you’d be happy to never see again,  but today I thought it would be fun to share ours.

Trend 1:  Performance Wear – Yes,  you’re an athlete.  Yes,  you’ve worked hard to get your body in shape and this type of clothing shows that off.   Yes,  performance wear can have moisture wicking capabilities and other traits that make it great for wearing when you’re exerting yourself.  What performance wear doesn’t have is the qualities that make it easy to decorate.  It’s stretchy and hard to hoop which makes embroidery difficult.   It’s thin and often made of polyester or a poly blend,  which can make it unsuitable for screen printing and and decoration techniques involving heat.  Performance wear is pretty much a combo platter of decoration difficulty.

Trend 2: Excessively Distressed Denim – We’ve probably all seen the photos of the pair of jeans for sale that were primarily seams and nothing else,  which is an extreme case.  Still, excessively distressed denim pretty much showcases what decoration was designed to cover up,  which is holes in the garment.   Holes worn into a pair of jeans through wear and time is one thing.   Holes that are pre-made before the garment is even bought or worn is quite another.

Trend 3:  Rompers – Guys may not even know what these are,  since the last time they probably wore one was when they were infants.  Women,  however,  may be quite familiar with the romper,  which is basically a jumpsuit where the legs stop at shorts level.   They’re most likely not that hard to decorate,  honestly,  they’re just not really a good look for any grown-up person to wear,  and that’s why they made the list.  (Note:  Apparently there are rompers for men – which is just wrong on so many levels.  This trend definitely needs to die!)

Trend 4:  Logos On Everything – Yes, putting logos on shirts or jackets or bags can be the life blood of a decoration business,  and having one logo on something isn’t committing a fashion faux pas.   It’s when there are multiple logos everywhere, on every piece of clothing or accessory,  that it becomes too much.  Mixing logos isn’t the greatest fashion homerun either.   Logos are like spices,  a little adds some interest.  Too much,  and you’re turning red and reaching desperately for something to cleanse your palate.

Trend 5:  Cold Shoulder Tops – Another trend that guys may not be as familiar with but something that seems to be showing up everywhere from formalwear to t-shirts.   Basically,  a cold shoulder top is one that has cutouts that leave the shoulder bare.   This style interferes with monogram or logo placement and just isn’t really a look that works for most people.

So,  those are the fashion trends we’d like to see ended,  but I’m sure there are many that we left off the list.  What’s your biggest fashion pet peeve as a decorator?  Leave a comment and let us know what fashion trend you really dislike.

Trendy Thursday: 6 Industry Trends That Need To Die

For whatever the reason,  I seem to be having a “you kids get off my lawn!” sort of day,  in which I’m finding everything a little annoying.   Given my state of mind,  it seemed like a good day to write about a few trends within our industry that I think need to end,  immediately.   Some of these are social media related, and some deal with the industry as a whole.

Trend #1:  Posting multiple pictures in a row of the same design/your work  – This drives me nuts,  mostly because it tends to reduce the impact of the work,  which may be great,  but isn’t going to hold people’s attention if they have to scroll past 13 pictures of the same or similar things.  Don’t flood people’s feed with images of your work.  Choose one picture that you think represents your best work, and provide a link where people can see more examples if they’re interested.

Trend #2: Under charging – This is a particularly insidious trend for new business owners.  Often people don’t really know what they should be earning per job or what they need to be earning per job.  Some decorators (women seem to have a particular problem with this) also undervalue their work because it’s “sewing” or “a hobby”.  If you’ve invested time and money in equipment and learning your craft, you’re a professional.  Set your rates accordingly.

Trend #3: Changing artwork to avoid copyright infringement – There is a long-standing myth that changing copyrighted artwork by a certain percentage will negate the possibility of copyright infringement,  but that’s not so.  There is no such rule.  The best way to avoid copyright infringement is to get permission to use artwork that you did not create,  or to create your own original works.

Trend #4: Video because you can – Facebook Live,  Snapchat, smartphones and sites offering video creation tools mean that almost anyone can be a star.  That’s great,  up to a point.   The thing, however, to ask yourself before making a video is whether or not you should.  Do you have a plan for content?  Do you know what you want to say?  Are you comfortable on camera?  Particularly for businesses who are talking to customers,  videos need to have a reason to exist.  Just because you can is not that reason.

Trend #5: Hard selling on social media – As I’ve said before in seminars,  the first word in the phrase “social media” is “social” for a reason.  Social media is not about selling,  it’s about creating community.  Despite this,  some decoration companies insist on setting up profiles where all they do is post links to product and pricing.  In order to sell on social media,  you have to build trust and a community.  Social media is about soft selling,  where the sales messages are mixed with value added features.  Doing nothing but a hard sell on your profiles will soon insure that you’re selling to no one.

Trend 6: Complaining about the “guy down the street” – It may literally be the competing shop down the street, or it may be an online site,  but there’s always that one business that seems to inexplicably do well while either using underhanded tactics, or doing shoddy work.  It’s tempting to blame those companies for the state of pricing,  or the fact that you didn’t get the big job,  and it’s equally tempting to complain that those companies should change. The reality is they won’t,  and another reality is that there will always probably be people who will buy from them.  What really matters,  however, is not what the other guy does,  it’s what you do.   If you do your best work,  offer fair pricing, and treat your customers honestly and with respect,  who cares what anyone else is doing?  Focus on how you can be better,  not on stopping these other companies from being worse.

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Wisdom Wednesday: Pondering Price

money-questions-198x300“How do I price this job?”

“How would you veterans price this job?”

“What would you charge to do this?”

The questions that are asked may differ,  but the intent behind them is the same,  someone please tell me how to price this stuff.  Make me feel that the price I want to charge is reasonable and correct.   Give me some guidance on how I should be pricing my work.  Let me know that what I do is valuable and worth what I want to ask people to pay for it.

We all know that setting a price for something can be difficult.  The dictionary defines price as “the sum or amount of money or its equivalent for which anything is bought, sold, or offered for sale”  which sounds pretty simple.   You want an embroidered hoodie.  I tell you the hoodie, decorated as you wish,  is $20.  You give me $20,  I give you the hoodie.  An easy transaction, right?

In reality,  it’s anything but easy.   First, you have the fact that decoration work is creative work, and creative work has, historically, been undervalued.  Second,  you have the fact that decoration businesses can range from a one head machine run out of a home to a company with multiple locations and hundreds of heads,  with each business having different income needs and pricing requirements. Third,  you have customers who are looking to get the best value for their money, and may have unrealistic expectations of what your work should cost.  Add in the problem of determining the value of one’s own work, let alone telling other people what you think that value to be,  and you end up with wildly fluctuating price scales,  and good decorators doing quality work who most likely aren’t making nearly what they should.

So, how do we reverse this trend?

Reversing the trend,  in my opinion,  comes down to playing the twin roles of educator and advocate.  Education starts with your company’s customers and,  really, continues anywhere your work is discussed either verbally or in writing.   The goal is to inform your customers and potential customers about what it costs to make the items you make,  cost not only in actual dollars,  but also in time and training.  Your work should always be presented as something done by a skilled craftsperson,  someone who has dedicated time and effort to learning their craft and who should be paid accordingly.     The more the general public understands what goes into the work that is being done,  the more likely it is that they will value the work more,  and expect to pay a higher price for it.

Advocacy also starts at home,  or in your shop,  and extends out to the rest of the world.   Being an advocate for the decoration community means charging a fair price for your work,  charging artificially low prices depresses the rates that all decorators can charge, and also teaches the marketplace to expect quality, painstaking work for mere pennies.   Advocacy also extends to how you talk about what you do.   Emphasize the skills involved and the work it takes to learn the craft.  Speak out when you hear or see people complaining about the price of a decorated garment,  explaining why the cost that is being charged is fair.   Be aware of those who will try to get you to do work for exposure,  as exposure can’t pay the mortgage or keep the lights on.  Make it a point to call out the people who underestimate the value of what we,  as an industry, do,  and keep pushing for the respect,  and the fair pricing structure that the industry deserves.

Pricing is always going to be a controversial issue.  A fair price for you might not seem like a fair price to me; there will always be differences in how things are priced by different decorators,  just as there are differences in where and how individual decorators do their work.   The thing to remember is that a rising tide lifts all boats,  and doing a little pricing research in your market before setting prices can help assure that every decorator gets a fair price for the work that they do.

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Marketing Monday: The Sample Dilemma

question-markSamples cause a lot of questions among decorators. Who should receive them? What impact does a sample have on bringing in new business? When should samples be offered? Where should samples be offered,  online,  only in brick and mortar shops,  only if a customer is in front of you and asks? Why should samples even be offered at all?  How should samples be used to increase business?

That’s a lot of questions,  and there are probably just as many answers,  depending on who is supplying them.   Some companies elect to offer no samples at all. In some cases, instead of samples, a company will offer a sketch or a design mock-up.   Other companies will offer a standard sample,  but won’t do custom samples.  Another option is to offer one custom sample for free,  but charge for additional samples.   In some shops the rule is,  if you want a sample,  you pay for it.  The answers tend to depend somewhat on the philosophy of the shop being asked for a sample,  somewhat on what the competition in the market in question is doing and,  often,  on the size and potential profitability of the proposed job.

So,  given all the questions, and all the potential answers,  how do you decided what your company policy should be regarding samples?  The final decision will have to be based on the realities of your business,  but here are some things to consider while making your decision.

How does your competition handle samples? Do a little research and see if you can determine how your competition replies when asked for a sample.   If customers are conditioned to expect a “yes” when they ask for a sample,  it makes business harder for your company if you’re the only “no”. Finding out if and what everyone else charges for samples is useful too.  Knowing the norms for your market can help you decide what your company will do.

Can your shop do samples without sacrificing production? – Smaller shops that are one man bands, which have a single head machine or a manual press may not have the ability to produce samples the way a larger shop would.   If making a sample is getting in the way of work that is producing income,  it’s fairly easy to see what needs to be running.

Do you track the ratio of samples to actual jobs? The purpose of a sample is to convince the customer to give your company the job,  so you want to know how many times that actually happens.   Your tracking can be as simple as a spreadsheet,  but there should be some way to see what samples are going out, and what percentage of those samples are resulting in jobs and money coming in.  If you find you’re making a lot of samples,  but not getting a lot of jobs,  it may be time to reexamine your sample policy.

Standard samples vs. custom samples – Standard samples are samples of a product that are generic or were made simply to allow the customer to see and feel the product in question.  Some companies will have a look book or a design wall that allows customers to see and touch the work so they can understand what their particular job might look like.  For many customers this will be enough.

Custom samples, as the name implies,  are samples created for a specific customer,  generally using that customer’s artwork.  A custom sample takes more time to produce and is generally only done for larger jobs.  While customers may insist on custom samples at first,  often their questions or concerns can be addressed using a standard sample.  Creating custom samples also demands a high level of tracking,  since you want a high ratio of custom samples turning into jobs.   If you find you’re doing a lot of custom sample work and not getting a lot of orders in return,  this is another sign that your sample policy may need some thought.

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EnMart Extras: What’s Ahead in 2016

time-flies-400x298It’s hard to believe that 2015 is almost over.   In some ways it seems like yesterday was the DAX Show in Kansas City or Quilt Market in Houston.   Still,  we have less than a week until it’s 2016,  so I thought today might be a good day to preview some of what we have in store for the upcoming year.

First,  did you know we’ve added some new Dumbles to our product offerings?   We now have yellow and gray and will shortly have mint green as well.  The new Dumbles are as adorable as the old ones,  just in gender neutral colors that would work for almost any nursery.

Second,  in 2016, screen print supplies will be added to the list of products EnMart offers.  We’ll start with test sheets and sprays most likely,  and then move on to other products as we find suppliers.  EnMart’s parent company, Ensign Emblem,  has been creating screen printed emblems for industrial laundries for years,  so expanding EnMart into screen print only makes sense.

Third,  we’ll be updating our notions.   Scissors have always been a weakness for us,  since we’re picky about the quality that we offer.   Luckily we’ve found some that we like,  along with some needles and supplies for hand embroidery and crafting and crochet that we think are top notch.   So all that will be added to the website and available for purchase.

Finally,  we’ll be at some new shows this year,  and some old favorites.   EnMart will be in booth 751 at the TNNA Show in San Diego in January,  and at the VDTA Show that same month.   We’ll also be exhibiting at all the DAX Shows this year,  and I’m sure our show schedule will get more crowded as the year goes on.

We look forward to seeing and talking with as many of you as we can in 2016.  It’s going to be a great year!