Does your decorating shop stand out from competitors? Really think about it—there are thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of screen printers and embroiderers, many offering the same blanks and services as you. Don’t worry, we’ve got a smart way to separate yourself from the pack: Become a rockstar decorator, within your special niche.
While this isn’t something you can do overnight, when you position your shop as a “go-to decorator” for something specific, you’ll score repeat customers and watch your profits rise.
We talked to three successful decorators who’ve established themselves as experts in lucrative niches. (And, we’ve got insider secrets to fast-track your success!)
The Bling Brigade
Husband-and-wife team Andrew Sequeira and Lee Romano Sequeira call their business a “big, sparkly niche.” For two decades, the Sparkle-Plenty.com co-owners have focused on offering custom rhinestone, stud and crystal transfers. “We use Swarovski crystal, the ‘Waterford’ of sparkle,” Andrew says. “It’s a decorating niche, since most shops focus on embroidery and ink. We offer something different for a specific market: women.”
How do you tie creative art development into more sales?
On this edition of the Success Stories podcast, we’ll dig into that by discussing how Jeremy Picker and his team of creative professionals have found success by going the extra mile when developing ideas for their clients.
We’ll also touch on AMB3R Creative’s approach to developing impactful designs, that’ll get end users choosing to wear their clients’ promotional apparel over and over again.
AMB3R is a Colorado-based apparel design firm that brings fashion to people by creating products that people love. They serve non-profits, churches, restaurants, corporations, and other businesses with their team of talented designers and project managers that takes a kernel of an idea from start to finish.
We’ll learn how they use t-shirts for everything from an entire clothing line, to a merchandising campaign for promotional products.
With fall right around the corner, don’t miss out on a major merchandising opportunity—college team wear and Greek organization gear for the back-to-school and football crowd. Although, we’re still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a CNBC article, “The Chronicle of Higher Education has tracked over 1,000 colleges since April and has found that roughly 65% of schools are preparing for in-person classes this fall. That also means that all signs point to students still needing some gear to represent their schools, which may now also include PPE.
If you’re already in the business of selling decorated apparel, the process itself for getting a license may look murky. So, let’s talk about what licensing entails, how to go about it, and the pros and cons of selling licensed merch (with a little expert advice).
Companies, schools, teams and organizations all want to protect their market brand. For example, The Walt Disney Co. doesn’t want (or permit) unauthorized Mickey Mouse prints on T-shirts. That’s where licensing comes in.
To legally print a branded product such as a college logo or sorority letters, a printing company must be licensed by the copyright holder to print the artwork. When you apply for a license, the owner of the image (known as the licensor) gets a fee in advance for allowing you to use their images. Usually, this can be a flat fee or a percentage of income from the sales of these licensed products.
As part of this agreement, the printing company (known as the licensee) verifies quality control and the licensor approves the image usage. “If a sorority wants its letters on a crop top that advertises a year-end keg party, the licensor usually won’t approve it,” says Steve Farag, co-owner of Urbana, IL-based Campus Ink Printing. “Ultimately, a lot of the responsibility falls on you, the licensee, to ensure you’re protecting the licensor’s rights and reputation.”
The Process of Getting a License
Getting a license to sell logoed products for colleges, Greek organizations or sports teams isn’t something you can do in an afternoon. It’s a complex, multiple-step process that takes time. But, it can ultimately lead you to a great opportunity to make more sales.
While we all try to weather this storm that’s spread all across the globe, many businesses are trying to adapt to a new way of operating. For some employees and employers, this change has been extremely challenging, and this is where you come in. Although business has slowed for many distributors, and many companies have begun cutting back on their normal expenses to compensate for recent losses, there are still opportunities out there to generate some sales. But of all things, why would they buy any apparel from you, during a time like this?
Care Packages for Employees
Some of your regular clients might appreciate some ideas to help lift their employees spirits and make them feel more comfortable, as the workplace has started transitioning from the office to the home. Suggest that they send them some decorated loungewear, as a way to say thank you for keeping their heads up during these trying times. And, let’s be honest. Who doesn’t love a comfortable new set of jammies?
To help you get started with marketing some pieces, we’ve included a flyer for you to download below. Send this out to some of your clients to get the conversations started.
Some of these clients might not be able to spend the extra money to give their employees this kind of gift. However, a lot of people right now are trying to find ways of supporting local business too. If you’re able, try meeting them halfway and offer them a discount on their order. This will not only show them that you’re invested in their business, but also offer them a way they can help you stay afloat too, during this tough economic time.
Promotional, branded apparel has seen a resurgence in pop-culture — with particular influence from the music industry — in recent years. Not only is it a great marketing tool to generate awareness and revenue for the talent, it’s an easy way for fans to feel connected to their favorite artists. While band (or artist) merchandise (merch) fell off a bit, during the early-to-mid 2000s, the trend has seen continual growth rate since 2016.
In case you haven’t noticed, funny tees have been extremely popular as of late, with no indication of slowing down. In fact, on Etsy alone, there are over 93,000 results for ‘funny graphic tee’. If you haven’t considered adding the style to your custom apparel offerings, now is definitely the time.
Now, we know what you’re thinking—what exactly makes something funny?Is there a formula you can easily recreate for your own tees?
As it turns out, scientists and philosophers have been pondering several theories behind humor for hundreds of years. While it may not be an exact formula, understanding why people think situations are funny can inspire ideas for your creative new apparel.
To help provide some direction, we narrowed it down to the top three comedy theories. Let’s take a look!
If you’re wondering what halftone printing is though, here is a brief summary. This method is a one-color process that uses a series of dots varying in size or spacing, which combines together to form a gradient of that color. Those gradients then help to form the final image.
The number of halftone dots in the print is measured in LPI ( Lines Per Inch ), which is the number of dots per linear inch. The amount of detail and smoothness of your print will be determined a lot by the LPI.
In the video above, Geno will show you the difference in the results when printing using 35 LPI vs 55 LPI. He’ll also touch on the importance of screen tension, and using the right mesh to get the best results.
Do you want to sell more fashion tees, but haven’t had much success getting the right printing results when using them? Are you defaulting to selling basic cotton tees as a result? The problem could be that you’re working against your garment, and not with it. Times have changed and the “one style fits all” approach to screen printing just doesn’t cut it anymore. What works on basic 6.0 oz./ 100% cotton tees doesn’t necessarily work on lightweight fashion fabrics like 3.7 oz triblends or 4.2 oz 100% ringspun cotton. So what’s the difference?
Basic T-shirt Printing vs Fashion T-shirt Printing
Think of the 6.0 oz basic shirt as a really thick paper towel. Because of it’s heavier weight and rough surface, it can absorb a thicker layer of ink. On the other end of spectrum, the 3.7 oz triblend shirt is like a thin tissue that can’t absorb the same amount of ink.
When printing on a 6.0 oz shirt, a coarse mesh like 110 is used to lay down a thick opaque layer of ink. If we looked through a loop and magnified the surface of a basic 6.0 oz cotton tee, the cotton fibers have a rough texture that looks like a bale of hay (see the “Carded Open End Cotton” image on the left). Because of this, it’ll require a thicker layer of ink deposited onto it for you to get a fully opaque print. Otherwise, much of the ink will fall in between the fibers, since there isn’t a smooth, tightly knitted surface for it to be evenly distributed on.
Using this same thick stencil technique wouldn’t be as effective on a 30 singlescombed ringspun cotton shirt, though. Why? The tighter weave(see the “100% Combed & Ringspun” image on the right) allows the ink to easily sit on top of the fabric and be evenly distributed across the surface of the shirt. A thick layer of ink on top of a shirt like this will feel heavy and rough. The ink will rise off of it and defeat the whole purpose of using a softer fabric in the first place.
Why pay extra money for a soft fashion tee if you’re going to apply a thick, sandpaper-like design on it, taking away from its softness? It’s like putting cloth seats in an expensive luxury car. It just doesn’t match the product. Offer your clients decoration techniques that best compliment the garment.
The Right Tee For The Right Job
When your customer wants an opaque bold logo on a fashion tee, go with a 100% cotton ringspun tee. If they’re looking for a vintage look, with distressed artwork or logos, use blended heathered or blended solid tees. These work best because the texture of these fabrics can be blended into the artwork, helping to emphasize that vintage style.
Below is a list of inks, along with how and when the best time to use them is:
For Printing On 100% Combed Ringspun Cotton Fashion Tees:
Regular Plastisol Ink – When using this kind of ink, simply use a higher mesh count like 156 or 195 and add reducer to it, so it’ll to thin out a bit. (Keep in mind once you go over 10%, it will start to affect your ink color)
Plastisol Discharge Ink – Great technique for achieving bright whites that have very little hand, but can be a little chalky when it dries, compared to water-based discharge ink.
Water Based Ink – Good for creating a tone-on-tone print, when using light colored tees and it also has the softest hand of any print technique.
Water Based Discharge Ink – The discharge agent bleaches the dye of the cotton and replaces it with the pigment of the ink. This provides a much softer hand then a traditional plastisol under base on dark garments. Discharge agent only works on cotton though, so the garment will need to be 100% cotton for a fully opaque print.
For Printing On Fashion Tees w/ Blended Heathers or Blended Solid Fabric:
Water-Based Ink – Works well on lighter colors for a washed-out tone-on-tone look. The ink blends in with the heathered coloring of the fabric, which makes it feel like part of the shirt.
Fashion Based Ink – Best way to achieve the same super-soft hand as water-based ink does, but still gives you the ability to use plastisol ink and avoid using water based ink, if you’re not comfortable working with it.
Water-Based Discharge Ink – Great for tri–blends that contain cotton/poly/rayon only. The pigment in the cotton will be affected by the discharge, which produces a very vintage “washed out” look.
Jason is an Account Executive at S&S and has over 20 years of experience in the decorated apparel industry. These days he really enjoys using the knowledge he's gained throughout the years to help other industry professionals succeed.
Whether you design your own graphics for your apparel business or work with a graphic designer, it’s important to stay on top of the trends to make sure your garments remain relevant and are meeting a market need.
Here’s a closer look at seven major graphic design trends for 2019 to help your ideation process:
Wearing a cape can give you superpowers, but upselling with them can give you SUPER PROFITS! Imagine a client from a local school approaches you to print a bunch of tees for an upcoming event, and you have a Rabbit Skins Cape handy to show them. But, this is no ordinary cape. Its got a printed design on it using glow-in-the-dark ink! They see it glowing and instantly think, “WOW, this would be perfect to give our graduating kindergartners!” Now, you’ve turned that ONE job into TWO jobs from the same client.
When the right opportunity presents itself, these capes are the perfect way to increase your sales, and people will remember that you’re the one to go to, when they’re looking for cool ideas.