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How to Build an Apparel Revenue Stream From Scratch

Maybe you just opened a new gym. Maybe you bought out a partner who has been holding you back with apparel. Maybe you just need to blow it up and start all over with apparel. Regardless, of your situation, a fresh start is needed. In this article, we’ll provide our best success tips to build your apparel revenue stream the right way.

How often should you offer apparel? We find that most gyms find success with 3-6 orders a year. One thing we suggest is taking advantage of the  “themes” and seasons. An example of a theme is 4th of July. So a patriotic design would pair nicely with this. Another major theme in the affiliate world is the Intramural Open. If you’re looking to take advantage seasons, a good time for a hoodie is November. Similarly, if you’re looking to do a Summer theme, offering a Summer style design in June is a great idea. 

Here is a sample calendar for 6 items throughout the year

January/February- Intramural Open

April/May- Patriotic/RED

June- Summer 

July- Drop in design

September- Longsleeve, baseball tee, or longsleeve hoodie

November- Pullover or zip up

Each month we send out a recommended apparel item via our newsletter. We do not expect you to order every single thing we recommend. We recommend you check out the e-mail to get an idea of different designs and see some variety. A big issue we see with affiliates today is recycling the same stuff over and over and over. Members get tired of it. You get tired of it. When you get tired of apparel, you stop doing it and you give yourself a pay cut. The newsletter is free and I only send it once or twice a month. Sign up for our newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bRAVun

Notice how we don’t have things like hats, pants, or shorts. Those items bring out the “pickiness” in members. People are really picky about hats, pants, and shorts. The quality that is available in retail stores far outpaces anything available to print on. This isn’t an “us” issue. This is an industry issue. You may be expecting some women’s leggings or shorts on par with Lulu Lemon- the shorts and leggings available are no where close. It is not worth the hassle and stress of these items. 

Implementation- We recommend a preorder for most orders. Here is an overview of the preorder strategy we recommend:  Preorder overview

“But, wait! What about those apparel companies that offer me an online store? Doesn’t that solve all of my problems?”. Nope. It only compounds your problems. You can read all about that here: Preorder vs. Online Stores

The issue with offering multiple designs, themes, and styles at one time is simply this: you're going to force your members to make a decision about what they want vs what they can afford. If you offer both items at one time, 8/10 people will buy one item. If you offer each item in its own month, 8/10 people will buy both items. It is a long term strategy. I discuss variety and the importance of a "limited edition" mindset. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPgiPov4AKY&feature=youtu.be

To recap:

    Spend some time thinking about themes you can take advantage of for the year. 

    Subscribe to our newsletter. Let us handle the ideas/designs for you. 

    Implement the preorder model. Ignore the noise out there. The preorder model is the only model out there that produces meaningful revenue and drives demand. 

    Think of each item as a limited edition opportunity. Members can only take advantage of it for a short period of time. Watch how the demand for your apparel shifts once you adopt this mindset

Do you want us to help create the plan for you? Get On An Apparel Plan! Let one of our account managers walk you through a plan and ensure your following all of our success strategies for you! The call is free and the plan will be custom tailored to you!

Preorder vs. Online Stores

With more and more “online store” companies popping up, affiliate owners are confronted with a new shiny service to vet. The promise and potential of “online store" is very attractive. No minimums. Bountiful choice. No need to worry about marketing or scheduling orders. What a dream! Unfortunately, often times, this remains just that- a dream. 
The issue is this: when you look at the terms and conditions of the online stores, there are many factors to consider:
  1. They have recurring monthly fees. The fees to host the online stores range from $30-125 for the year. Just do the math for how much it will cost you just to simply keep the thing running. 
  2. The turn around times are slow. If you read the fine print, the turn around is not guaranteed. They’ll get to it when they get to it. Most We live in the age of Amazon and free one day and two day shipping. Try explaining to a member why it takes 4 weeks to print one shirt. It is a tough ask and a shitty experience to leave people waiting.
  3. There is no compelling offer. The stores lack urgency. “Purchase it whenever you want” is not a great proposition. You are competing with many, many business for your client’s dollars. The easiest way to ensure your new tee, tank, or hoodie doesn’t get moved to their wish list is to put a deadline on it. If clients only have a limited amount of time to order, they will take action. 
Here are some reasons why we prefer preorders over the online store model.
  1. It creates demand. When you set a deadline, people take action. As Chris Cooper says “eliminate the maybes”.  This is a good thing!  You don’t want your item on some wish list. You want people to take action. Yes or no and keep it moving. 
  2. The minimums are there to make this worth YOUR time. I say this and some people flinch: apparel needs to be worth your time. You should be making a profit on your apparel. When you look back at your end of year finances,  you should see a meaningful dollar amount in retail category. Selling 5-10 items over the course of a month will not get you any closer to your perfect day, taking a family vacation, or paying off a loan. 
  3. It allows for greater concentration. If I ask you to market something for one week, can you do it? For sure. Anyone can come up with some posts and ideas on how to sell apparel for one week. Now, do that for 52 weeks. Different story. It is natural that you’re not going to promote and push apparel 52 weeks out of the year. It requires an insane amount of effort. Eventually, if you post enough, people will ignore your apparel posts altogether. A preorder should last 7-10 days. You can focus your attention on those 7-10 days once a quarter and really push your apparel. You’ll have the energy and focus to do it. Your efforts will be rewarded too. Combining focused marketing with a deadline is a simplest recipe for success and sales. 
  4. It allows for accurate forecasting. If a store is open 24/7/365, it is impossible to figure out when and if that money is going to come in. If you run a preorder, you know what your profit is. It’s all right there for you. The online store is a lot of wishing, hoping, and guessing. 
  5. “Choice” is a fallacy. We falsely assume everyone wants one billion choices at every moment of the day. Choice paralysis is a real thing. When I say choice, I’m not saying “only offer tees”. I’m saying don’t offer a tee, tank, hoodie, long sleeve and give people the option for every single color under the sun. The more options you provide them the less sales you will make. This has been proven across many industries and domains. Here is a very basic example of this: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/your-money/27shortcuts.html
The online store with 1,000 options are for those who have given up on retail. It is a bandaid solution for a systems problem. The honest reason why most people use those services is that they feel lost.  They have no idea what to do design wise. They aren’t sure about garments. It’s the “just give them something” strategy. They gave up. But, it doesn’t have to be like that. Luckily, that is why we’re here. We’ve simplified this process for you: we’re going to design, advise/strategize, and print for you. It’s ok to say “tell me what works best”. At this point, over the course of doing this, we have worked with something close to 1,500 affiliates and 3,000 fitness business. If you are tired of feeling lost with the apparel process, now is the time to shoot us a message and get back on track. 


Let me paint the picture for you, an apparel company promised an online store with 6 different items: you have 6 items in the store: a tee, tank, hoodie, long sleeve, jogger, beanie, etc…

The one main issue is simply this, your members do not have unlimited funds to spend on apparel. Most clients will buy just one item. A handful will buy 2. One or two will buy 3. And only you purchase more than 3. 

Here are the issues with this store: 

Your store screams: this is abundant. When something is abundant, it goes on the “wish list”. It doesn’t move to the top of the priority spending list. Your strategy lack scarcity. Scarcity spurs action.

You’re probably running this for the 2nd or 3rd time hoping someone buys that hoodie on their wish list that they “forgot to order the last time”. Turns out, they already have the same design on a tee. No need for the hoodie. It’s the same old, same old design. Your strategy lacks a unique and compelling offer. You need fresh designs.

When I see a business put up one of those stores, it just tells us you’ve given up. It tells us you don’t have a strategy. Putting up an online store with a bunch of items is a bandaid solution for a major cause of why you’re there in the first place: Your strategy lacks vision and organization. You need an apparel plan. 

Well what about choice? My members keep asking for hoodies and hats and pants and this and that! No problem. Give them what they want but spread it out over time. The less you offer, the more you will sell. The more you offer, the less you will sell. I did not invent this idea. Open any behavioral economic book in the past 100 years and this idea will be on page 1. You need an apparel plan focused on “limited edition” options. 

When we first started working with affiliate owners it was “I need someone to print my shirts”…now you can go get shirts printed anywhere. It seems like every gym we work with has a member who works at a print shop. Where we’re taking the next step with this is developing a custom strategy for you. 

Now, owners we work with say “Help me develop a strategy and a system”. That’s where our apparel plan comes in. We’re going to be proactive for you. No more guessing when to offer apparel. No more aimless, band-aid strategies. A 10 minute call is all you need to plan this for 12 months. Less than 1 minute a month to develop a plan that will generate anywhere between $10-20k extra per year for you. 

“My members need choice, Matt!!!”. Sure. We all love the idea of choice until it’s time to act on it. Choice paralysis is real. Chances are, with your last “online store", you barely sold 12 items in any one specific garment. My question is this…once the store is closed…now what? Where do you go from here? Do you set your watch for one year from now and offer it again? Maybe you can keep it up all year round and people will just buy when they want. But, that dries up because the store lacks urgency and scarcity. You’re left with very little solutions. 

If you’re truly ready to plan your retail strategy, shoot us an e-mail.