“Is logoed apparel even relevant right now?”
With many offices closed, sports teams playing games with virtual audiences and schools planning to conduct classes online for the coming year, this may be a question you’ve asked yourself recently. You’re not the only one.
We sat down (virtually, of course) with a couple SanMar salespeople to get their take on it. These two women work with local independent shops making t-shirts as well as customers who have large-scale, intricate uniforming programs. Their answer to this question might surprise you.
The Personal Touch
“It’s not just ‘stuff we all get’ anymore,” says Lori, who works with customers doing business in Oregon and Washington. When employees are working from home and teams aren’t able to meet in the same room, “that’s the connection you have to the business now. You have to rely on these touches to make it more personal and relevant.”
Robin, who also works with customers in Washington State, agrees. “When someone gets a package, it’s exciting! It’s an experience that people want to share. You even have videos of people opening up boxes now, recording that feeling of getting a gift.”
The trend of unboxing videos has been on the rise for a several years, but takes on special significance when so many are working remotely. It also emphasizes the importance of packaging and presenting what you send well, when it may show up as the star of the show on someone’s YouTube channel.
This doesn’t only apply to apparel either. A branded deck of cards can give you something to do with all that extra time at home, and a blanket with a logo on it can almost feel like those hugs you’ve been missing. “Receiving a t-shirt or a cozy blanket evokes a response and a good feeling,” says Lori.
The Biz-Leisure Movement
That’s not to say that embellished apparel works the same as it did before the advent of COVID-19. We all have to adapt to what people are wearing now, and how they’re getting it.
“Biz-leisure is the thing right now,” says Robin. Even when meeting virtually, professionals want a put-together look that still feels comfortable to wear. Trend expert Vicki Ostrom describes this as “Biz-leisure style,” meaning a look on top that’s ready to do business with a polished appearance on camera, while shorts or sweatpants off-camera allow for all-day comfort.
Lori expands on this trend. “It’s a little different from the athleisure style, which is transitional from home to the gym to the office. Biz-leisure mixes comfort and a professional look. It’s way more relaxed.”
Lori also describes a pivot she’s seeing towards “kitting,” meaning putting together packages to send to people at their homes. Kits can include practical necessities like polo shirts and face coverings, as well as fun items like t-shirts or blankets.
Robin makes the most of this idea as a way to open the door to a conversation with a customer. “Send them a package and schedule a meeting after they receive it to talk about it,” she suggests. “Impress your customer” with thoughtful options they may not have been considering.
We’re Seeing the Future
We’ve all spent the last few months adjusting to new circumstances and learning on the fly, but the lessons we carry forward are valuable ones.
“There are some offices that are closing and don’t plan to return to a shared office space,” Lori explains. She’s seen the move in large hospital networks towards administrative staff working from home permanently, and the news of Google encouraging employees to work from home until 2021 gives us a window onto the future too.
“Normal is just a setting on your dryer,” says Robin. “But people will always need clothes to wear. The money that companies were spending on things like employee travel is being redirected, often into logoed apparel and gifts to send home.”
Lori also observes that the “new normal” is that we’re not getting back to normal anytime soon. She stresses the importance of not waiting for an answer to fall into your lap. “Those who are being proactive about reaching out with creative solutions are seeing the most success right now.”
“Companies are re-inventing themselves,” Robin adds. “It’s who we are as an industry and as a country.”
The answer to the question we asked at the beginning is that apparel and goods bearing company logos are just as relevant now as they ever were, possibly even more so. As we seek ways to stay in touch, these are the things which keep us connected and give us something to look forward to in the brighter days ahead.