Over the years, the market for custom sportswear and team uniforms has grown significantly. Participation in school sports has nearly doubled in the last decade. The market in the US alone was pegged at over $10 billion in 2019. This, alongside the growth in popularity of athleisure and sports apparel, has created a booming, albeit competitive, marketplace.
Two things stand out about this industry: first, almost every design is custom and made-to-order. Second, most of the brands use overseas production to keep their costs down, although it impacts their delivery time, sometimes by as much as 6 to 8 weeks from purchase. This is true even for the big name brands, with well-oiled supply chains.
Full custom, made-to-order teamwear in a week?
For many big brands that do custom sportswear, the business constitutes a small percentage of their overall revenue and some brands choose not to do custom products at all due to the cost, turnaround time and supply chain complexity involved.
Unsurprisingly though, customization significantly increases overall sales. Studies have shown that customized products offer a 3x-5x higher revenue per unit. One Deloitte study found that 71% of consumers were willing to pay a premium for personalized products. Customized products also have one of the lowest return rates in the industry, with a reported 60% decrease in product returns.
The big question then is, can anything be done to make the made-to-order business work without friction, where everything from design to production is predictable and repeatable? More importantly, can this be achieved with existing workflows and local supply chains?
For the custom sportswear and team apparel industry, creating artworks, taking orders and turning the designs and roster information into print ready files across sizes is the most complex and time consuming part of the operation and providing an easy way for teams to customize and place their order remains the single biggest obstacle to growing sales and revenues.
Although there is clear evidence that offering customization, smaller minimum order quantities and more self-serve options leads to increased sales and customer satisfaction, there currently aren’t many avenues for accomplishing it all at the same time. Customization usually means longer lead times and higher minimum order quantities, while team designs often require a significant amount of time and resources to create and much hand holding when working with coaches, managers and team players.
As the market landscape evolves, automation will be key to ensure that businesses can provide unique value to their customers in an efficient manner that is flexible enough for individual customization but maintains short lead times at unit costs comparable to that of mass production. Switching to local supply chains, without substantially increasing cost will be critical for faster delivery.
The brave new world of purchase-triggered manufacturing
Today, a typical workflow in the team uniform sales market involved a customer making an order inquiry, working with a sales person to conceptualize a design, which would then be sent off to a designer to create a mock-up. The sales rep, designer and customer would then play a game of telephone until the customer approves and places the order. After the sale, the design would then need to be converted into actual production patterns across each ordered size and roster names and numbers added, the final output color matched, the design verified and finally approved for production overseas.
However, more and more coaches, teams and players want a bigger say in the design, want instant feedback and faster delivery after purchase. Teams want the ability to design, share and purchase the product of their choice without having to coordinate a series of meetings with a representative. This goes against the long standing model for team uniform sales, but the ongoing shift in consumer behavior due to the pandemic and increasingly contact-less commerce has only accelerated this transformation.
This new paradigm will be key for brands, both big and small to scale revenue and sales in the years to come.
Customization is king, but cost and turnaround is key
The global sportswear market size was valued at USD $185.24 billion in 2020 and is anticipated to expand to USD $250 billion by 2025.
In order to compete in a growing, but incredibly competitive marketplace, individually personalized, made to order products with fast delivery is key. Many of these may seem like a paradox – custom and fast, bespoke and inexpensive. Overcoming this paradox requires the right technology and an agile manufacturing process that can scale efficiently. Scalable customization requires processes that can adapt to increased variability in customers’ requirements without sacrificing production efficiencies or cost.
But, done right, full custom made-to-order apparel is not only possible, but a significant revenue opportunity.
Discover industry specific technology and automation from vPersonalize
vPersonalize is the only design-to-manufacturing technology platform that makes on-demand and custom manufacturing possible at time and price points similar to traditional mass production.
With vPersonalize’s patented technology and automation, go from purchase to a finished product in hours using your existing supply chain. That is full custom sportswear and sublimated teamwear, made-to-order locally, in just days, at unit costs comparable to that of mass production!
Some of the best sportswear and print-on-demand brands in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe are already leveraging vPersonalize to scale on-demand production profitably.
Discover an end-end software platform and automation, specially built for the custom sportswear and sublimated teamwear industry. Go from purchase to a finished product in hours, with your existing supply chain.
To learn more, visit https://www.vpersonalize.com
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