During and after the coronavirus pandemic, many screen-printing shops found success by developing a local “Here for Good” campaign to help surrounding businesses in their community stay afloat during these difficult times.
In Rockford, Illinois, Jarrod Hennis developed a “Here for Good” campaign and assisted businesses in his area to raise money by selling t-shirts. Each shirt sold helped that local business, but also kept Jarrod’s shop, the Rockford Art Deli in business as well.
On this edition of Success Stories, we’re going to discuss the Rockford Art Deli’s “Here for Good” campaign and learn how it worked, what Jarrod learned, and how this idea is laying a solid foundation for a successful future in his community of Rockford, Illinois.
Across the country, businesses small and large have had to figure out how to operate, while keeping employees and customers safe. Like many shops, during the pandemic’s early days, AZ-based decorator, Print & Stitch, closed for several weeks. When it reopened, the management team introduced a lot of new safety procedures for staffers and customers. “Now our employees work staggered shifts,”says project manager, Hilary Gardner. “Plus, our techs clean their equipment and work areas at the beginning and end of every shift.”
In this new normal, Print & Stitch also requires every employee to take their temperature before clocking into work. “And, it’s mandatory to wear a mask at all times in the building,” Gardner says.
Making customers feel at ease is also important, which is why back in March, Howard Potter, CEO of Master Your Image in Utica, NY, took to social media to let his customers know how he prioritized their safety. “They had choices when placing or picking up an order,” he says. “They could order online, and then opt for in-person delivery, shipping or curbside pickup.”
Some people have even found that they’ve benefitted from these changes, in ways they wouldn’t have thought of before. In Ann Arbor, Jeanne Fitzsimons, owner of FitzStitch Embroidery & Monogramming, heavily steered her customers toward online ordering, which made client interactions and collecting payments much easier. “That’s been a bonus, since I never wonder when I’ll receive a payment,” she says. “I also do Zoom videos with customers. It’s been more productive and time-efficient.”
How’s your shop keeping employees and customers safe? Here are eight ways smart decorators have adjusted their operations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their shops.
1. Be open about COVID-19 with your staff.
At A&P Master Images, Potter was ready to answer his employees’ most pressing questions: Will there be work? How do we handle customer interactions? Do we need to wear masks?
Does it feel like, while decorated-apparel orders are still coming in (or are starting to pick back up), the order sizes have decreased? You’re not alone. Here’s a look at the range of experiences we’ve been hearing about from across the country:
Kris Howard, Urbandale, IA-based, KSH Design Studio: “Our volume has greatly decreased during the last three months, since our gym customers were closed. We also lost orders from canceled run/walk and car club events.”
Tammy LeMieux, Lake Stevens, WA-based, Ink It Your Way: “With our primary business of spring and summer youth sports coming to an abrupt halt, we started offering sublimated face covers and apparel to essential businesses. We also branched out to signage for reopening businesses. We actually flourished and hopefully will retain some great new customers.”
Alexa Cary, Frenchtown, NJ-based, In-House Prints: “Fortunately our business is booming! We have a lot of emergency service clients, so they’ve been keeping us busy. We also work with YouTubers who continue to push products online.”
Jennie Livezey, Shelbyville, IN-based, Z Shirts Custom Printing: “We came to a screeching halt with schools closing and spring sports being canceled. We’ve picked back up but aren’t back to full-time production yet.”
In order to help them avoid succumbing to the ups and downs of the market, some distributors have started upselling, cross-selling, bundling products and providing solutions vs. being just an order-taker. Using these strategies has helped them increase their order sizes and given their business new life, so let’s take a closer look at each.
Upselling Quality and Solutions
Upselling has been a sales mainstay of merchants for decades, but with the downturn in the economy, it’s more important than ever. For example, you might regularly sell employee work shirts to your customers. It makes sense to present three options: a $5 “good” shirt, a better-quality shirt for $10, and a “best” item for $15. When the customer calls in, they may want to order 100 shirts at the lowest possible price. This would be a $500 order for you. But, if you upsell correctly, even just to the “better” garment, you’ve doubled your order total.
A lot of revenue streams have dried up due to the COVID-19, and as a result, many businesses have been forced to pivot into a new direction.
Danny Rosin and Robert Fiveash, of Brand Fuel, have been leading a free-spirited brand merchandising agency for over 20 years, delivering experiences, eCommerce, inspiration, and top notch results for their customers. Find out how they’ve been able to use that experience to find success, with new opportunities opening up in today’s markets.
Yes, decorated-apparel shops are dropping prices to win post-pandemic work. Lucas Guariglia, CEO and co-founder of Chicago-based Rowboat Creative, has definitely noticed, and doesn’t think it’s a good idea. “While shops are using this as a survival tactic to get back above water, it’s setting the tone for us to be taken advantage of due to low pricing,” he says.
When you’re simply trying to survive the pandemic, it’s easy to justify taking orders without thinking enough about profit margin, fit for your equipment, or alignment with your goals. Even before the virus, pricing was an issue, leaving decorators trying to find the “magic number” to appeal to customers, while still netting a profit.
“The decorators who’ll enjoy long-term success are those who’ve pursued new products and different imprinting methods to serve their customers’ changed needs, while reducing costs and maintaining a profitable position,” says Erich Campbell, program manager for the Commercial Division at BriTon Leap. “Rather than shift to a lower-margin pricing scheme, many retooled their equipment and processes to decorate new products and to serve markets that haven’t been as adversely affected.”
The Impact of ‘Low-Price Shoppers’ During COVID-19
In two months, the United States lost over 36 million jobs. This translates into much smaller budgets for buyers, especially on the marketing side. Because of this, many decorators are steering away from raising prices, even with increases in production costs and materials. “Ultimately, you get what you pay for,” Guariglia says. “We’ll always stand firm on wanting to provide superior products with superior service.”
The year of 2020 has definitely been a challenging one on many fronts. But, one thing that’s really stood out, especially since COVID-19 reared its ugly head earlier this year, is how art and creativity have helped carry us through it all. It’s helped us raise money for those in need, keep local businesses afloat, spread powerful messages, celebrate graduations in unique ways, and given us much needed distractions from the seriousness of the times.
Streetwear and decorated apparel, in general, has absolutely been a huge source of this creativity and support. Many in the streetwear community are among those, who, even while struggling, have used their popularity and creativity to put a smile on people’s faces, while trying to stay in business at the same time.
The Social Distancing Club
Take, for example, a new streetwear company “The Social Distancing Club,” out of Los Angeles, CA. They spawned from a desire to turn social distancing into something that felt cool and positive vs something negative, in an effort to encourage people to do it. The two founders also started the line out as a way to help the World Central Kitchen, a group working across the country on safely distributing individually packaged fresh meals to communities in need. For every piece of apparel (which consists of t-shirts, crop tops, hoodies and of course, face masks) that is sold, five dollars will go to the WCK.
As distributors and decorators begin to see “stay-at-home” restrictions slowly being lifted across the country, people are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But, the question of what business will look like, even after restrictions are lifted, still looms large.
Because there’s lots of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its lasting effect on our society, we may see businesses and the general public continue to take precautionary measures for the foreseeable future.
As a result, our society may start to think differently about how we interact and do business with each other on a daily basis. That kind of change, can often open up new markets of opportunity, and decorated face masks are becoming just that.
As small businesses across the country have been scrambling to figure out how to cope with the sudden impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our economy, decorators have turned into a lifeline for many of them. Thinking outside-of-the-box is exactly what will help us all get through a tough time like this, and decorators have been extremely active in helping to find new ways we can all support businesses, families and schools in our local communities.
Marshall Atkinson and Tom Rauen, industry gurus and founders of the Shirt Lab workshops, are masters at thinking outside-of-the-box. In the video below, they’ll share what some of these decorators have been doing to keep themselves afloat, and also touch on their own creative ideas, which you could use to continue generating business now and in the future. Watch the video below to hear what they had to say.
When we all put our heads together, problems get solved, new relationships form and new opportunities present themselves to us. Marshall and Tom, know how important it is to collaborate and share knowledge, so they’ve rounded up an incredible group of OVER 30 successful industry experts to bring you the Shirt Lab Summit.
Taking place on June 1st, 2nd and 3rd, the Shirt Lab Summit is a series of webinars, which will help you take your business to the next level, and REGISTRATION IS FREE!
Click below for more information on the speakers and to register for access.
Lots of decorators (including you) wrestle with the big questions: how and when to diversify. You risk sinking your shop’s profitability when you jump in at the wrong time. Don’t worry—we asked industry experts to weigh in on how to expand your offerings smartly and strategically.
There are lots of great reasons to diversify. “You separate yourself from your competitors,” says Marian Hinebauch, owner of Las Vegas-based Logo Droppers. “You give them more options. You become a consultant, as you bring new ideas to your customers’ attention.”
During the COVID-19 lockdown though, diversification’s more complicated. “There’s no crystal ball for what our new normal is—people are in survival mode,” says Marshall Atkinson, a decorated-apparel success coach, who also offers hands-on training via his Shirt Lab events. “Wayne Gretsky said, ‘You skate to where the puck is going to be.’ You diversify successfully if you see where the puck’s headed.” Right now, for example, if you’re a screen printer, diversification might mean heat-pressing masks.
Streetwear has gone in many different directions that have, at times, seemed a little overboard. With companies like Supreme going as far as putting their logo on an Oreo cookie, there seems to be no limit on what a streetwear company may do next.
Enter face masks. Although wearing them has been fairly common in a few countries, here in the states, fashionable masks are generally an unnecessary luxury that just seemed like another over-the-top reach for more sales.
However, times have changed and masks have suddenly become one of the hottest pieces of streetwear on the market. How hot are they?