Rising Costs & New Challenges: How Next Level Apparel Strategizes for 2022

It’s been another whirlwind year – one filled with unpredictable circumstances and situations, despite all of our best efforts of forecasting the future. Now that the year is coming to a close and we’ve made it to Q4, the most pressing question on every promo professional’s mind is “What should I know now to prepare for 2022?”

While we may not have a crystal ball, we have the next best thing: an interview with Jason Buchanan, President of Sales at Next Level Apparel. In this Q&A, you’ll find out Buchanan’s thoughts on the biggest changes to the industry, if these shakeups will continue into the new year and how Next Level Apparel – and distributors just like you – can stay one step ahead.

Jason Buchanan

It’s nice to speak with you again, Jason! How has 2021 been treating you thus far? 

Hey Emma, nice to speak to you as well! It is hard to believe we are already nearing the end of the year … the challenges we are all facing in the industry this year have forced us all to be quick on our feet and very resourceful.  It’s definitely been a year we will never forget. 

What are some of the biggest shakeups to the industry that you’re seeing this year? 

The industry is experiencing challenges like none we have ever seen before: the supply chain disruptions from yarn to finished goods, the logistical challenges ranging from container availability to clogged ports, the general labor shortages … all combined leading to cost increases that are very significant to all in the industry. Who would have predicted that transportation costs would have exponentially increased the way they have? As a relative example, it used to cost roughly .04 – .05 cents a shirt to move a container across the ocean. Today that same container costs roughly .30 cents a shirt. These challenges all have intricate details that require constant risk mitigation plans for all of us and our customers. The simple task to deliver a promotional apparel piece is no longer a simple task. 

What is Next Level doing to combat some of these challenges and to continue serving your customers? 

We have taken many different steps over the past nine months and will continue to adjust key areas of our business to ensure that we can provide our customers with our products in a timely manner. One of the larger decisions was taking a very defined approach to our assortment. We quickly realized that it was going to be next to impossible to provide the levels of inventory to our customers across all the items in our portfolio. Therefore, we have strategically phased out some styles, and then we also worked with our distribution customers to better plan needs for our top styles. We stayed focused and continue to focus on our most popular items to ensure we have the best possible inventory position for our customers on these top style colors.


Do you expect some of these challenges to continue into 2022? 

Unfortunately, yes. Many of the key pain points in the greater supply chain simply cannot be restored quickly. We believe most, if not all, of 2022 we will be faced with many of the same challenges.

What can distributors and decorators do to prepare for the year ahead now? 

Plan your business as much as possible and provide forecasted demand to your suppliers. Communicate with your suppliers on upcoming programs, especially if this is new demand that was not in prior year purchases. The more information and insight everyone has on what is needed, the better the outcome for all. Also, be very mindful of the inflationary pressures on the supply chain. Do not overcommit from a pricing point of view. Expect costs to increase and be as transparent with your customers as possible.