Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Outsource or Local-Source Race Shirts?

Sean Ryan, director of the Cellcom Green Bay marathon, has written an excellent article about why races have "Caps" or capacity limits.

From the Race Director's Desk: What's with the caps?

The entire article is well worth reading, but the section that really smacked me in the side of the head was about pre-ordering race shirts (for all Green Bay events - kids races, 5k, half marathon, full marathon, and volunteers I am speculating this is more than 10,000 shirts).

Ryan wrote:

"PARTICIPANT SUPPLY LEAD TIMES: Not that many years ago, it was customary to give out cotton t-shirts to finishers in distance races. As long as participants registered “in advance,” they would be guaranteed their t-shirt size. Any mid-sized community has a plethora of local companies that can supply custom screen-printed cotton t-shirts on fairly short notice. I’ve put in emergency orders on cotton shirts less than 48 hours prior to an event. When moisture-wicking technical fabric shirts became the standard, all of this changed. These shirts are often cut, sewn and screen printed overseas–most often in China–and shipped to the United States in shipping containers to reduce freight costs. This causes ridiculously long lead times. As an example, in order to guarantee timely delivery for this May’s Cellcom Green Bay Marathon and Half Marathon, the t-shirt order had to be submitted by December 1st, SIX MONTHS PRIOR TO THE EVENT! There are also long lead times on things like finisher medals and gear check bags. All of these lead times forces organizers to set caps on the events well in advance or risk the possibility of over-selling and running out of the perks that runners expect."
I hope there is an apparel vendor in Green Bay (my hometown) or somewhere in Wisconsin figuring this out for the 2014 race.

My list of reasons to run a race is probably much different than yours. My top considerations now are different than my race pre-requisites 5 years ago. Some of my events are "bucket list" races while others are traditions. Some are just to do something different.

I have lots and lots of race shirts. I wear them proudly and often.

Would I select a race because of its sourcing practices for t-shirts? It probably wouldn't be my top consideration but an emphasis on local sourcing and a light race footprint might tip the balance towards one race over another.

How about you? How important is the t-shirt fabric and its sourcing? 

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