Are you shopping for custom caps for your brand, business, or team? Is cost comparison through different dealers and manufacturers confusing? We think it is. If you're looking for custom caps, you may have found that once you add up all the charges for the hat, decoration, artwork, and shipping they are more expensive than you expected. So what is a fair price? We've researched more than 100 hat and cap suppliers to try to shed some light on how much you should be paying for different types of orders.
Average Retail Prices for Hats
For a good quality cap, it is now common to see prices from $25-$40. The price will depend on brand (certain premium brands command a higher price) and style (certain embellishments are more expensive than others.) This is all fairly easy to confirm by shopping at some of your favorite brands, but the tougher job is to figure out how much you should pay for your custom design when buying several dozen or even several thousand caps at a time.
Ways to Order Custom Caps
When ordering custom caps, you have a number of options. We like to break them into a few broad categories.
Pre-defined Stock Embellishers - this could be your local screen-print or embroidery shop or a regional company that specializes in caps, but the business model is generally that they will decorate products selected from a set catalog. They usually have an account with a large wholesaler that stocks different blank caps that they can quickly receive and decorate. The advantage of having the blank product already in stock nearby is that it is fast to receive them and there is usually a low minimum order quantity. The disadvantage is you need to pick a style and color from a set offering without full customization options.
Dealers and Wholesalers - this could be a local small business that facilitates merchandise and apparel purchasing or a large national brand, but these companies work directly with factories (usually overseas) that will make your products. They probably have a local sales rep who can help you with a design and they probably also have some quick-to-order in-stock options and a slower-to-order full-custom offering. They are prepared to fulfill larger quantity orders and offer more unique customization options, but you probably have to wait longer and may have to manage larger minimum order quantities.
Manufacturers - these companies either are or own their own factories that actually make your caps. Most good quality caps in the North American market come from factories in China and Vietnam. You can find tons of options online, but sifting through them to find a good quality service provider can be challenging. You get the best price by buying directly from the manufacturer, but communication can be challenging and lead times and minimum order quantities can be long.
So, what should you pay when using each category? We were curious, so we interviewed and secret-shopped over 100 companies. Some of the interviews were with brands that buy from one of the three categories and some were interviews or secret shopping directly with the supplier. Here are the results.
How Much Should I Pay?
Your price will obviously depend on the order quantity and type of cap. In our research, we asked suppliers for their price of an average, fully-decorated cap. The prices do not include shipping, import duties, or sales taxes. This data is from mid-2019, so now in 2022, we can assume that all the prices will have gone up about 15% with inflation.
The average price for different quantities by type of supplier is shown below. Not every supplier replied with pricing at every quantity level, so our data for some quantity levels are limited. Overall, we see that:
the market pricing is fairly close across the different kinds of suppliers
going direct to the manufacturers gives the best price, but it does not factor in shipping or import taxes which may be less with the domestic suppliers
The Pre-defined Stock Embellishers was most expensive at low quantities, possibly because they tend to deal with less experienced customers who don't know what price they should be paying
At larger quantities, Pre-defined Stock Embellishers offer prices competitive with the Wholesalers and Manufacturers
Although the average prices at different quantity levels were quite close together, the actual spread of prices quoted to us was quite large. The charts below show the number of suppliers who offered prices in the given price ranges when we inquired about different quantity orders. We assumed common orders might be 24, 48, and 100 pcs.
Overall we found that:
At all order quantities, there were some very high and very low outliers for price offerings. This shows the benefit of shopping around before deciding on a supplier, but remember to double-check the quality of cheaply priced caps before committing to any large orders.
No supplier type stood out as consistently cheaper or more expensive than others.
We were surprised that factories sometimes quote very high prices. It appears that suppliers will quote as high as they think they can get away with and that industry experience is important to understand what is a reasonable price.
How Many Do I Have to Order?
You'll find the three different supplier categories set quite different minimum order quantities (MOQs). The MOQ in turn has a strong effect on the price. The graph below shows the distribution of MOQs we found through our research. Obviously Pre-defined Stock Embellishers can offer the lowest MOQs because they are working with in-stock blanks and the Manufacturers demand the largest MOQs to make processing your custom order worth their time.
When Will I Get Them
There are obvious trade-offs between price, quantity, and speed. But on average, we found that the Pre-Defined Stock Embellishers could deliver faster. We were surprised that Manufacturers were often faster than Wholesalers. We think this is because Wholesalers were more likely to quote lead times, including shipping times, whereas Manufactures just said time until dispatch. Large batch shipping by sea will add at least 45 days.
Getting Great Caps at a Good Price
All of this data should be taken in the context of your specific design requirements. More customization control of the base hat will definitely take longer because it needs to be made to your specs. More decorations, especially embroidery size and placements will increase costs.
At Purnaa, we specialize in sublimation printed caps where any of the fabric can be fully customized with any image and color. When we shopped specifically for sublimation printed caps, our pricing was definitely competitive and we found that we can offer the fastest lead time and lowest MOQs of any of the suppliers we researched. If you have a unique cap design that you'd like to investigate, please get in touch at email@example.com.
Read more about cap manufacturing in our other blogs