What is the problem exactly?
We are sure most of you know many of the issues that we have been facing in trying to keep our shelves stocked. Between Covid, supplier wage shortages, trucking shortages, and a plethora of other issues we are facing, we are having a super frustrating time in trying to not only source the regular garments we have been carrying for over 15 years but trying to balance that with keeping the costs down.
We have compensated by doing things we have never done before, such as mixing stock and buying up 150 medium white shirts when we see they are available and there are only so many. We have added two major suppliers and have spent at least three times as much time as it usually takes to place each order with our garment suppliers because instead of ordering from one, we are having to order from 3-4 different suppliers each order- and we are still not getting 1/3 of what we are needing to keep our shelves stocked.
We also have been unable to process bulk orders via email for anything other than black and white shirts because by the time we go back and forth via email (getting on the same page about a bulk order generally takes about 3 days of emails), what we quoted you for is now not available and we have to start all over again.
We have gone through weeks of being unable to source a single red shirt in all sizes from any supplier in the country. We have gone through weeks of being unable to source XL tees in any color. We have been unable to order a hot or light pink shirt in any low-cost style since July of 2020. That color is just no longer an option for most garment decorators.
This is a sample of the pages we are seeing just about every day. Styles and colors have been out of inventory for so long they just removed them from the system.
This is another fun problem. Pictured below are two Bella 6004 shirts, both sized “small”, in purple and blue. They are not the same size. Same with the two “newborn” sized onesies. And we just do not have the capacity to check to see if every shirt we are getting in is sized correctly, which has resulted in us decorating shirts that are listed as the wrong size, then having to reprint free of cost- because while it’s not our fault, it’s certainly not the client’s fault. But it’s creating a higher cost of goods sold.
The inability of our wholesalers to keep our regular brands in stock has also forced us to do something we’ve never had to do- mix stock. Instead of being able to just have Anvil 980s (our favorite tee) on the shelves, we have been forced to mix our stock with whatever is around the same cost point. So black and white shirts aren’t usually a problem, but Gildan, Anvil, Next Level, etc. all have different shades of “kelly green” or “military green” or navy or red, which has created some issues like the ones below.
This is an example of a shirt bought in 2020, which was washed and never dried and ended up with tiny little holes all over the garment. When we contacted our supplier about this, they basically just told us there is no warranty on shirts, pointing to a larger problem that not even our distributors are taking any of this seriously or addressing these issues. They also will not refund us for any of the garments we have decorated that clients need to return because they are defective.
And one more photo of an apron that has the pocket sewn on crooked. We also would be unable to get this refunded since we did not notice it within the new “2-week” window to return items. We don’t generally notice things are wrong until we pull it out to decorate it. But all of these issues are coming directly out of decorators’ pockets and causing our “cost of doing business” to skyrocket.
- These are the things we have been dealing with since the Fall of 2020.
Unfortunately, in October of 2021, we started getting some doomsday emails from our suppliers explaining that these issues we are having are only going to get worse in Q4 of 2021. For example, apparently, they will not be restocking jersey knit polos until January 2022.
- There were also several announcements from the brands themselves, raising their prices by 30% or more across the board.
What is causing this?
1) What started this mess is best described by this article from Fast Company:
“The problem started during the pandemic. In March 2020, when stay-at-home orders first went into effect in the U.S., Americans changed their shopping habits drastically. With nowhere to go and a possible recession on the horizon, apparel purchases ground to a standstill. In April 2020, clothing sales fell 79%, which is the largest-ever recorded decline.
Fashion labels began to panic. It was unclear how long the pandemic would last and, by extension, how long consumers would continue to not buy clothes. So many brands radically changed their operations, starting with worker layoffs and slashed prices on merchandise to unload existing inventory. Many canceled orders for the rest of the year, leaving overseas factories in a lurch. In turn, many factories had to fire garment workers.
Starting this summer, life in the States has started to return to normal, and there’s a lot of pent-up demand for clothing. But brands can’t suddenly flip the switch and increase their supply. Some are still short-staffed. And many clothing factories around the world are still shuttered. “Most brands do their manufacturing offshore, so it is not a very nimble supply chain,” says Lauren Bitar, head of insights at the analytics firm RetailNext. “So now, there’s enormous demand and not enough supply. Hence prices are going up.””
2) Trucking issues which you can read about here:
- Global Supply Chain Chaos
- Lack of workers is further fueling supply chain woes – by CNBC
- Trucking industry facing driver shortage aiding pandemic supply chain woes
- Photo of cargo trucks
3) Cotton prices are at the highest level in a decade which you can read about here:
- Cotton prices surge to the highest level in 10 years, likey to drive up apparel costs – By Promo Marketing
- Fashion retailer industry recovery remains tenuous – Forbes
4) It has been impossible to get anything in on time, or accurately. We just can not guarantee deadlines or exact garment orders to be fulfilled anymore unless we have the stock in the store.
- Every single order we get in is incorrect. We can order 40 large black shirts and get in 35 2XLs. This has caused us to have to do supplemental orders, usually with rush shipping, which still are not guaranteed to be here because shipping is an absolute mess right now.
Not to mention, we used to be able to place orders on Tuesday till 4 pm and get those shirts in the next day 99% of the time. Now we have to place our orders Monday by 2 pm, they MAYBE will ship Tuesday, and half of our stock is not in the local warehouse. So if we need something from a warehouse in New Jersey, that’s taking over a week to get to us.
What is Customistic doing differently now?
- Well, to put it bluntly, we have had to restructure our entire inventory process and raise the majority of our garment pricing.
The weekend of October 15-17, we had to recruit half of our staff to do two overnights at our store to take apart half our store and reorganize, reprice, and retag every. We have been forced to horde clothing when it’s in stock, which has resulted in us having twice as much inventory as usual in the store to make sure we have it when you need it.
We generally keep 30 of each size in black and white 980s. But if we see medium white 980s are low in stock for all suppliers across the board with a restock level of next month, we buy as many as we can. We counted 171 medium white shirts this weekend.
We saw that levels of polos were slipping fast, called to find out that they won’t be restocking till January of 2022, and had to buy all the polos we could to make sure we could get through the holiday season.
Between all the extra levels of stock, us having to remake items that are bad from the supplier, prices being raised across the industry, and it taking three to four times as long to place any garment order, we have been forced to adjust our pricing for our residual stock. 1/4 of the prices went down, but the majority of them did go up.
And it was honestly way overdue. We were holding out on doing this because we hoped the industry would have adjusted by now, but we could not put this off any further.
We generally do not publish information like the items we have curated for our collection, but these are just different times, and we want to share this information. Prices in red went up, prices in green went down, and prices in black remained the same.
Probably the worst news here is the hoodies and zip-ups are just completely overpriced. We know this. I was mad having to write these numbers. We need to stock 90% cotton, and 10% poly hoodies in the store for DTG printing. These were already difficult to source and more expensive than regular 50/50 hoodies. But they doubled in price for us this season, and we can no longer subsidize this cost.
So we have cut down the number of hoodies and zip-ups we are stocking this season, upping the amount of crew neck sweaters to supplement this change, and going to be recommending you find your own hoodies (if you can find 90/10s).
- We are very sorry about all of this, but we hold this long-winded blog that serves as an explanation as to how we are having to change our business to adapt to the current economy.
- We are sorry for any inconvenience, and we fought this as long as we could. <3