Contract Decorator Pricing Variants

April 26, 2024

I remember it fondly. That first day entering the grand halls of the Apparel Decoration Academy (ADA).

I attended the Winston Salem, NC campus, since it was the closest to my home. I could smell the ink in the air and quickly noticed I was dragging behind me a long piece of embroidery thread. I knew in several years’ time, I would emerge from this bastion of knowledge a well-trained decorator ready to start my own business. While we would cover many varying topics, my main reason for attendance was to uncover the secrets of how to price my decoration services.

Unfortunately, none of that intro is real. Ours is not an industry with a formal pathway to knowledge and teachings from professors of business to help us understand fundamentals when it comes to things such as pricing. As such, pricing for contract decoration can vary wildly and very few know the “best” or “right way” to do it. With that in mind, we’ll cover a few variant pricing options that contract decorators are starting to explore.

Where We Are Today

Contract decoration is a provided service and deeply rooted in time. Many successful members of this unique group would consider themselves some level of an efficiency-minded personality. Their goal is to successfully process as many jobs as possible with the fewest number of delays. Each time there is a pause to double check the artwork or products are delayed coming in, it costs them time…which in turn, equals money.

During 2021 and ‘22, there was not enough labor available to keep up with the surge in production, so contract decorators scrambled to adapt their pricing. Adding fuel to this fire was also the rising back end cost of consumables, such as ink and thread. It made for a perfect storm in which it was not uncommon to update pricing a few times throughout the year.

Now things have settled down and we’ve resumed a more “normal” cyclical flow of business. As such, contract decorators are also re-analyzing their price lists and getting back into a more competitive stance. It would be short-sighted, though, to miss the time-based insights that were hyper-fueled during the last few years and not adapt some new variants that better account for challenges and benefits.

“Time Partner” Tiered Pricing

Tiered PricingThe idea behind tiered pricing is to offer your customers flexible options while giving you and your team an opportunity to evaluate your shared accounts, not only based on how much volume they bring in, but how much time they’re “costing” through the process.

This should not become a review project with too much focus on granular details. Your teammates that manage and process orders in conjunction with shared accounts will know from their collective history and experience which are less organized and thus take more time. With this study, you could adapt two tiers of pricing, based around those who are time-efficient and those that are less so.

  • Top Tier – These would be the top accounts who provide consistently production-ready orders and do not often require much back-and-forth. You can create a price list specifically for them that would also take into account frequency of orders.
    • Path Defined – While you create these two variant price tiers, you also need to clearly map out the pathway for someone to essentially level-up. Members must abide by these three things:
      1. Order Entry – Utilize our web-based work order portal, PDF form or something similar which provides all required information needed to process a job.
      2. Status Updates – Reference our web-based status portal to see real-time updates on your orders and tracking information once shipped.
      3. Payment – Members must be consistent in how they pay, based on agreed-upon terms.
  • Standard Tier – This could essentially be your current standard price list as you remove any lower priced version that was previously based on volume alone. Again, provide guidance for how the customer can become a Top Tier member.

White Glove Service Option

White-Glove ServiceWhite glove service means providing a particularly high level of service, with meticulous attention to small details. It can be applied to just about any type of customer service model, but these days you’ll most often see it used for some kind of delivery service.

I learned of this concept when I ordered a piece of furniture, which included free delivery, which meant they dropped it on my doorstep. Or, for an additional $100, they would unpack the item, remove all the packing materials and deliver it directly into the desired room. No-brainer for the right circumstances. I opted for “white glove.”

  • WG Service – Develop an option for your Shared Accounts to purchase, which includes the “white glove” service approach.
    1. In-Bound – This could include an added layer of receiving and double-verifying goods that arrive accurately and without any manufacturing issues.
    2. Production – Shops are often trying to produce quickly, but WG could involve slowing the machines down and taking extra care and precautions to ensure the best possible decoration.
    3. Out-Bound – This could again include a more detailed review of the finished garments, but also might involve re-packing items into fresh boxes.

Proof Positive

Proof PositiveProofing is an essential part of custom production, avoiding the costly mistake of decorating the wrong thing with the wrong artwork. Most decorators deploy an option for virtual proofs, but with trickier items and dimensional goods, this is not always bulletproof.

  • Physical Proof Samples – Offer the standard virtual proof, but also include the option for a physical proof sample upgrade to help ensure exactitude of expectation. This can even be part of a proactive approach for spec samples to help collaborate with shared accounts on winning business.

Some decorators offer pricing variants like those noted above, while others are still struggling with how to best address some of the changes with consumer’s needs. Other key tips include:

  • Maintain updates to your pricing regularly. This will help avoid a dramatic change to catch up after years of neglect.
  • Be mindful of smaller orders. With unique logo/change variants, these can ultimately take more time.

Hopefully these concepts can help with challenges you might be facing now and into the future. If you want to schedule some time to talk through any of these ideas or perhaps an even more innovative concept you have been mulling over, reach out to to schedule a Deco Talk with one of our experts. We’re happy to help!