What’s up with the blank apparel shortage and when will it end?
That’s a very, very good question. One that we’ve been wanting an answer for coming up on 2 years now.
Let’s dive into what we know…
*Full disclaimer, this is an opinion from someone who is 0% an economist.*
In spring of 2020, the world essentially stopped. Yep, you got it. COVID-19 was just starting to spread in a major way through countries worldwide. Here in the USA, we saw almost all sectors screech to a halt via government mandated shut-downs of any non-essential businesses in March/April.
Demand for custom apparel quickly followed suit. Literally over the course of a week, we saw our sales plummet to zero. The few orders we did have in queue for production either delayed or cancelled. This was a really scary time for most businesses, not just Fabricated Customs.
Okay, so fast-forward to the fall of 2020. We’re seeing most non-essential sectors starting to resume business as “normal”. Atop this, there is an influx of stimulus cash being pumped back into our economy to give it a boost. Awesome, right? Yes, except for supply chain.
Blank apparel is manufactured in mills all over the world. Countries like China, Bangladesh, India and Vietnam make up huge percentages all the blank apparel manufactured for use in the United States. Not only were these mills also shut down, but harvesting of the natural and synthetic products used to create the materials were also halted. You don’t even have the raw materials to make the gear.
In late 2020, we started to see the trickle down inventory shortages from our wholesalers, all while demand was ramping up. Apparel which normally had 1,000’s of pieces of stock available, now was unavailable. That was just the tip of the iceberg. What we didn’t realize was how significant the shortages would be and the long-term effect those shortages would have on our industry. Atop mills world-wide trying to pump out more products, with less people and more restrictions, the shipping industry was, and continues to be, a complete cluster !$&# (Suez Canal anyone?).
So here we are in February of 2022 and still asking the question, “What’s up with the blank apparel shortage and when will it end?”. The short answer… we don’t know. Some of our wholesaler suppliers have told us to expect things to normalize in summer of 2022. It's very discouraging to tell a customer “no” because you can’t get stock on their selected blank apparel. I will say that we’ve seen some better stock from Next Level, Nike & Bella+Canvas in the past 2 months. We hope that trend will continue.
Personally, I believe we’ll see the high demand products start holding better stock in the next couple months, however I plan on 2 years before we see a normalization across all blank apparel.
Until then friends, we’ll continue to do our best staying on top of which styles are available and select the best apparel from your projects. Thanks for being patient as we navigate this together!