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Sizing Things Up

A general guide to apparel sizing to help your customers order more accurately.

8/22/2017 | Jennifer Cox, Needle Points

One of the biggest challenges faced by salespeople when it comes to selling decorated apparel is the fact that many customers are unsure of how many to buy in each size. They do not want to order more than they need in any given size, and spend more than they have to. Nor can they accept coming up with more people who wear size XL than the number XL’s they actually have ordered.

By helping your customers fairly accurately guesstimate the quantity of each size to order, you reduce their risks and increase the chances of closing the sale. Fortunately, there is a solution to help you advise your customers so they can cross this particular hurdle off their list of reasons to not place the order. The solution is known as a “size scale.”

Size scale refers to the ratio of quantities/per size – per DOZEN of like items. Today, the scale for sportswear is 2442. This means that out of 12 people, on average approximately two people will fit “medium,” four will take a “large,” four will take “extra large (XL)”  and two will wear the “XX large (2XL)”. Generally, scale is applied to one gender, all the men’s shirts, and then to all the women’s shirts.

However, I’ve found that today’s scale does not accurately reflect S or 3XL sizes. We generally have found them to be equal to .5-1 out of 14, so we use a modified size scale – 124421 – meaning one person will need small, two will fit medium, four will take a large, four will take XL, two will take 2XL and one person will wear the 3XL shirt. If your customer is ordering apparel for mostly women, you may need to increase the number of smalls and decrease the number of 3XL’s.

It is always best to review the calculated “scale” guesstimates with your customer, particularly for the small and 3XL sizes. They often can easily identify the individuals by name who will require these sizes, allowing you to project the correct amounts for both ends of the size scale.

Use this scale ratio when ordering larger quantities of shirts for your customer when you are projecting what amounts to order for each size. For example, when your customer needs 200 shirts, using a straight 14 scale to determine how many of each size, the order would be:

14 S; 29 M, 57 L; 57 XL; 29 2XL and 14 3XL. 

Now, I would guess that you might be close to correct on the 14 small, perhaps a bit high in quantity. I also suspect that 14 3XL would be too many of that size for a group of 200 people.  So, I would modify this breakdown as follows: eight S; 29 M; 60 L; 65 XL; 29 2XL and 9 3XL as a starting point and adjust it from there based on your client’s best guess for the sizes at the far ends of the size range.

You may also want to connect with your embroidery apparel decoration professional to find out what they will charge when and if the customer needs a few more items. Some contract shops may offer you the same rate as they did on the larger order, and some may not. You will want that information so that you can let your customer know up front what they can expect if they need to order more. This may influence the size of the customer’s initial order, encouraging them to get a bit more than what they need initially, particularly if they know they will be adding to or changing staff around in the near future.

By reducing the customer’s chances of having to purchase excess inventory, you increase your value to your customers as a professional who is tuned in to meeting their needs while staying aware of their concerns and their budget. This helps you stand apart from all the other people that sell promotional products in your area or market.

Jennifer Cox is president of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals. NNEP members receive personalized marketing consulting designed specifically for their business. To join NNEP today, visit NNEP.net, email Jennifer at hooper@nnep.net, or call 800-866-7396.

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