What are my impressions (no pun intended) after spending 3 days here at the Long Beach Imprinted Sportswear Show? Well for starters, you can rest assured that the custom decorated apparel industry is alive and kicking. The lobby of the Long Beach Convention Center was hard to navigate at 10:00am on Friday, there were so many people. Not to mention a practically naked sumo wrestler and the Fruit of the Loom guys running around taking photos with everyone.
There was a lot of excitement in the air and it continued throughout the weekend. It has become more clear than ever that heat printing is a true garment decoration category, with heat presses hard at work in so many different booths. At the Stahls’ ID Direct, Transfer Express and Imprintables Warhehouse booths the number of Hotronix heat presses sold was record-breaking. The floor models, especially the six Hotronix Fusion presses that were on display, had SOLD signs on them within the first few hours of the show. I haven’t seen such a strong opening day in years. The visitors all had very specific reasons for attending–to buy equipment and see new decorating ideas first hand. As one booth visitor commented: “It’s one thing to look at all the new products online and watch videos, but I wanted to see them for myself.” Shoppers were armed with “to-do” lists of what they wanted to see and what they needed to buy. This industry has always been a hot spot for entreprenuers, but this year there seemed to be more than usual, and many of the new businesses were being started by young, professional women. Expansion was another key word on the lips of many show visitors. Everyone is looking for ways to complement their current services, whether they are screen printers or embroiderers. People want to offer their customers full color digital prints, glitter, rhinestones and more types of special effects. There was a huge interest in distressed twill and the garment samples that showed how easy it is to turn an athletic jersey into something entirely different simply by cutting the logo in Glitter Flake, a CAD-CUT material. Cutter sales also reconfirmed the fact that the ability to cut your own logos and lettering in-house is more popular than ever. I also had the opportunity to spend time with Dane Clement of Great Dane Graphics. Dane had a record show, reporting that more folks than ever are looking for better art. And the number of rhinestone vendors at the show was also proof that this trend is still on the rise. Even Stahls’ ID Direct is now offering 15 stock rhinestone designs as well as the ability to cut your own custom templates that can easily be filled with loose rhinestones. Mark Venit said it best: “People want something different. And they’re willing to pay for it.” That “something different” can be as simple as adding texture to your design. A few cents worth of puff or foil can add dollars to the value of your design. If you were in Long Beach yourself I’m sure you’ll agree that spicing up your custom apparel offering is easier–and more exicting than ever with the wide variety of heat applied graphics out there. Keep on heat printing everyone!