Awards vs Apparel

#ChuckSaid – Awards and Apparel

A first-time customer stopped by my office last week. She is an industry veteran and one of the top salespeople in her organization. She told me that she just started selling awards. Astonished, I had to ask her why she had waited so long. She said, “Chuck, I thought awards were just too hard to sell. Boy, was I wrong.”

Over the years, many distributors have told me the exact same thing! Once you give it a shot, you’ll realize that selling awards is not hard, just different.

I want to debunk the myths that surround award sales by comparing award sales to the largest product segment in our industry – apparel. These myths are:

  • It is hard to make money selling awards; I can make more money selling apparel
  • My clients don’t ask for awards
  • There must be a lot of competition selling awards
  • Award sales are too time-consuming

Myth #1 – It is hard to make money selling awards, selling apparel gets a higher margin

A few years ago, we asked our customers what their average margins were in a few product categories. Our distributors told us that the average margin in apparel is about 30 percent. The average margin in awards is approximately 42 percent. That means awards give you 12 percent more – all because of margin.

So, when you sell $1,500 worth of apparel, you make approximately $450. However, if you sell $1,500 in awards, you will make about $630 – that’s $180 more than a comparable apparel order.

When it comes to selling promotional products, big margins equal profitability! And awards will deliver big margins!

Myth #2 – My clients don’t ask for awards

Just because your clients don’t ask for awards doesn’t mean that they don’t want them or need them. As a professional salesperson, you need to go after this business.

Remember your last apparel order? Who initiated the project? Did your clients approach you? Or did you approach them with the newest and best innovations in apparel fabric and styles? Award sales are no different.

Your clients rely on you for new ideas that will help their businesses succeed. They need your help; this is your time to be proactive.

Myth #3 – There must be a lot of competition selling awards

If you believe this, you are selling yourself short. Our industry is big, estimated at $23.6 billion*! The awards segment is small – coming in at 2.8 percent* or $660 million*.

How much of this opportunity do you own? $0, $1,000, $15,000, $20,000 or $50,000?

If you walk away from a client meeting without discussing awards, you’re leaving money on the table.

In addition, the competition for award sales is less than apparel sales. From my experience, 90 percent of distributors will say they’d like to sell awards, but usually, only 4 percent of them actually do. Since fewer distributors sell awards, you have less competition for new business.

Minimal competition like this simply doesn’t exist in apparel because the apparel segment of the industry is about 39 percent* of sales, accounting for $9.2 billion* of the entire industry. This means that every distributor under the sun is pushing for apparel sales. Your competition is so much tougher than you may realize.

Myth #4 – Award sales are too time-consuming

Any first-time order will be time-consuming, right? Think back to your very first apparel sale. How much time did it take to complete? I bet it took a bit more time than you expected.

Honestly, you’ll need to invest extra time to complete your very first award order. But after it is set up, our research shows that it’s likely to repeat for 3-5 years. This type of repeat business exists in awards, but does it exist for apparel?

I promise you, the more award orders you complete, the easier they become.


The bottom-line is this: selling awards isn’t hard, just different. Don’t wait until you are an industry veteran to tap into this amazing business opportunity. Awards business is waiting for you, so start asking for it. You can make more money, and your business will grow.

And don’t forget that Crystal D is here to help you. We have many practical tools to help you increase your award sales.



*Statistics Sources:

2017 State of the Industry, Counselor,


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