That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

Not one of the shameful sweatshops churning out cheap Tees.

Not one of the shameful sweatshops churning out cheap Tees.

This week’s quote is actually more of a shirt design idea for appealing to the growing movement against fast fashion. Combined with an image of the appalling working conditions in some Bangladesh sewing factories it could be quite an impactful message.

“It is shameful that people buy these clothes at extremely cheap prices, without asking about their origins.”

– Suzy Menkes, Vogue international editor.

If you’re going to do this, I’d suggest getting permission from Ms. Mendes to quote her. I’d also suggest printing it on a locally-sourced garment, of course.

 

That’s so good it should be on a t-shirt . . .

That should be on here.

That should be on here.

Your weekly quote:

“I always arrive late at the office, but I make up for it by leaving early.”

– Charles Lamb

 

Managing your online marketing strategy

Wow! Nothing new for months. Wonder what's going on there?

Wow! Nothing new for months. Wonder what’s going on there?

Lets assume that your carefully-researched online marketing strategy includes a web site, a blog, and a few social media networks. Maintaining this  involves dedication. You knew it when you set it up but you were prepared to put in the time yourself or assign the responsibility to an employee.

At first it went well. Everything was kept current with web site updates, regular posts on the blog, and regular entries on your social network. Then things started slipping. The web sites updates stopped, blog entries were made less frequently, and even the social media posts ceased. Perhaps you became very busy with the day-to-day management of the business, the assigned employee resigned, or you ran out of fresh material—whatever the reason, your online presence began to look neglected.

Customers and others who had become reliant on finding something new on your various platforms now noticed the neglect. They began to wonder if there was something wrong with the business. People logging on for the first time noticed that entries were infrequent and that the last one was some time ago. It created a bad impression in the same way as a store window still with last season’s clothes on the mannequins.

This might not be true of your online strategy but I’ll bet you recognize this from web sites, blogs and social media networks you’ve visited.

People want to give their business to those keen to have it—keen enough to project a dynamic, energetic attitude.

An outdated online presence does not project a dynamic, energetic attitude. It projects indifference. Customers don’t like indifference.

The moral of the story is that it’s best to not have an online presence if it’s not going to be kept current. Not having an online presence will not enhance the impression of your screen shop but hopefully it won’t create a negative impression, as a neglected presence is bound to do.

The solution? Maintain a current online presence, even if its just a limited presence.

An online marketing strategy

In love with your online marketing strategy.

In love with your online marketing strategy.

Some time ago I posted an article about B.J. Mendelson’s book Social Media is Bullshit in which he contends that while social media might be fine for personal use, it has no benefit for businesses.

Subsequent to that I’ve posted articles suggesting how social media can be used to boost your business, particularly in the case of textile shops with their own T-shirt line (see post on this blog on April 5th, 2016).

So who do you believe, B.J. Mendelson or those who argue that social media does indeed have a role to play in promoting business? Well, I recently met with a social media expert as part of my the research for my small business book. What he had to say made sense to me, it might make sense to you too.

Carsen Kendal, is a social media marketing specialist with Vovia Online Marketing, an international online marketing consultancy firm headquartered in Calgary. He points out that about five years ago B.J. Mendelson might have had a point, but much has changed since his book was published in 2012.  Carsen says that businesses need an a well-considered online marketing strategy. For many businesses this might include a web site, a blog and one or more social media networks such Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or one of the other 211 listed by Wikipedia (excluding dating networks).

Carsen cautions though that it’s good practice to work with a limited number of well-chosen social media networks and do them well, rather than many, and do them poorly. How you choose the social media networks will depend upon your target audience. Researching the reach of each, the demographic it’s popular with, and getting some professional assistance will help you narrow down the options.

Next post . . .  managing your social media strategy.

 

 

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

None of your business why I'm crossing the road!

None of your business why I’m crossing the road!

Your weekly quote:

“I dream of a tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives.”

– Anon

Summer camp . . . a business opportunity?

Camps provide opportunities for textile screen printers.

Camps provide opportunities for textile screen printers.

If the demand for Wilflex custom colours is anything to go by, then  the busy season is underway in the Canadian textile screen printing industry. Add to that the conclusions of the Stitches’ State of the Industry Survey, and 2016 should be the best year of the last eight for T-shirt printers.

But even so, contract textile screen printers know they’re in a competitive market and can’t sit around and wait for new business to find its way to them. They have to go out and find it or even create it. A recent article for InkSoft by Kevin Majka suggests that one good option for expanding your business is summer camps. Majka, a former Boy Scout knows a thing or two about camps. He says: “Too many print shops undervalue and grossly underestimate the selling opportunities available from summer camps and their participants. Getting into this space is profitable, fun and a great way to diversify your business.”

Its not too late for this summer. Majka says that some of the larger camp organizations will quite often start planning eleven months in advance but that there are still opportunities up to a month before camp starts.

Finding the camp organizations and then calling up and asking whoever answers the phone if they need T-shirts, isn’t going to get you anywhere. You need to research the organization and the type of camps they run. Then, with a view to supplying the Tees and other products you may have, try to find out if there are suggestions you can make for improving the camp experience for the participants. A lot of people who order Tees don’t know about special effects, soft hand, athletic wear, nylon printing and all the other neat stuff screen printing can accomplish.

Here’s one more idea . . . if you don’t have someone to dedicate to investigating the whole summer camp scene, perhaps a summer student can be hired for the job. Make it their job for a few months to get you into the business of supplying summer camps. If you can find someone with summer camp experience, even better. They could identify the target market and put together an irresistible package for camp organizers. Do it well and you could become the go-to printer for summer camp organizers.

 

 

The most sustainable Tee in the world?

The apparel industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Time to begin the cleanup.

The apparel industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Time to begin the cleanup.

Ecouterre, the online advocate of sustainable fashion, has just reported on what is known as the Clean Tee.  A California company, Nomadix, claims that their Clean Tee is made of the lowest-impact yarn in the world.

The yarn is made of used clothing and offcuts. The cotton undergoes a colour-matching process that creates blends without the need for water or additional dyes. This is of course a critical point because, as has been mentioned before on this blog site, a single Tee takes about 2,700 liters of water to produce. Nomadix claims that by the time the Clean Tee has been produced, the process has consumed only 30 liters.

The recycled cotton fibers are mixed with recycled polyester (derived from plastic bottles) and spun into a soft yarn. The yarn is then woven into fabric.

Nomadix currently has a Kickstarter crowd-funding program that includes a video explanation of the manufacturing process. You can see it by clicking here.

If this Tee hits the market in a big way, the question for textile screen printers will become one of which ink to use. But no worries—Stanley’s will have you covered. Until then it’s going to be interesting to see if this innovation succeeds.

That’s so good it’s on a T-shirt . . .

playful funny kitten looking up. isolated on white backgroundYour weekly quote:

“My wife wanted a cat. I didn’t want a cat. So we compromised and got a cat.”

– seen on a T-shirt.

Discouraging news for advocates of local manufacturing.

Textiles and printing will keep coming from offshore.

Textiles and printing will keep coming from offshore.

There’s no reason to suppose that Canadian consumers are very much different from American consumers in their buying habits and preferences in clothing. Consider the cross-border buying trips and the fact that most clothing chains operate both sides of the border. That’s why a recent survey conducted in the U.S. should be of concern to advocates of  local textile manufacturing and screen printing in Canada.

An Associated Press-GfK poll revealed that an overwhelming majority of consumers chose price over “Manufactured in the U.S.A.” It seems that 67 percent of Americans put price before patriotism. When asked which they’d buy, a $50 pair of pants made offshore or the same pants for $85 made locally, the 67 percent chose the cheaper offshore pants. And the result remained consistent over all income levels.

If there’s a message in this for Canadian textile screen printers it’s probably that the status quo isn’t going to change anytime soon. Customers of the big retailers will continue to demand cheap clothing, which means that the manufacturing and decorating will remain offshore unless and until something causes a shift in the consumer’s priorities.

Do you care who represents your textile screen shop?

Who's the face of your business?

Who’s the face of your business?

If you’re fussy about the image your screen shop projects, there may be one aspect you’ve overlooked—you won’t be the first.

Unless your customers all pick up their product or you deliver some of it with your own delivery vehicle, you probably use a local courier company. Any image-conscious screen shop owner doing his or her own deliveries will ensure that the company vehicle is clean, the person driving it is dressed appropriately, the parcels are handled with care, and that whoever is receiving the delivery is treated courteously. It only makes business sense, right?

But will a courier company employee represent your business as well as your employee would? Remember that if you or an employee are not personally making the delivery, the courier is the face of your business and, by their appearance and behaviour, can affect whether or not the customer does business with you again.

I once received a call from a customer that went something like this: “Why would you risk our relationship by having your stuff delivered by a rude, don’t-give-a-damn guy in a filthy T-shirt and jeans who hasn’t showered for a week and looks like he’s been dragged through a bush backwards?” I had no idea this was happening and had to quickly do something about it.

How well does your local courier represent your company? Maybe you should check.

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.”

– Oscar Wilde

 

Keep your shop’s online presence current or can it.

An outdated online presence is about as impressive as an abandoned car.

An outdated online presence is about as impressive as an abandoned car.

Have you had this experience? . . .

You’re invited to connect with someone on LinkedIn and before accepting the invitation for this person you might not know, you check them out online. Or you may be checking them and their business out online because you are considering doing business with them. Whatever the reason for checking, you’re likely to take a look at their web site, blog and perhaps social media pages like Facebook and Twitter.

What you’re looking for are assurances that this person is legitimate, presents a professional image, and is serious about his or her business—in short, someone with whom you’d be comfortable doing business or associating professionally.

Then you find that while they have a web site, blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed, none of it is up to date. The last entries are months old. What sort of impression does that leave you with? Exactly!

So here’s the message . . . Keep your online presence current with good material to at least demonstrate that you’re serious about your business. That you’re dynamic. An out-of-date online presence is about as reassuring as a dirty, abandoned car on your driveway with flat tires. It’s not a pretty site and doesn’t flatter the owner. It’s better to not have it there at all.

A T-shirt lesson from an airport napkin.

There's something about airports and creativity.

There’s something about airports and creativity.

There’s something magic about the atmosphere in airports, particularly the bigger, busy terminals. It’s an atmosphere charged with sites and sounds not found anywhere else.

There are the glitzy stores full of gadgets and other over-priced stuff you don’t need, the animated chatter of holiday makers heading out, suits dashing back and forth trying to make connections with minutes to spare, the barrage of flight announcements and warnings to not leave your hand luggage unattended, and the hubbub of crowded restaurants and bars.

Heathrow’s terminal 5 is such a place. I recently had to spend about eight hours there waiting for a connection. Most of the time was spent at a food court table watching the madness swirling about, reading, and making notes. Perhaps we need to seek out more places like this (without the cost of a flight) to stimulate creativity—places with a different atmosphere where you can relax and let your mind wander.

But back to Heathrow for now. Combine the time spent at the airport with interesting stuff you see because you have time to really notice, and creativity kicks in. For example, there was this printed napkin that accompanied the food from one of the busiest take-out restaurants. Some clever marketer probably realized that people like me killing time will likely read the message on a napkin.

So the napkin’s message had this heading: “NOTHING TO DECLARE”. Clever, if you think about it. The message followed: “Weird chemicals, clever marketing and fancy packaging blur the lines between food that looks good and food that really is. Other than basic washing and preparation, we don’t interfere with nature. We avoid obscure additives, artificial additives, artificial colours, and preservatives—we simply make good, honest food, with nothing to hide.”

So what has this to do with T-shirts? Well, if you plan to respond to the growing sustainability trend and differentiate your shop from the competition, this napkin has a message you can adopt and adapt. All it needs is some creative thought.

 

 

That’s so good it’s on a t-shirt . . .

Lazy woman sitting stretched out in an armchair with popcorn andYour weekly quote:

I’m not lazy, I’m a “selective participant”

– recently seen on a T-shirt

 

Help your customers help you.

Your customer will love you for the great T-shirt promotional ideas.

Your customer will love you for the great T-shirt promotional ideas.

It’s not easy generating business in the contract T-shirt printing business. Most contract printers set up shop, build a reputation, perhaps do a bit of paid advertising, rely on free word-of-mouth advertising, and treat customers really well hoping for repeat business.

But why stop there? Why sit and wait for your contract customers to think up reasons to order Tees from you? Why not give your customers reasons to bring you more work? What if helping them promote their businesses helped promote yours? Wouldn’t that make sense? It’s well known that repeat business is the easiest and least expensive business to find, why not find a way to actively do that?

If your customer is handing out promotional T-shirts to all and sundry, you may want to point out that while that is getting the shirts out on the street, are they reaching the demographic they want to target or are the shirts ending up with people who are unlikely to ever buy anything? You want to raise this because if he or she sees no results from the T-shirt promotion, you’re not going to get any more orders.

If you help them with suggestions to better target their T-shirt promotions and they see results, you’ll be getting more orders.

One way to go about this is to prepare a flyer or pamphlet that explains various creative ways of properly targeting promotional Tees. With a bit of research you should be able to create a pamphlet that will stimulate the customer’s imagination, encourage them to run successful T-shirt promotions, and generate contract printing orders for your shop.

Here are a few ideas to get you working on your pamphlet . . . tell them about on-location contests, social media contests, rewarding brand loyalty, and even T-shirt cannons at events. People love T-shirt cannons. I’ve seen a great picture of even Paul McCartney excited after catching a T-shirt from a cannon.

Help your customers by making Tees an integral part of their successful marketing campaigns and they’ll help you by placing repeat orders for those shirts.

Social media and your T-shirt line.

Another customer finding you on social media.

Another customer finding you on social media.

You need to consider marketing your own line via social media or, if you don’t have your own clothing line, consider advising your customers to market via social media. So urges an article by the Printful marketing team in a March 18th article.

Below are some key points made by the authors; I think you should consider them:

  1. A social media strategy is now fundamental to the growth and success of almost any new or existing business.
  2. The good news about an item of clothing (say, a T-shirt) is that it’s a colourful, visual item  perfectly suited to social media where images, pictures and videos are shared.
  3. Social media appeals to the same demographic that’s interested in fashion.
  4. With social media you can quickly reach billions of people all over the world.
  5. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube are still the most widely-used social networks but it won’t necessarily stay that way.
  6. Pinterest (100 million active monthly users), Vine (200 million active monthly users) and Snapchat (100 million daily users) are good marketing resources and are growing.

Do you need more persuading? Look up the article.

I’m sure you don’t need reminding that you’re in a very competitive marketplace. Anything that can give you an edge over the competition or perhaps a new business model that provides better margins (particularly if you’re in the insane 35-cents-per-print Toronto market), should be explored. And if you don’t have your own line, don’t wish to have your own line, but want to do your contract customers a favour, pass on this information. It’s just smart business.

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote seen on a plaque in Calgary:

“Trust me, you can dance.”

– Vodka.

 

 

Industry transparency trend gaining momentum.

A must-visit site.

A must-visit site.

I don’t believe that textile screen printers can afford to ignore the groundswell movement of sustainability and transparency in the fashion industry for much longer.

Perhaps you don’t believe it is likely to have any direct impact on T-shirts in general and your textile screen shop in particular in the foreseeable future. If that’s the case, let me tell you about an organization that is just one among a number actively working on changing the fashion industry.

Natalie Grillon and Shahd AlSheheil are co-founders of Project Just. Their mission is to: ” . . . transform the fashion industry into a transparent, accountable and sustainable system that celebrates the stories, the people and the resources behind the clothing.” In other words, they want everyone in the clothing industry, the brands, reporters, makers (textile screen shops included), and shoppers to be able to trace garments and establish their impact on the environment and the people involved in their production.

The key is much-needed information and transparency in what has traditionally been a secretive industry concealing all kinds of appalling practices from consumers. As they point out: “With no information, consumers continue to buy fast fashion; incentives stay misaligned; more fast fashion is made; abuses continue. Informed and empowered consumers have the power to transform the fashion industry to an ethical and sustainable one with each purchase.”

The Project Just web site is worth a visit (www.projectjust.com). The way they provide information on the major clothing brands underscores the fact that the veil is being lifted on the secretive fashion industry. Click on “Brands” on the menu bar to explore the information available on the various fashion brands.

What should be of concern to you as a textile screen shop owner or employee, is that as transparency begins to gain traction in the fashion industry it will inevitably affect the most common of clothing items, your bread and butter, the T-shirt.

The writing is on the wall and it says: “Take note of the changes coming to the fashion industry and figure out how you can get ahead of the game and profit from it.”

Encouraging commentary on the future of screen printing.

Still reliable 4,000-year-old technology not going away anytime soon.

Still reliable 4,000-year-old technology not going away anytime soon.

If, amid all the talk about digital printing, you’ve been wondering about the future of screen printing as a technology, an article by Peter Kiddell posted on the FESPA web site on 12th March, is well worth the read.

Although he deals with screen printing generally and not specifically with textile screen printing, the general theme of the article has a bearing on textile screen printing.

Kiddell points out that statements like: “It (screen printing) is old fashioned, dirty, smelly, unreliable, a craft, and it takes twenty years to become an ink-covered expert” are as silly as statements that digital printing will take over from every other printing process.

This will sound familiar to textile screen printers who have been told for about a decade now that direct-to-garment digital printing is a threat to textile screen printing. Well, “fluffy” substrates not ideally suited to D2G printing, the production-unfriendly slowness of D2G, and the high volume and low-cost capabilities of textile screen printing have so far limited D2G to small runs and sample printing applications. It’s difficult to see this changing in the foreseeable future.

Kiddell includes an eye-opening list of 26 technologies that would not have been possible without screen printing, some of them textile applications. In fact, he specifically mentions a recent innovative textile screen printing application produced by the Department of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton—a screen-printed digital watch on fabric.

The article concludes by assuring that screen printing will continue to expand its applications. Kiddell writes: “The only limitation on the continued growth of screen printing is the imagination of young people, who are the engineers and scientists of the future. I think screen printing is in safe hands.”

That’s so good, it’s already on a sweatshirt . . .

Your weekly quote:

Tired T-shirtShouldn’t we all have one of these?

The image appeared on a Facebook page. The original source is unknown.

Letting customers go and wise Julia Roberts.

Okay, so I'm not Julia Roberts, but I'm still wise.

Okay, so I’m not Julia Roberts, but I’m still wise.

Do you remember when you started your screen shop how you embraced any potential customer who came through the door? Do you remember how all anyone needed to qualify as a customer was a pulse? I remember it well.

I also remember gradually smartening up and realizing that it took much more than just a pulse to make a good customer and how losing some customers, though worrying at first, was often a blessing in disguise. Eventually, years later when I’d really smartened up (let’s hope you’re a faster learner than I am), I actually “fired” customers who fell foul of the 80/20 rule which holds that 20 percent of your customers account for 80 percent of your sales. The remaining 80 percent of the customers only account for 20 percent of your sales (and usually 80 percent of your headaches).

I recently saw a quote from Julia Roberts (who knew?) that could be interpreted as great business advice: “When people walk away from you, let them go. Your destiny is never tied to anyone who leaves you, and it doesn’t mean they are bad people. It just means that their part in your story is over.”

In a business context, specifically in the case of your textile screen printing shop, Ms. Robert’s wisdom could be directly applicable to customers.

Can an “inappropriate” Tee damage your business?

You can't print that on a T-shirt!

You can’t print that on a T-shirt!

As we all know, it’s not difficult to offend some people (even unintentionally)—it’s just part of existing in a society. In most cases it blows over quickly and we all continue with the rest of our day. But sometimes it doesn’t blow over quickly, such as when a message on a T-shirt is deemed to be “inappropriate” by a large number of people.

The Spanish-based clothing retailer, Zara, has just withdrawn a Tee that annoyed enough people to produce a 53,000-signature petition demanding it’s withdrawal. The slogan on the tee was: “Are you gluten free?” The petition argued that coeliac was a disease, not a trend. Zara issued an apology regretting that the shirt might be interpreted as a trivialization of coeliac disease and saying that it was the absolute opposite of their intentions. That will probably be that and the matter will soon blow over without any damage to Zara who have weathered this type of storm before. But what if an independent textile screen shop with its own line put out an “offensive” Tee?

With slogan Tees trending at the moment there’s a risk for all textile screen printers that something you print on a T-shirt may cause offense. The question is, can an “inappropriate” print coming out of your shop cause your business damage? It’s not a simple matter—it’s one of those “depends” answers. It depends if you printed the offending Tee for a customer and they take all the heat for it or if it’s part of your own line and you take the heat for it. It depends how “inappropriate” the print is. It depends whether it might have internal consequences by offending the employees who have to produce the artwork and print the shirt regardless of whether it’s for a customer or part of your own line.

There are a lot of “depends” and a lot of watchful interest groups out there; it may pay to exercise caution over what you print and what can become associated with your print shop.

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote . . .

“Lead me not into temptation. Just tell me where it is and I’ll find it.”

  • – Anon.

Tri-blends – what you need to know before selecting an ink.

Nobody told me about special ink for tri-blend garments!

Nobody told me about special ink for tri-blend garments!

Wendy Wenzel, Stanley’s textile ink expert at the Calgary branch, has noticed an increase in inquiries about printing on tri-blend garments.

These are garments such as BELLA + CANVAS’s Triblend Tee supplied in Canada by Sanmar and made of a 50/25/25 blend of polyester, cotton and rayon.

The blend provides a soft feel for the consumer but a potential nightmare for the textile screen printer. First, the polyester content threatens to bleed and the rayon threatens to shrink in a hot dryer. All of this demands an ink that can block the polyester from bleeding but doesn’t need the curing temperature that would cause the rayon to shrink.

Wendy recommends Wilflex’s Performance series as the best option for tri-blend fabrics. Performance is a dye-block, low-cure ink. She says that Performance gives a softer hand than other dye-block options thus complimenting the soft feel of the fabric better than other plastisol inks. But as she always reminds people faced with tricky fabrics, “Test, test and test!”

For more information on printing on tri-blend fabrics or to discuss how you might get better results with Wilflex’s Performance series, give Wendy a call at 403 243 7722 or 1 800 661 1553.

 

Caps are not just the business of embroiderers – what about screen printed special effects?

Picture this guy with a three-dimensional image of his truck on his cap where an embroidered logo would usually be.

Picture this guy with a three-dimensional image of his truck on his cap where an embroidered logo would usually be.

Looking for a bit of variation from the usual T-shirt prints? Thought of caps? Think that’s just for embroiderers?

Imagine this for a moment . . . the local trucking company with an eye-catching three-dimensional truck image in their corporate colours on their caps. Of course it can be done! Listen, if a shirt with a three-dimensional print of the sole of a Nike runner once won a golden squeegee award at an SGIA show, why can’t you replicate such a design on a cap?

The technology and materials exist to do three-dimensional prints with high density inks and, while they may be a bit heavy and thus impractical on a T-shirt, done as a logo on a cap, they could be great. Think of the possibilities. Sports teams with three-dimensional logos of pucks, lacrosse sticks, hockey sticks, tennis rackets, footballs, or soccer balls—the possibilities are almost endless.

We’re not talking about huge, impractical prints but rather subtle high density prints giving a noticeable three-dimensional effect in a way that embroidery cannot do. Re-visit high density and other special effects printing with caps in mind and perhaps it could open up a whole new market for your textile shop.

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be on here.

That should be on here.

Your weekly quote:

“If at first you don’t succeed, find out if the loser gets anything.”

– William Lyon Phelps.

A story about Ron picking up tips on buying a new press.

 

That's how you buy a press . . .

That’s how you buy a press . . .

“Hi, I’m Ron. LA home for you?”

She turns to look at him. She’s not surprised at the overture. He’s been looking like he wanted to strike up a conversation ever since they boarded. Why can’t people on planes just mind their own damn business?

“No,” she says. “I’m actually going to Long Beach for a trade show.”

“Really?” says Ron, his face lighting up. “Me too!”

“The screen printing show?” she asks, knowing Long Beach is the venue for all sorts of trade shows.

“Yes,” he says. “I have to buy a press. I’m fairly new at this game and I’ve never been to a trade show. But I figured it would save me a lot of time and hassle if I could see and compare a few machines all in the same place at the same time.”

“Well, Ron, I’ve used all types of presses, some good and some not so good. Tell you what, you buy me a glass of wine and I’ll tell you what to look for in a press.”

“Deal!” says Ron as raises his hand to attract the attention of the flight attendant.

Ron twists the top off the little bottle of chenin blanc and pours it into the plastic glass for her.

“Thanks. First of all, no matter what the salesperson tells you, track down other users of the equipment and get their input. The atmosphere at shows can get the adrenalin pumping a bit, so you must keep a cool head. Don’t believe all their BS. Instead, do your own thing. Play with it, don’t just look at it. Spin it. Pivot the screens and check out all the moving parts. Everything should move smoothly, predictably and consistently. Push down on the platens, check for stability. You okay so far?”

“Yes,” says Ron, “keep going.”

“Make sure that the base can be levelled on the floor. Also check that it’s sturdy. Then you want to check how the print heads are attached to the central wheel. Check the weld joints or, if the heads are bolted, check the stability of the heads. Test the clamps. You must feel comfortable with the press as you handle it. Look for good overall engineering.”

By now Ron’s thinking that for the price of a small airline bottle of wine, he’s bought some pretty good advice.

But she’s not done yet. “Now Ron, here’s the most important part . . .  inquire about the manufacturer’s after-sales service. And again, don’t take the sales person’s word for it, ask for at least five customer names and check with them. It doesn’t matter how good the machine is, they all break down or need service sooner or later. If you can’t get service when you need it, when you have work backing up and can’t get the machine fixed, all the BS the salesperson told you at the show is not worth a damn.”

Ron starts fumbling around for his notebook and pen.

She reclines her seat, “Time for a nap.”

 

 

 

Equipment maintenance, some ideas.

If you don't want me calling around to hose down your textile screen shop, do your equipment maintenance and clean-up.

If you don’t want me calling around to hose down your textile screen shop, do your equipment maintenance and clean-up.

Graham at Stanley’s Calgary branch recently suggested that a good way to ensure at least an annual equipment maintenance inspection is to schedule it for the same time as the annual inventory count.

Not only does this take care of the question of scheduling the check, it also takes advantage of the fact that the equipment is usually down for the inventory count and doesn’t have to shut down on a second occasion for a maintenance inspection.

While scheduling equipment maintenance and clean-up might sound obvious to some printers, the sad fact is that many textile shops neglect it. Aside from the obvious financial consequences of improper or non-existent equipment maintenance, there is the safety issue.

Two examples of the consequences of neglected maintenance and clean-up always spring to mind. The first was a textile screen shop in Calgary where a spray can of pallet adhesive was knocked onto the dryer belt and exploded inside the dryer. Because of poor maintenance, the ventilation system was clogged with lint which caught alight and a major fire broke out.

The second example was a shop in Vancouver. The accumulated lint on and around a press caught alight and spread to the lint coating the steel pillars and beams supporting the roof. In both cases, fire trucks had to be called. These are classic example of how a short period of downtime for maintenance and clean-up could have prevented a long period of downtime for reconstruction and recovery.

If you don’t already schedule equipment inspections and clean-up, take Graham’s advice and tie it to the annual inventory count.

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

Your weekly quote:

Quote from Babylontoren gardenOnce in a while one comes across interesting or inspiring quotes in unusual places. This is one of those. The picture is of a plaque on a low vegetable bed wall on a farm in the Franschoek region near Cape Town, South Africa.

Should textile screen printers be paying attention to how the Millennials regard clothing?

There's a better use for unwanted clothing than this.

There’s a better use for unwanted clothing than this.

Some of the articles posted by Ecouterre, the site devoted to the impact of the fashion industry on the ecology, apply to more than just high-end fashion.

Textile screen printers looking for an edge in the crowded and competitive T-shirt market, should keep an eye on the elements that influence the textile and fashion markets. From this kind of awareness can flow ideas and concepts to give your business an advantage over less aware competitors.

For instance, Ecouterre is reporting that a professor in the department of textile and apparel management at the University of Missouri has been studying a 2012 survey of consumers in the United States. One of the findings was that younger adults between the ages of 18 and 34 (the Millennials) are more inclined than older adults to recycle clothing by donating cast-offs to second-hand stores and organizations like the Salvation Army. In spite of this though, it’s reported that in the same year of this encouraging finding, Americans still sent more than 14 million tons of textile waste to the landfill.

In addition to the foregoing bits of information, the article mentions: clothing-take-back programs offered by some major retailers; 40 percent of Americans throw out clothing; and nearly all textiles can be recycled or reused.

That’s all very interesting but of what relevance is it to my textiles screen shop?, you may be thinking to yourself.  Well, that’s up to you. The Millennials are probably a major part of your customer base. Knowing their habits and preferences should enable you to find ways to address their needs. They are ecologically aware, so this may be something to work with. They tend to recycle clothing, this is something else to work with. Giving them what they want—products and services that your competitors don’t give them—will surely give your screen shop an edge. All it requires is a bit of ingenuity.

Or you could ignore all this and hope your competitors don’t do anything about it either.