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It’s a trend that’s been wearing on promotional apparel sellers for months: rising cotton prices funneling through the supply chain from grower to manufacturer to distributor. According to, cotton prices increased nearly 9 cents per pound in 2017, a rise of about 6%, based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2018 will see hikes continue.

Yet T-shirts are the top product category by percentage of total industry sales for distributors, and the classic 100% cotton tee is the item most coveted for its soft hand and timeless appeal. So what do you do? Here are five tips from the makers of Ei-Lo, who provides 100% USA premium combed, ringspun cotton T-shirts.

1) Choose a Stead Partner

Research your suppliers. While most are raising their prices and passing along costs from their raw material vendors, not all do. Ei-Lo, for example, has committed to keeping its USA premium cotton T-shirts the same so distributors can meet their clients’ demand for a more luxurious tee.

2) Look for Inventory

One advantage that makes consistent pricing possible is deep inventory. As an exclusive brand of TSC Apparel, Ei-Lo has a deep inventory reserve of materials and T-shirts, which allows it to better forecast and maintain pricing stability for its customers.

3) Commit Early On

Use cotton’s rising prices to your advantage. When you find a supplier partner willing to keep the cost of their cotton tees consistent, take the opportunity to encourage your client to purchase T-shirts in greater quantities, thinking ahead to the next quarter when they might need to restock. You can make the argument to buy while the pricing is steady.

4) Sell Cotton’s Advantages

Always explain the benefits of the classic cotton T-shirt and why it’s worth the cost. For example, when it comes to ink, cotton has a superior absorption rate making it one of the best choices for direct-to-garment printing. It also has a superior hand feel to manmade fibers and better breathability.

5) Never Skip on Quality

Stay true to your demand for the best in detailing. A better price shouldn’t mean a lesser quality T-shirt. Ei-Lo’s Unisex Premium Cotton T-shirt is crafted of 100% combed ringspun USA cotton, 4.3-oz., 30-single fine jersey knit. It features side seams, is taped shoulder to shoulder and has a ribbed crew neck and double-needle stitched sleeve and bottom hem. When choosing a cotton T-shirt, make sure you’re comparing equally well-made garments while considering price.


Jennifer Billock, reporting on the future of cotton in the promotional apparel industry for Counselor magazine, explains the likelihood of unexpected price hikes: “Like pricier ringspun cotton, the more advanced alterations made to plain old cotton mean it’s going to cost more, putting suppliers in a tighter
spot margin-wise. And although cotton prices seem to have steadied for the past few years, the International Cotton Advisory Committee believes cotton costs can still be quite volatile.”

— Counselor Magazine, January 2018


The Ei-Lo brand name is homage to the Spanish word for thread – hilo – because a passion for making and making them the best is the thread that runs through all the brand’s relationships. Since its start, firmly rooted in Southern California, Ei-Lo has provided passionate makers at top brands with the best 100% cotton and blends, 100% consistency, T-shirts spun from its own yarn and made in its own factory. Today, Ei-Lo embraces makers across the country who fuel the creative movement. To learn more, visit