13 Cost Influences to Consider When Ordering Custom Promotional Gear & Apparel
So, you’re quietly tweeting at your desk when your boss magically appears and sanctimoniously hands you your first swag assignment, “Get me the cost for some new logoed shirts for the IPO launch next week.” and disappears as idyllically as she manifested.
Here’s your chance to get the job done quickly while maintaining reasonable budgetary expectations… Consider these 13 cost influences when ordering custom promotional gear & apparel:
A variable cost throughout the decorating process – mass-production is far more cost-effective than producing just a few pieces (also known as “Economies of Scale”). Everything from number of units required, to product embellishment, to delivery are all affected by the volume ordered.
The quality of the materials and products selected are proportional to the cost of the finished item. For example, the boss asked for “logoed shirts.” Did she mean a basic concert t-shirt, or a more professional looking collard shirt such as a polo? Did she mean embroidering or single-colour or multiple colour silk screen printing? We can even break-down the basic concert tee’s quality into fabric weight and texture. Quality products are more costly, but will ultimately communicate your company’s values more positively to your intended audience, as good quality is surprisingly simple to identify.
Understanding colour cost influences can be a bit of a challenge, especially with apparel. First, when apparel is manufactured various dies are added to the fabric. A basic tee therefore is generally divided into two categories: light colours & heathers (heathers are blended fabric primarily associated with athletic apparel such as an athletic grey t-shirt), and colours or “dark” colours. Lighter tees are less costly to produce due to the absence of heavy dies.
On the decorating side of the equation, different embellishing techniques require colour cost consideration. For example, embroidery is not necessarily subject to colour costs, whereas screen printing costs are proportional to the number of colours being applied, as the shirts will have to be manipulated that many times.
Sadly, size does matter in the apparel and decorated products industry. Product sizing can range from extra-small youth and infant sizes all the way up to 4XL (four-extra-large) even 5XL and beyond. The larger the size (usually as of XXL [double-extra-large] and up), the more costly the garment is due to material usage and a premium is added over and above any colour costs.
Promotional product cost will also be influenced by size. Consider a leather-bound pad-folio: a junior pad-folio (7.25″w x 9.75″h) will be less expensive than a standard pad-folio (10″w x 12.75″h).
Often confused with “artwork set-up” (in the next point below), artwork refers to graphic design work that may be required to ensure an accurate representation of the image you want to communicate. This ranges from having a graphic designer actually create a logo for you, to upgrading a low-resolution company logo to a high-resolution or “vector” graphic file to achieve the desired results. This step is critical to ensure that the specialty software when setting-up the file will read the artwork accurately. While this cost will vary depending on your graphic design artist, a minimum of around $35 per hour should be expected.
6. Set-up / Digitizing
Once you provide the appropriate artwork in the prescribed digital format, the machines that preform the embellishing tasks need to interpret the artwork. Highly specialized software, equipment and talent are needed to make this happen. The set-up cost is typically a one-time charge, regardless of the quantity of units being produced. Costs range from $50 to $400 and up, depending on the complexity and the type of embellishment you choose. For example, screen printing generally applies a $65 screen charge per colour used because the cost of creating the screen is both materials and labour-intensive. Embroidery requires the artisan touch of a highly specialized graphic designer who traces a stitch path for the needles to follow, etc.
Another variable cost, the application of the logo is proportional to the quantity of product ordered. This cost may be calculated based on the number of stitches of a logo (usually factored as 1,000’s, and accounts for the quantity of thread being used), the number of pieces being decorated, the number of colours (to account for the actual ink used), etc. These costs can range from pennies to $10 and more depending on embellishing method. Application costs are also directly subject to Economies of Scale.
8. Miscellaneous Costs
Personalization such as applying personal names and uniform numbers to apparel, type-set (adding lettering such as a monogram), pre-production samples, colour matching, colour changes (applying a different colour for the same logo to a different colour shirt – think of a “home” and an “away” team uniform), flash charges (applying a base layer for printing on dark-coloured fabric), bagging, etc… the list goes on and is quite extensive! Be prepared to incur additional miscellaneous costs which may range from $0.25 per unit to $15 and even $30 per colour or activity. These costs, while some are quite necessary, are generally recuperative costs for the decorating facility which needs to take extra steps in the production process.
9. Specialty Costs
Puff inks, reflective transfers such as 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material, specialty inks and foil effects, will all invariably incur extra costs. They do however add to the end result considerably by creating a more interesting and sometimes tactile effect.
Rush deliveries put a significant amount of pressure on the embellishing facilities which may already have a number of projects on the go. 24 to 48-hour turn-around time may incur rush charges as significant as 50% or the initial cost of the order. Give yourself and your supplier a reasonable amount of time to get the job done, while a week is sometimes possible, usually 7-10 business days, and 4-6 weeks for overseas work.
Once all variable and fixed costs are considered, your chosen supplier will apply a mark-up or a fee for the work they performed. This is often where price variance will occur from one supplier to the next and can be quite fluid. While solely at the supplier’s discretion, the supplier’s mark-up should be a fair reward for the work they did, such as: doing product research in order to obtain a more competitive price, quality product recommendations, time-sensitive service, etc. Traditionally, the larger the order, the less the mark-up, since virtually the same amount of work is required to complete both jobs (all things being equal).
12. Shipping, Handling and Delivery
Delivering a finished product goes through many processes. From obtaining the “blanks,” to applying the decoration, to final delivery, the product does move around quite a lot. A shipping and handling, or a delivery charge are applied in order to recuperate the cost of moving the product from point A to point Z. Overseas shipping, courier companies, and actual local delivery all contribute to this cost.
Consider Benjamin Franklin’s old adage, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” No, your boss won’t kill you because the shirts are likely going to be more expensive than you originally anticipated, but taxes will always apply. Compounding matters, the origin of the product, for example, from the province of Québec will be slightly more expensive due to the higher 15% tax rate applied vs. Ontario’s 13% HST. Provincial tax rate variances may be a factor depending on your supplier. Also, clarify whether “all-in” means, “with taxes calculated in the price” or without… Usually taxes are not calculated in the final price.
Next time you see an advertisement for a promotional product such as a basic t-shirt at around $5 each, consider that the price itself may be a misnomer. Once you factor in the other 12 cost influences, you’ll likely be paying anywhere from 3 to 5 times more for a minimalist, minimum purchase. The larger the order, the lower the cost per unit will be.
At the end of the day, your overall budget is what really matters not the unit cost. Hopefully, your supplier will be able to get you exactly what you want within your budget, and possibly save you a few bucks along the way.
If you have any questions about the topics discussed, don’t hesitate to drop me a line at email@example.com.
Tags: Corporate Apparel, Custom Apparel Ordering, Custom t-shirts, Decorating, Embroidery, Logoed Apparel, Marketing Products, Polo, Pricing, Promotional Products, Screen Printing, Sport Shrirts, t-shirts