58% of employees say they would prefer to work for a company that has a more casual dress code. You are likely adapting to this already, particularly if you are focused on attracting and retaining Millennials. Some organizations see this as an opportunity to put their employees in logoed apparel. “Business Casual” is becoming more difficult to define, and a corporate apparel program can give you more control over what employees are wearing to work. If successful, it can also increase brand visibility, and integrate with your employee engagement and incentive programs. All tangible benefits, to be sure. The challenges? Developing a program that is affordable, scalable, exciting for your employees, all without becoming a time drain to administer.
How do you get your employees wearing your logoed items?
It’s an Amazon world. The most important component of a successful and sustainable apparel program? It must be “on-demand,” meaning items can be ordered online at any time, customized and shipped in a quantity as low as one. The upfront investment required to launch a modest inventory program with 20 apparel items is $50,000; cost prohibitive for many, and when you factor in obsolescence, the cost climbs even higher. Find a supplier who can develop a secure, online storefront that offers a variety of retail quality brands that fit your company culture. The store should be refreshed consistently to keep employees coming back for the latest and greatest. Mobile responsiveness is critical, as e-commerce purchases continue to migrate to mobile devices. Lastly, multiple payment options should be available, including a credit card option, so employee purchases are secure (PCI compliant), and totally hands-off for your team.
When building your catalog, think about your own closet. There are a variety of garments, styles, brand names, and colors. Quality, recognizable brands are a must. This can be tricky, as some premium retail brand names are not readily available in the promotional channel, so you will need to work with the right distributor who can get you the brands you want without busting your budget. In addition to business wear, expand your categories a bit to include performance gear, (think Under Armour ¼ and ½ zip pull overs) outerwear, The North Face jackets, Patagonia vests, and hats) and sweaters/sweatshirts. Bags (backpacks have become popular for business) and other work related promotional items (lunch bags, insulated mugs, water bottles) can round out your program. Consider the job functions and income level of your staff. For everyone to participate, you will need items that fit the various profiles of your team. Finally, you need to keep it fresh. Your apparel supplier can keep you up to date on new items and the latest styles.
Decoration Techniques and Locations
If you want your employees to wear company logoed apparel, you will need to get creative with decoration techniques and locations:
- Laser etching creates a tone-on-tone design, and it also allows for some unique locations. Laser etching can get to hard-to-reach places, like across a zipper, which is a trending style in retail. It can be subtle when used tone-on-tone.
- Direct-to-garment printing is infused into the material. It’s soft and comfortable (if it’s not comfy, they’re grumpy). Great for full color for more impact and brand recognition.
- Debossing is a subtle decoration that will not fade or wash away. This method works well on cotton, polyester, leather, pleather, fleece and polar fleece fabrics. It is an extremely upscale look and a fresh alternative to traditional decorating techniques.
- Embroidery 2.0 Re-think the way you look at embroidery by changing the location, design, or thread colors. It can also be combined with other techniques like laser etching to create something unique and current.
Subsidize the Program
Most company apparel stores fail for one main reason – an unwillingness to make an investment in the program. Employees typically will not spend their own money to wear your logo. Good product selection along with creative and subtle decoration techniques will help your cause, but they won’t get you home. Your company will need to make a significant contribution for your employees to buy in. We recently helped a hospitality group successfully launch their company apparel store with a contribution of $150 per employee. The cost for a few items when welcoming a new employee is an inexpensive way for them to feel like part of the team. Going forward, providing additional “coupons” to reduce their personal cost will keep them coming back. If employees can purchase a $79 Under Armour ½ zip for under $30, then a subtle, well-placed logo won’t be an issue. Use company events as an opportunity to provide employees an item they will want to wear again and again. Finally, award apparel coupons for individual and company milestones, (work anniversaries, promotions, etc.) employee appreciation, or as part of your performance incentive programs.
It is difficult to get traction on a corporate apparel store. They can, in fact, be quite successful; but it takes the right technology, the right products, the right decoration, and the right supplier partner. Above all else, you must be willing to invest the dollars in your employees, your culture, and your brand by covering a majority of the cost.
If you want to learn more about company stores, contact me below:
VP of Sales, Regency360