power-of-personal connections

This weekend I was reading an article about a partnership between Apple and Amazon for iCloud storage. The contents of the article are probably not interesting to most Universal Unilink members nor its suppliers like KEY, but the cover image of the article should be something you pay attention to. That image, in my opinion, represents two shifts in the apparel industry. When combined these shifts create a perfect storm for Universal Unilink Members to grow.

Due to copyright restrictions, I’m unable to post the image here. To read the article yourself, follow this link (https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-amazon-web-services-spending-report-2019-4). For those not interested in reading about Cloud Storage, let me describe the scene, and why I believe the photo represents the growth we can see if we play our cards right.

The richest man in America is photographed walking into the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference, which is a “gathering typically including major political figures, business leaders, and figures in the philanthropic and cultural spheres.” In the photo, Mr. Bezos is wearing a pair of blue jeans, a black polo shirt, sunglasses, and a quilted vest.

Why this matters

20 years ago, we would expect the richest man in America to be wearing an expensive 3-piece suit, Italian Leather Shoes, a button up Oxford shirt and a silk tie when meeting with country’s top business and political leaders. But as evident in the photo, there’s been a shift in the industry. Workwear and outerwear have replaced the suit and tie. Combine that with the fact that the image is of a man whose company has disrupted traditional retail, and it represents a Perfect Storm for growth.

How it matters.

Online shopping has made buying easy. Consumers are able to compare multiple styles and prices without running all over town. As evident by Sears and the many other retail stores that are downsizing, the WAY people shop is changing. I look at my own family’s shopping habits, and with the exception of groceries, we generally buy more online than in retail stores. Ease of shopping is important to us.

But people are social. We still need personal connections. Again, looking at my own family’s shopping, we spent quite a bit of money at the local hardware store this weekend. Everything we needed could have been purchased online or at the big-box retailer down the road, and both options would have saved money. But we bought the items for our kid’s new playground from Denny at Tru-Value.

We still need personal connections

Why? Denny gave us advice on the landscape fabric and mulch we needed, talked to my son about the project, and even asked to see progress photos. He took a genuine interest in our project and made sure we got the correct products. The point of that story is, as consumers, our decisions are not based solely on price. If they were, we would have bought everything at Wal-Mart. Our purchases are also not based solely on convenience. If they were, we would have purchased online. Service is still vital.

Universal Unilink Members are in a unique position because you combine the ease of online buying (purchases are typically made with a PO) with the personal relationships that buyers want. You HAVE the relationships with the buyers. They know you. They trust you. And as evident from the photo that inspired this article, those same companies that are buying workwear for their labor crews are also buying vests and shirts for their board members, their accountants, and their sales team.

How to capitalize on it.

There are many ways to capitalize on the buying behaviors discussed above. The first step is to simply ask your customers. Maybe they only think of you as a supplier for workwear, or jackets, or bibs. Find out what else they’re buying. Learn to recognize what your customer needs and find a solution they did not know they needed yet. If you have a website for ordering, add some additional products such as jackets and vests. If you don’t have a website for customers to order from, make one! Let the office staff know what you offer. Call me up and I’ll send you a case of catalogs to leave in the break-room.

In Summary

Right now, companies that make up the Universal-Unilink network are poised for tremendous growth. How consumers shop and what they shop for have both shifted in your favor. You can combine ease of shopping with personal relationships, and leverage the shift from Business Suits to Workwear to see explosive growth. Let’s work together and capitalize on these changes.

If someone can get an appointment with Jeff Bezos to show him that our Montana Vest looks better than the vest he was wearing, let me know. I’ll send you a sample in his size.


Seth Needham, Key Apparel
For more information about Key Apparel, call Seth at (800) 835-0365 or email sneedham@keyapparel.com