Selling apparel, bags and caps that have the decoration and additional costs already included.
Making finished product available quickly without the need to order in bulk and inventory.
In 2019 there was growing momentum heading in the direction of on-demand decoration services and single invoice modeling.
It had been a slow journey, but more and more companies were finding value in streamlining the purchasing process, while also delivering product for company stores in a quick direct-to-the-user experience. This shift was contrary to the prior method of investing in a lot of decorated products that had been purchased from a supplier, shipped to a contract decorator, and then stored for picking and shipping as needed.
The pandemic started off with strong support of these concepts — the shift to selling online tends to work hand-in-hand with a single-invoice, on-demand (SI/OD) model. That balloon unfortunately burst just a year later, as inventory became scarce and getting the exact style/color/size you needed when you needed it became a serious gamble. Some saw this growing challenge early and reverted back to taking an inventory position, while others adjusted to selling more neutral product, delivering a “Navy Name Brand Polo,” but not specifically the one originally intended.
As inventory is rebounding in an incredible way, the race is back on for companies to re-engage end users with a process that makes ordering products simple and effective.
While not always in tandem, single invoicing and making product available on-demand do play nicely together. This process often aligns well with an e-commerce webstore that is set up for company employees to directly purchase uniforms or merchandise. As such, someone might want to get one or two items and have them shipped to their house. Pricing is built to enable small orders and the hidden process for having things decorated involves a lot of moving parts to ensure timely and accurate delivery.
Three ways to offer these options to your clients
- The Pure Play
This is actually the oldest and most authentic form of single-invoice. For decades some decorators have felt comfortable with owning the purchasing of apparel, applying their decoration costs, along with a comfortable margin, to sell everything as a finished product. This concept often gets started when companies that do have access to wholesale suppliers simply do not purchase enough to see the value in buying direct. They prefer the ease of buying a finished product, even at a higher cost.
- Technology Platform
There are several systems available now which offer the service of selling apparel products combined with decoration services. The FAST Platform has been a pioneer in this space and works with many leading promotional product distributors to enable a SI/OD solution. They have the front-end order entry system to help define the variables, supported by an extensive contract decorator network to help with keeping costs reasonable and the delivery of goods timely. While they’ve led the industry on this process, other options are emerging such as Fulfill Engine, SplashBrands and more in development.
These technology platforms are not to be confused with strictly Print On Demand (POD) providers. POD solutions have built up over the last few years, mostly around DTG/Heat Transfers, with more of a focus on B2C t-shirts, hoodies, etc and not specific to the corporate uniform market, where Embroidery and other services are needed more often.
- Joint Venture
As customers have increased the need for SI/OD solutions, we responded by developing a pathway that can be utilized in tandem with a contract decorator and seller to achieve desired results. This process involves the two parties talking through the specifics with a member of our team, so we can all be on the same page. This works best when both parties have worked together before, to establish a strong basis for trust and communication. The next step is walking through setting up a new account with us, which is built on the pricing, NET terms, and details for the seller, but ordering is managed by the decorator.
No matter how you approach a Single Invoice and/or On-Demand scenario, you are leaning in a smart direction that the industry is moving toward. That being said, this is not a solution for all things, but can greatly help alongside webstores for ongoing program work.
With so many options and variables to unpack, the best first step is to reach out to our team to schedule a 1-on-1 meeting and talk over your specific scenario and needs. As always, we can offer unbiased insights to help inform options and even help with connections to service providers.