Customer delight

Delighted customer, happy to pay you!

A recent article by Gregory Ciotti for Shopify, “Customer Delight is About Giving Little Unexpected Extras”, made a point that cannot be repeated often enough. In fact, it’s so important yet still not appreciated by so many small business owners and staff, that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to line everyone up at the beginning of every day and make them chant, “Customer delight is about giving little unexpected extras!”

If, after this morning routine, anyone on staff doesn’t get the message, they should be terminated. And, as Ciotti points out, delight doesn’t necessarily mean falling over yourself to please a customer; it could mean having your business set up in a way that it meets customers’ expectations (and exceeds them whenever possible) without the customer even ever having direct contact with anyone in your business.

This means that customers get to decide what constitutes “delight”; research suggests that customers regard these as delightful experiences (in descending order):

  • Proactive help (teach me how to get more out of your product)
  • Consistently good service
  • Information about new products and services
  • Built personal relationship
  • Fast and friendly interaction
  • No unpleasant surprises
  • Service beyond expectation

How does your business stack up in delighting customers?

 

A tip for you

Think about your online strategy for 2018 and beyond.

Earlier this year a tip indicated that Generation Z (1996 and younger) will be 40% of all consumers by 2020 and 79 percent of them show symptoms of emotional stress when separated from their personal electronic devices. This is a reminder that as you approach the new year and think about future online marketing plans, you should be taking this into account.

Taking a break

I’ve seen a number of articles recently encouraging small business owners to schedule a break—as in take that vacation you need. This is an important mental and physical health topic. As a textile shop owner you may not want to admit that you really need a break and you may deny the negative impact on your health; don’t be foolish.

I’ve addressed the topic in my small business book. Let me quote one passage for those of you who don’t take vacations because you don’t believe that anyone else can be trusted to run your business for even a couple of weeks . . .

“You may want to take a cue from Karen, who needed a break badly while running her retail ceramics gift store in Calgary. She was in a predicament. She was determined to take a rejuvenating trip to Canada’s east coast but had no one to run the store for her. And so, she decided to close the store for three weeks. Closing a small business for a few weeks to take a vacation may not be unusual—but how she did it certainly was.

Driven by a concern that customers would be angry and perhaps wonder if she’d gone out of business, she hired a graffiti artist to paint a cartoon mural in her store window: a graphic depiction of her doing vacation things (sitting on the beach, eating lobster, etc.), along with the dates she planned on doing them. It worked as intended. Far from being angry or concerned, customers were amused and told a rejuvenated Karen so after she returned.”

There are creative solutions to your I-can’t-take-a-vacation dilemma. Your health demands it.

Stanley’s holiday hours

Taking it easy over the holidays.

Stanley’s (all branches) will be closed for the holidays from December 23rd (Saturday) to January 1st (Monday). Normal business will resume on Tuesday, 2nd January 2018.

And as we approach Christmas and the rest of the holiday period with all its frantic shopping and all the other stresses, here’s something from Dr. Seuss to think about . . .

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

  • Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

 

This is distressing . . .

The distressed cap look.

It’s a bit of a paradox — fashionable elegance apparently requires inelegance. I’m referring to the increasingly common sight of jeans abraded, ripped, and torn until, in some cases, there’s more leg than denim on display — the epitome of inelegance, one would have thought.

But this is the distressed trend in fashion. Textile screen printers have been printing “distressed” designs for many years but “distressed” now encompasses garments too, not just prints. As a smaller textile shop accustomed to catering to a local market and willing to do labour-intensive work frowned upon by big production-oriented shops, you may be able to create a niche in your local cap market. Distressed fashion now includes caps.

All you need to distress a cap (a vintage style cap works best) is a Dremel tool with a wire brush attachment, coarse sandpaper, a pair of scissors, and a thread un-picker. You can then do to a cap in a few minutes what regular wear could take years to achieve.

It doesn’t matter why people would pay good money for a new cap that looks like an old cap, but while they do, you may as well take advantage of it.

A compromise in the screen printing versus direct-to-garment debate

The screen printing versus direct-to-garment debate rages on.

The direct-to-garment versus screen printing debate rages on among textile printers. The most common points argued are speed (screen printing is much faster), detail (d-to-g is more detailed), substrate (d-to-g doesn’t cope well with dark substrates), durability (screen printing lasts longer), and so on.

Well, while this debate continued, technology has been has been tackling the issue. The result is a hybrid printer. Images magazine reported on six different hybrid machines on show at Fespa 2017. For example, M&R’s DigitalSqueegee machine appears to take care of all the d-to-g versus screen printing arguments by combining the best of both technologies.

Here’s how it works . . . The garment is adhered to a pallet in the usual screen printing manner. It rotates under a screen where a white “underbase” is screen printed in the usual manner. Then it passes into a chamber where all the other colours are applied digitally on top of the white in one pass of a print head. It rotates out of the chamber and the garment is removed from the pallet and passed through a conveyor dryer in the usual manner. Done!

If you Google “DigitalSqueegee M&R” you’ll find a one-minute video of the process. They claim that it can produce 725 prints an hour.

Will this affect the average Canadian textile printer in the short or even medium term? Probably not. But it’s something to keep an eye on because typically, while new technology is initially only affordable by the bigger players, as time passes the price drops to where it is affordable by others too. This is when it can become a game changer.

A tip for you

Have you considered focussing on a particular customer type?

Continuing with the theme of finding and edge in the market, have you considered focussing on a specific industry or service with your printing? For instance, what about beauty salons? It’s a huge industry that uses uniforms, T-shirts, towels, and robes. Focus in business can be powerful.

A story with a message

Here’s Graham at Stanley’s Calgary branch a few days ago . . .

Keep it clean.

“We had a customer yesterday who desperately needed a repeat of a  gallon of red plastisol ink he’d had before. Usually this is no problem at all. As long as we have the Wilflex colour’s name or the 5-digit code, we can mix the exact match and have it ready in a few minutes. But in this case there was a problem.

He could no longer read the bucket label because of sloppy house-keeping procedures — it had been destroyed by first messing ink all over it and then probably trying to wipe it down with a solvent cleaner, who knows? Anyway, when this happens we have to try to identify which red it is from past records or try to colour match it by eye. This is time-consuming and sometimes difficult depending on the colour.

The lesson? In order to prevent contamination of colours and avoid ending up with buckets of mysterious, unnamed colours, remember that cleanliness is next to godliness when working with plastisol inks.”

Well said.

 

A tip for you

Select your Polyester ink carefully.

 

Polyester doesn’t just mean a single type of fabric anymore. There are different types of Polyesters on the market now. Light-weight inners, light and heavy-weight outer garments, single or multiple layers, weatherproof outerwear, suitable for sublimation, and so forth. These different Polyesters along with the usual Polyester bleeding issues, require the right ink. Select your Polyester ink carefully.

Mixed media could give your shop a boost

As we have mentioned here many times before, your textile shop is in a competitive market. Being a “me-too” shop is not the way to gain a competitive advantage. This is why “get-ahead” textile shops are always looking for a way to differentiate themselves from the competition; looking for something different to splash all over social media.

Something that can give your shop an edge is mixed media — printing combined with embroidery, rhinestones and printing, applique, tone-on-tone, to name just a few combinations.

Joint venture with someone to produce mixed media.

One doesn’t see a lot of this and the reason might be that printers assume that they’ll have to acquire equipment and expertise to accommodate the additional mediums. And while it’s appropriately cautious to not invest in equipment for something that’s experimental (at least initially), it doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment with mixed media. All you have to do is sub-contract or joint venture with others who have the equipment needed to produce the aspects of mixed media designs that you don’t have.

Think about it — some in the textile industry are talking about an increasing demand for mixed media decorated garments. This might give you an opportunity to get ahead of the competition and leave it to the “me-too” crowd to catch up.

 

Re-labeling as a specialty

Re-labelling of Tees and other imprintable  garments is not new. But it requires unpicking, removal of the original label, insertion of the replacement label and re-sewing. This has always been quite the labour-intensive process and demands a compelling reason to remove the original label to justify it. Later when direct-printed or transfer-applied labels came along it made the task a little easier but there was still a lot of unpicking and re-sewing seams involved.

All of this gave rise to specialist re-labelling services.

Then tear-aways came along and made the whole re-labelling process a lot easier. In the UK, embroidery and print shops have been demanding tear-away labels from manufacturers in their stock styles. This allows embroiderers and printers to bypass re-labelers by simply tearing out the original label and direct-printing or transferring a printed label.

But tear-aways have not meant the end of re-labeling specialists because while some only want their label to identify their brand, others at the upper end of the market want it to be an integral part of the aesthetics of the garment. The latter group are keeping labelling specialists in business.

How much does labelling play a part in your shop and brand?

 

A tip for you

Don’t overdo the squeegee strokes.

 

 

 

If you have a manual press and you’re relatively new to textile screen printing, you may be struggling with the number of strokes of the squeegee you need to get a decent print. You don’t have to “work” the ink into the garment. One stroke should do it but if you need additional coverage you can do a second stroke but do it in the same direction of the first stroke.

The humble Tee can still stir things up

Tees can still pack a powerful message.

CBC reported about ten days ago how a Tee with the simple message “The Future is Female” caused a much bigger stir than it was intended to do.

A student in Guelph, Ontario was told by one of her teachers that the Tee was inappropriate because it might make some boys feel uncomfortable, Yes, I know, poor little snowflakes!

Well, the student was upset enough about it to talk with her parents. Then she wrote a letter to the teacher, gave it to her, and posted it on Facebook. The result was swift and support for the student and her T-shirt took off. Fellow students, including boys, are buying the Tee and the principal told her that she was free to wear the shirt and stand up for her rights.

Here is one quote: “We at the school board would also like to applaud this student for her message on what this shirt means to her, explaining the intended movement behind the shirt and how it stands for many things, including equality, empowerment, and support for female health and well-being worldwide.”

Besides affirmation that this simple garment we print on every day still carries a punch, there is the business side of it. Find a message that resonates, stir things up a little, and you could have a winner.

A tip for you

You can’t print like this.

This is a particularly good tip if you’re new to screen printing. Keep ink off your hands while printing. Plastisol has a sneaky way of finding it’s way to where you don’t want it to be, particularly when you’re inexperienced. It finds its way onto container sides, lids, work surfaces, squeegee handles, frame edges, and then onto your hands. Once on your hands it’s only a matter of time until unwanted smudges begin to appear on your garments. So, be fanatical about cleanliness.

Creative Tee graphics

A great T-shirt design for book lovers.

As you know, one great T-shirt design idea can lead to another great idea, and then another great idea, and then . . .  So here’s a great idea that you may not want to copy but in an industry always looking for a graphic edge on the competition, it may lead you to another great idea.

I found a 2014 Gizmodo article about this design idea for Tees and bags. It taps into a large market of readers, book clubs, book stores, libraries, and authors.

The Tee or bag depicts a particular book with an all-over print of an excerpt from the book in the background and the image consisting of white space and text.

One way to generate ideas like this one could be to identify a sector of society or an interest group and then think of a design that would appeal to them. People like to be identified with their interest groups and Tees and bags are one way of doing this. There are artists groups, dog clubs, gardening associations, and a host of other interest groups. You already have the technology now all you need is a little research, a little creativity, and some luck to come up with a winner.

A tip for you

Don’t overdo the flashing!

 

Don’t become a flash cure addict. Almost anyone can get a good print by curing between each colour — it covers up issues like thick ink, poor artwork overlays, etc. But it slows production down. Overcome the flashing habit and speed up production with good artwork, the correct mesh, the right ink viscosity, and only the number of strokes needed (not too many). Only flash when absolutely necessary.

 

You could be printing on North Korean Tees

Rockets supported by Tees?

The BBC recently reported on what amounts to a T-shirt manufacturing scandal. It seems that while U.N.-backed sanctions prohibit anyone trading with North Korea in commodities like gold, coal, and weapons, T-shirts were overlooked.

According to the BBC report, T-shirt manufacturers in China have been shipping materials over to North Korean factories who produce Tees and then ship them back to China. The North Korean Tees are then exported by the Chinese manufacturers after being labelled ‘made in China.’

Apparently this has helped North Korea maintain a $725-million textile industry.

It seems that this cross-border trade is motivated by the usual suspect — greed. Western consumers are greedy for cheap Tees. Retailers oblige by screwing local manufacturers and source cheap tees in low-wage jurisdictions like China. But the Chinese manufacturers, not to be outdone in the greediness stakes, screw their own garment workers by sending the work to North Korea where it can be manufactured cheaper still.

Now, before you proffer the free-market argument, consider the real losers here — all the garment workers including those who end up with the work in North Korea. One wonders how much of their work translates into basic necessities and how much translates into rockets. But we lose too. In a bizarre way, our greed for cheap tees, could be undermining our security.

The frustrating thing is that there is very little Canadian screen printers can do about it, short of refusing to print on garments manufactured in China. And can you see this happening?

 

A $23K T-shirt

If you’re in the T-shirt business how could a headline like this not catch your eye?:

“Supreme T-shirt Featuring Image Of Donald Trump Has Sold For $23K.”

I’ll have that Donald Trump T-shirt please!

Let’s face it, the backbone of our industry is a cheap, bottom-of-the-fashion-chain, piece of cotton cloth that serves equally well as a garment as it does a car-cleaning rag or the dog’s bedding. So how does a Tee come to be worth $23K, or even the $1.5K it sold for just nine months before it re-sold for $23K?

Well, first it has to be deemed collectible by someone apparently with more money than sense. Then to be deemed collectible all it seems to have to do is sport the name of a line of garments known to only produce limited editions and feature someone “famous”. If the image is a design by someone also “famous”, so much the better.

And that’s how this Tee became a $23K collectible — it has all the necessary ingredients. It is a super-rare Tee produced by Supreme (of the famous limited edition reputation and box logo) with a design of a “famous” person by a “famous” artist, in this case the Russian artist and activist, Andrei Molodkin.

If, like me, you still don’t understand why anybody would pay $23K for a Tee-shirt, even a rare one, then perhaps this explanation by a consumer psychologist will help: “We collect articles or resources to survive, but survival doesn’t only rest upon what we need physically. We need, psychologically, to distinguish ourselves. In the past, tribes would decorate themselves with feathers or precious stones to set them apart from other tribe members and attract potential mates. In the same way, collecting Supreme really allows people to build their identities with rare objects.”

I wonder how many “potential mates ” a Donald Trump Tee will attract?

A tip for you

Always stir your ink before using it.

 

 

Plastisol gets a little thicker when it sits around in the container. You should be in the habit of always stirring ink before using it — you never know for sure how long it has been sitting idle. Another reason to always stir is that you’ll quickly establish if it needs a thinner before you scoop it into the screen. But be careful about adjusting white inks because additives can change their vital properties.

Penny-pinching is not smart business.

Generosity is good business.

Penny-pinching is bad business. Generosity is good business.

Listen to Jimmy Hickey of hugely successful Findlay Hats: “Lets say we’re running a trade show and we run into someone who’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been buying your hats from day one. Here’s the hat I bought from you guys the fist month you came out. This is one of the oldest hats in existence.’ As a way to reward that guy for his loyalty, we’ll like, ‘Choose any hat you see here. You can have it.’ That’s going to further dedicate that person to our brand and keep them coming back as a future customer.” Hickey is smart.

Here’s a story about someone not quite as smart as Hickey. I was recently dismayed to discover that my favourite art supply store was no longer offering free cookies. My first stop in the store had always been the cookie plate intended for the pleasure of customers, art class attendees, and staff. Then it disappeared.

As an ardent student of small business management (and a cookie addict), I conducted inquiries. It turned out that the owner had canned the cookie plate because she felt that some people were overdoing it a bit. I should mention that these were not gourmet cookies. At about $3.00 for a pack of 44 cookies they were among the cheapest on the shelf at the nearby grocery store.

But cookie quality is not the point—we liked them regardless. I think I can speak for the customers, art students, and staff alike when I say that it is the gesture we miss, not just the cookies. Something for free (doesn’t matter what it is or how small it is) gives pleasure and creates a feeling of well-being. It says: “Thanks for visiting my store and thanks for doing business with me.” It reflects well on the business and is therefore smart business.

So I think the art store owner, who in every other way is an astute business person, has made a mistake. For no more than $90 a month (less than a dinner out for two) she has backed away from an opportunity to bolster goodwill among her customers, students, and staff. And it’s not about the momentary pleasure of a single cookie; it’s about the lasting impression. It’s about the gesture.

As for the over-doing-it concern, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to control consumption by putting out just one pack a day. For anyone arriving after the cookies for the day were all gone, a plate with a few crumbs still speaks to generosity, whereas, no plate at all, does the opposite.

As Findlay Hats has demonstrated — even a small gesture of generosity is smart business. When last have you given away a few Tees to delight your customers? Why not give every visitor to your shop a gift of a hat or Tee, even if it’s a promotional hat or Tee for your business? Come on, you know it will only cost you a couple of bucks. Try it — you’ll be surprised how much goodwill and business it will return.

Credits: Felix Thea, Shopify and www.findlayhats.com

 

A tip for you

Thought of discharge printing lately?

 

 

Given any thought to discharge printing recently? Why not? A one-colour discharge print can be very appealing graphically and it has no hand at all. It may intrigue some of your customers and give them design ideas that could result in result in printing orders for your shop.

Time to plan for winter shipping

Ha, ha! I’ve ordered my winter supplies!

Winter is just around the corner and, as we all know, the Canadian winter brings with it shipping problems. But, a bit of advanced planning can save a lot of headaches.

Plastisol inks are not bothered by even Canada’s coldest temperatures provided they’re given a chance to warm up to room temperature and stirred well before you attempt to use them. And, by the way, impatiently thawing containers on the dryer or by some other heat source is not a good idea. You could trigger a gelling reaction in the bucket, particularly if you get distracted and leave the bucket there for longer than you should.

The products most sensitive to freezing are emulsions, water-based inks, and certain chemicals. Emulsions in particular will separate when thawed after freezing and cannot be reconstituted once that happens. Water-based inks run the same risk. So there are a number of reasons why ordering in a winter stock of emulsions, water-based inks, and chemicals makes sense. At 35 degrees below zero they’ll freeze solid in a short time. I once saw 55- gallon drums of emulsion freeze solid in the course of a direct truck trip from Texas to Calgary — it doesn’t take long.

Some shippers offer heated service but it’s of course quite a bit more expensive than regular shipping. And heated service has been known to fail if a vehicle breaks down or if the shipper is careless about overnight storage. Also, heated shipping is usually only offered between main centres. So if you’re outside a main centre, say, in a rural area, your winter shipments are at risk even if you request heated shipping.

All of this is just not worth the cost and hassle. Call Stanley’s and discuss your winter needs with them: Cambridge – 1 877 205 9218; Calgary – 1 877 661 1553; Edmonton – 1 888 424 7446; Richmond – 604 873 2451

A manual squeegee tip for you

Watch your squeegee angle!

 

 

Pulling the squeegee at too sharp an angle fails to move all the ink through the mesh. Generally, you should aim for a 75° angle. As you flatten the angle more, you create a higher transfer of ink by increasing the surface contact. However, when you create a higher transfer of ink you can lose edge definition in the print. So, the angle of the squeegee is important in producing excellent prints.

Hats haven’t evolved for years? Not true . . . (Part II)

An example of a Findlay hat.

In the last post we saw how Findlay Hats came up with a modification to the standard hat that’s capturing the imagination of the market. According to Felix Thea’s report for Shopify, a single Reddit post went viral and resulted in $28,000 in sales.

It turns out that this success story has more to teach than just how innovation can make a ho-hum product exciting enough to catch the attention of a large audience and drive sales.

Findlay Hats is a lesson in online marketing. Backstopping the integrated online marketing drive is the e-commerce website. This is where you go to find out more about the hats, some history, a few entertaining tidbits, and most importantly, it’s where you buy them. Check out the site for a good example of a focussed, single-product site. It’s user-friendly and efficient.

Social media platforms are used to promote Findlay Hats and to drive customers to buy on the website. The product was first tested on the founder’s Instagram account where he showed a design of the hat and asked if people would buy it if he made it. The response was so encouraging that he went ahead. Then, as we already know, a single viral post on Reddit resulted in sales of $28,000. Finlay Hats also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and LinkedIn.

This is a tale that should serve as a lesson in integrated online marketing for textile screen printers who plan to succeed long term in this competitive environment.