Q A DISTRIBUTOR ASKS: As a relatively  new distributor, I have tried to locate decorators near my clients to minimize shipping costs. Recently, I found a decorator in my area who has competitive prices and provides reliable service. I’m curious if other distributors seek out decorators close to their clients or use a local vendor with whom they have a relationship. Do you use one decorator for all your work, or do you choose based on the client’s location?

My 43 years of experience says y ou are better off sticking with one or two local print/embroidery shops and developing good relationships with them. You will get to know what they can do for you and for your clients. You should also be able to get steady pricing and good service, especially in a time- sensitive situation. 

Trying to find a reliable and affordable supplier in every market close to your out-of-town clients is like chasing a rainbow. You will lose time and money, your clients will not know or fully appreciate your efforts and you may not save your clients anything. Shop closer to home, and you’ll be glad you did.

Harry A. Parrish & Associates 
PPAI 107470

Deal with people you can trust and rely upon—that is the most important thing. My clients depend on me to take care of them. If it costs a few extra dollars and there is no hassle, everything is right the first time and their clients are “wowed,” then it really does not matter where the supplier is located.

Deal with people who understand your issues, can provide expert advice and help you make your clients more knowledgeable. Deal with people who add value. Cheap can cost a lot of money in the long run and expensive can save thousands of dollars in the end.

Your Brand Marketing
PPAI 384130

I have three decorators: one for large orders, one who is near me and one for  small orders.

Business By Promotion
PPAI 191743

I primarily use local decorators for all my orders, but I have a second decorator in the Midwest whom I occasionally use. I’ve also worked with my apparel wholesalers to request screen printers for large orders outside my local area. I believe embroidery quality is a little more difficult than screen printing, so I always stick with my main embroiderer no matter where the item is shipping.

NorthStar Identity Promotional Products
PPAI 276497

I have a high-quality local apparel decorator that I use whenever possible. A lot of my clothing suppliers offer free freight to my decorator, which saves on freight charges. Using a local decorator also gives me the option of taking a pre-production sample to my client for approval before producing the whole order. I wish I could do all my orders with local suppliers—it calms the control freak that dwells within me.

Promotional Sales Rep
American Solutions for Business
PPAI 101656 

Since 90 percent of my clients are local and most of their orders are under 100 pieces, I use a local printer and a local embroiderer. There are four good reasons for this: 

1  Production time. It’s almost always quicker to use a local printer, and when in a crunch, they will rush something for me.  

2 I generally deliver the goods, which gives me one more reason to get in front of my customer. 

3 Problems happen, and it’s much easier to deal with them locally, especially when you are talking to the guy running the shop. 

4 Cost. Most local screen printers have lower screen and imprint charges than “the big guys,” and if you order consistently, you can sometimes negotiate better pricing. 

Obviously, check the quality of the print and embroidery before going in to business with them. You also want to be sure they do contract work and are not going to solicit your client directly. 

Talk to other distributors in your area. I would bet they also use a local printer/embroiderer and would be willing to share their contacts. That’s how I found mine.

RJF Marketing
PPAI 208082

For local customers, I tend to favor any supplier who is within reasonable driving distance to me. I find this to be true especially for items like drinkware, where the freight cost can be high. For out-of-area clients, I judge what is best for them based on the product that is being shipped.

Howling Print & Promo
PPAI 593535

I use local decorators which are not necessarily close to my clients, but this way I feel I have more control. I can run over there to look at a pre-production sample, pick a stitch out, get replacement garments quickly or pick up an order to ship it myself.

Senior Account Manager
Grapevine Designs
PPAI 226030

Do You Have An Answer?

A Distributor Asks:  
How do you handle customers who discover—weeks or months after they receive an order—that there are missing pieces or other errors? Do you have a standard reminder that you send to customers upon delivery telling them to inspect the order within a certain period of time? It is stressful to receive a complaint months after delivery with the expectation that you will correct the order. 

What’s Your Answer?
Email answers along with  your name, title and company name by March 23 to Question@ppai.org for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of PPB magazine.


Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.