Kathleen has a huge issue with WOATs -words on a tee shirt- and GOATS -graphics on a tee shirt- producers; you can read about that here and here. Now it’s my turn to talk about WOATs and GOATS. I have a friend who has a retail store. She sells many brands of tees in her store, some of which are obviously American Apparel blanks with words or graphics on them. How is this obvious? Well never mind that I can spot an American Apparel tee a mile away -consider it great brand consistency on their part- but DEs make it easy for me because they leave American Apparel’s label in. I think this is just about the laziest thing you can do.
So we talk every now and then, I spend hours in her store; we sell pretty much the same stuff. She asked me if I carried one of the lines. I told her I didn’t think I could even begin to get away with selling it and I couldn’t bear the idea of buying it. So she asked me why and here is my answer: In good conscience, knowing that you can buy an American Apparel tee shirt for about 4 or 5 bucks, I can’t pay someone $15 wholesale for it just because they put words or clip art on it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those of you who have real art on your shirts who actually sit down and create unique designs, this is really about the concept of taking clip art or simple phrases and putting them on an American Apparel tee (or any other blanks manufacturer), leaving American Apparel’s “Classic Girl” (or whatever) label in it and marking it up to wholesale. Your problem isn’t with the many consumers who will buy that tee shirt; the problem is getting the retail buyer to buy your tee shirts. The reason is if I’m going to sell a tee shirt, I’m either selling the art or the brand. If you can’t even go to the trouble of re-branding your tee shirts with your own label, then it’s definitely not the brand. Which leaves us with the art. And if all you manage is clip-art or words, well, that’s just not enough.
My friend thought about this and said she thought that made a lot of sense. Retail stores have a hard enough time working with the profit margins that they have and so they need opportunities to acquire product lines with better margins. So my friend purchased some blanks and did her own thing. It’s cheaper than paying someone else for it. She came up with concepts that were entirely her own, her own art (she’s somewhat of an artist) and had her items screen printed. She can sell at full retail and enjoy the profit margin. She loves it. If she can make her own shirts, why will she buy yours?
Now, I know people are going to get up in arms about this, but take this to heart. Tee shirt lines are a dime a dozen. You’ll find this out if you try to get a sales rep at a major apparel mart or if you try to exhibit at an apparel trade show because most shows are juried and screen new exhibitors. You may even find that you don’t get into some trade shows because they have stopped accepting new tee shirt lines. I mean, tee shirt lines really are everywhere.
Now, you really kill yourself if you are not putting your own label in the garment because you are essentially saying “I really don’t care enough to build a brand.” Apparel sales are all about branding. They really are. And if you don’t care enough to go through the trouble to create your own brand for your items, you are shooting yourself in the foot.