Direct to garment. Where’s it at now?

Direct to garment still not breaking any speed records

Direct to garment still not breaking any speed records

The reviews of direct-to-garment printers are still mixed. Today I heard about one textile printer who wishes he hadn’t bought his Epson and another who’s awaiting delivery of one.

Also today, I saw a magazine ad for a Mutoh ValueJet 405GT which, for a price tag of USD19,995.00 offered 5-colour prints, a wide print area, a small footprint, and a user-friendly Windows driver. Somewhere else on the page it talked about printing on whites and darks and claimed to be fast, simple, affordable, and easy to operate.

Fine, but how fast?, I wondered. Lack of speed has always been one of the knocks against direct-to-garment printers. I emailed Mutoh for details. An answer came in minutes – their customer service department appears to be on the ball. But, as I should have expected, it wasn’t a simple answer. Speed depends on (among other things): substrate colour; dpi of the artwork; type of curing method; dimensions of the print;  and necessity for pre-treatment of the garment.

Not counting loading and unloading time, just printing time once the garment is loaded, the speed apparently ranges from 8 garments to 40 garments an hour, depending upon the variables mentioned above.

So there you have it. Direct-to-garment printers in the $20,000.000 range are still not breaking any speed records. The question still seems to be one of whether you have the low-volume/high-price market to accommodate a direct-to-garment printer.

If you’re considering one of these machines, do what you should do with any other equipment purchase, crunch your numbers carefully and realistically and talk to owners, both happy and disgruntled, before reaching for your cheque book.



New insights into the sustainability dilemma.

How much longer can the abuse continue?

How much longer can the abuse continue?

A recent survey conducted by Verdict of London and reported by Ecouterre, suggests that consumers of fashion (and that includes Tees) still have a conscience versus cash dilemma when it comes to fashion sustainability.

It turns out that most consumers appreciate the story behind upcycling and fair trade but they aren’t necessarily willing to pay for it. There are also inconsistent attitudes evident in the answers accumulated by the survey. For instance, while 60 percent say a retailers sustainability credentials are important to their buying decisions, only 15 percent would boycott a retailer for “not being forthcoming about its policies.” Fully 20 percent say they would not pay extra for eco-friendly products.

These results are not going to make Greenpeace break out the champagne. But what does it mean for textile screen printers? I’m not sure it means much at this stage at all. If anything, it seems to mean business as usual for now.

I still believe that for individual textile screen printers the movement to sustainability in fashion, albeit a slow one, holds potential for getting ahead of the curve. Eventually the rest will have to catch up because the earth just cannot stand the current abuse for very much longer.

T-shirt sewn by a robot.

Welcoming robots to T-shirt manufacturing.

Welcoming robots to T-shirt manufacturing.

You can always rely on Ecouterre to unearth something interesting and informative about the fashion industry. And since textile screen printers are very much part of the fashion industry, it’s a good idea to pay attention to these snippets of information because, aside from the interest factor, sooner or later they are bound to impact you.

This snippet is about a Seattle start-up sewing Tees with robots. Sewbo claims to have built the first robot to sew a complete Tee. You’d expect a robot to have difficulty handling a fabric but Sewbo has overcome that problem by temporarily stiffening the fabric with a non-toxic, water-soluble polymer so that an arm with a suction cup can pick it up and feed it into a sewing machine. Once the sewing is complete, a quick wash removes the polymer and you’re left with a regular, soft Tee.

Ecouterre doesn’t suggest that it’s the end of the garment worker but argues that it is certainly the beginning of the end. They could be right. It might be the means whereby manufacturing is returned to North America from offshore locations but, sadly, not the jobs lost to offshore locations.

This is a developing story and could be an interesting one, particularly if the robots can compete with offshore wage rates.



Marketing automation technology.

Make marketing automation work for your textile screen shop.

Make marketing automation work for your textile screen shop.

I think it’s stating the obvious, but I’m going to do it anyway . . .   Effective marketing is essential if you’re going to grow your business. You must do it. And the other thing you must do is subscribe to the Scott’s Directories monthly online newsletter because it usually has something useful to say about marketing and sales.

The latest edition deals with marketing automation which it defines as: “… the category of technology designed to facilitate intelligent, ongoing interaction with prospects so conversion rates are optimized with both now and future buyers.”

According to Scott’s, there are many marketing automation tools available, some more sophisticated than others but this class of technology is accessible to companies of all sizes—which is good news for the Canadian textile screen printing industry because most members are small businesses.

I don’t have the room here to explain marketing automation in detail—you can log onto Scott’s Directories site for that—but what it amounts to is integrating: a marketing data base; workflow automation; email distribution; gathering insight; and analytics. That may sound a bit daunting but it really isn’t. Do yourself a favour and investigate marketing automation.

You might end up cherry picking aspects of the concept, but anything that will give you a leg up on your competition’s marketing, can only be good for your shop.

You have until October 25th, 2016 to win almost 1.5 million CAD from H&M.

Turn your innovative idea into cash.

Turn your innovative idea into cash.

The giant Swedish retailer, H&M is accepting applications for the second round of its “Global Change Award“.  All they need from you is your fantastic idea to revolutionise the fashion industry.

The first round prize was shared by five innovators. To give you some idea of the type of innovations that won, there was one for making clothing from citrus-juice by-products, one for polyester-digesting microbes, and one for online marketing of textile surplus.

To quote the H&M web site: “The Global Change Award is an innovation challenge, initiated by non-profit H&M Foundation in 2015. By catalyzing early innovations that can accelerate the shift from a linear to a circular fashion industry, the aim is to protect the planet and our living conditions.”

So what are you waiting for? You’ve been running a textile screen printing shop for years, you’ve seen thousands of garments of various fabrics pass through; surely you’ve had ideas about how things can be changed in the fashion industry to protect the planet. And yes, Tees are very much part of the fashion industry. Maybe an employee once mentioned something, maybe an idea was once tossed around in the lunch room . . .

Somebody has to win, why not your shop? Log onto the H&M site and get involved. The odds are much better than the lotteries you support each week.

The slow season is coming for textile screen printers.

It's coming . . .

It’s coming . . .

It’s the end of August and in a month or two the summer and back-to-school rushes will be over. Then the typically slower winter season sets in for most textile screen printers.

I found an interesting article by Dayna Winter (appropriate name for this topic, don’t you think?) about a couple who own a general dealer’s store in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Their business is seasonal too and they, like the textile screen printing industry, face the challenge of coping with the winter lull. As the article points out, there are many businesses in Canada with a similar dilemma—T-shirt printers are not alone in this.

There are however things you can do to both take advantage and cope with the slower season—Dayna Winter lists six worth repeating and thinking about in a screen printing context.

  1. Forecast: Plan for the low season particularly in areas such as cash flow, inventory and staff.
  2. Pare down: Cut back on staff as soon as possible if you beefed up your payroll for the busy season.
  3. Find other revenue streams: Give this some creative thought. Perhaps offer printing classes, find a winter-oriented product you may be able to produce with your existing equipment, etc.
  4. Expand your sales channels: This also needs some creative thought but, for starters, what about a pop-up store for the Christmas season. Look back a few posts for a discussion about pop-up stores.
  5. Use downtime wisely: Perhaps reduce hours and use the saved time to plan for the next busy season. Catch up on administrative and financial tasks. And why not go through that collection of redundant ink, see what you can salvage, clean up and re-label ready to use next season? Oh, and dump the truly redundant stuff—legally, of course.
  6. Maintain contact: Pull out your customer lists, use your email lists, stay in touch with your customer through the slow season. Be foremost in their recent memory when the busy season dawns again.

It’s not too soon to start thinking about winter.