Custom t-shirts hard to come by as apparel companies face supply shortage
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Summer is t-shirt season, but from custom prints for summer events to local lifestyle brands, t-shirts are scarce as the production line stalls like so many others industries.
Northeast Ohio businesses are looking for new suppliers, different warehouses, different colors, to fill customer orders.
Micah Roberts launched Erie & Anchor, a nautical-themed brand in 2018 and opened a storefront in Vermilion in February 2020, when the coronavirus began to spread. What used to take two to four weeks to order can now take six months. And it might be September before she has mid-range tops in stock in some styles.
“It was really a challenge to open a storefront and try to maintain inventory,” said Roberts. “We had to reach out and add new lines to increase inventory while we waited for some parts.”
Finding women’s t-shirts in certain sizes and colors has been the biggest problem for Cleveland Clothing Co., which works with a California supplier. Some of the missing inventory will be restocked this summer, but more items won’t be available until September.
“Now we have to print one of our best sellers on a different color because we can’t get the purple color until July,” Owner Mike Kubinski said.
Why is all this happening? With disruption to production, materials, transportation and personnel due to the coronavirus pandemic, many manufacturers are struggling to keep up.
Garment manufacturers are struggling to keep overseas yarn in stock. Subsequently, printing companies find it difficult to stock up on virgin products, which results in retailers having low stocks.
Matt Tullos, owner of Presswork Graphics, a bespoke clothing company in Cleveland, has had issues with his offshore supplier since 2020.
“A company in China that I work with was shut down for two full months,” Tullos said. “If you stop production for two months while working 24/7, it will take four times as long to catch up. “
Cleveland Printwear, a printing and design company in business for nearly 40 years, has been feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic for a year and a half, losing $ 250,000 in business with just one phone call last year.
Now that demand is on the rise, product supply has been the biggest problem. A recent order of 350 pieces is filled by three suppliers from seven different warehouses across the country.
“It’s the volume and the immediacy of the volume that we need right now that the supply can’t keep up,” said Mike Cannon, owner. “It’s really trying here. People don’t want to hear that, obviously. The sales part is extremely delicate and we are very worried about overloading our staff.
Even though a company has the product in stock, it still has to arrive at its destination, which has caused even more delays. Joe Bruzas, owner of ImageMart Inc., a Cleveland-based printing and design company, used to deliver the next day, but that’s no longer an option.
“Things got crazy. They stopped shipping shirts for a while. They weren’t sending shirts when COVID first hit unless you were a certified first responder, ”Bruzas said. “You just have to deal with it. Most of these companies are good, reliable companies, they just have problems. I’m just one story among many.
For the Brogan Open Water Classic swim race in July, organizer Chuck Beatty urged swimmers to register early. “T-shirt stocks are down, with many styles and sizes sold out until fall,” he wrote. “We are also seeing longer lead times for shirt printing. What was previously 10 days is now 3 to 4 weeks. We will have to place our order based on the information we have and extras and hope for the best.
Royal Apparel, a Long Island-based clothing wholesale company, sells worldwide. Since the products are made in the USA, the company has not encountered any major issues with the product.
“We try to keep our pipelines full. We have the product already knitted and stored ready for use, ”said Glen Brumer, sales manager for Royal Apparel. “We are always trying to plan for the future.
However, the company encountered difficulties with the yarn bought abroad, which represents 10 to 15% of the supply. The problem arose a few months ago due to delays in land and container transport.
Both Bruzas and Cannon expect the problem of supply and demand to be resolved, but not until next year.
“Over time things will continue to improve,” Brumer said. “Time has a way to heal everything. “