With larger quantities comes better deals.
For example, your company will have a booth at a national tradeshow. This scenario is the bread-n-butter of the promotional products industry. You want everyone that visits your booth to walk away with something. Sure, you could hand out brochures and sell sheets, but those things will just get buried in the pile along with every other exhibitor. What will that person go digging for after the show to put on his desk? A stress ball! The more unique, the more likely it will get deskspace instead of drawerspace. Other great items are mugs, non-woven grocery bags and even beach balls. All of those items will be kept and used for an extended period of time. And, that person will see your logo with every use.
We have just entered the jurisdiction of ASI Distributors and Suppliers.
To make it simple, in the promotional product industry, distributors take the order and payment while the the supplier fulfills the order and ships it to the final destination.
A distributor will usually review your artwork (logo, text, etc.) and make sure it is good enough for the order. Since we are now talking about large quantities, just “ok” is not good enough. Unless the artwork is perfect, the distributor will insist on reworking it. The larger distributors will do this at no cost since there already is a good profit factored into the order. BE SURE TO ASK! If they try to charge you, tell them you will shop around for a better deal! This is a very competitive market, and you can always find a deal. Price matching is also common. Be aggressive!
You also must be careful! The product cost is only the starting point. Beware of set-ups, run-charges and shipping fees! That’s just the way this industry works.
- Product Price: Pricing is usually shown in a table format. The first column reflects the listed minimum quantity to place an order with the per piece price at that quantity. (For ex., a blue pen is listed 150@ $0.69. Meaning, if you buy 150 pens, the product price will be 150 X $0.69 = $103.50.) Higher quantities will have lower per piece prices. Just to get more confusing, some companies will also have a “less than minimum” price. However, such orders have additional fees which will make the “listed” first column price a bargain. (ex. at 75 X $1.20=$90, a quantity of 150 is a much better value.)
- Set-ups: The set-up fee is usually the fee for making a color plate to imprint your artwork on the product. If you have more than one color, there will usually be a set-up fee for each color. (For example, my client’s logo requires 2 colors. If the set-up fee is $100, then there would be 2 set-up fees at $100 each.) Each product has a maximum number of colors, and there can be a limit on how closely the colors can be printed next to each other (tight-registration). There can also be a higher set-up fee if the artwork requires gradients or half-tones (like a photo).
- Run Charges: Many times the product will be listed as “including one color imprint”. That statement does not mean the set-up fee. It is referring to the product cost with one pass printing. If a second color is needed, it will require a second pass. That’s when run charges are usually applied. Run charges are an add-on to the per piece price, and in addition to the set-up fees. (For example, with my clients 2-color logo on the pen, the second color will cost an additional $0.15 per piece or 150 pens X $0.15 = $22.50 on top of the $103.50 product cost and the $200 set-up fees.)
- Shipping Charges: It is very rare to find a deal with free ground shipping in this industry. Even if your distributor is located down the block, the shipping cost reflects the freight from the supplier to your destination. Remember the distributor just takes the order; it is fulfilled by the supplier. It is also possible to hit a DIM weight charge because the dimensions of the box exceed the normal size for that weight. Always ask about shipping costs BEFORE making a final commitment!
- Embroidery & Digitizing Charge: Embroidery is unique. Even if you have a perfect vector logo, there will be a “digitizing charge” (also called a tape-charge). This charge reflects the creation of the stitching pattern and threads which will be used to reproduce your artwork. There can also be an additional charge based on the number of stitches, typically in 1000-stitch groups. A common scam is to say “FREE set-up up to 5000 stitches.” Now, think about this…the denser the stitches, the better the artwork. As a result, it is common to have a stitch count of around 10,000 stitches! If you are paying $15 per 1000 stitches, that’s an additional $150. Thankfully, the digitizing fee replaces the standard set-up fee and also includes between 7-10 thread colors. And, if you need additional products embroidered with the same artwork at the same size, they will usually waive the digitizing cost on the additional runs. Always state that you want a copy of the digitizing file when the order has been completed! Put that in the order! However, be sure to ask about additional run-charges! Some companies will charge them with the higher stitch counts, others will not!
- Digital Prints: A digital print is very similar to a inkjet/color laser print out. The quality is very high and it is a one-pass print. Usually a heat-transfer (like an iron-on) is used to apply the imprint to the product. This can be a less expensive solution than a traditional 4-color process print … only one set-up and no run charges. However, not all companies offer it. Shop around!
Now that you know the process and the lingo, you can start pricing out the product. Be sure to Google for something like “custom stress balls” or “embroidered caps” to find some current specials. Whichever company you select, be sure to insist on a written quote AND a “virtual proof”. There may be an additional charge for it, but if the supplier screws-up the imprint (which does happen), the virtual proof will be your insurance policy. If the imprint does not match the virtual, the supplier will be forced to either re-run the order OR offer you a nice discount to settle.
For starters, take a look at these sites, but there are many to choose from:
You may also want to run a background check on whoever you choose through bizrate.com. But, remember, these distributor sites are only the middleman in the chain. It is the supplier who is responsible for the quality of the product and the imprint. However, an established distributor should know better and only deal with reliable suppliers.