A well-planned and fully executed merchandise strategy makes your field more vested in the business and helps create a cohesive culture between the field and corporate team.
Branded merchandise can be a terrific way to promote your company, build your brand’s unique culture, and turn your business owners—your most important customers—into walking billboards. But creating effective apparel and merchandising strategy requires a lot more than just slapping a logo on some shirts. The goal is to give your company’s key customers items they want to wear, use and can easily incorporate into their everyday lives.
Chanel Holmes, Logo Merchandise Marketing Manager at USANA, orchestrates the company’s entire merchandise strategy, including themes, design, promotion and the logo store presence at USANA Live,
the company’s International Convention held in Salt Lake City, Utah. USANA develops custom branded apparel and merchandise for its customers to help them promote USANA and their businesses. Chanel says that putting thought and effort into creating affordable items associates want and are excited about supports the USANA lifestyle, aids in overall associate retention and creates brand awareness for an
otherwise cold market.
“It shows our business owners that we care,” she says. “Yes, it takes a long time, but it pays off. It’s a win-win—they get to advertise their business, and USANA gets its name out to the general public. Custom items allow for associates to pick and choose what works for them and their lifestyle and business.”
“I wanted to make sure everyone could leave with something. Even with lower prices and variable event attendance, our sales of logo merchandise have improved every single year for the past four years.”
—Chanel Holmes, USANA Logo Merchandise Marketing Manager
Before joining USANA, Chanel managed apparel at Utah State University, where she recognized a major difference in the buying habits of students and alumni. The alumni would spend more money, while the students wanted apparel but just couldn’t afford higher-priced items. Yet, students were the ones cheering at games and out in the community showing school spirit. They were the walking billboards for the school.
So, Chanel began focusing on lower-priced items the students wanted to wear.
She brought that strategy to USANA, recognizing that newer business owners brought the most excitement and were most likely to wear a variety of branded apparel. “I wanted to make sure everyone could leave with something,” Chanel says. “Even with lower prices and variable event attendance, our sales of logo merchandise have improved every single year for the past four years. The crazy thing is, we made logo merchandise appealing enough to where USANA corporate employees—and even the executives—are lining up to buy it with our customers.”
Creating Unique Culture and Experience
A well-planned and fully executed merchandise strategy makes USANA business owners more vested in the business and helps create a cohesive culture between the field and corporate team. Branded apparel also can be a perfect conversation-starter, helping business owners make connections and ultimately close more product sales. “Our custom items are geared toward the product we sell,” Chanel says. “This way, associates are wearing the name of the company when they’re surrounded by like-minded individuals who would be interested in our products.”
As a health and nutrition company, USANA branded merchandise is created for a healthy, active lifestyle. Many items are created specifically to be worn or used in athletic and active settings, which creates high visibility in gyms and parks, and during indoor and outdoor sports and other healthy-living activities. “With logo merchandise, it gives people a reason to ask, ‘Oh, what’s USANA?’ It starts conversations about the
brand,” Chanel says. She says it’s important for each company to create apparel and other branded items that align with their unique culture and audience. This also is one of the most effective ways USANA creates long-term brand awareness and legitimacy.
Incorporating Top Trends
One of the first steps Chanel takes in creating a new apparel line is researching current fashion trends, including colors, styles and design. A color palette is created that helps shape the entire apparel line. She says custom looks are trending. Much like current home décor trends, people want to feel like what they’re wearing is their own style with creations that represent who they are.
The general, universal look is fading. Variety and customization are the keys. “Being different is in,” Chanel says. “The stores that are thriving are more unique and individualized.”
Having a variety of merchandise, styles and fits allows customers to find items that naturally fit into their lives while showing their personality. Chanel points out that people won’t buy something just because it has a logo on it. “The merchandise has to grab a person’s attention and make them feel like they absolutely have to have it. You accomplish this by making unique pieces that can fit into a variety of individual styles.”
Chanel tries to match trends that people are shopping for in stores, paying attention to current styles in athletic and leisure wear. These styles have become popular everyday clothing, which Chanel refers to as “athleisure.” It’s comfortable, versatile, stylish, and available for every body type.
She orders samples of higher-end brands such as North Face, Lululemon and Under Armour, studying aspects of current styles to help customize the design or material for USANA. The goal is to create custom items that can’t be found anywhere else.
Promotion is Key
Understanding how to promote and launch a new apparel line is critical in creating excitement and buy-in. Each year USANA conducts a photoshoot to promote and illustrate the new apparel line, giving it context. It shows how the merchandise can fit into a healthy lifestyle, whatever that means to each associate individually.
Chanel also says a photoshoot communicates a certain vibe. It’s important to think of what you want the shoot to convey because it shapes how people perceive the company and culture. “Will the customer relate to the look, and how will they integrate that into their lifestyle? I want it to show that no matter who you are, you have a place with USANA,” she says.
A Facebook Live video about one month before the annual convention unveils new items to the field, explaining the thought process behind the clothing and showing examples of how each piece can be worn or combined. This creates excitement for the event and lets associates feel like they’re receiving insider information about what will be available at the convention store.
Rules for a Successful Apparel Store
Setting up the merchandise at convention is much more than just throwing some shirts on a rack. Chanel says the most important thing is to know your market—the cultures, genders, age ranges and body types. USANA creates a shopping experience with different types of displays and uses several mannequins so people can see what items look like on a body. “We try to keep as many items as we can priced less than
$50,” Chanel says. “Many USANA convention attendees travel long distances and are already paying for flights, rental cars, hotel rooms, and food, so it’s important to keep the pieces affordable.”
Variety is key. She says it’s better to order smaller quantities, but a larger variety. People want to feel like they have a selection. They want to find something that fits their style and body type. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Each year the logo merchandise has a theme. For 2019, the theme was “Bold School”—a combination of “bold” colors and “old-school” throwback pieces for a modern yet retro style. She says styles from decades ago are making a comeback. This includes holographic and geometric patterns, large logos, and designs that are woven into the material.
Employees working in the merchandise area understand the brand and theme behind the apparel. They’re ready to answer questions about styles and how items can work together. USANA even has models walking around convention wearing the new merchandise, which helps spark excitement within the associates and drive traffic to the area.
Chanel’s 5 Must-Have Apparel Store Items
HIGH-VISIBILITY ITEMS: Gym bags, backpacks, water bottles, and business travel bags are portable and easily seen when at the gym or traveling.
ACCESSORIES THAT MATCH YOUR PRODUCT: Because USANA is a health and nutrition company, accessories match different product lines. There’s a selection of washcloths and small travel bags for skin care products, supplement sorters and travel containers for vitamins, and theme-specific Blender Bottles for shakes.
APPAREL THE FIELD NEEDS: Athletic apparel is always a staple at the USANA store, but Chanel says it’s important to provide basic items that match your field’s needs. Gym shorts and T-shirts are quick grabs that people use often.
CONVENIENCE ITEMS: Fanny packs, phone chargers and other small but helpful items are good sellers at convention. People need to charge their phones and need something to carry around small items.
VARIETY OF HATS: Hats are universal to women and men, so Chanel says a large variety is a must. Fitted hats, trucker-style and beanies are easy buys that also create high-visibility for the brand.