When Wayne Irwin acquired the wholesale company now called Irwin Sales in Baytown, Texas, in 1991, the firm carried fewer than 1,000 different designs of patches, most of them designed to sew on a man’s cap. “We didn’t have a catalog, and when a request came in, we laid patches on a copy machine. Many of them came out black,” Irwin recalls, “and it took 104 pages to make a full catalog.”
Today it would take three times as long just to duplicate the company’s more than 3,000 patches. And patches are not its only business. Irwin added lapel pins seven years ago. They replicate the themes on the company’s patches, and also include one lapel pin representing each of the country’s 50 states. “The pins are popular with collectors, as well as to people who buy our patches,” Irwin says. As a consequence, pins now account for about 40 percent of Irwin Sales’ overall business, he reports. This is all in addition to growing sales of patches.
“Lapel pins offer the same opportunities for our retailer customers as they do to us,” he points out. “They almost automatically raise the sales ticket on a patch.” One reason why is their affordability. The majority of three to four inch patches wholesale for between $1 and $1.50, and have a suggested retail price of $3.50 to $4. Lapel pins wholesale for $8 to $10 a dozen, or from 66 cents to 83 cents on a minimum order of one dozen for the same design. The suggested retail price is $2.50 to $3, to return a very significant profit. In addition, “they don’t take up much room,” Irwin notes. “All are individually packaged, and we have an 8.5 by 11 inch display board for pins. It holds 48 pins. “We suggest the retailer put a sample of each design on the board and place the board near the patches display.”
In addition to standard size patches and lapel pins, Irwin Sales carries some small, one inch iron-on patches, and some larger (10 to 12 inch) ones to go on jackets. Among the themes that have been added to the patches line since Irwin took over the company are military designs, which are among the best sellers. Other designs appeal to motorcyclists, Native Americans, Hispanics and African Americans, and NRA members. There is one of the White House, and there are flowers, cities, states, countries, letters, numbers and flags of nearly all countries.
For more information:
P.O. Box 2096
Baytown, TX 77522