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