Sales: 5 Ways to Sell More Apparel

We are halfway through 2019—have you met your sales goal yet? If you are looking for a boost in your sales, consider increasing your apparel offerings. You can generally make a larger profit margin on apparel, provide a more customized and unique solution and, by leveraging the tools that most apparel manufactures make available, you will look like a true apparel professional and most times can edge out your competition.

As a former distributor, my portfolio was 65-percent apparel and 35-percent hardgoods. This allowed me to provide a more customized and tailored shopping experience for my clients. They appreciated the consultative approach and the personalized presentations rather than me just handing them a catalog. Keep in mind that most every company purchases branded apparel, and if they aren’t purchasing it from you, they are purchasing it from someone else. Don’t let those sales escape you. Employ these techniques and you too can reap the benefits of being a true apparel consultant.

Understand your client’s brand. When a client calls you to order apparel or hardgoods, make sure you know exactly what their expectations are for the product. Are they expecting ROI? Is this a product for good will purposes or exposure only? Who is the end user of the product? By finding out some basic information, you can provide a better solution. If you don’t already have the client’s branding guideline, ask for it. This is an important tool that far too many distributors overlook. A branding guideline is a document in which the client’s brand is explained in detail—how the logo is to be used, alternate colors, size restrictions, PMS colors, etc. Having this information allows you to guide your client toward products, colors and decoration opportunities that they probably haven’t seen before. In addition, they will appreciate your professionalism for caring as much for their logo as they do.

Narrow your client's focus. Too many times distributors hand a client a catalog and expect them to pick out an item, know the best way to decorate it and tell them what they want. With that approach, it’s no wonder clients turn to the internet to buy products. If your client is doing all the work, why do they need you? When a client reaches out and asks for an apparel solution, show them a good, better and best option. Too many choices result in decision-making paralysis for your client. By showing them three or four good options in a variety of price points and available in colors that complement their logo, you are removing the confusion and pointing them in the direction you want them to go.

Be knowledgeable about decoration. There is a wealth of information on the internet about apparel decoration that will help you increase your knowledge. On PPAI’s website alone, there are 21 online educational webinars to help you better understand decoration. In addition, many apparel or decoration providers have great websites with online tools, online videos and much more to help you independently understand all the decoration techniques available. A resource that many distributors overlook is your local sales representative for your favorite apparel line. They want nothing more than for you to be armed with information and knowledge on how to sell their products better. Simply ask them and they will provide more help than you can even imagine.

Merchandise what you show. When you walk into a retail store, you see merchandised apparel on display. Nordstrom’s will never have a mannequin wearing just one piece of apparel—they will show an entire outfit from head to toe. We, as consumers, are visually stimulated to buy what we like. Your customer is no different. If you walk into your client’s office with just a polo, the odds are good that you will sell it. But, you will only sell that polo and have very little chance of upselling additional garments. However, if you walk in with a merchandised offering (for example, a polo layered under a vest or jacket with a coordinated hat), your client will be able to visualize their brand in a complete outfit, not just a polo. We are professional marketers, we do this for a living and yet we forget the fundamentals of marketing. We get complacent and predictable, and thus get into bidding wars for apparel because we are simply selling our clients what they ask for instead of providing that customized solution that sets us apart from our competition.

Utilize virtual presentations and specs. Most every supplier in the industry provides free or discounted virtual storyboards and/or specs with your client’s logo. If you are not using this resource, you should. By providing your client’s logo and branding guidelines to the supplier, you can receive a virtual representation of what your client’s logo will look like on the product; not just a static photo captured from an online catalog or website. The more personalized and customized you can make your client presentations, the less competition you will have to deal with. Again, anyone can open a catalog, pick out an item, slap a logo on it and make a sale. It takes a special distributor to harness tools and sharpen their knowledge to sell differently and more effectively.

Selling apparel isn’t hard but it does take effort. Find a supplier partner or two whose products you love. Become knowledgeable about the line and the decoration opportunities they provide. Establish a relationship with the sales rep and let them know you want to grow your sales with them. Together you can capture a bigger piece of the apparel pie with your clients.  


Here’s a sample of how to put together a comparison based on quality and price point. By doing much of the work for your client, you help them avoid the decision-making paralysis that comes with too many choices and guide them toward good decisions. This chart is based on performance polos featured in Vantage Apparel’s catalog.


Style 2600 Vansport Omega Solid Mesh Tech Polo
Fabric 100% polyester, 4 1/2 oz. Vansport micro-mesh

Wicking properties and rapid dry time
* Tightly knit to resist snagging
* Easy-care, wrinkle-resistant and fade-free
* Anti-curl, rib-knit collar

Complement 2601

Price $XX



Style 2620 Vansport Micro-Waffle Polo
Fabric 100% polyester, 4 1/2 oz. Vansport waffle knit

Wicking properties and rapid dry time
* Self-goods collar with collar band

Complement 2621

Price $XX




Style 2560 Pro Signature Polo 
Fabric 95% polyester, 5% Spandex, 4-1/2 oz. jersey body

* Superior wicking and rapid dry time
* UV protection properties
* Self-goods collar

Complement 2461

Price $XX




Michelle Sherwin, CAS, is the southeast account executive for Vantage Apparel, Inc. She is also the current president of the Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals. With over 20 years in the industry (18 years as a distributor and two as a supplier), her knowledge, experience and passion for the industry is contagious. In May, Sherwin attended PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.) in Washington D.C. where she and fellow colleagues lobbied for the promotional products industry. Sherwin was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where she and her husband currently reside.

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