Sourcing Solutions

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Sourcing Solutions: Finding Basic T-shirt Inventory in a Time of Shortages

Are you on the hunt for basic T-shirt styles in common colors such as black or white? If you’re like most apparel decorators, you’re hard-pressed to locate these particular items, and probably have been for quite some time. As COVID waves continue to plague the world economy, shipping and inventory issues have remained a constant problem.

In addition to issues like not having the labor to manufacture and ship these items, there are many factors contributing to the problem. “Basic Ts are the hardest to find, most likely due to the price point,” adds Mary Bostwick, VP of marketing at Delta Apparel. “Budget may be tighter than usual, necessitating the need to find the least expensive products available.”

While she doesn’t believe the industry is in the clear quite yet, there is movement in the right direction, and Delta is poised to be a solution to the challenge.

Number One: Expanded Offerings

When the pandemic hit hard in 2020, the global economy as a whole wasn’t quite prepared for the after-effects. In the apparel industry in particular, the lasting effects have specifically centered around inventory of basic T-shirts.

One way to solve this problem is opening yourself up to new supplier options. “Being open to new vendors and different products is the first step,” suggests Bostwick. “While we recognize this is new to your way of purchasing, [we] definitely think it’s worth it.”

Luckily, Delta is currently on the right side of the equation, being a supplier that does have inventory. “In 2020, Delta expanded our product offerings to include some of the most iconic brands in the industry, including the fashion-forward Callaway, Original Penguin, and Perry Ellis golf shirt lines now stocked in our distribution centers and ready to buy,” says Bostwick.

Not only is the company stocked with expanded shirt lines, it is also ready to go with headwear and other accessories. “Also ready and waiting in our Dallas and Hebron, Ohio, warehouses is the Outdoor Cap line with quite a variety of choices to choose from,” adds Bostwick. “We are also excited to offer Liberty Bags, Burnside, and Dri Duck lines to the Delta Apparel brand family.”

Because of this attention to expanding its offerings across the board, Delta finds itself in a place of improving inventory levels, particularly in CVC and tri-blend fabrications. “At Delta, we have many different T-shirt options to offer,” Bostwick says. “Currently, our product P601 is well stocked in many colors but specifically in white and black. This super soft, 100% combed ring-spun product will be a winner with your customers at a great value.”

Number Two: Communications and Support

On the other side of things is communication with your customers. Decorators must talk with their customers about what inventory is available, timeframes, and other details that will affect orders. “Stay positive when speaking with your customers, explain the situation, whether it’s labor or product shortages — most will understand,” notes Bostwick. “Keep them informed often — communication is key.”

While Delta is a great option to source blanks in a world where they’re tough to find, the company is also ready to be a support system. One of those ways is through online support.

“On the homepage, we offer a searchable, downloadable report that offers a quick way to see our in-stock/in scale inventory position by product for a quick reference,” Bostwick offers. As a decorator, it might be tempting to just stick with your comfort zone and make a phone call to one supplier, she encourages to utilize resources like this one to fulfill your needs: “Go a different route than you normally do [to locate inventory].”

She also notes that Delta’s customer service team is ready to go to support its customers, both new and existing. “Delta welcomes all new customers — we have a dedicated customer service team and local sales representatives to answer any questions you may have by phone, email, or live chat,” Bostwick says. The team is there to alleviate any frustrations.

“Setting up an account online is an easy process, giving you access to real-time inventory and all of the products specifications you may need,” says Bostwick.

Number Three: Manufacturing and Product Lines

The COVID-19 pandemic shed a bright light on manufacturing and distribution processes. With many companies evaluating these policies, apparel decorators should do a little research — it might just yield more options when it comes to sourcing T-shirts.

“As the manufacturer of most of the products we offer, we can control more of the process and determine if and when products will land in our distribution cycle,” says Bostwick of Delta’s practices. Delta manufactures in Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, where it owns all of the state-of-the-art facilities. “Our inventory gets better and better every day,” she adds.

Despite the last few years of struggle, inventory is still strong with a few suppliers. One of the reason’s Delta’s inventory is strong is its in-house collections such as the Platinum line. Bostwick notes that this line is available in the basic colors as well as a few exciting retail resort hues. This kind of line allows decorators to bring something unique to the table. “While we are still not 100% in every SKU, there are many sweet spots to take advantage of,” she adds.

Like most challenges, finding inventory of basic T-shirts should be dealt with in tandem with a bit of grace and working together. “Patience and perseverance are always a must,” Bostwick finishes.

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