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Build Your Business: Shop Talk
Rolling the Dice
RPLV has a total of three M&R automatic presses — two 14-color and a six-color.
Sometimes, an opportunity comes along and you just have to take it. Whether it’s a sure bet or a leap of faith, a new and different path can pay off handsomely.
Such was the case for Scott Dortch, president of Royal Pacific of Las Vegas (RPLV). Dortch had been in the distribution and fulfillment industry for 20 years, having worked for Indianapolis-based The Order Fulfillment Group. The majority of the company’s accounts were associated with promotional products, which included screen-printed and embroidered items. While looking to purchase a business to bring into the fulfillment company’s fold, Dortch came across RPLV, an established Las Vegas apparel-decorating company that had seen difficult times during the recession.
“My partners and I identified what we thought were key areas of improvement possibilities,” Dortch said. “After some negotiation, we were able to agree on a deal and I moved to Las Vegas in 2010 to begin the overhaul.”
THE NUTS AND BOLTS
RPLV employs more than 40 people, including a sales and support staff of seven and an art staff of five. After Dortch and his partners bought the company, the key talent remained on board. The lead artist and production manager have been working together for nearly 20 years. Dortch says having those two departments working in harmony is a key ingredient in RPLV’s success.
In 2014, the company expanded, moving from a 14,000-square-foot inherited building to a new 22,500-square-foot facility. The shop now is the closest of its kind to the Las Vegas strip, located only walking distance from hotels Aria and The Cosmopolitan.
When Dortch took over, RPLV had two automatic screen-printing presses. Since adding another, the company’s printing arsenal now includes three M&R automatic presses and two manual presses. RPLV also has an in-house sewing department with 66 embroidery heads for private labeling.
In addition to offering services for the promotional products and events industries, RPLV clientele includes tourist attractions and destinations in Las Vegas and around the country.
“Our art staff is especially skilled in understanding the differing demographics of tourists based on location and property,” Dortch says. “Living in a tourist destination is an advantage when it comes to understanding what tourists are looking to buy.
Offering products that meet demand calls for a true understanding of the buyer and the location. “We certainly create more designs with rhinestone treatments for our Las Vegas visitors than we do [for] other locations around the country,” Dortch says. “But we do still see all different types of embellishments being used everywhere. While we enjoy doing logo programs for all of our customers, we try to make designs that are more fashionable.”
With tourist shops on every corner, Las Vegas may seem like a difficult location to stand apart from the competition, but Dortch and his team have found a way to do it.
“Our distinction is that not only are we a one-stop shop for everything you need in the promotional products arena, [but] we also create unparalleled designs for retail,” he says. “My art staff does an amazing job of keeping up with the latest trends, incorporating this knowledge into resort wear and transforming it into something that is more fashionable.
“We have people who buy our product because it is something that they like, not just because it has the name of where they are visiting,” Dortch continues. “Once we find a formula that works, we try to expand on it.”
RPLV spends a tremendous amount of time, money and energy tracking current design and fabrication trends, as those are the keys to staying relevant in this market. “We are fortunate to be in Las Vegas,” Dortch says. “Trade shows from every industry seem to come here. We try to attend anything that is relevant to our business.”
For example, the MAGIC marketplace takes place in Las Vegas twice a year, and designers from all over the country exhibit their next-season items. Dortch attends this show to identify emerging trends. In addition to MAGIC, he shops retail stores and buys garments that are similar to RPLV’s designs. This validates that what Dortch’s team is producing is, in fact, relevant and in demand. And should an RPLV design be deemed ahead of its time, it is kept until the trend hits mainstream, he says.
Increasing blanks and labor costs always are big obstacles for any decorator, and RPLV is no exception.
“Blank costs seem to follow the stock market cotton prices, and as they fluctuate, so do our costs.” Dortch says. “Only two months after we closed on the business, cotton prices hit an all-time high. We got price increases from our suppliers. The timing was terrible, but we weathered the storm. Cotton prices seem to have stabilized now, but like the cost of gas, it is a constant change.”
Dortch also says retail buyers are under constant pressure from other powers that be to increase their margins, which only can be done by raising retail prices or lowering costs. Since most buyers are afraid to raise retail prices, RPLV gets pushback to lower prices as costs increase.
“It is a never-ending battle,” Dortch says. “We have to buy smarter and become more efficient in manufacturing, so we can try to help the buyer as best we can. As for labor costs, they always increase annually.”
Although social media and other digital platforms have taken the retail world by storm, their use has not been a factor for RPLV — yet. The company has Facebook and Twitter accounts, but Dortch finds them hard to use. Most of what RPLV does becomes customers’ intellectual property, which can make showcasing the company’s best work difficult.
Surprisingly, Dortch says RPLV has received almost no business through its website. “Most of our business has been gained via expanding with existing clients or referrals from existing clients,” he says. “We have not spent any money to speak of on SEO for the website, so I am sure that is a contributing factor to the lack of leads. At some point in time, we will spend some more money updating the site and, perhaps, adding an e-commerce option for our preprinted stock designs. This would be a natural transition from my past experiences.”
Dortch runs his company with the environment in mind, having recently installed software that will allow RPLV to become paperless. The company also uses the Rutland C3 mixing system, which is comprised of non-phthalate inks.
“We are striving on an annual basis to improve our impact on the environment by introducing more planet-friendly chemicals in our production process,” he adds.
As RPLV will continue to increase its customer base and embrace new technologies. Dortch says much efficiency can be incorporated in his procedures to contribute to ongoing success.
“All in all, I am excited about our future,” he says. “We have grown every year since our acquisition and intend to stay on this path.”
Jennifer A. Morrell is an award-winning writer who has written for a number of national consumer and trade publications. For more information or to comment on this article, email Jennifer at email@example.com. — J.B.
Royal Pacific of Las Vegas (RPLV) At A Glance
Company Name: Royal Pacific of Las Vegas (RPLV)
Address: 3250 West Harmon Ave. Las Vegas, NV 89103
No. of Employees: More than 40
Decorating Methods Offered: Screen printing, custom labels, embroidery, logo placements, custom designs, rhinestone treatments
Company Website: royalpacificlv.com
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