Dealer to Dealer: The Dirt on Jerseys

The Dirt on Jerseys.jpg
We are making our first custom shop jerseys. Does anyone have recommendations of suppliers? Domestic or offshore? Do you sell jerseys for a smaller margin, because they are advertising? How many jerseys do you order at one time? What is the ratio of tops to bottoms? Any advice or actual experiences, good or bad, would be great.
— Ralph Ruffolo, The Bike Shop at Southport Rigging, Kenosha, Wisconsin

In your calculations, be sure to include collateral damage, such as the jerseys you take home for yourself and family, all the enthusiastic employees who want one (will you comp them?), the customer who buys a $9,000 bike, etc. What I am suggesting is that you create a protocol structuring who will get what, at what prices (maybe the same as your shop policy for other merchandise, or not). We never completed our store jersey project, but we have had T-shirts, and I was overly generous giving them away.
—Roger Bergman, Pedal Pusher Bike Shop, New York City, New York

We’ve been doing custom shop kits for better than 20 years. About eight years ago, we found a vendor that afforded us the ability to do smaller runs, so we started doing two kits a year—one in spring and one in fall. We change one of the kits every six months. For the past five years now, our custom kits are our biggest sellers.
We work with a company called TEXmarket-USA. I believe the smallest run you can order is 25 or 30 pieces at a time. If you do both shorts and jerseys, that would only be 10 to 15 jerseys and 10 to 15 shorts. 
This year for fall we are doing a jersey, vest, bib short, and arm warmers. We change the designs often to try to drive the demand. Once we sell out of a kit, we will not bring it back. This takes some discipline, especially when there is a popular design.
We run all our kits at keystone, choosing to maintain the value in the kit, and have never given them away to clients or staff. Everyone needs to buy it, if they want it.
TEXmarket has the ability to produce custom jerseys in the $75-$80 retail range, all the way up to the $180-$200 retail range, and the lead time on a confirmed design is about four weeks from order to delivery. We’ve been very happy with them, and found their quality to be top-notch.
—Jeff Selzer, Palo Alto Bicycles, Palo Alto, California

We’ve used a company called VR7 that is pretty popular locally, but the cut is a euro race fit, and a full kit—jersey and bibs—retails for around $400. I then did just a jersey order with Primal Wear—more of a club fit that would look good with black shorts—that we sell for $90. Now, we are doing Specialized Custom Apparel, and we have to do orders of 25 pieces each (25 bibs and 25 jerseys). I’ve been using the Specialized Comp level, which is their entry price point and everyone loves them. They retail for $240 for the full kit (and it’s all keystone with us, too).
One thing to consider is working with companies, like Pactimo and Primal, that offer a store. That way, you can get sizing kits to ensure your customers can get the right size and pre-order online (team store) to fulfill your minimums, and you don’t have a small fortune tied up in inventory.
If you’re more or a family-oriented shop, my tips for success would be:
• Design a jersey that will look good with black shorts
• Do a club fit to start
• Work with a company that has a team store and offers sizing samples so your customers order the right size
• Don’t give them away EVER! It’s just a bad habit, and will eventually make you bitter. You can offer discounts, if you want, through a team store.
—Brandee Lepak, Global Bikes, Arizona

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