An Industry Update, Or “Start Planning Ahead”
As image consultants, we talk about communication a lot. The “C” in the ABC’s of Image, communicating clearly and accurately is paramount to getting your message across. A crucial component of successful communication is managing expectations – if your audience knows what to expect and when, everyone’s life gets much easier. To that end, we’d like to provide an update on the state of our industry and what this means for your wardrobe planning.
Covid’s Effect On The Clothing Industry
We know, we know – Covid has upended our lives. In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue. The fact that this is old news, however, is irrelevant as it relates to Covid’s effect on the clothing industry. This isn’t the case for each of our categories, but we’ve seen increases in delivery times of up to 50% for some of our garments.
In the pre-pandemic world, turnaround times were as regular as clockwork. Shirts, custom jeans, and custom polos took about four weeks to deliver. Suits, sport coats, and other tailored clothes would take about six to eight weeks, depending on whether they were made-to-measure or custom garments. Until the world levels out, we’re experiencing longer-than-we’re accustomed-to turnaround times.
Why Are Delivery Times Delayed?
Our vendors and partners are doing their best, but there are factors beyond their control that are extending their turnaround times. The most significant of these isn’t Covid itself, thankfully. Our partners have not had Covid outbreaks in their shops in well over a year and do an excellent job of ensuring a healthy, safe work environment for their employees. Instead, it’s the secondary effects of the pandemic that’s slowing things down.
For example, last year’s shutdowns translated to losing some staff. Replacing that staff is a challenge because we’re talking about skilled artisans and machine operators. To maintain the high level of quality we’re all accustomed to, you have to take your time to train new employees extensively. This leads to slower output.
Our partners use machinery that requires regular, skilled maintenance. The companies that maintain these machines let a lot of people go last year as a survival measure, and we’re still feeling the effects of that. One such company used to have seven techs that serviced the Northeast Corridor from Maine to Virginia. They’re now down to one.
Lastly, the global supply chain is strained. A machine part that used to take four business days to arrive now takes weeks. This slows things down as well. Our vendors are literally working overtime to make good on their deliveries, but these factors all have real-world effects in terms of delivery delays.
Start Planning & Executing Wardrobe Updates NOW
Starting in March, the world felt different than it currently does. Vaccines were rolling out successfully, spring had sprung, and events were suddenly happening. As such, we were on the receiving end of a flood of time-sensitive rush orders. We made shirts for a gentleman’s wedding with only two-weeks’ notice. We partnered with our custom vendor to deliver a suit for a client’s son’s wedding with only three weeks’ production time. For context, these orders would normally have taken four and about ten weeks to deliver under normal circumstances.
Fast forward five months. We continue to get calls asking to turn garments around in less than a month. As much as we love to get to “yes,” we’ve begun declining this business – between vendor delays and keeping our in-house tailor shop running smoothly, the time crunch has become unfeasible.
Shirts average about six weeks to deliver instead of four, and scrap garments for custom suits average about four weeks instead of two. The wave of rushes we experienced starting in the spring wasn’t limited to just us – it was industry wide. Our vendors have done an amazing job at delivering for us, but they got slammed. They’ve asked us to hold off on rushes while they work doggedly to get themselves back on a normal production schedule.
Managing Turnarounds, Managing Expectations
Why are we bringing this up? It’s all about managing expectations. Many of our clients will return to the office soon and/or attend events they hadn’t in the past year and a half. The wrinkle is that these same folks have experienced significant weight loss. While it’s great that so many of our eating habits and lifestyles have changed for the better, a thirty-pound weight drop is a surefire way to ensure your old custom clothes no longer fit.
We’re of course happy to alter these clothes for our clients to the extent that’s feasible. What we want to avoid is a situation wherein a client needs something quickly and we can’t deliver like we could previously. Our evergreen goal is to delight our clients, and we need time to achieve this goal!
Help us help you – plan ahead, and start now. The time to evaluate your fall pieces is now. The time to place orders for your fall wardrobe is immediately after planning. Need some help in that regard? We’re here for you. Give us a call at 215-310-0219 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.