When ordering uniforms, teams have to consider a few different aspects: aesthetics (colors & design), sizes, timeframe, length of season, and budget. Most coaches and parents who have been tasked to order uniforms start at price and work backwards. This approach is all well and good, provided one understands what they’re getting, and more importantly what they’re not, when they start there.
Let us first have an understanding of the difference between price and value. Price is really just what you pay for at the end of the day. Value however, is price, while taking into account the quality of the product and service received. Before you sit down and order your team’s uniforms it is essential to keep those three characteristics in mind- price, quality, and service, and figure out which two are the most important to you. It’s nearly impossible to find a place which offers all three.
I know of one uniform manufacturer which offers one model which features an odor-management treatment at a very low price. Unfortunately, instead of the odor-killing chemical being impregnated into the fabric, like the some of the higher-end uniforms, they simply sprayed it on. This is a very cost-effective way of providing this feature to the consumer, but the down side of it is that doesn’t stand up to repeated washings. Simply put, after the first time you do a load of laundry, your odor-resistant uniform is no longer that. Initially, the uniform looked great on paper, but in reality, it was a bit of a hoax. As with everything else, you almost always wind up getting what you pay for.
The easiest way to avoid such a letdown is to simply talk to the sales person and ask questions. I challenge you to be a better consumer. After all, you work hard to keep your teams cost down so, why not be judicious? Interview the parents and coaches of other teams before speaking to your supplier. What did they like about their uniforms? What about the supplier they bought them from? Or the most important question: What would they have done differently? When you finally do call customer service, you will have a working knowledge of the products you’re looking at. From there, you can ask the representatives your more technical questions. Be sure to pay attention to their answers. If it’s starting to shape up that you know more about the product than the person who is selling it to you, I strongly suggest you taking your business elsewhere.
The next blog will be a nice explanation of some of the most commonly used terms in uniform product description. My hope is to make you a uniform expert by providing a convenient tool to make sense of the catalog jargon.
The players have been selected. The schedule has been finalized. All that is left for you, the coach, is to order the team uniforms. You have been pouring over the glossy catalogs since August, and finally narrowed it down to three choices for your kids to vote on. After tallying the votes and the inevitable tiebreaker, you have decided to go with the super-moisture-wicking fabric with four-color screen-printed graphics and embroidery detail. It is now time to contact the supplier and place your order. With a quoted turnaround time of two weeks, the UPS truck should be dropping off your uniforms the day before the first game. If this scenario sounds at all familiar, it’s because you’re not alone- and therein lies the problem.
The thing about basketball is that it’s played concurrently across the entire country; meaning everyone’s tryouts, practices, and championships are all occurring simultaneously. This also means that every team is placing their uniform order at the same time. For suppliers, this creates an enormous spike in business. But because the company has only so many customer service representatives, screen-printing presses, and uniforms on hand, some orders won’t be able to be filled on time. For you, this could mean you won’t have your uniforms in time for the first game of the season.
Just like a good game plan wins on the court, a well thought out strategy can ensure that you get exactly what you want this season. Here are a few things to keep in mind when putting together your uniform order:
When choosing a supplier:
“More” is not always “better”. A supplier might have 40+ pages of uniforms, but does that mean they have the one you want in stock and in your sizes? A lot of suppliers will order their uniforms on the fly so that they don’t have money tied up in inventory that might not ever get used. The supplier may promise you a quick turnaround, but that’s only if they have it in stock. After all, it’s very difficult for them to print numbers on a jersey they don’t have.
Quality or quantity of choices. When a supplier has a wide variety of options to choose from, this often means that they work with a variety of manufacturers, which can also mean weaker vendor-supplier relationships. Put another way, would you rather have a couple really close friends, or a lot of acquaintances? If there’s a backorder, who do you think would receive their inventory first? Often times, it’s the closest relationships that get their orders filled first.
When choosing and ordering a uniform:
Give yourself more time than you think you need, by ordering as far in advance as possible. This is easier said than done because rosters (and sizes) haven’t been finalized yet.
Eliminate democracy. Instead of time-consuming voting and debating over uniform styles, simply tell the kids and parents what the uniforms will look like, instead of asking them what they want them to look like.
A “New” style usually mean “not made yet” style. The newest designs and styles are most likely to be the ones that aren’t in stock. If you can wait a year for the manufacturer’s supply to catch up with demand, you’re much more likely to get that style.
Have a backup plan. Have your second and third choice of uniform readily available when placing your order.
In the 17 years that I have been doing this, I have noticed that the teams that follow these suggestions are the happiest with their uniforms.
Mike Campbell, owner of Ares Sportswear, has been outfitting teams for over 17 years. Gear Up is the expert blog that focuses on all things uniform and spirit-related. If there is something you would like me to cover or have general feedback, please email me at Campbellfirstname.lastname@example.org
In this current economic climate, money is tight. Unemployment is at a generational high and the prices on even the most basic necessities like food and gas, have skyrocketed. With your money buying less and less, supporting your child’s basketball endeavor may seem like an economic impossibility. New uniforms, tournament fees, overnight lodging and travel are predictably more expensive than they were the previous year and with budget cuts becoming the norm, fundraising has become increasingly more important.
Fundraising, as the name implies, is the activity of raising money for a specific cause or event, usually by requesting donations or selling a product or service. Most people probably won’t be willing to open their wallets for you unless they know they are receiving something in exchange for their hard-earned money. The key is to find something you can sell a lot of that is highly profitable. Car washes are a classic choice, but there is a lot of planning and scheduling involved, and you are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. As any of my neighbors could tell you, selling cookies to strangers is a gold mine, but unfortunately, I think the Girl Scouts have that market covered. Many teams however, have found selling t-shirts to be a highly profitable fundraising activity with very little effort. Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind if you decide to go this route:
They’re cheap. The beauty of fundraising with t-shirts is that they’re relatively cheap to buy and customize. You can easily buy a printed shirt for $5 and sell it for $10, doubling your money. Depending on how many your team ends up purchasing up front, some companies will even lower the price per shirt. Buying 144-287 printed shirts from a company like Ares Sportswear, will drive down the cost to $3.88 and if your team continues selling them at the $10 price, they would stand to net over $600.
They are easy to reorder. Once the initial artwork has been set up, most printers can turn reorders around pretty quick. Furthermore, many printers will give you a price break on a reorder since the art is done and the screen is already made. With reordering shirts so cheap and simple, there’s no reason to overbuy on your first order, which leads me to…
Don't overbuy them. I have seen a lot of teams order 200 shirts right off the bat in order to hit a manufacturer’s price break- don’t. If you wind up only selling half of the shirts, you break even- that is the profit you made on the shirts you sold was only enough to pay for the rest of the shirts, leaving you with no money left over to put towards your team’s expenses. Shirts don’t have an expiration date, and you can certainly sell them the following year, but we want to make a “Fast Profit”. Buying only enough shirts that you can sell in the shortest amount of time is the key.
Find your sales team. Once the question of “what to sell” is answered, the next step is deciding on “who” will do the selling. Recruiting the kids on the team to do the selling is the obvious choice. Doing so will increase their confidence while providing them with a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Many parents will make the argument that simply raising money for the team should be enough motivation for the kids, but I have noticed that the most successful fundraising drives are the ones with a selling contest attached to them. Popular prizes can range anywhere from free t-shirts to gift cards and movie tickets.
In addition to having the kids fundraising, the parents can also help bring in money for the team. Parents can assist the team’s fundraising effort by setting up “sale stations” at games and outside of local grocery stores or even try selling them at work.
Regardless of how your team decides to fundraise, money still makes the world go ‘round. Having a solid fundraising game plan in place might mean the difference between saying “yes” and saying “no” to the next tournament invitation.