Time To Shop for Camp Kitchikoomee's Signature Duds
Tips for a camp owner on starting a clothing sideline
Q: My brother needs customized clothing for the camp that he owns. But letting
an outside company provide it would leave him only 15% of the profits for the
apparel. How would he go about starting a line of clothing on his own?
--J.S., Englewood, N.J.
A: There are a couple of ways to approach such a project. The simplest
is for your brother to ask a company that makes uniforms for schools and
camps to make a private-label package with the camp's insignia, name, and other
desired features. He would choose T-shirts, shorts, pants, sweatshirts, and other
items from the company's catalog, and the uniform maker would customize them for him.
Your brother would then resell the clothing to campers, probably marking it
up by about 30%. He'll need to meet minimum orders -- generally around 1,000 pieces
per item, says Paul Ratoff, a consultant who specializes in the apparel industry
for the accounting firm of Moss-Adams LLP.
"It's a good way to make some extra money, especially if it's a decent-sized
camp and he can get commitments and payment for the clothing up front, when the
parents sign up for the sessions," Ratoff says. "He should prepare a brochure and
presell the clothing that way. His minimum order would probably include some stock
to sell during the camp sessions. If worse came to worse, he'd just have some extra
inventory that would bleed over into the next year."
An alternative for your brother would be to contract with a "packager," Ratoff
says. That's an apparel-industry agent who arranges with producers, possibly located
overseas or in Mexico, to make the clothes. Packagers typically charge a flat fee for
their services. In this scenario, your brother would have to do more legwork. He would
have to choose the designs, colors, and fabrics himself. He might have more
quality-control problems, and he would have to plan for a longer lead time between
order and delivery. The reward would be lower costs to him. That would allow him to
mark up the goods by as much as 50% without raising the retail price.
Ratoff suggests that your brother contact an apparel consultant for references to
reputable packagers or uniform companies. For additional resources and research, he could
try apparel-industry publications such as Women's Wear Daily
(www.wwd.com) and the Daily News Record (www.dnrnews.com). The same
publisher also produces a trade journal focused on children's products,
including apparel, called Children's Business, (www.childrensbusiness.com).
Associations such as the National Retail Federation publish directories of suppliers by
industry that might help your brother locate vendors. The NRF has a Web site, www.nrf.com,
or may be contacted at 325 7th Street, NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20004
(telephone: 202 783-7971).
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