Dance costume plays such a significant role in how your students are received, both by their audience and the judges. You have 100% control of choreography. You and your dance studio staff put in unlimited effort to prepare the students. Still, it’s a bit nerve-wracking that dancewear is one area where you have to trust external resources.
Although you select what your dance costumes will look like, you’re counting on your dance costume vendor to deliver. You have a long list of dance costumes company options, but it’s worthwhile to forge a strong relationship with one or two dance costume companies. As you become familiar with each other, you’ll understand their inventory and processes better, and they’ll get to know your style and taste preferences and fulfillment needs better. Over time, you’ll experience fewer unwelcome surprises. In fact, showing loyalty to the right vendors can easily translate into perks that make them even more valuable partners.
Regardless of how many dance costume companies you choose, or if you’re looking to try out someone new – selecting the best candidates is a process. As you do your research, keep these questions top of mind:
Do they have the full variety of selection you need now, and in the future?
Having a good selection range seems an obvious requirement, but you need to break down what “variety” means for your dance studio.
- Styles: Do you need costumes that cross every style imaginable, or does your studio focus on a couple of styles as part of your brand? If your studio brand is to be edgy and funky, does the company have a sufficiently broad range of styles and options that fit into this category? If you want your studio reputation to reflect how your students can dance any style, any time – does the vendor cover everything from uber-girlie ballet tulle to fleek hip-hop outfits?
- Extras & accessories: These are the details that finish a dance costume. Make sure the company’s variety of headpieces, belts, and other accessories is as strong as its style variety.
- Don’t forget about the boys! Having no more options for boy dancers other than different colored bow ties and vests isn’t going to cut it. Make sure they have as much variety for them, as they have for the girls.
- Sizes: You need the costume style variety to extend the range of sizes you may need. Be a little forward thinking here. If you’re a new studio with a relatively narrow age range among your students – what are your growth plans over the next few years? If you’re looking to build a long-term relationship with a dance costume company, look for one that can accommodate younger and older students than you currently serve.
- Price points: The variety you see should fall within your overall budget. You might also want to make sure there’s some good variety in price points so you have options to splurge where it makes sense, and conserve where needed.
What value-add services do they provide?
You’re not just buying dancewear. You’re buying a service. The best dance costume companies understand this and invest effort in providing top-notch customer service. Review the vendor’s site to find out how many customer service contact channels they offer and during what hours. Are you limited to one phone number and an online contact form? How quickly do they say they respond to customer service inquiries? Check out their social media profiles to get a preview of how they interact with customers and prospects. If you can, find reviews from actual customers to see what they say about the company’s customer service responsiveness.
Quality customer service is table stakes. You may also have other service needs you want to make sure a company can meet. For example:
- Do you need them to handle partial shipments?
- Do they guarantee delivery dates?
- Will they tailor outfits?
- Can you customize your item selections?
- Will they create dance costumes from your designs?
- Do they provide design services?
If you do want to focus on working with only one or two vendors, find out what service perks they provide to loyal, volume customers. Will they throw in a few free extras in your order, so you have some replacement accessories or basics? Do they assign a dedicated service agent rep to your account? Companies can get creative in the ways they make their most loyal customers feel special, so ask about what extras you can anticipate.
Did you read the fine print?
Some companies will have more onerous terms and conditions than others, which could have a significant impact on your cash flow and your sanity. Find out:
- What are their payment terms? How much do you need to pay to place the order? When is the balance due?
- What discounts are available? Early bird orders? High volume orders? Loyalty discounts? Shipping discounts?
- What are the potential extra fees? Are there restocking fees on returns? Cancellation penalties?
- How do they handle returns, exchanges, and cancellations? Are those policies you can live with?
- How do they accept payments? Do they extend credit? If they do, under what circumstances?
Doing Your Homework Pays Off
There’s a degree of risk every time you order from a new dance costume company. You can mitigate that risk using these questions as a starting point. But don’t stop there. What else do you need to ask and know that’s important to your studio’s costuming needs? Whatever they may be, don’t stop until you get the answers you seek. If a vendor won’t provide details you’ve asked for, that should raise red flags for you. There are plenty of dance costume companies, move on and find another one that’s more cooperative.
When you find those one or two companies that are open and forthcoming about how they work with clients, who provide quality work and consistently get you the right dance costumes, at the right time, and for the right price, deepen your relationship with them. As it grows, costuming becomes one less headache to worry about.
Inventory, order, and delivery are only one part of your costume journey! Once those costumes arrive, how will you manage them? Here are our tips on managing dance costumes once they’re at your studio.
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