Monty is a member of Decorator Relations with Sanmar. One of his many goals is to build strong relationships with the decorated apparel community and help people like you succeed.
You can contact Monty at https://apparelgeek.com/ or find him on twitter @apparelgeek or Instagram @apparelnerd.
Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!
Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!
Mark S: Hey, everyone, and welcome to episode 83 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.
Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. Today, we’ve got Insights from The Apparel Geek.
Mark S: That’s him!
Marc V: Yes, right here. For those of us just listening, not watching, Monty Mims. I’m actually really excited to have Monty on the show, today. It could be the amount of coffee I drank this morning.
Mark S: It could be. It could be you don’t have to talk to just me for the next 45 minutes.
Marc V: That’s a good portion of it. We wanted to connect with Monty on the show here, now, for almost a year. But Monty travels. We’ve got a ton of things going on.
Mark S: He’s busy. Just in case you didn’t know, in addition to being The Apparel Geek, which if you participate in the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group, which you definitely should, then you’ve seen him give some great advice, some tips.
Monty is also with SanMar, who is our go-to apparel company, where we recommend and purchase blanks from, and is part of the Decorator Relations group. So, those are all reasons why we’ve got Monty on the show today.
Monty Mims: Thank you all for having me. I appreciate it.
Marc V: Awesome! Why don’t you give us just like a minute, on SanMar, Decorator Relations, what you do? Make sure that the people understand that everything you say is really important.
Mark S: Good, I like that!
Monty Mims: To kind of build my validity card, I grew up under my dad’s embroidery business. He’s a true old-school guy for this industry. The idea of decorating apparel for business, and even for retail, isn’t relatively that old.
He got started in the 70s, doing retail transfer shops. He had a chain of about six stores called Foxy’s. If there’s ever anything more 70s than that, I don’t know what that is.
He moved from the retail transfer business to business-to-business embroidery, in ’81. I was born in ’77, amidst all of this, and have been around it my whole life, with Pellon on the floor and thread in my hair.
I was hired by SanMar in ’07, which was sort of an experiment for them, because they had never hired a customer before. It had always been either folks from inside, or other folks in the trade channel, reps with other companies.
So, there was this question about you’ve got this youngish guy, no outside sales experience whatsoever, but has lived and breathed in his dad’s business. He appears to be freakishly passionate about this stuff, for some reason. What happens if we bring him in and sort of mold and shape him, under our way?
’07 was a big time for us. But I left Tampa, Florida, where I currently live now, and moved to Jacksonville, and took up a role as an outside sales rep, what we call Territory Manager. I did that for nine years. Then, as you mentioned earlier, for the last two and a half years, I’ve been part of a small group called Decorator Relations.
We’re sort of tasked to be the brain trust of all things related to decorated apparel. One of the fun things in my job is I get to connect and collaborate with companies like you all, and learn from your folks, and do what I can to share back my insights.
Mark S: Awesome! That’s pretty much why if you go to our brand websites – if you go to DigitalHeatFX.com or you go to DTGPrinterMachine.com, choosing the right t-shirt for the technology is a big deal. You’ll see us, when we test out shirts, we work with SanMar on which shirts to test. We work with their Decorator Relations team on recommendations.
You’ll see usually the top three or four shirts out of the five or six are all either a shirt sold by SanMar, or a specific brand that’s a SanMar-only brand.
Marc V: Yeah. One of the things that I get, people ask online “Why do you guys recommend SanMar?” I’ve seen some comments like “Oh, it’s got to be a money thing.” Everyone is always connecting to everything. But I think, for me at least, it’s a philosophical thing.
Both companies, our goal is – not all of our goal – but one of the core statutes of both of our companies seems to be if we help develop customers to be successful customers, then our customers will succeed in the industry, while our competition’s customers will struggle more.
So, it’s about knowledge. It’s about getting the right apparel, getting the right equipment, having knowledge on how to use it, and combining all of those things together, building relationships with customers. We tried to develop relationships with other apparel companies many times, and it always fell through. It was always a money transaction of who is going to make more money.
Mark S: Not necessarily attentive. That kind of goes back to, can you describe a little bit, what exactly Decorator Relations is?
Monty Mims: It’s a recently-evolved group. The original genesis was with our Channel Manager, Mark Bailey, who kind of started this ball with really just exploring and building a network of contract decorators. Here in the last three to four years, though, we’ve had kind of stronger buy-in and resources from our ownership.
Now, if you look at our landing page, the accounts that I visit are contract decorators. But our service channels are growing by the minute. SanMar has an outside sales team that is one of the few that does not work on commission structure.
So to your point, Mark, we really kind of take more of a sales through education approach. We want to go into a business, learn about who they’re servicing, how they’re servicing, and apply our product and our service offering to them, to be successful.
Sometimes that means stepping out of our SanMar cozy box and saying “Hey, we just don’t have this, but here is somebody that does.”
Mark S: I’ve seen you do that in the Facebook group.
Monty Mims: I’ve done that in many ways and many times. Listen, we’re all just kind of blessed or fortunate to work for a company that does believe in this philosophical approach, and love finding these strategic alignments with companies that feel the same way.
Because it’s a longer-term approach, right? We don’t want to just capture an order today. We want to partner with somebody for the long haul.
Mark S: Just because we do have a lot of complete newbies here, that listen to the podcast, what’s a contract decorator?
Monty Mims: Contract decorating has been around since the dawn of time. Again, my own dad started off as just an embroiderer. His first commercial location was right next to a guy who did screen printing. He had a small percentage of his business to end users or end consumers, but frankly, didn’t want to kind of fall into a lot of the time trappings that new end users can sometimes capture you on.
So, he knew enough people that were selling through our trade channel, that didn’t own equipment, or owned just embroidery or just heat transfer, and said “I want to decorate for those guys.” So, a lot of contract decorators will have a kind of retail or direct price list, but they’ll also have a wholesale price list, at a discounted rate.
Essentially, companies buy from a blank supplier like us, drop-ship or bring to a contract decorator. They decorate it for wholesale rates, and then either ship it direct to the end user, or back to the broker or fellow decorator.
Mark S: This is kind of a really useful business model that we talk about pretty frequently. So, if you, for example, let’s say you buy the 1501C behind me, which I highly recommend, by the way. If you buy a 1501C, and let’s say you are a home embroiderer and you want to start a business, you buy the 1501C, and you start to get successful very fast.
So, if you get a 500-piece order or a 1,000-piece order, or something like that, you will literally work yourself into the ground, one shirt at a time. So, what you might do is you might find a contract decorator that has seven six-heads, and can do the same job in a day, that would have taken you a month. And you’ll still make money off the deal.
Marc V: You make less money, because you’re paying someone to do the labor for you. But that’s – the problem is turning away business that you could contract out. There’s plenty of people who are in this business, and they understand. They sell it for a price, knowing that it’s going to be marked up.
Mark S: And it’s also because the first time you say no to a customer is often the last time you ever hear from them.
That’s also a great circumstance, by the way, particularly with embroidery, is if you get more than one of those big deals, and it’s within the first year, then you know it’s time to take advantage of the 100% trade-up guarantee. Trade in your Avance 1501C for a six-head, so you can do things six times faster.
Marc V: Was that your pitch, your commercial?
Mark S: I was on the edge of going “Today’s episode is brought to you by the Avance.” But it works cross-platform, as well, like you’re saying. So, I’m an embroiderer, I get a t-shirt printing [inaudible 00:09:40].
Monty Mims: Right. And I think it’s like anything, so much of the use of that network or that concept is just awareness it exists. We ourselves didn’t know how big a scope that we could create with contract decorators. So again, my Channel Manager, Mark Bailey, was tasked to do that ten years ago.
We’re literally kind of celebrating our ten years of this exploration. Ten years later, our team as a whole, which literally went from one guy to a group, internally and externally, we manage about 700 contract decorators nationwide.
I myself don’t know what number I would have put on that, but I would never have guessed something that big.
And these businesses that are in our database and in our network are fully vetted. We do site visits. 50% or more of their business has to be in contract decorating services. Since I joined the team, in talking to a lot of these guys, I’m trying to get their kind of customer-facing websites to speak more to that language, to kind of own their statements, and not just tell us they do it.
But we capture a lot of good datapoints on each decorator. So, when someone does come to us and say not just “I need an embroiderer for 500 pieces,” but “I need somebody to do puff or dye sublimation, or something tricky.”
Or even if it’s screen printing, because we’ve got so many people in our database, we’re sort of starting to push back with our information, and say “If I send you every contract screen printer in the state of Florida, that’s going to be 50 names, maybe. Help me boil that down. Let’s pinpoint by location, pinpoint by technique, and equip you all with a good partner.”
Marc V: I think maybe a piece of advice would be to set up contract decorators, and be prepared now, so when you have the order, you’re not scrambling. Right? How would somebody take the first step, to be able to do that?
Monty Mims: You can email us directly. Our team has a joint email address, DecoratorRelations@SanMar.com. That’s a universal inbox, looked at by three or four different people throughout the day, so should have pretty quick response time.
But to my earlier point, pinpoint specificity. Let’s find you a contract embroiderer who does hats. That’s one of the most common ones. “I’ve got a single-head. Heck, I’ve even got eight heads, maybe.” When I was working with my dad actively, I think at our peak, we had only 11 or 12 heads of embroidery.
Well, if we had a 300-piece hat job come in, again, we wanted to run flats. Those were the more profitable pieces. Send the hats to these guys, who have 200 heads, and they’re got 20 or 40 just for hats.
So, those kind of levels of specifics can help us pinpoint. The other thing that’s important on this topic is you want to build a network. Again, my dad has been doing this 30-plus years. He still just does embroidery. He’s got a four-head crammed in his garage now, enjoying his twilight years.
But he’s got the small home-based printer who is really technical and artistic. He’s got the big kind of low-cost printer. And he’s even got two or three contract embroiderers, where he still farms out goods. So, you don’t just want to have the one guy. You want to kind of build up a network, and we can certainly help with that.
Marc V: So, it’s great to be specific, then, as you said. So if you’re listening to this now, and you’re thinking “I should be growing my business this way,” you should probably write down, what are some specific things you know you can sell to your customers, you’re going to run into? Like you said, embroidered caps, or whatever it might be.
Mark S: Have you had to say no, recently? Whether it’s for turnaround time or specific technique? But honestly, the way we and a lot of our customers interact with SanMar isn’t through the contract decorators. It’s actually just to soak up that free advice.
Here’s the thing. It sounds like a commercial for “Jointly sponsored by SanMar and this.” I’m going to ask you about The Apparel Geek in just a second.
Monty Mims: Sure!
Mark S: But you know, it’s this ability to call somebody that knows stuff. When you call most blanks distributors, or even equipment salespeople, what you get is “I sell white Styrofoam cups. I can tell you anything about this cup, that you want to know.”
It’s not like “Hey, I’ve got this problem,” or “I’m doing this technique,” or “This is my first time doing this. Do you have either a person you can recommend to help, or what blank should I use?”
Honestly, we take all of the seasonal and the niche market brochures that you guys send out, and we just rip everything off of there that we can. We’re just like that.
You can see. Behind us, this is a SanMar display.
Marc V: Kind of. The apparel is all SanMar. The idea was we received some SanMar brochures, catalogs, whatever they were. They had some sections built in. They were all color-coded and nice.
Mark S: Really well organized.
Marc V: We said our showroom needs to look like that, color-coded and stuff like that. So, this one is kind of your – you’ve got the green, black and white section. We’ve got all different types of apparel being decorated on this, and we’re going to be doing our whole showroom like that.
And I think SanMar encourages – you actually give instructions to your customers on these pieces that I get.
Monty Mims: It goes back to the earlier point of we’re heavily weighted in a sales by education approach. So, we do. We have a whole website, SanMar U, that really was an internal site and system and process that we had for training our employees.
Year after year after year, we would send customer surveys out. One of the most common things we would hear back from our customers was “I just hired a new sales rep. Where do I send him to get training?” Right? “I just got into the industry.”
Any machination of that story would come to us, and we would go “Well, you know, go to look at YouTube or attend a trade show,” anything. It was so convoluted. So, we sort of took that collective voice feedback and said “Let’s build a site system devoted toward education.”
This ties into the collaboration with companies like you all. You all are selling equipment to these customers. They’re mutual customers of ours. You all have excellent insights and knowledge about the decoration process. We know our apparel very well.
How can we collaborate? How can we get some training videos from you all, and share back and forth?
Mark S: I like that. What does the Apparel Geek do?
Monty Mims: The Apparel Geek sort of social media concept started for me about five years ago. I was still a Territory Manager at SanMar. Everything we’ve already been discussing, I was getting these incredible insights and ideas from our sales team, from sales meetings, from customers.
I wanted the ability to share that back to certain customers. Not everybody is passionately interested, and cares as much as maybe I do. But as I was doing site visits with my accounts, I would go see somebody, and during my product presentation, I would reference like an end user experience, or “Here’s a technique” that maybe they hadn’t thought of doing.
I remember we came out with a varsity jacket. It was a sweatshirt varsity jacket look. It’s still in the industry, still a hot design. But to show that thing blank was kind of “Eh.” But to kind of visualize the creativity that you could do with that was another step.
So, I wanted to be able to capture those inspiration moments, and share them with my customers. I thought about ways to do that, and admittedly, at 40, I was on Facebook, kind of on Instagram. I hadn’t really embraced social media, maybe to some degree that I should have.
So, I started up a Twitter, and then an Instagram, and then eventually Facebook. Most of it’s all through Apparel Geek, and it literally is just a sharing kind of inspiration portal for me.
I get to travel around the country. I get to do different things, see really cool things. And of course, if I’m in a customer’s shop and they have a neat piece, I’ll ask permission, of course, “Can I take a picture? Can I share this back?” And there are some folks out there, looking for that.
Marc V: I love that. I would love to ask The Apparel Geek some questions.
Monty Mims: Fire away! Let’s do this!
Marc V: This is the one that drives me insane.
Mark S: Only one! I’m impressed.
Marc V: This is the one why, once I’ve had a beer or two, I won’t go on social media. Mark loves it, I’m sure. But this is what it is; somebody classic. They design a shirt. They print it out or transfer it, or whatever they’re doing. They do it, they wash it, or they wear it once, and it looks destroyed. Right?
“My machine is messed up! My paper is bad! I’ve got a bad batch of thread! My ink must be funky!” Whatever it is. And it’s almost always the apparel, I think, because they chose the wrong apparel. So I guess, how does a customer pick the right apparel? And what are maybe some signs that you realize they chose the wrong piece of apparel?
I don’t know. Just throw some education on why the shirt they pick is so important, when they decorate it.
Monty Mims: I’ll unpack a few things with that answer. One; again, our team is doing something in the last call it year, year and a half, that again is uncharted territory. When someone gets a product from us, and does a decoration application to it, and has some degree of failure issue, our team is now also responding with a kind of troubleshooting solution there.
We’re trying to break free from the chains of “We’re the apparel guy. Blame the ink supplier. We’re the ink supplier. Blame the apparel guy.” And the customer or, gosh forbid, contract decorator and broker, are all caught in the middle of this storm.
So, that’s another thing that our team is doing. Another callback to Decorator Relations at SanMar.com is “I bought a SanMar polo. I’m having embroidery problems. There’s holes, there’s separation. What’s going on?”
The team that I’m a part of, collectively has 80 years of experience in decorating apparel. But more important than that, we’re actually connected to a broader network of guys like you, other folks that do trade show teaching seminars, contributing writers throughout the industry.
We lean on those resource connections to say “We’re having a problem with this garment and this decoration. What can you do to help us fix it?”
We’ll get down to the analyzing the digitized file, testing samples. So, part of the answer for that is if you are having problems with something where it’s a garment, it’s been decorated, and something isn’t lining up, you can definitely lean on our team in SanMar, for support there.
I think the other part of your question is “How do I start off with the right garment, to begin with?” Right?
Marc V: Yeah. That’s kind of the big portion of it. You’re doing sublimation, and you chose a cotton t-shirt.
Mark S: Black cotton.
Marc V: Yeah, it won’t work. Or sometimes it seems like it should work. I got a really light grey, and I’m going to put sublimation on it. But the dye or the pigment that’s in the garment is really terrible for sublimation, even though it’s 100% polyester. So, how do you -?
Monty Mims: I would say, again, it leans back on companies that have some sort of advisory/educational approach with their customer base. They don’t want to just sell you a piece of equipment, and don’t support it after that.
I think, again, that’s why we found ourselves in a good strategic alignment, is someone buys a heat press from you all. You all are there for advisory support, later on.
Same thing with SanMar. They buy your equipment, they buy our product, we’re there to kind of support them, when they run into those curveballs. We hope to catch them beforehand. Right?
Back to our SanMar University site, that’s a portal now and a section, where you can go read about dye sublimation; what it works on, what it doesn’t work on. The real goal here is to try to get the education up to speed as quickly as possible, before you start selling stuff that isn’t going to fit.
We know that’s not 100% realistic, so I think it’s important to realize there’s companies like SanMar, companies like you all, that can be there when the wires get crossed.
Mark S: Do you guys have – because I know that we tested shirts for DTG specifically, and for white toner printing, specifically. Do you keep a list of, so if somebody does have a problem, with or without something they may have purchased from SanMar. Let’s say it’s sublimation or white toner printing.
Do you have a list that’s “Well, that’s a shirt that we haven’t tested. It’s not made of the same things. It’s not treated the same way. That’s your problem.”
Monty Mims: Yeah. Dye sublimation is a really specific technique that can be easy to call out right there. I do a lot of shows, and we get a lot of new people coming in. They’ve just been educated on dye sub, and they’re excited. They say “Hey, can this be dye sublimated?” Maybe it’s a polyester fleece hoodie.
I always like to respond the same way; “Technically probably” is kind of my common answer. “It is 100% polyester, and I know that you just learned that polyester equals successful dye sub. But hopefully the good educators in that room also talked about some of the nuances.”
“For me personally, anything heat applied starts to get real sticky, really quick. I don’t know your equipment. I don’t know your background. I don’t know your experience. I don’t know what sort of pads, coating, silicone Teflon sheets you’re using. So, can this be done? Yes, with the right skills, with the right equipment, with the right dial-in.”
Anything heat applied, whether it’s heat transfer vinyl or dye sub, I immediately get a little tippie-toe about. Technically, that polyester hoodie can be done. It wasn’t designed for dye sub. I think that maybe is more specific to what you’re saying.
We only have a couple of pieces in our catalog or on our website, that were technically engineered for dye sublimation, meaning the yarns are tolerant up to those 400-degree levels. Other than that, people love to do dye sub on our Sport-Tek pieces, ST350s and so forth. Can it be done? Yes. You might have to tweak some stuff to avoid press lines. Absolutely. Can you get some [inaudible 00:24:03]? Certainly.
We have to be very cautious and calculated of saying “This was made for dye sub. This can be done, with some technique.”
Mark S: We run into that more frequently, on our side, with the Digital HeatFX line. We’re just starting to offer dye sublimation options, so we’re going to get deep into that. But even on direct-to-garment printing, which is now a 10, 12 year old technology.
Even today, we get customers that will try to print on a tri-blend. And on this tri-blend, it prints beautifully, works great, washes, looks bright. On this tri-blend, all of the numbers are the same. It doesn’t wash well.
It gets really science-y. That’s really what I want to say. It’s really science-y.
Monty Mims: When we decided we were going to try, and I have to emphasize the word try, because we’re certainly far from perfection at this point, helping with these decoration challenges, your example is a perfect one. Two tri-blends, 50/25/25. One DTG is great, I’m having awesome success.
The other one theoretically should be having the same result. It doesn’t. So, when we take these challenges in, we do have to analyze them, and get pretty specific. We just finished, and this was long overdue, we just got a jotform built that categorizes all eight major techniques, and drills down into some very specific questions.
So, if you come to us with a DTG problem, say on a tri-blend, we’ve got to get a lot more pertinent information out of you, down to your press, down to your heat, all of the other variables that come into play there.
If they’re a willing dance partner, if they’re going to give us the information, and will get, as you put it, science-y with us, we can analyze those variables, and see what, if anything, could be changed. Sometimes the result is it’s just not the right shirt.
Mark S: And to Marc’s point, in the Facebook group and in customers that call in, I’m not going to say it’s 90%, but a huge amount of the issues that customers experience with a variety of different decorating technology, is the shirt. It really is.
Marc V: Yeah. Some of it’s like – and you could just go on and on about it – but some of it is they got the shirt from -. A perfect example here. I made some shirts a few weeks ago. It was a very short time. It was like the night before, we talked about. My friend said “I’m going to stop. I’ve got a couple of shirts I’ll drop off to you. You’ll bring them to work, and we’re going to Disney the next day.”
So, they come by, and as soon as I felt it, I’m like “What did you do to your shirt?” “I washed it.” I’m like “This thing is covered in fabric softener. I can feel it.” I was like “This is going to not work. I will get it to stick for tomorrow. That’s it.”
Monty Mims: We’re going to temporary tattoo status, now.
Marc V: So, it’s like you’ve got that. You’ve got -.
Monty Mims: Just the wrong medium, with the wrong garment.
Marc V: Yeah. The wrong medium, with the wrong garment. And there’s a lot of, I compare it to cooking, baking. If somebody buys premium-grade sugar, premium-grade flour, Ghirardelli chocolate. They get all of the ingredients, and make chocolate chip cookies. Versus somebody bought the cheapest of everything, baked it in the same oven, there’s a flavor difference there.
If you go and you try to find the cheapest possible shirt, and don’t regard if it’s good for what you’re doing, for your apparel decorating method, then you’re going to have failure on that.
Monty Mims: To that point, Marc, I would specify much more like baking. And I don’t cook or bake. I’ve just learned a lot from my wife. That’s extremely specific. Right? You vary some of those temperature/time details, even just a little bit, all of a sudden you’ve got cookie mush everywhere.
I’d say a lot of these, specifically heat-applied things, screen printing, you have a little bit of variables that you can have some slight adjustment to. But most people don’t necessarily take that ingredients list or that cookie instruction or baking instruction as seriously.
Or they’ve been doing it a while, and they get kind of lazy, complacent and comfortable. “Just throw it on the press. We’ll rock it out real quick. Is it calibrated? No. Did you warm it up? Not really. But it’ll do fine.”
It’s okay for a one-time use trip to Disney. Not okay for long-term results.
Marc V: And there are so many things within that, that you mentioned. We just did a video on calibrating a heat press. I would be surprised if anybody listening to this right now did the calibration on their heat press within a week.
Mark S: I would bet.
Marc V: We’ve got a brand new heat press in here. It’s a great product. We love it. But we were like “Let’s show how to use this tool.” So, I call Michael in here, and I say “You know how to use this tool. Will you do a video for me?” He says “Sure.”
He pops it on there. Brand-new heat press, ten days old, ten degrees off. It’s a thing. It happens, right? It was shipped, it was in a warehouse, who knows why? But it was ten degrees off. Now, that’s fine, for when we do most of the things that we were doing.
But if you get down to you’re trying to do a specific polyester shirt, and you’re doing a white toner transfer, and you’re bringing the temp all the way down to the minimum it will stick, now that ten degrees is the difference between it sticking or not.
Mark S: It’s the same in DTG. We’re getting shorter and shorter cure times on DTG, through ink science and things like that. And the shorter that cure time goes, the finer the window.
Monty Mims: The margin of error.
Mark S: The margin of error gets really small for temperature and pressure.
Monty Mims: Absolutely.
Marc V: There’s just so many things. When somebody is starting with a new apparel decorating method, and they really love a bunch of shirts that they used before, and they’ve sold these to their customers. But now, they have to choose a different shirt.
Do you maybe have any advice on how they approach their customers, to say – because they have to tell them “If I give you the same shirt, you’re not going to like it as much.”
Do you have any advice or things?
Monty Mims: I learned from my dad in the sales approach back then, and I had that kind of educational refinement, since working with SanMar. One of the things I learned early on, with my dad’s business, is we would constantly have end users come in, and they would say “I work as a landscaping company. Here’s the shirts we’ve been getting. Can you quote me on this? Can you write me up for this shirt?”
It’s very easy, and I would say 95% of the time, when somebody walks in your shop with that story, you just go “Sure. Let me get this done. I’ll write it down. How many pieces? Same art as before? Okay, cool.”
The problem with that approach is you’re making your entire sales strategy based on the last guy that that customer was dealing with. Right? They maybe helped them decide what the right product was. They created the art. They did that.
But guess what? That guy is in your shop, now. He’s not in the previous guy’s business. So, unless you’re dealing with a company who just is getting started, this is their first wave of apparel, if you just say “Sure, no problem. I’ll get you a price really quickly,” you’re reliant that guy’s sales approach.
Versus “Well, tell me what you do. Tell me who is using these shirts. What do you like about the shirt? What do you not like about the shirt?” Inevitably, if you ask four, five, six key questions like that, you’re going to quickly discover, “Now that you mention it.”
How many times have we heard that? They’re never going to say it. It’s not what was in their mind, walking in the door. But as soon as you start asking questions, “Now that you mention it, we have this guy Tony. He’s like 7’3”. They don’t come in tall options. The sleeves are up to here.”
So, you start to uncover a couple of things they don’t like. You turn that kind of reactive/responsive approach into a proactive sales approach, you’ve got a customer for life. That guy is going to be coming back to you next time, not the next guy.
Mark S: That’s great. You’ve also broken out of the $10 shirt range. You know what I mean?
Monty Mims: “Did you know you could get a name brand?”
Mark S: You’re no longer competing with that same guy.
Marc V: A big challenge that you see is that they believe if they say no to this garment, that they’re going to lose the business. But here is the simple fact. Why are they talking to you in the first place? Why didn’t they just go back to that other shop?
They messed up, they went out of business, they were over-priced, they moved. There’s a reason why they’re talking to you. It’s different when you’re outbound, trying to get business from somebody else. But that’s where it comes down to the questions. You build the value by just asking, asking, asking, asking.
Monty Mims: And you don’t know if you’re the third guy he’s talked to that day, or the first. But what you can bet on, and this is just my perspective and experience talking, is the other two guys said “Sure. Can I email you? Can I get your email?” And they’re just sending a reactive email back.
My dad continues to get new business this way, because he’s a very knowledgeable guy. He likes to chat a little bit. And when he gets a cold call lead through his site, through somebody who knows somebody, he doesn’t just take that approach, where he’s like “Sure. I’ll quote you on what you got last time.”
He starts to dig in, ask a few questions. The next thing you know, again, he’s not only found a solution, but he’s got a customer for life.
Mark S: That’s the difference in the way our companies do business, as well. If you are interested in an embroidery machine or a white toner printer, or a DTG printer, if you come to us looking for “Hey, this is what I want to do. I got a quote from this company online. This is the price that I want to pay for it,” or something like that, you’re not going to get the answer that you’re looking for from us.
You’re going to get that conversation about “Well, why are you looking at this piece of equipment? What are you going to be doing with it? Are you a start-up? Are you going to need training? Do you need support? Are you a pro?”
Marc V: What’s your marketplace?
Mark S: Yeah. “Do you have a niche market yet?” You’re going to get all of that. There’s a value to that, and you’ll end up being happier as a customer of ours, and you can pass that same idea on to your customer.
Marc V: Absolutely.
Mark S: The more you get into their business, the more successful you’re going to be.
Marc V: This is a trap that business owners fall into, salespeople fall into. They say “I don’t want to probe too much. I don’t want to be the type of person who seems like I’m always trying to upsell to somebody.” I say “Okay, this is the answer. Are you trying to always upsell to them? Is that your only goal?”
“No, I just want to make sure that I’m giving them the right thing.” “Well, then, you’re not. And if they think that, once you start doing it enough, you’ll realize that.” Every once in a while, we go “What are you going to do with it?” “What’s it matter to you?”
“Because if I sell you this one, and you don’t like it, then you’re really going to be upset at me. So, it’s just a conversation we’re having.”
Monty Mims: It’s a weird thing to say this out loud, and the SanMar folks may not like this, but while I enjoy advising and helping people find solutions at our company, I almost derive a bit more enjoyment, because I have the freedom to say “Hey, listen. We have this piece. It’s not really made for dye sublimation, but here’s a company who does make product for dye sublimation.”
So, if’s often, for myself personally, being able to help somebody, even when it’s outside your direct wheelhouse. Again, I’ve got customer retention in spades [inaudible 00:36:08] that strategy.
Mark S: I’ve been trying not to bring this up, but I can. Every Christmas, we have a tradition with my daughter, even though she’s 25 now, and married. Every Christmas, somewhere around Christmas Eve, we watch Miracle on 34th Street.
The whole point of the show is Santa Claus, sitting in the middle of Macy’s, basically sending people to where they can find the toys cheaper, or the toys that are unavailable. It’s the same thing. So, congratulations on being Santa Claus!
Monty Mims: I did play him a few times, as a child, but I didn’t want to get into that today! It’s the trusted advisor approach. That’s ultimately what SanMar wants from our sales team, frankly, from all employees, externally and internally, is to say “Hey, listen. Let me help you be successful. The more that I can help you be successful, the more successful your business will be. I don’t want to just sell you a product for today. I want to continue to work with you, drive your sales up for the next five, 10, 15 years.”
Marc V: This is the approach that, you listening to this, you’ve got to take this when you’re talking to somebody, when they approach you. Because every day, it’s a fuzzy picture of a shirt, “Where can I get this shirt?” And that’s fine, but often enough, you’ve really got to dive into that approach.
Also, I know that the person is tied to that shirt. However, this shirt is not their dog or their cat or their child. They are really not that involved with that shirt.
Monty Mims: It’s not a car purchase. That’s a big deal.
Marc V: They liked it. They believe they would like it again. Or they got a shirt from company A, and it was bad, because that person did nothing. They just bought the cheapest shirt, and decorated it the cheapest way, and they hated it.
Then, they go to company B, and that company just asked some questions, and got it right. So, they think the best solution is to duplicate that with you. But they’re not going back to company B. Remember that. Always remember that.
Maybe the last person they went to did take the right approach. You can do it, too. For you, though.
Mark S: I understand those pictures that they post where “I’m looking for socks with the zipper all the way around.” I understand stuff like that. But if it’s something maybe marginally unique, or it’s just a particular brand-.
Monty Mims: Or a V-neck tri-blend.
Mark S: Yeah. Or if it’s a particular color, then I guarantee that you’re not charging them for the research it’s taking you to find that shirt, and set up a relationship with that vendor. I see that in hats, all the time. “I’ve got to have a Richardson 112 hat. I’ve got an order for eight.” You know what I mean? “Does anybody know a wholesaler?” No.
“The guy that I buy my shirts from has this hat. It looks a lot like that. What do you think?”
Marc V: Another question I had is about colors. This is something maybe you could draw some geek on, some education on. I remember when I was first getting into this industry. I was making a handful of shirts. I think it was just for some friends.
I don’t remember what it was, but we had like three different colors. Blue, awesome. Green, awesome. Red, the colors were bleeding on it. We were like “What happened?” And then, I’ve noticed it throughout the years, that sometimes you get a particular color, that the decorating method seems to fail. Why is that?
Monty Mims: There’s different dye stuff in certain colors. And red, probably there’s a reason it’s associated with the devil, right? It’s such a terrible color, in so many ways, especially for decorating. With the advent and rise of polyester, in the last 15 years; red, black, these dark colors, these deeply saturated colors, we’re challenged with dye migration. Right?
It’s heavily affected with anything heat related. It affects heat transfer vinyl. It definitely affects screen printing. One of the reasons I love SanMar is because we do have that, not just educational approach of saying “Here’s what we know,” but we also bring in the collective voices or feedback from our customers’ problems.
We were really the first company to take the dye migration problem head on. We already had a pretty strong selling polyester series, under our ST350 Sport-Tek line. But I think it was about six years ago, we decided to go from a standard dye process with our polyester, to what’s called a cationically dyed process.
It was a deeper, more heat-tolerant setting of the dyes. The cationic dye process had been in the industry for a little bit, in a little way, but because the supply had not built up, the cost was very high.
Well, we took our best seller and said “Listen, because we are the company we are, we’re going to invest in that better-suited technology. We’re going to be able to buy it at scale, to keep the cost relatively low. Not change our pricing, but ultimately provide a solution in the industry.”
Six years later, I think if you search posi-charge or cationic on our website, we’ve got well over 100 styles that you can decorate in those mediums, without bleeding and dye migration.
A similar story goes with snagging. Picking and snagging on polyester shirts was a thorn in everybody’s side, for many years. Snag-resistant, snag-proof technology prevailed, and it came from listening to your customers’ challenges.
Mark S: Listen. I think the best way to decorate anything red is embroider it.
Marc V: Yeah, absolutely.
Mark S: Just to kind of de-geekify this a little bit, there’s problems with polyester, for a number of reasons. If you think about it in layman’s terms, polyester is basically, you can think about it as a plastic. It’s almost like a plastic material. What happens when you heat up plastic?
If you put plastic in the oven, if you put it in the microwave, if you put it in a heat press, the shape of it changes, the color of it changes. It basically melts. So, whenever you apply anything to a polyester shirt, especially temperature and pressure from a heat press, it can change the color.
The dyes that the various printing technologies use change. It changes color. It interacts with the plastic differently.
Monty Mims: Wavy lines. Lots of weird stuff.
Mark S: It’s weird.
Marc V: Just like there’s microwave-safe bowls made of plastic, and there’s non. It’s the same with the apparel. There’s apparel that you just mentioned. The dyeing process, the apparel itself is designed for heat and pressure, and there’s ones that are not.
That doesn’t mean that the bowl that doesn’t say “microwave safe” won’t be safe to melt butter for ten seconds. It might be fine. Just like you can take a shirt that’s not necessarily designed for this, but you can put a silicone sheet on top of it and work around with it, and it sticks, and it washes well.
I compare this often, in my head, to baking and to cooking. Because I love to cook and I love to bake. It’s one of my hobbies, and I notice this all the time. You can take that same batch of cookies, you could cook them at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. You can cook them at 425 for 12 minutes. The same thing happens with a heat-applied.
It’s something that there’s not one answer to how to bake a cake. There’s an infinite, almost, there’s billions of answers.
Monty Mims: To kind of tie a ribbon around this subject, so much of what is affecting our industry is, most all of it stems from retail. I’ve seen this from the earliest days, where the polo lines that companies like us were carrying, heavily weighted if not brand-specific, to what was happening in the golf industry. Right?
So we are living in the golden age of poly-synthetic materials. You have moisture wicking fabrics and performance fabrics everywhere. I think back 15 years ago, walking into a Target store, how they had maybe a couple of racks of workout apparel. Now, half of the department is devoted to poly-spandex.
Tri-blends, arguably the biggest thing happening in our industry right now. If I could show you the sales on a chart, it would just be a straight line going up. And again, heavily polyester. Rayon, even more heat sensitive than polyester, in many ways. A little bit of cotton.
So, here’s what happened. It starts at retail, affects our business. People are demanding it. They’ve got a retail shirt. They love it. They love the way the shirt feels. They love the way the design is done.
Now, our two companies are now tasked to source and suss out how do we get that shirt to work with your equipment, and how does your equipment work on which shirt? So again, it kind of ties together everything we’ve been talking about, which is the collaboration efforts between blank wholesale apparel vendors and the people that sell equipment, are going to be good allies in helping customers find solutions.
Mark S: That’s really something that you have to impress upon your customers, when they come into your shop, too, with that example. Like they have a $200 pair of tights from Lululemon. They’ve got something from a specialty store, that they really love. There are a couple of stores that are great, because the brand is just basically a small vinyl logo. Bring those all day long!
But they’ll bring you something and they’ll say “I really want this.”
Marc V: This feel, yeah.
Mark S: This is where you have to go “Not on that shirt. These guys are the manufacturers. They do this before they even sew the shirt together. It’s done in a specialized factory. But here’s what I can do.”
Monty Mims: I used to tell people all of the time, and I’ll take a little page off of TLC; don’t go chasing – instead of waterfalls, unicorns. Right? Customers would come in all of the time, and they would want things that just aren’t feasible.
You just said a key thing there, which is so much of what, in retail, is done at these pre-production factory levels, where they embellish the hat before it’s been even constructed. “I can get close with the materials and equipment I have, but it’s just not something I can reproduce.”
I’ve seen too many people waste too much time, going down the rabbit hole, looking for something that just simply is a unicorn. Not meant to happen [inaudible 00:46:39].
Mark S: I know there’s a good example behind me, so I’m just going to reach back here and grab it.
Monty Mims: This has caught my eye, since I walked in the room. That would have been a unicorn for me.
Mark S: Here’s the deal. I am holding up a retail sneaker. We bought the cheapest white one that we could find. But we’ve got an embroidered designed on it.
Marc V: Hold it a little higher.
Monty Mims: There we go.
Mark S: We’ve got an embroidered design on it, that’s just awesome. People like All-Over Printing. When I was up at Plymouth State University, at one of our clients up in New Hampshire last week, one of the students was wearing something that had rhinestones on the side, and had embroidery around the toe. There’s a lot of this kind of throwback embroidery on shoes going on, as well.
99% of that is done before the shoe is assembled. Right? You can see. Five years ago, even, you would not be able to put this on an embroidery machine, and change it. You would have to do it before it was stitched.
But now, with something like the embroidery grip and a little ingenuity from the folks at Colman and Company, you can actually decorate a sneaker. But if someone comes in with this hugely decorated sneaker, and says “I’d like you to do this,” I can’t do that.
Marc V: You’d have to be the expert.
Mark S: “Here’s what I can do. I can do something like this.” Let’s be a little tasteful. Let’s customize it. We’ll put this on it or that on it. You can do this, now. You can embroider on sneakers, now. You just can’t do it like Thom’s does, before it’s assembled.
Marc V: I think that this is something that, Monty, you could probably give us some good education on.
Monty Mims: Sure.
Marc V: Somebody comes online, and they bring the Under Armour or Nike or Adidas brand shirt. They bring it, and they say “I want you to find me these. I want these decorated.” You feel the material, and you’re just like “I don’t recognize this from anything that I’ve bought from any of my wholesalers.”
So for one, they can start off by educating the consumer, saying “Okay, this is how it works. When they invented this material, they invented this for this shirt.”
Mark S: In a laboratory.
Marc V: They’re a multi-billion dollar company, and they produced this shirt just to target. That’s how exclusive that shirt is. So, I can’t buy it. It’s impossible. “I can get a Nike sport shirt, or something like it. But the Nike sport shirt that’s like the Nike sport shirt you’re handing me is going to be different, because Nike made a deal with this.”
They have some exclusivity. They specifically are trying to sell it blank, for $50.
Monty Mims: And the other thing to be careful about, and I think this is a subject matter that your customers certainly deal with; customer/end user-supplied goods. My dad and I dealt with that challenge all of the time. They’d go to Ross, Marshall’s, Target, and bring goods in for embellishment.
So, I have some insights and thoughts on that subject matter. For your particular example, there’s an inherent risk of taking that retail poly Nike shirt, and now you’re trying to do heat transfer vinyl or screen print or embroidery, and it’s damaged. It’s bleeding like a stuck pig, because it’s not using the technology that’s in the industry, that’s preventing that.
Nike didn’t care. They never thought this was going to be on somebody’s basketball team, with white heat transfer vinyl that’s now turned pink. So, there’s that risk.
The way my dad and I used to manage walk-in customer-supplied retail product was a couple of tactics. I counseled and coached these tactics throughout my career as an outside rep, because I saw it all too many times.
People would come in, take way too much time, bring six dress shirts, say “Can you put my logo on there?” They weren’t charging enough. They’ve had an incident with the equipment, now. Now they’re paying the customer back for a damaged shirt. There goes all of their margin, gone.
Again, when I was decorating garments, it was 15-17 years ago. The industry was a micro-fraction of where it’s at now, with product offerings. You were lucky if you found a ladies placket, that had the buttons going the right way.
Now, we’ve got plaids and performance pieces, and there’s just as many options in our industry, as there almost is at retail.
But when they bring it in, a couple of things that my dad and I did as deployed strategies was one; I got on my best legal hat, and I typed up a waiver. A simple waiver that just acknowledged how many pieces they had and how much we were charging them, but also pulled us out of that responsibility. I would say the same line every time.
“I’m taking a needle, and I’m punching it at a high velocity through your fabric. Stuff happens. If I rip a hole in there or something happens, I’m not going to be responsible for replacing that Lacoste polo,” or whatever they’ve brought in.
And two; charge them an inordinate amount of money. There are so many times when I see people undervaluing their time, and in this case, their risk. So, now you’re going “Hey, you thought you got the golden goose, because you went to Marshall’s. You found this Lacoste polo, originally $100. You bought it for $25.”
“Well, I’m going to charge you $10 or $12 for this teeny tiny logo. Let’s combine the numbers together. You’re all in, for almost $40. Meanwhile, I’ve got this shirt that I can buy, and sell it and decorate it for $30.” No risk, no hassle driving to the store.
It’s something I think customers still battle with, people walking in, thinking they’ve found a deal, thinking they have a product you can’t supply for them. It’s ever more important to educate, take the risk off the table, charge them a lot of money. Because you’re either going to make that money or you’re going to convince them that your deal is better than theirs.
Mark S: One thing that we talk about pretty frequently, in the podcast, is this idea of having your own menu of approved garments that you’ve worked with in the past.
Monty Mims: Very smart.
Mark S: So, you’ve got a selection. It could be that “You know what? That shirt is going to be a little problematic.” Or “I would feel a lot better if you’ll let me work with this great shirt I’ve had 100% success with.” Or “Here are all of the shirts that I can work with. Which one of these do you like?”
Marc V: And provide value to those shirts, beyond what it is. “If I do this shirt, here’s my legal document you have to sign. I’m telling you, I’ll make it look amazing, to the best of my ability.” Or “If you provide my shirt, this is what you get. Any mistakes are on me. I will give you a,” whatever you want to do.
On particular shirts, maybe give them a shrink warranty. If it shrinks within two weeks of you washing and wearing it, I’ll replace [inaudible 00:53:26]. Whatever things you want to do. If the apparel falls off, bring it back to me, I’ll fix it.
You can provide whatever type of warranty or other things.
Mark S: Assurance.
Marc V: Yeah, an assurance. “If I do yours, the only thing I can say is I can do my best to get it to stick or poke through.”
Mark S: And here’s another great offer to make to your customers. “You’re wanting a dozen of these Lacoste polos customized. You’re wanting a dozen now. Are you ever going to want to do this again? In six months? In a year?”
Monty Mims: Good luck finding that at the Marshall’s rack!
Mark S: With fast fashion now, it’s not going to make the next season, let alone when you come back in six months. How about we pick something that we are reasonably sure is going to be available, like the ST350, which I’m sure we’ve got some in this building. Like these commercially available wholesale blanks that I’m going to have year after year after year.
It’s a good pitch.
Marc V: And this stuff’s not easy to pitch that all of the time. It’s not like we’re just saying this, and everyone is going to say yes. It’s going to involve you turning away some customers sometimes. But the people that you do do business with, when you do this, just like you said, they’re customers for life. They’re going to really refer you.
They’re going to say “I went in. I tried to do this. He convinced me to do this. I’m so much happier! Whenever I have an issue, like one time I added this embroidery. For some reason, it got all crinkled. I just brought it in, and the next day, she gave me a new one!”
They’re going to tell these stories, compared to – it’s nice to tell the story of if you go to this place, you can get this done for $8. But being the cheapest is not long-lasting.
Monty Mims: When you’re a trusted adviser in these instances, and we’ve certainly referenced a few different cases of relation here, it honestly takes – and I witness this every day. I still occasionally keep in touch with my dad, and hear these success stories through him.
When you bring in these value-added services, when you act as a trusted advisor, whether it’s proactive or reactive, it honestly – and I see this all of the time – it takes price off the table. It really takes price off the table.
In our latest instance of a supplied garment, so you’re the third shop this person has walked in, brought their Lacoste polo, said “Hey, how much would you charge to put this logo on?” The other two guys just gave her a quote. $8, $10, whatever it was.
You’re the one guy that stopped, had thoughtful questions and insights, shared this reality. Again, like you said, “I can do it, but here’s the risk and liability involved.” Or “Did you know?” How many times do we say “Did you know?”
These people have no earthly idea about our industry, the access, the product. I can’t tell you how many times I saw somebody that was about to sell a Sport-Tek polo with a logo for $27. Then, all of a sudden, they’re like “You know, I could do a Nike polo or a retail brand polo, for only about $8 or $10 more.” And they’re like “I didn’t even know that was an option, much less the price gap.”
Well, they just sort of, whether they realized it or not, unintentionally upsold, and brought that trusted advisor value to them. And the two other guys that they just talked to didn’t mention that at all. They just went “Alright, Sport-Tek polo, $27.”
Mark S: So, the answer to “Can you embroider these five Lacoste polos with my logo on the other side?” The answer is definitely “Yes. You’re going to love this polo that I can give you instead.” Do you know what I mean? It’s not no. It’s “Yes. Look at this one.”
Marc V: Another great value behind it is like this rack behind us, right here. I know SanMar does a great job of this. You’ve got certain lines of apparel that all come in these color spectrums.
Monty Mims: Matching.
Marc V: Matching. So, you can get the shorts, and you can get the shirt with the stripe, that’s got the shorts with the line. All the different things, all the different parts and pieces to it.
So, when you find this one off one, or they buy something from Target, or they’re bringing you something from the Under Armour store, you’re not going to be able to do all of that.
Monty Mims: Right. Coordinate.
Marc V: You can coordinate your upsells. Then immediately, you turn, “I could also do this shirt. By the way, it will be cheaper. Also, check out -,” and you turn the page over to your SanMar catalog, where it’s got like 15 things that all have the same color chart. Now, all of a sudden the customer, when you look at that, and they say “Yeah. Our team would love this!”
Or “We can’t afford that now, but next time, we’re going to get those pieces.”
Monty Mims: Listen for the words “I had no idea.” Right? That’s when you know you had an Aha! moment with your customer. And again, you’re providing that value, and you’re going to have a customer for a longer residual.
I mean it when I say price comes off the table, because they start to value you for just writing that order up, versus the ultimate goal, which is to say “This guy shared insights with me, asked me questions nobody else bothered to do, revealed some options for me, gave me that good-better-best strategy,” like you said.
“And packaged it all together, and now who’s got my business forever.”
Marc V: It’s everywhere, everywhere you look. What’s the most popular car? What’s the most popular phone? If you just look up “the most popular,” oftentimes it’s a brand of something that took all of these concepts into it.
Like the iPhone, the most popular phone. Why? They kept going to customers. “Oh, you want your thumb to be able to reach the corner? We can build in this function.” And they kept doing that.
I have a Camry, one of the most popular cars out there. It’s all these little form and functions they built in. They’re not custom-building cars, like we’re custom-building garments, but what they’re doing is they’re taking the knowledge of a whole, and putting it out there, and they’re turning it into it.
So, if you want to be the most popular shop in your area, and you want that repeat business consistently, like Apple gets and all of these other folks get, you have to provide that value. You just get the benefit of doing it for every customer individually, which is really cool.
Mark S: I like that a lot. Well, it feels like we’ve been talking for like two hours.
Marc V: We’ve been talking for 59 minutes.
Mark S: That’s about perfect, then, because I think we could do this all day. Before we wrap up, and we’ll put links in the notes, to SanMar, to SanMar University. Where can people kind of engage with you, as The Apparel Geek?
Monty Mims: ApparelGeek.com is probably the easy starting point. I do have a basic WordPress site. Don’t judge me on it. It doesn’t get updated enough.
Mark S: I’m absolutely going to judge you. You’re going to be judged.
Monty Mims: Please! But I think it’s easier than naming off all of the different social media portals. If you’re on Twitter, that’s easy enough; @ApparelGeek. If you’re on Instagram, long story short, I had to sacrifice and go with ApparelNerd.
Marc V: Why didn’t you do “RealApparelGeek?”
Monty Mims: I’ve had so many people say that!
Marc V: That’s what you’ve got to do! RealApparelGeek.
Marc V: I’m changing mine to Real.
Monty Mims: The Real Apparel Geek. But if you go to ApparelGeek.com, you’ll see some basic housed information. I do post, probably once a quarter, on there, something belong the social media link stuff. Whether it’s a new SanMar launch or something. I A, have the time to, and B, feel passionately about, I do have some decent content on there.
But look at for me at ApparelGeek.com. On SanMar.com, it’s a little hard to find, but under our Resources tab, Decorator Relations. Again, most of what we talked about today, whether it’s sourcing equipment, finding solutions for challenges, sourcing contract decorators, are all things that our team is owning.
And then, as you mentioned earlier, SanMar University, great content there for education.
Mark S: Also, if you go to any of the apparel decorating trade shows, SanMar is always there. Most of the time, Monty is there. Just walk right up to him and ask him why ColDesi is so awesome!
Marc V: And if you come to our showroom, you’re going to see tons of SanMar apparel, as well.
I have a question I didn’t ask, though, so maybe we could finish one last question. It’s the big one.
Monty Mims: Uh oh!
Marc V: How do you recommend people listening to this communicate wash instructions? Because that’s a big deal. Or is it a big deal?
Monty Mims: It is a big deal. This is an interesting subject. It’s one I’ve thought about writing a content piece on. Wash instructions are very tricky. I think what I can encapsulate this answer in is with performance fabrics.
Probably about six or seven years ago, I was doing a product training, as I did with my customers twice a year. We were talking about performance polyester polos. Inevitably, going through the cycles, you’ll hear occasional comments about “Oh, I don’t sell those darn poly shirts, because they smell bad.” That would be something that would occasionally come up.
It would be easy enough for me to just go “Oh, yeah. I feel ya. Sorry. Don’t know what the answer is there.”
If you look inside of every performance garment – I’ve got a performance woven on right now – you’ll see on the care instructions, several key words. “Do not use fabric softeners.” You referenced that earlier, in decoration techniques.
Mark S: They’re a nightmare.
Monty Mims: Well, they’re not designed or intended for synthetic fabrics. So, gone are the days – and this might be information for you all – of doing your laundry in lights and darks. That’s really not how you’re supposed to wash clothes anymore. If was, back in the day, when everything was cotton, maybe a blend.
You didn’t want to get your dark burgundy shirts to maybe have some dye carryover to your white shirts. But what you have to do now, with your laundry, is synthetics and naturals, is what I would call it.
So, “Here’s all of my cotton stuff, here’s my nice dress pants, maybe my khakis. But then, here’s my performance polos, my wife’s yoga pants.” If you start to really look at your laundry load like that, you’re like “Gosh, I do have enough stuff now, to make a separate load.”
The naturals should get fabric softeners, because those materials are designed to keep fabric soft, and let’s face it, smell good. But when you try to apply fabric softeners to performance fabrics, they actually get stuck, embedded into the yarns, into the pores. That prevents the breathability of the garment.
Then, you do have, if you’re wearing it against your skin, you’re going to probably have some sweating that occurs. You’re going to get bacteria there. It’s going to build up; rinse cycle, repeat, rinse cycle, repeat. Now, you’ve got a stinky shirt that doesn’t breathe very well.
It’s put a bad rap on performance shirts, until they start to change their perspective on separating your loads.
Mark S: That’s great.
Marc V: There are just so many different things that I just find to be interesting about that wash instructions. Can SanMar help with some information, if they buy apparel from you, to maybe get some recommendations on how to wash it?
Monty Mims: Yeah. I think most of our customer service team will have some insights there. You can certainly come to me directly, on some things. But I think if you ask most of the folks that are answering the phones at SanMar, they’ll at the very least, be able to kind of reaffirm what that content is, discuss a few of the basic parameters about what should or shouldn’t be done with the wash and upkeep.
It is a good question. We see that failure, and it hurts both of our companies, because they think the shirt’s a fault, they think the material’s at fault. It really just came down to somebody who was cooking their stuff in the dryer. The material is cracking, shirt’s shrinking, and ultimately, it came down to the user’s wash instructions.
Marc V: Great! I’m glad we were able to finish off. That was something that I just felt to be important.
Mark S: It’s a good question.
Marc V: I just run into it so much, because I’ve got shirts that I’ve washed, I’ve got digital white toner transfer shirts that I make for my daughter. There’s one that I made October, September of last year. It’s just a big picture of a kitten. It’s in some of our videos that we’ve done.
That’s like her favorite shirt. She wears it, I mean, every single time it can be worn, it’s worn. And then, it’s washed within a week. It looks still awesome. I don’t know how many washes are in it. 20, 30? It’s not cracked. It’s not broken apart. It’s not peeled.
So then, when folks get on there and they talk about washability on types of apparel, and it’s true of heat transfer vinyl or DTG – it doesn’t matter, really – that “Oh, this stuff doesn’t wash!” I’m just like “It does wash.”
Monty Mims: If you read the instructions.
Marc V: “What are you doing?” If you don’t know the instructions, maybe you’ve got to do a little testing yourself, as a business owner. Make your own wash instructions for your apparel. The catalog that you approve, give them instructions. Tell your customers “This is important. I’m putting it in here. If you come back and it’s damaged, I’m going to know why.”
Anyway, that’s the end, I think, for me.
Mark S: That was good! Thank you, Monty Mims, The Apparel Geek, for coming by.
Monty Mims: Thank you guys.
Mark S: We really appreciate that. You are going to see all of the places that you can get in touch with Monty, in the show notes today. If you feel like this was a great podcast, which honestly, you should, because it was a great podcast – if you feel like that, if you’re watching us on YouTube, please share it.
If you are consuming this on a podcast service like iTunes or Stitcher, or wherever you’re doing that, please give us a review. We would really appreciate that. Share it with your friends.
Marc V: Hit the Subscribe button. Right?
Mark S: Hit the Subscribe.
Marc V: Hit the notification bell on YouTube, is another one, now. Further from that, if you feel like you learned something, and you’ve got some action things, that’s one of the ways you can pay us back.
Buying from our companies, all of that is awesome. But a very simple way that’s free, to pay us back, is hit Share to Facebook, share it on Twitter, whatever you want. Like it, thumbs up it, subscribe.
All of those things really help us out, and it helps other people out. So, do that. That would be awesome, and it’s free!
Mark S: Thanks again. This has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.
Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.
Mark S: You guys have a good business!
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