With the prominence of graphic tees and streetwear in high fashion, custom apparel has seen an uptick in volume—especially among Millennials. In 2017, 34 percent of Millennials bought custom pieces, and 42 percent said they’re willing to pay more for customized items (as opposed to non-custom clothing). Considering that the global custom t-shirt printing industry is projected to exceed $10 billion by 2025, it’s a business with high-profit potential and a comparatively low initial investment.
Before taking the leap to start your own custom apparel business, we’ve listed three important things you should know.
Your Niche Target Audience
With an increasing number of competitors in the market, it’s important to home in on your target audience and find your niche.
A niche target audience is a smaller subset of a much larger market with its own specific needs or wants. By appealing to the needs of a much smaller, specific market you’ll be able to cut through the industry clutter and generate better value for your customers. Attempting to sell a t-shirt to 100 people with varying interests who may like what you’re offering is more difficult (and less cost-effective) than selling a shirt to 50 people with similar interests who you know will like what you provide. The key, however, is to find a need that’s not currently being met or a way to improve an already-existing need. Some questions you should ask to begin identifying the niche for your business include:
- What types of custom apparel will you be offering?
- Who would be interested in your company?
- What are your unique selling points?
- Within your larger target market, what are some common interests a smaller group of people share?
- Within this smaller group, what are their psychographics (likes, dislikes, personalities), demographics (gender, race, education level, income), and where are they located?
After you’ve taken the time to answer these questions, see how many people fit the description. Having a niche that’s too narrow is just as ineffective as a broad target audience, as there won’t be enough buyers to provide a return on your investment.
What Printing Equipment You Should Invest In
In the custom apparel industry, there’s no shortage of equipment offerings for printing—from manual presses to automatic presses to DTG printers. Deciding which one is best for you will really come down to budget, space and volume. We’ve briefly broken down these three options to give you an idea of the direction you should consider:
- Manual Press
A manual press is generally what beginning screen printers choose. This press is ideal for tighter spaces because it doesn’t require extra electrical equipment, it’s cheaper than an automatic press, and it’s made for smaller production. However, with a manual press, you would be doing everything by hand. This means more physical labor, longer production times, and increased possibility for unclean prints.
- Automatic Press
An automatic press for screen printing is great for large volume orders, steady business and more detailed designs. The reduction in physical labor can speed up production times from days to hours. If you’ve already made a name for yourself, this could be a better option for you. However, automatic presses require more space, special electrical equipment and have more upfront costs.
- Direct-to-Garment Printer
Unlike traditional printing methods, a direct-to-garment (DTG) printer is a digital printing technique. The DTG method uses a custom inkjet printer to apply water-based inks directly to the substrate, after which the garment’s fibers absorb the ink. This printer is ideal for small batch orders, and vibrant, highly-detailed designs. It also takes up minimal space and has lower upfront costs.
Note: This is only concerning popular printer/press purchasing decisions, and does not include an exhaustive list of what you’ll need to run your shop.
There Will Be A Learning Curve
One of the biggest mistakes any new printer can make is underestimating the amount of knowledge and skill required to run a custom apparel business. Learning the ins and outs of the industry simply cannot be done overnight—there will be a learning curve. You’ll need to be extremely dedicated, passionate and patient.
A few things you should be prepared to learn are:
- The difference in fabrics and how that determines what printing method you should use
- The different inks available and the various outcomes they produce
- The right mesh size for the artwork
- How to burn a screen for print
- How to price your business for profit
These are just a few of the many important things you’ll need to consider before launching into the industry. With a small investment, unwavering motivation, and a creative mind you can launch your own successful custom apparel business!
What printing equipment are you leaning toward for your business? Let us know in the comments!
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