Customizing apparel for the running industry one race at a time
We recently caught up with Del Backs, president and founder of Racetrackers, a Running USA member that creates custom apparel for road races across the country and world.
With nearly 20 years of experience in the industry, we talk with Backs about how he first got into the industry, trends he's seeing and much more.
Running USA (RUSA): How did you first get into the running industry?
Del Backs (DB0: We started in 2000. We began the business printing the event logo onto a heavy gloss paper stock, 8.5” x 11” with a section where the participant could keep their finishing times and pace, and then store in a scrapbook with their other event sheets. We then moved into Greeting Cards for Runners in 2001. I used my experience working with Hallmark Cards with production through delivery. Our products were featured in over 200 running stores.
Our business of supplying shirts and caps started in 2003 during a visit to a running store in Madison, Wisconsin. While visiting with the store owner, a customer came in complaining about the lack of shirt options available in the running industry. This peaked my interest and again I pulled from my days with Hallmark Cards and the contacts I had in Mexico and China to supply blank polyester shirts to print here in the US and embroidery options for microfiber running caps.
This has been the majority of our business since 2004 and we currently supply over 800 events in the USA and Canada. We have also shipped numerous orders to our Armed Forces overseas for their running events and training programs. We do orders from 100-50,000. Our average event is in the 300-1,000 range.
DB: We are seeing that our customers are looking for more unique products to see their event logo on than just shirts. For example, in addition to our shirts and running caps, we now supply fleece finishing blankets, towels, jackets, performance polos, full sublimation shirts, bike jerseys, bags, running gloves, coolers, flip flops, headbands, and skull caps.
RUSA: You also create gear for other industries outside of the endurance space. What trends are you seeing that those in the running industry might be interested in trying out themselves?
DB: Customization of products and full sublimation. We have been working with the same facility in Shanghai for more than 14 years. Our relationship allows us to custom produce per order. This gives us the ability to modify any of our products to the customer’s needs.
We can also do any custom color on any product and provide private labeling, if needed. It is as simple as sending me a sample or picture of a product they would like, and within two weeks, we can have an actual sample in the customer’s hand for approval. This allows the sponsors to have something unique for the event and to show off their logos on a product that will be used and seen many times over.
RUSA: There's a great deal of competition in the apparel space in our sport. What does Racetrackers do differently to stand out amongst the competition?
DB: We keep our line of products small to allow for the best pricing and quality to offer our customers. Being with the same facility for so long assures us of 100% satisfaction and shorter lead-times. Our record for an embroidered cap order was seven days start to finish. We received artwork on a Monday and delivered to our customer the following Monday. We can also produce any pms color that a customer would require on all our caps and shirts.
We also own our screen printing facility here in Indiana with two high speed automatic M&R presses. This allows us to keep the printing cost low and provide quick turnarounds on shirt orders. We have had several customers come to us needing printed shirts the following day and have delivered.
RUSA: Do you have a particular race you work with who showcases its apparel well?
DB: This is not an event but a great example of our capabilities of full sublimation of shirts and caps:
To learn more about Racectrackers, visit their website: http://www.racetrackers.com