Make your Apparel Profitable


One of the things noticed most about CrossFit Affiliates is that a vast majority of them don’t take their apparel brand seriously, and it’s usually for the same few reasons.

Affiliate Problems:

1. Frankly, it’s a pain dealing with print shops. Most of them have subpar quality, difficult communication, and they almost never deliver what and when they say they can.

2. The Affiliate owner usually pays too much for their shirts, isn’t happy with the quality and is reluctant to push them to customers because they don’t feel they’re a quality representation of their brand.

3. The Affiliate owner doesn’t make much money on the shirts, so they don’t take it seriously as a revenue source for their business. However, often they don’t make much money on the shirts because of reason No. 2.

Ideally, as an Affiliate owner, or any other company that has an apparel branch, you should have a 300 percent mark up on your apparel. If you’re an actual apparel brand, it should be closer to 400 percent. You should be making significant money on your shirts. If you’re not, and you want to — because -why wouldn’t you want to make money on apparel you’re selling? — here are some things you should pay attention to:

Blank selection – The blank is usually the most expensive part of the shirt, so your choice here can significantly impact your overall unit price. As a CrossFit gym, you’re likely not going to be doing the volume to get your prices up to the 400 percent range, but you should still aim for a respectable 300 percent. However, you should work backwards from the price for what you expect you can reasonably sell one of your shirts. Two things affect your apparel prices the most: blank selection and volume. If you’ve made up your mind on the blanks you want to use, adjust your purchasing volume in order to reach your target price range so you can hit your projected 300 percent margins.

Cut/fit – This is going to depend on the type of client your gym caters to. You should choose a style and cut that your clients are going to like and be comfortable wearing.

Ink selection – Plastisol is the lower grade stuff that forms a layer of plastic on top of the shirt. You can feel it with your hand and your body can’t breathe through it, so you end up getting sweaty and uncomfortable under the print. Not the best option for a gym shirt.

“Soft hand” inks are technically two different types of ink: water based and discharge. However, from a user perspective, these inks are both essentially identical. These are the higher quality inks that most of the modern, designer brands use. The inks are imbedded into the fabric of the shirt so when you’re wearing it, the shirt feels like there’s no print on it at all. There are no hot spots and there is no excessive sweating. It has what’s referred to as a “soft hand,” meaning just that: It feels soft on your hand.

Branding – How much control do you want over your brand? There are several more steps in production that you can take to elevate the perception of your brand: printed neck labels, custom labels, folding and bagging, hang tags, etc. There is no “wrong” way to do it; like most things in apparel, it just depends what makes sense for your market.

There are literally thousands of options when it comes to clothing. The most efficient solution for you as the Affiliate owner is to partner with someone, or a company, that can navigate those options and professionally manage the production aspect of your line so you can get back to doing what you do: running your business. Once you have the production side of the process in place, you’ll start to see how apparel can be a fun, exciting and profitable part of your revenue stream.

By Ryan Williams, the founder and head of Industry Threadworks. To contact Williams, email or