Few product categories match apparel when it comes to merchandising revenue from August through the rest of the year. From back to school through Christmas, days are ripe with consumers buying clothes for school, work and gifting occasions. Luckily for retailers, there are numerous wholesalers ready to ship boxes and pallets of product out the warehouse door.
Though ecommerce sales have plateaued during the summer months, most analysts think online revenue will again top the $100 billion mark this year, as it did for the first time in 2006. The fall season will play a huge role in the industry's overall success, and this month is when everything starts flying off the shelves: from hoodies and fleece sweatshirts to novelty tee shirts and Halloween items.
Halloween Is Hot
"Halloween just keeps getting bigger every year," said Tom Whalen, founder and CEO of WMS Wholesale Clothing in Escondido, CA. "As most people have heard, it has become the industry's second biggest season for sales. We do extremely well with costumes for women and men. But the sales for us tend to skew a bit more to women's products."
The nineteen year old company also offers lingerie, handbags, wearable cosmetic enhancements for women, wigs, hats, caps for men, visors and tee shirts.
Whalen's firm (www.wmsclothing.com) attracts independent online retailers, mom and pop stores, eBayers, and similar types of buyers to its 37 categories of items. Recently, he created a category on the homepage just for costume shoes, because they have sold like crazy the last two years.
Whalen has a "New: Click for Merchandise Added in the Last Week" button so customers can find the latest hot products. Viewers can click on items and enlarge images to get a clearer view of their quality. "We are always trying to improve the website," Whalen commented, "Always trying to grow."
His firm has grown exponentially over the years. It moved into a new warehouse two years ago that was more than double the size of the old one. Next he plans on unveiling a drop shipping business for entrepreneurs. What has been driving the growth?
"We have done really well with free listings in search engines," Whalen says. "But one of the key ways in which we have attracted people to our offering is through listings at WholesaleCentral.com. It is one of the best channels for us for all of our products, with apparel being one of the top categories."
New York & Betty Boop
While many pop cultural icons come and go, there are some that stick around for a lifetime. Items depicting those entertainers are pure gold when it comes to gift and impulse buy retailing.
That is why you will not hear people from NJ Croce complaining one iota, as the firm for 22 years has been the only one of its kind to dually own licenses for Betty Boop and I [heart symbol] New York apparel. Visit www.njcroce.com to find the products, which cost $8 to $9 per unit.
For those two lines, the firm offers tee shirts in all regular sizes, as well as baby doll tees and spaghetti straps for girls and women. Because Betty Boop and New York have national appeal, the company serves moms and pops, independent retailers and chain stores across the country, as well as airport gift shops, especially along the east coast.
"We totally understand what the tourist customer is looking for in their souvenir gift," said Mathew Parker, VP of sales & licensing for NJ Croce in La Verne, CA. "We have the proper color palette, the right design, and the best print size. We are experts in the Betty Boop world of apparel. Additionally, we have been able to incorporate images of key themes of the New York tourist experience: shopping, theater and nightlife."
Parker's firm also carries a wide range of apparel for Popeye, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Felix The Cat, Speed Racer and Gumby. For Popeye and Felix, the firm has recently seen apparel for both the spinach loving sailor and the silent film cat fly off the warehouse shelves at an amazingly high rate.
In addition, NJ Croce has exciting news coming down the pike for Gumby fans. The I [heart symbol] New York products will be expanded to include a Gumby (heart symbol) New York line, pushing the nostalgic buttons of fans of the cartoon and every old school, diehard Saturday Night Live aficionado.
"One of Gumby's attributes is that he has heart, so the continuation of the New York theme with that character makes complete sense. It is going to be a big seller," Parker added. "There will also be images of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and other New York landmarks incorporated into the design."
And with the movie version of the Speed Racer cartoon slated to hit theaters in the summer of 2008, Parker and Kaufman are staying ahead of the curve. They have created Speed Racer licensed tee shirts, baby dolls, spaghetti straps and other casual apparel items that will be released in the coming months.
"It is important to know that our apparel comes from original designers, unlike people who take style guide poses right out of the book," said Eric Kaufman, president of NJ Croce. "We design them from scratch with artists who have specialty areas. This gives a new, authentic look to a time tested idea that people love."
Fleece is Big
It does not matter if you are in North Carolina or North Dakota. Right now the weather outside is probably torrid. But as the months wear on and the nights cool throughout most regions, consumers will begin buying sweaters, fall jackets, hoodies and scarves.
"We expect fleece products across all categories to be extremely big," says Mike Riley, VP at RG Riley, an apparel wholesaler in Tinley Park, IL. "There is a huge demand on men's, women's, girl's and boy's fleece bottoms right now.
Pullover hooded sweatshirts, or hoodies, will also be big. As the weather cools down and people clear their inventory between July and September, we will see these products truly pick up steam and stay consistently hot for a while."
Riley and his company (www.rgriley.com) are also staying ahead of the wholesale curve in a different way than most: they have put up a blog, which is something that has been the rage in the Internet community. Blogs are here to stay, and sooner or later, the lion's share of wholesalers will be adding their own.
"We are using the blog to explain our company position, our website and what we believe will be the key areas for the merchant in terms of future Internet purchasing," Riley explained. "We describe the functionality of our website and other appropriate websites as well. As time moves forward, we will use it for more and more things."
Liquidators also anticipate the fall season with their eyes squarely focused on the eprize. Via Trading moves a wide variety of clothes in August, from men's designer wear like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, to Nine West for women, to Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas and Nike products for kids.
"August and September is great for back to school stuff; it is a very strong season for both shoes and sports clothing," said Jacques Stambouli, CEO of the company in Vernon, CA. "Kids need those items for during school and after school activities, so we offer the best selection at the best prices to our buyers."
In particular, buyers should keep a lookout for the relaunch of www.viatrading.com, scheduled for the beginning of September. The new version will offer online ordering, faster navigation, more interactivity and customer login. Logging in will allow customers to be able to keep track of their transactions in a secure environment. They will be able to easily send pages to friends, as well as forward email campaigns.
"It will be like a completely different website compared to the one we have now," Stambouli said. "The look and feel will be dramatically improved."
Meanwhile, hoodies have been hot sellers in the merchandising biz for a number of years, during which Design Appeal has been offering one of the best assortments of hoodies found anywhere on the market.
"Hoodies just continue to stay popular and fly out of here," said Robert Mark, partner at the wholesaler in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. "As the market evolves, some lines are becoming more popular than others. At the same time, we have them in a dozen different colors and typically sell ours for $72 per dozen."
Mark will have pallets of closeout hoodies available in August and September and said that interested buyers can sign up for the newsletter in the lower, left hand side of www.designappeal.com. He sends emails that show the merchandise he gets in, but he was adamant that the best way to get the hottest hoodies was to call him directly (see phone number at the end of the article).
In short, the closeouts move so fast when they come in that it is not worth it for him to put them on the website. Phone inquiries result in their being sold within days.
"Our apparel wholesale website is set up for buyers who only want two or three pieces of a particular item," Mark explained. "You can find one, two or three hoodies there for $8 to $9 per unit. But if you want the wholesale price, you should call me."
For more information, contact:
WMS Wholesale Clothing
525 N. Andreasen Dr, Units A & B
Escondido, CA 92029
Fax: 760 233-9801
NJ Croce, Co.
1330 Arrow Hwy
La Verne, CA 91750
Tinley Park Dist. Center
17700 Duvan Drive
Tinley Park, IL 60477
Toll Free: 800-624-3922
Via Trading Corp.
2750 S. Alameda St.
Vernon, CA, 90058
Toll Free: 877-202-3616
2301 Stirling Road
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33312
Sales Line: 800-841-3922
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