What Happened to My Decorators?
Regardless of what field you may work in, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided some very unique challenges for all of us. The custom apparel and promotional product industries were no different, and were affected on a number of different levels. Unfortunately, this resulted in more than a couple isolated instances of less-than-satisfactory service and communication across the board. Luckily, the worst of the storm seems to have been weathered, and decorators, suppliers, and vendors are experiencing a great recovery on all fronts. For those not in the trenches (and those that were), we’ll touch upon a few key points to help build an understanding of what went wrong, and more importantly, how things are swinging back up!
Supply Chain Problems
COVID-19 disrupted myriad activities and processes, some of the most glaringly obvious being the global and local supply chain. Supply chain issues accounted for hundreds of millions of lost dollars, and monstrous delays in the production and distribution of goods, including apparel, equipment, inks, threads, etc - the list goes on! Naturally this is the opposite of ideal in this line of work, and turned into a nightmare both for suppliers and decorators alike. To meet demands with a dwindling outside supply, many blanks vendors had to ship orders partially from multiple warehouses, opening a much wider margin for error that was widely felt and impacted a great many projects.
Besides just physical items becoming much less available, another side effect of COVID-19 was a mass labor shortage. Many people, unfortunately, became ill or unable to work, being forced to quarantine, stay at home, or made otherwise unavailable. To combat these shortages, many companies needed to hire less experienced operators and employees, lacking the time to properly train them in a rush to fill gaps and get more hands on deck. Although the help was surely appreciated, the lack of experience on the parts of many individuals now involved only served to compound the problems experienced with the supply chain.
The weight of these problems left serious gaps in the availability of information, whether in regards to the availability of items, when they’d be shipping, or when they’d be able to be decorated and shipped back out. At all points from start to finish, those working to help these processes along were hard pressed to be able to provide accurate and reliable information in a timely manner. Sometimes this simply was not possible.
In the face of all of this, there is a clearly defined improvement that can be seen in all aspects of the decorated apparel industry over the last quarters. The stranglehold on the supply chain has eased up significantly, allowing for much more reasonable delivery times. The vast majority of people have been able to return to work, and those new faces who may have struggled when thrown into the fire initially, have become valued and experienced team members. Customer service has returned to an excellent state, with information able to be provided quickly and accurately. Where previously there may have been setbacks and disappointments threatening to become the new normal, the decorated apparel industry has swung back, hard, and is moving along better than ever!