BTB Marketer Starts Branded Apparel

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Business-to-business marketer Proforma has launched an exclusive line of clothing in conjunction with a new catalog, Progear by Proforma.

Proforma, Cleveland, is sending 50,000 to 75,000 copies of its 24-page book this week to its 600 franchisees in North America who will control distribution. The catalog was in development the past three months. The launch was announced Aug. 11 at the Proforma Convention in Las Vegas.

"This is an extension of the products we can bring to our BTB customers," said Nancy Valent, chief marketing officer at Proforma. "It's an enhancement to our marketing mix. We're coming out with our brand. Proforma will be the only line in the new catalog."

Along with Progear by Proforma, Proforma offers brands such as Cutter & Buck, Gear for Sports, Perry Ellis and Champion.

Proforma has about 30,000 clients in the United States and Canada. Along with its promotional products, the company offers BTB solutions including business forms, print and packaging.

The company said that Progear by Proforma is the first of many proprietary lines it will launch.

Clothing will be customized and branded with the option of including company logos.

"Our franchisees will use the catalogs to call on their [business customers]," Valent said. "It's part of a multifaceted campaign. They will be mailed out and will be used in face-to-face marketing with our franchisees making appointments.

"Each owner has a list, and they can mail [the catalogs] or use them face to face. The franchisee will work with their customers and will get the calls from the [catalog] recipient. We want to help our franchisees sell more merchandise to their current customers and offer a line of Progear by Proforma merchandise that will attract prospects that will become customers."

Franchisees will determine their percentage of catalogs to be mailed.

The new clothing line includes shirts, jackets and vests.

"There's a good mix between golf shirts, business environment apparel and a line of ladies' clothing that is cut for a woman's proportions, [and] I would guess that's about 25 to 30 percent [of the merchandise mix]," she said.

The line will compete with direct sellers such as Lands' End and L.L. Bean. When asked about competing with such DM giants, Valent said that "we're just starting out. I think it's a realistic goal to compete with any line of wearables. We will compete with the quality of the product."

She added that her company handles orders ranging from 25 to 2,000 shirts.

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