Contract Decorators: It’s Time to Source the Transfers

April 28, 2021

In recent years, heat-applied decorations have been sighted all over the country. From a raised, rubbery logo on a jacket from The North Face, to a stretchy, smooth design on an OGIO performance polo. Embroidery for branding has been replaced by these newer, heat-applied objects.

Today we’re going to dive into this topic to uncover:

  • The “Why” behind this growing trend
  • Challenges the industry faces regarding contract decorators
  • Why it is a good idea to source your own transfers


“How well does it hold up?” is probably the number one question that brand owners ask when considering changing from the legacy of an embroidered logo to something heat-applied. The shift toward this trend has likely stemmed from adhesives/material/process all improving to be viable for mass adoption. Nobody wants their namesake to be found peeling off their product after a few washes. Retail committed to this and it is now seen from high-end to staple pieces and end users are seeing, liking and wanting to have their logo done the same way.


The challenge now is the evolution of the process. What started as a simple piece of vinyl has now morphed into molded emblems, high density silicone and even digitally printed works of art. How is a contract decorator, who often has everything thrown at them to figure out, suppose to organize all of this? Time to get strategic.

Sometimes our best efforts to generate adoption of new trends and techniques are met with pushback because others don’t understand the fundamentals or are concerned about having time to commit. There are simply way too many types of heat applied transfers to know about and way too many to be able to master them all. So, where do you start?…Small. I always advise to focus in on three to four key types of transfers, research the variables and develop your price structure. This along with sourcing the transfers yourself, helps to control the chaos.


I’ve been asked many times by contract decorators: “Do you think I should buy the transfers or have the shared account send them in?” I finally heard the best perspective to settle this debate “Do you have your shared accounts send in their own embroidery thread? How about their own ink?” Why would transfers be any different? In both of those cases the decorator researched brands, options and solutions, developed their process and eventual price structure. Heat applied transfers should be approached in the same way.

This research and sourcing investment will have a massive payoff in two key ways: headache avoidance and money. The first is all about managing the risk and headaches that can come with trusting someone else to know what transfer will work (or work best) with which product. The feedback from decorators is that this is few often the case. The second is that you can make money on not just the application process, but also the transfers themselves.

Streamlining the ordering process is all the rage these days, so apply that trend to transfer services and be a hero! Lastly, offering unique and trending techniques separates you from the masses, so price shopping becomes less of a challenge.

I know it can be daunting to take on a new service offering but investing in the research and sourcing as a short-term project will pay off massive dividends as a long-term win. Contract decorators, it’s time to source the transfers!

To find out more about transfers and the companies that manufacture them, contact