China makers of promotional hats and caps are emphasizing product aesthetics to boost flagging sales. Among the steps taken is the use of advanced logo application techniques. In particular, many companies are now offering 3D embroidery. It requires complex technology and more threads, and therefore has a higher cost than flat needlework.
Promotional headwear suppliers are enhancing other logo printing methods as well. Silk-screening, for example, is now being done at a higher resolution to impart finer details. Companies also provide buyer consultation for appropriate application selection, with symbol characteristics, surface composition and cost as the main determinants. Heat-transfer printing is carried out for multiple colors and complex designs. Offset printing, meanwhile, is available for vivid images.
For greater visual appeal and variety, materials containing different types of twill and grain are utilized. They supplement the traditional selection of cotton twill and canvas, peachskin fabric, mesh, synthetic fur, jersey, corduroy, microfiber and manmade cloth.
Manufacturers are also applying new treatments, including those that impart resistance to dust, water and UV, and add fire retardation.
Further, a few suppliers are experimenting with constructions such as promotional hats and caps in spacesaving folding forms, and versions in football and frog motifs.
Made of thin fabric with dyed designs, low-end promotional hats and caps are priced between $0.30 and $0.80.
Adopting materials with a thickness and tactility superior to those used in less-expensive headwear, midrange pieces go for $0.90 to $1.50. Options include cotton twill. The back closure of such designs typically has a nylon buckle while the bill is composed of multiple layers for greater durability and structure.
These models feature details added by hand. All stitching areas, for example, are wrapped with fabric. Eyelets are usually embroidered.
For most midrange products, logo application is done via silk-screening, embroidery and heat transfer.
The majority of upscale promotional hats and caps are quoted at $1.60 to $3. Materials used are similar in type to those of pieces at lower price points but have even better quality. These may also come with UV- and dust-resistant characteristics.
Logo application employs the same methods as midrange models, although the detail level is usually higher. Complex processes such as 3D embroidery are optional.
Material costs have been stable due to sluggish demand. As such, quotes for promotional headwear are not expected to increase in the next 12 months.
The promotional hats and caps industry in China has not been exempt from the effects of the global economic situation. In general, export volume and value have decreased. Repeat sales are also on a downturn.
Master Headwear Ltd said order quantities have shrunk in recent months, with some clients asking for purchase credit instead of paying in cash.
A number of makers are observing a change in the timing of sales. At Shanghai-based A Cap Ltd, autumn and winter requisitions were confirmed in July, August and September. In previous years, June was the cutoff month.
As buyers now need a longer turnaround for finalization, the time necessary for prototyping and production has been shortened by an average of 30 percent. In response to the economic conditions, China suppliers of promotional headwear are exerting varied efforts to boost sales.
A Cap, for example, is improving the flexibility of its factory lines to enable immediate operation in case of rush orders.
Other companies are establishing close ties with material providers for competitive costs and better MOQ terms. The latter is significant as buyers are currently prone to smaller selections.
Among the methods used for this endeavor are investing in providers' workshops, exchanging of shares and advancing requisitions.
Suppliers are also controlling operating expenses to allow quote reductions. This is done through minimized management costs and additional worker training that lowers defect rates. Some makers employ less-expensive materials as well.
Further, the majority of enterprises are offering improved services, including faster shipments and comprehensive OEM capability.For the former, lead time is now 20 to 30 days from the previous 60 days. Rush orders can be completed even sooner.
In 2007, the MOQ was 3,000 to 5,000 pieces per style. Currently, it is at 1,000 or 1,500 hats and caps, with select models going as low as 500. Amount negotiations may also be permitted.
Some suppliers have kept the MOQ at 3,000 but allow the combination of three or four designs.
In China's promotional headwear industry, 60 percent are manufacturers that specialize in the line. Their factories are capable of fabric cutting and stitching, embroidery, silk-screening and logo application. The remaining enterprises are trading companies.
Ninety percent of makers are locally owned, with the rest having foreign capital.
Large, midsize and small suppliers account for 10, 70 and 20 percent of the industry. They typically have a workforce of 500, 200 to 400 and 100, respectively.
Due to the prevailing market conditions, current capability has been deemed sufficient to meet demand. Resultantly, most enterprises will not be boosting production capacity in coming months.
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