Business Insight Trend Report – Outlook for 2012

Business Insight Trend Report – Outlook for 2012

In wrapping up 2011 and looking forward to – or perhaps bracing for – 2012, Apparel turned to its esteemed Editorial Advisory Board, along with a few other industry executives, to gain the perspective of their views on the coming year. Specifically, we asked about challenges and opportunities, the role technology will play and expectations for the year vs. the past 12 months. Here’s what they had to say.

Michael Benstock
CEO, Superior Uniform Group

View Apparel Magazine PDF.

What three challenges or issues are top of mind for you (or your customers) heading into 2012, and how do you intend to address them? Will technology play a role?

1) Our customers are very concerned about the negative economic impact of world events on the U.S. economy. Will the dollar continue to weaken, thereby driving up sourcing costs and squeezing their margins (and ours) even further? 2) Will consumers and business customers begin to open up their purses again, showing some renewed confidence in the future? 1£ not, then retail, lodging and food service establishments will not be hiring and unemployment levels in the private sector will remain lackluster. This will cause even further degradation of our economic base and will delay any return to more stable times, 3) Will our government (on both sides of the aisle) simply do nothing to spur growth in this coming election year? Will we become so consumed by the upcoming political process that we will not pay attention to the problems that need to be solved? 4) Since Superior Uniform Group® dresses America’s workforce, continued high unemployment levels do not bode well for the uniform sector of the apparel industry. At the same time, raw materials prices have not yet (and might never) come down to pre-cotton crisis levels thereby creating an inflationary spiral in clothing prices.

Superior Uniform Group’s solution to these tough questions is to lead by example. We are strategically building finished goods inventories to higher levels and taking larger and longer positions on raw materials to ensure a continued supply at competitive prices. We are hiring in key marketing and business development functions as well as diversifying our business into some non¬traditional areas (i.e., everyBODY media® and The Office Gurus®). We are investing in areas of our business that we believe will show the most long-term promise as well as shoring up those that will be most impacted by these factors.

Superior Uniform Group is at the forefront of most applied technology advances in our industry. I believe though that 2012 is going to depend more on really great associates, giving really great service to accounts and making every customer feel like they are the most important customer that we have.

Do you expect 2012 to be a stronger year (vs. 2011) for the apparel/retail industry in general; why or why not? And for those that do post stronger results in 2012, what key strengths do you think will be the common denominators?

Our best estimates are that if we see any growth in the apparel industry over the next year it will be quite narrow, and it could be for many a year of profitless prosperity. Margins will be pressed and customers will be looking for greater value as they make their purchasing decisions.

What do you view as the greatest opportunities for growth in your business and the apparel industry in general?

Our greatest opportunities for growth after nearly 100 years of dressing America’s workforce are primarily tied to the health of our economy. Other factors include the speed at which we introduce new products to the marketplace, diversify our business and become more important to our existing customer base. Growing is a function of financial health and we certainly are very healthy in all respects to capitalize on any opportunities that make sense.

28 DECEMBER 2011 •

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