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Jim Snell with Sanmar previews 2020 Fall Apparel

Jim Snell’s transcript of interview

Erik Mickelson:                 [inaudible]. Hey guys, welcome to the Referral Sender. It is Friday, September 25th. It’s already fall. It’s crazy. It’s raining outside, the sunshine is gone and we got to be wearing our nice warm fleece right now. So I’m Erik and here’s my Co-star, Mr. Ken Bines. Mr. Hollywood himself. How are you doing Mr. Ken?

Ken Bines:                           I am doing great. Wonderful. This sky is cloudy. We’ll finally getting some rain in. I mean, we had a drought for, I don’t know how long, so it’s really nice us we seeing weather change, believe it or not. Hello, fall.

Erik Mickelson:                 Hello fall. It’s going to be raining-

Ken Bines:                           [crosstalk].

Erik Mickelson:                 It’s going to be raining from today until July 5th.

Ken Bines:                           Hey, you know I’m ready for it. Why not?

Erik Mickelson:                 Welcome to the Northwest right?

Ken Bines:                           Big foot all around. How are we doing?

Erik Mickelson:                 Oh, we’re doing good. But today we have a special guest on the Referral Sender. It’s a company called SanMar and SanMar is the biggest corporate apparel distributor in the nation, might be in the world. And they originally started here in Seattle in 1971 and they distribute t-shirts, polo shirts. Probably you’ve been wearing one of their t-shirts, the Nike polos, what I’m wearing right now, hats, anything promotional, SanMar is the company that distributes them. And we have pleasure of having Jim Snell. He’s an account rep with SanMar and he’s just going to tell us a little more about their business and some of the products. So let’s bring on Jim to the studio. [crosstalk].

Ken Bines:                           [crosstalk].

Jim Snell:                             Hey, you guys.

Erik Mickelson:                 How you doing?

Jim Snell:                             Essentially out of a backstage into the studio, gosh, feels good.

Erik Mickelson:                 I just like to say the word studio makes me feel like Hollywood.

Ken Bines:                           [crosstalk]. Studio.

Jim Snell:                             It’s so good. I like it. I like it for sure. Well, thanks for having me guys. I’m honored to be here. I’m happy to help in any way I can. I know we’re going to go through some questions and we’ll go from there. So do you want me to start with a little bit of Samar history, maybe?

Erik Mickelson:                 Yeah. Tell us about-

Ken Bines:                           Yeah.

Erik Mickelson:                 … how it started with Marty Lott, 1971. And then how you got here today.

Jim Snell:                             Yeah. So just from a historical perspective for me, I’ve been with SanMar a little over 13 years. So SanMar well actually, as Erik mentioned in the intro, we actually began in 1971 and it turned out to be a really kind of a custom project that Marty Lott, our founder began, right? And this was in the days, obviously the Seattle Supersonics and other things as well. So from a historical perspective, we are entirely family owned and operated, which is one of the things that most people don’t realize. So this idea of business being personal and the whole thing is very much in our core values or our sense of responsibility in terms of how we treat people, not only our employees, but certainly our customers as well. We try and treat them like family. Like we would our own family, those that we like, right? Not the bad uncle or anything like that, all right.

Erik Mickelson:                 [crosstalk] couple bad apples.

Jim Snell:                             That’s right. While we keep them on the peripheral. But no, I think that it’s an extraordinary company. For me, I’m a little longer in the tooth in some, so I’ve had a little bit more experience with different businesses as well as family owned and operated and it’s not always high functioning and Erik can probably attest to that as well. There are different times where it’s really, really challenging, but I will say this particular organization, SanMar is as good as I’ve ever seen. I mean, it is just a tremendous amount of pride to be able to represent them as an organization. They’re just the best, right? And so it’s an honor.

                                                We have eight distribution centers. Our corporate office is in [Isapor] Washington. We did start, as Erik said in 1971. I mean, really got it started in the basement of Marty’s home with his father, Manny, to be honest. So everybody grows at a little different pace. We now have eight distribution centers throughout the US. So pretty much just domestic stuff is what we do from a distribution, but apparel bags and caps. So anything that you can put a logo on, we try and have access to. So you guys know that the offering is quite large. I have a few banners. I have a banner behind me that showing OGIO and District and the Nike Swoosh. These are some of the retail brands that we represent for the promotional products world.

Erik Mickelson:                 Okay. So I got to mention, before we get into the interview is, what San Mar did when the pandemic started about six months ago with the masks, how they got a, whatever, 737 jet, and they flew down to central America, wherever they got the face masks and brought millions and millions of face masks. Maybe Jim, can you explain a little more?

Jim Snell:                             Sure. Yeah. So the PPE part of things, obviously for everyone, when the pandemic hit, everybody really had to pivot. I mean, business basically halted and well, we learned very quickly was what was in need obviously was mask, right? Or some form of face covering. And so we as a textile manufacturer, and it wasn’t just us, it wasn’t just SanMar, it was Hanes and Fruit of the Loom and other retail brands that your customers would certainly recognize, were really charged with coming up with a design and beginning to build masks.

                                                And so we did have health and human services, the federal government contracted through us to the tune of, well, over a 100 million masks.

Erik Mickelson:                 Wow.

Jim Snell:                             And that meant we had to totally retool what we were doing in the mix of obviously a pandemic that shut a lot of things down. So there was a tremendous amount of logistics that went on with that and a lot of pivoting business and retooling things to be able to accommodate that, but we were honored to be able to help and continue to actually as well.

Erik Mickelson:                 Wow.

Ken Bines:                           Interesting.

Jim Snell:                             So yeah, it was exciting in the sense that… I mean, there was a period there of two months where that’s all anybody wanted to talk about. And so I’m happy to also share that things seem to be coming back a little more towards normal in terms of what people are looking for and asking for as well, in terms of t-shirts and polos and obviously fleece and outerwear and things like that. Fourth quarter for us is typically our most engaged quarter from a standpoint of volume, gifts of reward, appreciation, employee appreciation. You want to do something nice for your folks, right? From a standpoint of thanking them for maybe they’ve been on the front line, maybe they work at QFC or Fred Meyer or something, and we’re going to do a special promotional t-shirt or whatever. We’re here to help with all that, right?

Ken Bines:                           That’s pretty cool. That’s pretty cool. So, Jim, I see your banner in the background. Can you name a couple of the different brands that you guys actually carry?

Jim Snell:                             Sure. I’ll stick to brands that probably most your folks know. So you see the Swoosh behind me, Nike. Well, other retail brands that we do represent are Carhartt, The North Face, Eddie Bauer. So those are some of the main retail brands, New Era as well, cap trainees as well as apparel. So we’re pretty diverse in what we offer which is really exciting, to be honest.

Ken Bines:                           Definitely. Definitely.

Erik Mickelson:                 So I got a question, they call it corporate wear. What does that mean versus just going into the store and buying a Nike Polo shirt at the golf club?

Jim Snell:                             Yeah. So we’ve been set up since 1971 to… we basically sell blank apparel to the promotional products industry with the idea of they’re going to embellish it or decorate it, put a logo on it, whether that’s screen printing, embroidery, it could be a patch, it could be something directed garment, whatever it be. And we couldn’t be more pleased about that because obviously from a partnering standpoint, there’s another layer that goes on. So the corporate part of the apparel is, it could be Starbucks, it could be Boeing, it could be whatever, people want to see their logo. Erik, you’re wearing a Cougar logo that’s…

Erik Mickelson:                 Yes.

Jim Snell:                             It didn’t probably come with that on it. Right? I mean, it started someplace. So the idea is that obviously from a promotional product standpoint, the more creative you are on that side, it just compliments what we do from a quality of the fabric, really that blank goods to begin with. Right? So I think the decorator end of it is a really unique piece because things change there all the time, which is awesome. Right? Makes it a little more creative, I would say.

Ken Bines:                           Definitely, definitely.

Erik Mickelson:                 So logoed apparel. Where are the logoed apparel? First thing people think of is t-shirts in schools, but there are so many more industries. You mentioned Starbucks. Everybody has an apron with the Starbucks logo and that’s millions of aprons.

Jim Snell:                             Yeah, absolutely. So anything that can really be used to promote your business. And so there’s very few businesses, quite frankly, that aren’t interested in representation in some fashion, right? Where when you see them, and this I think is especially true with brands. If you’re going to align with a brand, a Nike, a New Era, a North Face, whatever, you want the North face to be on there in terms of just that collaboration of brands, but this is something that you’re electing to do to partner with. Right?

                                                And so there’s this perceived value that I think is really significant. And I think the more significant part of that as well, the higher quality of the retail brand fit fabric, et cetera, when you’re combining your logo with that particular piece of apparel, as an example, it’s that one to wear rather than have to wear. That version of going, “Okay, thanks.” I mean, you get a hat or something like that, that then you go, “It looks horrible.” That’s not probably what you’re really looking for.

                                                So the idea of spending money on promoting your business or those opportunities is, it’s as good as you’re able to put product with it because you want people wearing it. Right? It doesn’t do any good in the closet or in a drawer. Right? I mean, that’s not really the value that you’re spending in terms of that decoration is more challenged that way, I would say. So if you can elevate it a little bit where it’s that again, I say, want to wear rather than have to wear, I think the, wear it, love it, sell it, works across the board.

Ken Bines:                           Definitely, definitely. So Jim, how do you guys determine trend change? I know that the apparel line is always changing. You guys always get in new stuff. How do you-

Jim Snell:                             That’s such a good question. Ken, thanks. That’s a great question. I’m so thankful that I’m not involved in that because if it was up to me, I’d go, “Okay. I think we’ll need a couple of new styles here, maybe.” We release so many new things and it’s really a collaboration of our merchandisers and designers. So the truth is, the challenge of this always is that you can design something and look at it then you have to figure out if somebody can actually manufacture it as well. We currently source manufacturing in about 26 different countries. So there’s a lot of logistics to bringing something to market. And typically, we work 18 months out front.

Erik Mickelson:                 Wow.

Jim Snell:                             So this fall, right? So we’re a year and a half away. I mean, next fall’s already probably been put to bed for the most part, right?

Erik Mickelson:                 Wow.

Jim Snell:                             Or they already know what they have coming and that supply chain and that manufacturing, all that has to work that way. But I often say, “In our merchandisers, I trust.” So back to the trend part of it, this is what they’re charged to do. And they’re the best in the industry at it, really far and away.

                                                So I may look at something new and go, “I don’t really get that.” But someone else might, right? I mean, we’re dealing with all these different demographics and clearly in terms of wearing multiple hats, whether it’s sporting good channel laundry, corporate, right? I mean, whatever that might be, we’re looking to supply items for huge array of industries. Right? So it’s exciting for that reason as well, nonprofits, fundraising, whatever it might be, right?

Ken Bines:                           Yeah.

Jim Snell:                             We need to have all those different tools. And so this year alone, we introduced over 300 new styles. So even amongst the pandemic, as you might imagine, I said earlier, we’re 18 months on front. So we didn’t stop POs and say, “Oh my gosh, we have no idea what’s going to happen for fall.” We didn’t put up our hand and go, “Stop, stop, stop.” We kept going. This is part of that partnering in that relationship that we have with our manufacturers, as well as you can’t just stop them. You don’t just bail on them. This is what business partners do. Right? And so it’s never just black and white, the world is massively gray, right? So we need to figure out ways to work together.

                                                We may have push things off in terms of how they’re arriving based on the pandemic and stuff, but ultimately we didn’t cancel a PO one, not one. Right? But that’s just being a good partner, right? And so that’s the reason when we talk about SanMar and those that know us and had the opportunity to do business with us. And I think it is relational. It always is and we don’t look for that to change at all. I mean, that’s been the hallmark for… it’ll be 50 years next year. Right? And I assume there’ll be 50 more, right? Not for me, but for us as an organization. Right?

Ken Bines:                           Right. So you guys sell jackets, you guys sell polos, you guys sell shirts. What else do you guys have to offer?

Jim Snell:                             Oh yeah, sure. So caps, bags. So the, the big takeaway is apparel, bags, caps, right?

Ken Bines:                           Okay.

Jim Snell:                             But we do aprons. We have a full custom department as well. So if you came and said, “Hey, we need 10,000 socks and they need to be this way.” We have access to be able to do custom things as well. But for the most part, what’s unique about our business is, and very few people know this that aren’t in this particular business is, we build an inventory based on what we think you’re going to sell. You’re going to create that opportunity. It’s like looking into a crystal ball. This is unlike any sales organization. I wouldn’t design it this way, by the way. Where you go, “We’re looking into a crystal ball, we’re forecasting, we’ll need this, this and this.” And you may hit it. You may be just perfect. Good chance you probably won’t too. Right?

Ken is loving his custom printed apron

                                                I mean, so with new releases in particular, it normally takes at least a year or better to understand where that’s going to flow from a volume standpoint, because I may think something’s really, really great and you guys look at it and go, “Don’t like it at all.” I mean, that’s [inaudible], right? I mean, there’s just different options, right?

Ken Bines:                           There is.

Jim Snell:                             So forecasting is quite an art. Now, Marty and Jeremy lot are our founding family, right? And [inaudible] family, obviously. They’ve been doing it for a long time, but what I’ve found, to be honest with our merchandisers and designers, they’re hitting more belt height basketballs in terms of these styles, colors, fit fabric. And so to be honest, there’s more pressure on these new releases all the time, because we typically exceed forecast because they show extremely well. So it’s a good problem to have. I’m not speaking of it negatively at all. It’s just part of what we do. It’s just unique [inaudible]. Right?

Ken Bines:                           Wow. That’s really neat. That’s really neat. So what are a couple of new brands that you guys happen to partner up with and release?

Jim Snell:                             [inaudible]. That’s a great question. Thank you. So this is a nice segue. I think you have one of the examples that you might be able to pull up as well. So we have a new brand that we just are really pleased to be partnering with and it’s called Cotopaxi, from a retail standpoint, some of your listeners may be unfamiliar with it. It’s been at REI as a general rule from a retail concept, but theirs is a very unique process. So these bags, they’re basically a ripstop nylon. So they’re quite light. They’re positioned as day packs and Ken’s showing that there, that you see the Cotopaxi and the llama. So Cotopaxi, the actual name is derived from an active volcano in Ecuador, and it’s over 19,000 feet. So it’s a pretty good sized mountain, right?

Ken Bines:                           Yeah. Yeah.

Jim Snell:                             So Davis, who’s the founder of Cotopaxi grew up in South America, or he spent a lot of time there. The long way is like the bald Eagle is to us, maybe in a sense, right?

Ken Bines:                           Right.

Jim Snell:                             I don’t know if there is a national animal necessarily, but the llamas… who doesn’t like the llama, right? The llama’s cool. So anyway, the concept with this was, he spent a lot of time in third world, right? [inaudible] when he was looking to do something really unique that could really impact people and impact the environment, or maybe more importantly not impact the environment is significantly as other textile manufacturing is. The three bags that we represent and are representing in terms of Cotopaxi, they’re all repurposed fabric. This is fabric that would have found its way to a landfill or not being used at all.

                                                So the uniqueness of the design and colorways is, that each sewer does their own thing, mixing colors, the whole thing. Right? So each bag is uniquely different. You can’t order a specific color. It’s not possible. You’re going to get what you get. Actually, I think really, really cool-

Ken Bines:                           It’s a surprise.

Jim Snell:                             Yeah, it’s a-

Erik Mickelson:                 Show the bag again, Ken, with the different color.

Ken Bines:                           Yeah. Hey Jim, you should pull up yours too. So we can actually see [crosstalk] different.

Erik Mickelson:                 Oh, look at that one. See how different.

Jim Snell:                             So look at all these colors and just the little nuances of this as well. Right? And so it really is conceptually really, really strong. So each individual person’s sewing these, it’s that reminder that somebody actually does it, right? It didn’t roll off an automatic AI assembly line, right? There’s people that are putting their hands on it and there’s a lot of pride in that obviously. And just a lot of empowerment. These are all being sewn by the way, in the Philippines. They have a manufacturing facility there.

                                                Cotopaxi is actually located down in Salt Lake city is where their corporate office is. But 1% of everything they do from a business standpoint, they have an initiative they call gear for good. And it goes back to a worthy cause, somebody in need, it could be an orphanage. It could be, they decide what it is, but there’s always been from day one, this initiative that, “Hey, we’re going to give back.” Right?

Ken Bines:                           Definitely.

Jim Snell:                             It’s cool.

Ken Bines:                           It really is.

Jim Snell:                             It’s interesting in the sense, because we’ve been talking a lot about corporate accounts and stuff, and often times those are, “Yeah, I need a very specific color and stuff like this.” So this thinks outside the box a little bit, but we really are more engaged now than ever. And I think the timing is massively important that we’re more environmentally aware of what’s going on from a sustainability standpoint and try and bring products to market that are not impacting the environment in a negative way.

                                                Textile is pretty rough on it anyway, right? From a chemical and a water use standpoint. So we’re trying to do our part and I can only imagine where it’s going to go. We’ve got some cool things already, and this adds to it. So I think it’s part of the story, right?

Ken Bines:                           Definitely, definitely. The llama. And I also heard of another brand. If you don’t mind sharing, it just got released recently, Allmade. Can you let people know what Allmade is all about?

Jim Snell:                             Yeah. Allmade is really along the same concept, not so much repurposed, but a 100% sustainable. Allmade does a tri-blend. So super soft t-shirt where 60% of the tee is recycled poly. So for your listeners, think plastic water bottles. Okay? So they’re broke down, spun in the yard. So we’re at 75% now, 25% is Modal. Modal is a fabric that is sustainable in that it’s actually derived from the beach tree. I mean, these trees are specifically grown to be broken down into fiber.

Allmade T-Shirts

Erik Mickelson:                 Wow.

Jim Snell:                             So if you’re familiar with Rayon as a synthetic fiber, it’s similar to that, only much softer and obviously sustainable, right? So great. 25% US grown organic ring spun cotton as well. So when we talk about tri-blend, it’s obviously three fabrics, but all these are sustainable. Right?

Ken Bines:                           Yeah.

Jim Snell:                             And so it’s a really cool concept. It began with a gentleman by the name of Ryan Moore and he works with Ryonet. He developed Ryonet. They do screen printing machines, autos, and he’s been an industry guy, real high energy industry guy for years and years. Right? So we had a chance to partner with him, but it began really for him with Allmade, with a trip to Haiti. And they really got their eyes opened in terms of, not only what was going on there from a waste standpoint environmentally, but more importantly a living wage, right? So this is part of the overall… I said earlier that we source in 26 different countries.

                                                We are a member of the FLA, Fair Labor Association, et cetera. So where are you source things and how you source them are really, really critical. And it’s critical to what we do. Even from a custom standpoint, we don’t order anything from anybody that we don’t have relationship with and are aware of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. But Allmade was a real eye-opener. So it wasn’t only Ryan Moore, it was other printers from across the US that made that trip to Haiti. And they looked at the orphanages and what happens in Haiti, or at least has historically is, they continue having kids, which is obviously fine, but they can’t make enough wage to actually support them. So a lot of these kids, even though they have parents, they are being raised in orphanages. And so the idea with Allmade is, they’re trying to pay, not trying, they are paying what is considered a higher wage to give them more of an opportunity on the ground there to take care of their families. Right?

                                                So again, fantastic story. The Cotopaxi is an awesome story. And so is Allmade, and I’ll be honest, I was rocking the Allmade all summer. It’s really, really high quality and jokingly, they say… not jokingly, but specifically designed by printers for printers. And that’s really true. It’s a beautiful fabric to print on and that’s the intent, right? So ladies, mens in the crew tee as well as there is a youth version. So those folks that might be interested, “I’d like to do something more environmentally friendly and still have it just awesome.” Note that, that’s an option. You’re going to pay a little more than a standard tee obviously, but we’re back to that concept of wear it, love it, sell it, or want to wear, rather than have to wear. If I’m going to promote and put my logo on it or my school or something like that, we want them wearing it. Right?

Ken Bines:                           Exactly.

Jim Snell:                             Doesn’t do us any good on spirit day if it’s in the closet or …

Ken Bines:                           Exactly.

Jim Snell:                             So Allmade’s awesome.

Ken Bines:                           [inaudible] awesome.

Jim Snell:                             That actually came in May. So it’s new this year as well.

Ken Bines:                           Oh, okay. All right. So are you seeing a lot more garments being used with more recyclable products now, to get more environmental friendly?

Jim Snell:                             Yeah. We really are. And I think for us, our merchandisers, our buyers, our designers, we’re trying to figure out more ways. So we introduced what we affectionately refer to as a Re-Tee in January. We’ve folded up… Now, the inventory is not in yet, so sorry about that. But we did a re-fleece for fall. So same concept, a 100% recycled. So the poly is recycled water bottles and the cotton is actually… the technology is really interesting on this. We’re not re-dying the cotton, we’re saving cotton scraps by color, sorting them by color, then breaking them down into yarn and combining that with the poly to make the product. So, yes, we’re seeing much more… And I think we’re overdue as an industry. I would say to look at more environmentally friendly opportunities. I know our manufacturing facility in Honduras there’s a million square feet of solar panels on that manufacturing facility.

Huge warehouses and production facilities

                                                So even from a manufacturing standpoint, they do a lot of bio-mass recycling and things like that as well. So we’re trying hard to certainly do our part. There’s other brands that we represent that eco is in their name, the Eco-Fleece from Alternative, as an example. They plan by the end of 2021 being entirely recycled poly in all their products, that’s their pledge. We get these pledges from the governor of California in terms of fossil fuel and other things. And Amazon, I know does a lot of advertising that way as well. We all need to do our part. I think customers are ready to hear more about that story and how they can help. If it’s a little bit more, why not, right? I mean, why not entertain that? I mean, it just really makes-

Ken Bines:                           It makes sense.

Jim Snell:                             It’s common sense, right?

Ken Bines:                           Exactly. Exactly. Well, for me, I am an OGIO fan, so I got to hear you talk about OGIO on the show. What does OGIO even stand for?

Jim Snell:                             Hey man, I’m honored to always talk about OGIO. So OGIO began as a company, they began as a bag manufacturer down in Salt Lake. We didn’t have them for years and years and years. We were aware of the brand, but they got their start. So they were really clever engineers of bags. So that original locker bag, that fit into just that health club or your racket club or whatever, they just slid in there and the door opened. You had your toiletries on there, your shampoo and things like that. That was their first bag, right? That was the first one they designed.

                                                So years later for us, we began with representing OGIO from a promotional product standpoint with 16 items. Okay? Now you say you really love OGIO. Maybe not so much for the bag now, but the apparel?

Ken Bines:                           Yes. Love the apparel.

Jim Snell:                             So the apparel for SanMar was… our designers merchandisers at that time, and this is probably eight, nine years ago, is an educated guess, going to OGIO and saying, “Hey, what would you think if we design something to compliment the bags, because apparel is what we do. What do you think about that?” And they said, “Yeah, let’s do that. Go ahead.” And so it is for us, it is for us, meaning the SanMar peeps. It is always been that more innovative, push the envelope a little bit more creative design fabric fit function that we just love. I mean, if we show up a hundred plus strong at a national sales meeting, a third of the people are going to be wearing, OGIO, a third is going to be wearing Nike and maybe another third is going to be wearing New Era or something else. Right?

Ken Bines:                           Right, right.

Jim Snell:                             So, I mean, we wear what we like. Right? And I think that’s true for most people, for your guests out there that maybe they have a favorite item they just always really loved, “You always talk about that item.” Listen, I mean, I can have anything that I want to wear in our entire portfolio, but it always ends up being this small section of things that they’re just your go-to, right? Because they’re really super comfortable. You love them and you wear them, right?

Ken Bines:                           Exactly.

Jim Snell:                             That’s a good deal. Yeah. OGIO’s fantastic. So what was fun about OGIO when it was originally introduced? I was actually in a territory out in Montana. I was living in Eastern Washington and a lot of times I’d be presenting the line in and they wouldn’t dare even try and say it, it was OGIL, [inaudible] is something else.

                                                I sat in a meeting once where a gentleman said OGIO, had to have said it 15 times and I’d say OGIO. All right? I mean, he never segued off it. He figured he had it nailed. And as far as I’m concerned, it really doesn’t matter. If you say anything with a degree of confidence from a name standpoint, you can probably get away with it. [inaudible] going to really challenge you on it. Right?

Ken Bines:                           Exactly.

Jim Snell:                             It’s the difference of, I think my first illustration with that from an apparel standpoint was tricot.

Ken Bines:                           Trico.

Erik Mickelson:                 Trico.

Jim Snell:                             I thought it was tricot. And right? And so, I didn’t know, I’d never heard it pronounced. And I was at a meeting where the merchandiser was describing the fabric and the manufacturing and the uniqueness of it. And I thought, “better move to tricot.” Rather than tricot, right? So again, hey, we can all be humbled on all that stuff. Right?

Tricot Polos are great for employee gifts

Ken Bines:                           Definitely.

Jim Snell:                             So it’s good. I mean, the good news is that people are talking about and are interested, and that’s where the opportunity lies.

Ken Bines:                           Definitely. So what would you say is your fastest growing brand now?

Jim Snell:                             I will just say, I mean, from a history standpoint, this year. This year is unique in so many ways. Carhartt has been the most pandemic proof brand this fall or this year since the pandemic hit. We’ve only had Carhartt for a year and a half. So a lot of times with new brands, as I talked earlier, it’s really hard to get forecast, right? So when we originally, two years ago introduced the North Face, we had 22 styles, obviously multiple colors and multiple styles. But the unique thing about that brand was, it’d never been available from a promotional product standpoint, only retailing, right? So people were hungry for it. We didn’t realize how hungry in the sense that of those 22 styles we brought in inventory based on 15 months worth of projections. So a year and three months, and we brought it all in the first couple months, right?

Work jackets for construction workers and companies. Heavyweight with heavy fabric

Ken Bines:                           Wow. Okay.

Jim Snell:                             We’re locked and loaded, we’re inventory. Nine of the 22 styles we were on it in 60 days.

Erik Mickelson:                 Wow.

Ken Bines:                           Oh, wow.

Jim Snell:                             Yikes. So that’s nothing we want to have happen necessarily, but this is a tip of the hat to the power of a brand that had never really been available from a promotional product standpoint. So North Face, I would say Carhartt, both have been incredibly resilient and we’re really just heading into the fourth quarter where outer wear becomes a big deal. Right?

Ken Bines:                           Yeah.

Jim Snell:                             Because nobody has a jar roll asked me to say, “Hey, Jim, what do you got that’s really old and tired and not interesting?” Right? I mean, everybody wants to talk about what’s new. Right? I mean, we all do, right?

Ken Bines:                           [crosstalk].

Jim Snell:                             So what’s new. Not even just in conversation, “Hey, what’s new?” It’s really, what’s new and what can I get behind? And if there’s a story, like we talked with Cotopaxi and Allmade and stuff like that and the re-fleece and Re-Tee and things like that, that are sustainable stories. Wow. Good stuff, right? I mean, at least I think. It’s a different dialogue than just quoting a price or saying, “Yeah, I got a t-shirt.”

Ken Bines:                           Exactly. It’s more personal.

Jim Snell:                             Right?

Ken Bines:                           Yes. It’s more personal, it’s the bringing a story. It’s bringing that message.

Jim Snell:                             Now they’re aligned with it as well. And now, they’re going to tell a story, right? I mean, it’s a really cool opportunity, I think to make a difference, right? Get them across the board.

Ken Bines:                           Definitely. So going a little bit into your past, how do you stumbled and fell into SanMar? What made you say, “I want to deal with apparel.”

Jim Snell:                             Yeah. I don’t think I said that. It wasn’t bad at all. Yeah. My story is that I have known… the gentleman’s name is Dan Tushar, he is our national sales manager. I have grown up with him over in Western Washington. Kids played the Little League together, et cetera. Always knew of the SanMar just not really specifically. I’ve done multiple things in my career, whether it’s wholesale wine sales, part owner version of things to fresh food, et cetera. I’ve always, and where all of us are if we’re really honest, are in the sales business, we just are, right? So I’ve never been concerned about the… As long as there’s quality and opportunity, I’ve never looked at a particular category and go, “I don’t think I can do that. I don’t think I can relate.” It’s not that hard. Right? I mean, it’s really not when you have the support that you have from this particular organization.

                                                So I knew about the organization and I was in need of a good job and this is 13 years ago. And so I interviewed and I went out and met Jeremy Lott and they were trying to figure out something. They were going to look to split the Northwest territory. And so I was excited about that and then they decided to postpone it and they weren’t going to revisit it. And so the question to me was, “Well, are you willing to move? Are you willing to move for the opportunity to work with SanMar?” And I said, “Absolutely.”

                                                So lo and behold, within a couple of weeks of that conversation, and I probably haven’t shared this with you guys necessarily, but there was a change that was occurring in Kansas city, Missouri, Kansas city, Kansas. So we was traveling to Nebraska and part of Iowa and obviously Missouri and Kansas. It was a four state area. And I said, “Sign me up, put me in coach.”

                                                Honestly, I didn’t know a thing about apparel. My first meeting was a national sales meeting and everybody was looking at me like I was from another planet. Because a lot of times, obviously we’re able to attract people within the industry that already have experience, right? I didn’t have any experience with apparel, but I have experienced with people. And as you guys, unfortunately, know now, I can talk. So whether that’s good or bad, I’m not really sure, but anyway, so I signed up and I shipped out. I was in a main level apartment in Kansas city for almost six months.

                                                And then an opportunity presented itself again, out here in the Northwest, they were restructuring from territory. So I was fortunate enough to get back into this area, but that was the start. It wasn’t a matter of going, “Oh, I’m all about apparel.” Now I’m apparel geeky a little bit, I’ll admit, right? I do like to talk about fabric and how it’s made and fit and the whole thing, but it’s like anything else. I mean, it’s trying to find the right opportunity and the right fit. And the bigger part of our business really for us is, how do we help our customers grow their business? And how do we elevate that experience obviously, and maybe the products along the way as well, where we’ve always just done it this way. Maybe there’s another way to do it. And we’ve added value. So when you deliver that to your customer, or this product is decorated and they slip it on, they go, “Oh man, that is amazing.” Right?

Ken Bines:                           Exactly. [crosstalk].

Jim Snell:                             Really nothing better than that, quite frankly, where you’re getting that feedback, if that goes, “Wow. Nice.” Because nobody wants to go, “Yeah. It’s okay.” It’s version of the GEICO commercial, where the surgeons coming in, he’s asked them about the doctor, he’s laying on the bed, right? Getting ready for surgery. She says, “Yeah, he’s okay.” Nobody wants, okay.

Ken Bines:                           No.

Jim Snell:                             Who has time for okay. Let’s try and make it great, let’s try and make it something special if we can, I would say.

Ken Bines:                           Exactly. So for all our viewers out there that want to know more about SanMar, how are they able to view this information and get a little understanding and even join and be part of a partnership with you?

Jim Snell:                             Well, we don’t do anything retaily really, right? I mean, there’s a sanmar.com where you can go on and learn a little more about us, but really, we deal specifically in this promotional products world in terms of people that sell to businesses, right? So it’s not a matter of just phoning up and going, “That isn’t what we do.” So it’s a matter of reaching out to that person that you know that you maybe have a relationship with or aware that they decorate, they do this, that’s who you would reach out to. The only time I call on our retail customers specifically is if I’m going with you or talking with you or something along that line where I’m invited. And that might be a Zoom or a pre pandemic, right? I’m happy to roll the rack in and talk about anything you want to talk about from a standpoint of giving more information. So we’re here to help.

Ken Bines:                           Definitely.

Erik Mickelson:                 So I got a question, Jim.

Jim Snell:                             You bet.

Erik Mickelson:                 So we’ve got a lot of listeners out there, they’re construction workers, landscaping, plumbers, and why would they want to wear corporate apparel? I remember growing up, the plumber would come over and he’d have a flannel shirt on and they have the plumber’s crack. But now they show up, they got a nice uniform on, a baseball hat. It’s just so professional.

Construction Gear for plumbers, contractors and roofers. Safety striped hoodies and t-shirts. Available at Northwest Custom Apparel

Jim Snell:                             Yeah, no, I completely agree. Erik, I’ll just speak to an example that I had here at the house. We re-roofed and I had four different contractors come and bid my job. The one that got the business one, the one backed out. Not only sent me a picture in advance of what do you look like? Like, the what is the window glass place?

Erik Mickelson:                 Speedy auto glass, any of those glass [crosstalk].

Jim Snell:                             That said, “Hey, this year tech, he’s coming.” The truck was wrapped. I knew exactly who it was. He was representing. He was actually wearing a North Facebook, that didn’t hurt. But I had another guy that was wearing Nike, so it’s all good. I think in a more, you want to obviously communicate what it is that you do, it’s business as much more personal now. It’s not a matter, you’d want to know who’s coming in, right, and who’s making that call? So I think any way that you can brand and, be proud of that, obviously, that’s really what we’re seeing across the board.

Softshell embroidered jackets are examples of corporate apparel from Northwest Custom Apparel

                                                So I ended up going with this particular … I mean, there was other good guys and there were less bids there. It was less money bids. It’s not always about the bid, right?

Ken Bines:                           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Snell:                             And there’s other things that are involved in them. So I think anytime that you can… I mean, from a construction all the way through, I mean, these guys, these landscapers stuff, they deck out those trucks. They work all that, right? So when they jump out and get ready to start trimming and mowing and doing all the other things, I think it represents well to be recognized that, “This is who I represent. This is who I am, and this is the company that I represent.” So I think it’s vitally important. Right? I mean, more so now than ever before, because you don’t want somebody to just wandering in, right?

Ken Bines:                           A stranger.

Jim Snell:                             And not clear about who they are or what they’re doing or the whole thing. So I think it’s obviously good. So that trend from even a security standpoint, I think is really good, but just from a notoriety standpoint, yeah, I think it’s good for business, right?

Ken Bines:                           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Erik Mickelson:                 Because I drive around the neighborhood, I see the landscaping services, they’re all decked out in their baseball hats, like you said, and then the t-shirts and the trucks are wrapped, they’re clean. 30 years ago, you wouldn’t see this, you’d have a landscaper again, showing up with a flannel, busted down your pickup truck, dirty, but now it’s everything [crosstalk].

Archterra Landscaping Services wear beanies, jackets all with custom embroidery from Northwest Custom Apparel

Jim Snell:                             I think in particular. And you mentioned the plumber part of things, right? I mean, there’s no question. I mean, they footy up, they’re laying something down when they come in, all that. But I mean, we want to have that sense of who you are and feel safe, right? And especially because a lot of these folks they’re interacting with residential customers, et cetera, or certainly corporate customers. It’s huge, right?

                                                And it doesn’t have to be large and overbearing. It could be subtle certainly from a brand or a decoration standpoint. I’m sure whether it’s tone on tone or if it’s a patch or something unique, I think that’s the fun, more creative side of it as well. Right? I mean, you have a lot of different options, so there’s lots of things for your guests listening to consider the next time they want to do something unique. Right? And whether that’s a gift of reward recognition, “Hey, we’re heading into fall.” That is always about appreciating those that work with you and help you, and certainly in these times, because it’s so challenging, we’re seeing more upper in gifts and they want to do something a little bit extra, knowing full well that these are just challenging times. Right?

                                                And so if you can do something a little bit nicer, I think it’s appreciated and it’s not lost on people, right? So when you open some up from a gift standpoint, rather than go, “Oh, yeah, great.” That they’re actually excited about it. Right? And you’d go, “Wow.” So the hand, the texture, all those things factor in, but there’s lots of different options. There’s blankets, there’s all kinds of different things that are universal from a gift standpoint that you don’t have to worry about a bunch of sizing and stuff like that are still really creative and nice opportunities and stuff that we use. Right? I mean, we use a blanket around our place all the time, right? If it’s a nice soft plush blanket, sure, yeah. It’s a good idea.

Erik Mickelson:                 I see. But the holidays are coming up. So a lot of people just give out a humbersome cash, but why would a business owner want to give out some apparel to their customers or, and their employees?

Jim Snell:                             Sure. I think it’s the gift that keeps on giving, right? I mean, food’s great. Don’t get me wrong, man. Lord knows I complete plenty of food myself, right? But that’s gone. Right? So I think the more unique gift is one that is used over and over and over and becomes a favorite. Right? And so their logo, their appreciation, their, the amount of effort they put into it is recognized all time, all the time. Right? Year round, probably, right? And so it is an opportunity to be strategic about what you want to do to try and make an impact, and if yours is a gift of reward or recognition, how did it represent for you? So they’re excited about it, right?

                                                Yeah, I think that apparel, a great hat, oh, beanies are huge. Beanies are huge. They’re comfortable, almost one size fits all. We’re going to have a North Face beanie this fall and things like that where maybe you can afford a North face dry Bean jacket, but I bet you can afford a Beanie, right? And stuff like that. Mainly, that’s in combination with a really cool mug or water bottle or something else too. So I’m talking more apparel and things that we do, but promotional products is a host of other different things that can be very creative and unique as well. So don’t just think apparel, obviously. Selfishly, I’m more into that, but that’s on us, right? But there’s just other opportunities. So I think for your listening audience, especially if they’re managers, owners, et cetera, this is the time to think about fall, when Christmas comes the same time every year. Have you guys noticed that?

Custom Beanies and Caps from Northwest Custom Apparel

Ken Bines:                           Yes. Yes. [crosstalk].

Jim Snell:                             [crosstalk] roll in December 15th and go, “Hey Ken, can we get something …” “Yeah. I’m looking at doing this for …” And you’re going, “Come on, man. It’s December 25th every year.” Right?

Ken Bines:                           For real, why you [inaudible] last minute?

Jim Snell:                             Yeah. So jump on it early. I mean, in terms of start having those conversations, right? Where you can maybe create something that’s special and that you’ll look back on as going… I did all right on that, right? I mean, people really seem to love it. They really, really appreciate it. We all appreciate a thoughtful gesture.

Erik Mickelson:                 Yes.

Jim Snell:                             No, I’m not saying it has to be a… it could be a handwritten card, right? I mean, we’d like to think we could do a little more than that, but if that’s what you can do, that’s cool too. Right? I mean really, just make it personal. I would say.

Erik Mickelson:                 Exactly, exactly. Everybody’s working from home these days too, it’d be nice to send a gift to all your employees working remotely to say, “Hey, thank you.” You might have [crosstalk] in six months.

Jim Snell:                             Who doesn’t like getting a gift at home, especially if it’s something cool, then put it on and then wear it. And then next time they’re on a Zoom call, you’re meeting as a group remotely because we all do. I am as well I’m in my home office. Right? And I am to be wearing a Nike quarter zip piece, if any of those folks out there hadn’t watched the US open last weekend, this is probably the number one piece of the Nike golfers were wearing as a general rule. Is that hidden button placket. It is super, super soft, just a quarters at version. It is unbelievable fabric. So we offer it in three colors. Right? That type of thing.

                                                So it’s not the same version that you’re going to see in retailing with Nike, because their Swoosh is going to be front and center. We’re going to move ours to the side so your company and your guests can put their logo on the front, right? Same fabric, same style that you’re seeing on TV, just really designed for us from a promotional product standpoint so that your customer’s King, right? And they get to associate with the logo obviously as well. But yeah, I think that if it’s the right gift sent to… Yeah. It’s super cool. It’s super cool. Some you’re excited to get, not you open and go, “Oh, it’s great.”

Ken Bines:                           Yeah. [crosstalk].

Jim Snell:                             It’s in your discontinued mug or something like that. Right? Where you go, “That’s not even a color that I like.” And they throw it in the garbage or something. So if you’re going to do it, you want it to represent what you’re strategically thinking there, I think so.

Erik Mickelson:                 Very cool. Very cool. Wow. Thank you for all the information that was a lot to digest.

Jim Snell:                             Yeah. I mean, that’s… I mean, you just turned me loose. That’s what happens.

Ken Bines:                           Right. I can sit here and hear you talk all day though, Jim, all right? I know me and you had conversations that just go on.

Jim Snell:                             We do, and I appreciate that. Thank you. Hey, listen, man, it’s easy to talk about things that you’re proud of and you feel good about and where we’re going and what we’re doing. And this has, Lord knows been a very, very challenging year. I think we’re all going to look forward to 2020 being in the books and turn the page to 2021 and hope for more of a sense of normality. I know we all want that. I mean, we really, really do, but it’s okay to pause and count your blessings as is as well. It could always be worse. I mean, we all know that, right?

                                                So we want to look at it as optimistically as we can and support as many people as we can and help where we can. So everybody do your part, man. Just try and keep it, lift everyone up, try and keep everyone else up as well. It’s hard. I mean, it’s virtual, right? I mean it’s certainly a challenge, but there’s FaceTime and there’s texting and there’s just everybody trying to make an effort, right, and help one another pick one another up, I think is obviously a really good thing.

Ken Bines:                           True that. [crosstalk].

Jim Snell:                             All right.

Ken Bines:                           All right, as well. Thank you for being part of the show, Jim.

Erik Mickelson:                 Yeah. Thank you, Jim.

Ken Bines:                           [crosstalk] a pleasure as always. We’ll definitely [crosstalk] on again.

Jim Snell:                             Well, it was my pleasure. So anytime gentlemen, I appreciate you and have a great weekend, okay?

Ken Bines:                           You too.

Erik Mickelson:                 You too. [inaudible], Jim.

Ken Bines:                           Wow, Erik.

Erik Mickelson:                 Wow. That was interesting. Wasn’t it?

Ken Bines:                           Yeah. That was. Just to know how deep apparel goes. Yeah. I know we just probably hit probably 25% of the iceberg, but a lot of useful information.

Erik Mickelson:                 Yeah, like the bag. That was interesting too. How do you say that word? Cotopaxi?

Ken Bines:                           Cotopaxi. I was calling it [Coralpaxi], but it’s Cotopaxi. So one more time for the viewers.

Erik Mickelson:                 So that bag, it’s different colors. So every bag has a different fabric colors on it?

Ken Bines:                           Yeah. Yeah. So what they do is they have multiple people work on one bag at a time and they all put their own creativity in the bag. So this whole bag is repurposed nylon. And what they do is they just customize it down to the teeth. Everything on this bag is uniquely customized all the way down to the little buttons and notches on it.

Erik Mickelson:                 Awesome.

Ken Bines:                           And they come in three different versions. They have a fanny pack and a regular style gym backpack.

Erik Mickelson:                 A fanny pack?

Ken Bines:                           Yeah.

Erik Mickelson:                 You wear fanny pack?

Ken Bines:                           I actually got one. It’s not that bad. It’s actually pretty cool. You know what I mean? You might find yourself in Hawaii.

Erik Mickelson:                 Well, cool. Cool, cool. Boy, it’s time for lunch. I’m starving.

Ken Bines:                           You’re telling me, so let’s wrap it.

Erik Mickelson:                 Okay. So if anybody wants to be on the show, you can contact Ken at ken@nwcustomapparel. Sign up at the Referral Sender We’d love to have you, it’s every Friday. We’d love to have you on the show. We’ll send you the link. You can do it from the comfort of your business or home, and we’d love to have you and our main goal here right now is, do it again. So Ken let’s hit it. We want to make sure you are here for good.

Northwest Custom Apparel

Ken Bines:                           Here for good. [inaudible].

Erik Mickelson:                 See you guys.

Ken Bines:                           See you.

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