Something to consider as you start up again

Open or not?

I recently came across a saved 2015 article by Jamie Dunn titled, “Five reasons not to be an entrepreneur.” One of the reasons that applies at this time is inconsistent income.

At this time of uncertainty, in not just the textile screen printing industry but the small business community at large, what he had to say  applies as much now as it did then.

Everywhere small businesses are contemplating resuming activity as restrictions are lifted. It’s a good time to pay some attention to this aspect of business ownership in the unknowable circumstances of the “new normal.”

He mentions how a business owner’s income can be inconsistent and how monthly fluctuations can affect your attitude, belief, and lifestyle. I know this to be true but, in addition, the ongoing experience with the Coronavirus shutdown or slowdown (depending where you are) makes the solution he offers so much more pertinent.

Here’s what he had to say: “This can be combatted by ensuring you have some savings buried away in case you don’t earn a penny. My advice? Work out your bare minimum living costs and have at least six months of these costs saved up before you start up.”

Cambridge is back!

Getting back to printing again!

Stanley’s Cambridge office had to shut down as mandated by the Province of Ontario. Meanwhile, Edmonton, Calgary, and Richmond all remained open for business, as we previously mentioned. Now with Cambridge open again, Stanley’s is able to fully support all its customers through all four branches, albeit with certain Coronavirus precautions in place.

Orders should be called or emailed in for shipping or picking up at an agreed time. In the interest of the safety of all while the possibility of infection exists, if you’re picking up an order it will be set aside and ready for you close to the door. Precautions will be in place during the paying process and please keep in mind the two-meter social distancing recommendation by health officials.

Sure it’s all very inconvenient, but if we take the necessary precautions, the better our chances of being back to “normal” sooner rather than later.

Virtual Trade Show — Canada’s first

Get used to it. Zoom or Blue Jeans virtual meetings with customers and suppliers (maybe even staff working from home) that were already happening on a limited scale and mostly among larger organizations, have taken off thanks to Coronavirus. Now, in another technology-driven development, we have Canada’s first virtual trade show.

This is a natural progression to the “new normal” we are all going to have to adjust to in the post-virus era. In fact, at this stage, we don’t know when the post-virus era might arrive because we are still mired in uncertainty as the virus slows down in some jurisdictions but is accelerating in others.

Back here in Canada the need for trade shows hasn’t gone away but, what the virus has changed, is the way trade shows will be conducted. So, the Imprint Canada Trade Show will be going live September 8th to 11th, 2020. Prior to that there will be a POP-UP virtual event on July 7th and 8th. It’s all explained at the Imprint Canada website. 

Three things you need as your shop returns to “normal”

You need three key things

All regions of Canada are reopening or are at least anticipating reopening. But these are unusual and challenging times and when we reopen things are going to be different from the pre-virus era when we had to suddenly shut down or at least slow down.

You are going to need three key things to effect a successful reopening:

  1. Safety (social distancing, hand washing, masks, notices etc.);
  2. Liquidity (cash to operate); and
  3. Creativity (adjusting to and taking advantage of a changed way of doing business)

If you’re not sure how to deal with any or all of the above, seek advice. They’re all going to be important for your shops’ survival for at least the foreseeable future.

A story to learn from

Just yesterday I heard a story about a textile screen printer. It disappointed and bothered me.

You can’t lie around and wait for the “old normal” to return.

In discussing the downturn in business as a result of the virus, he said that he’d just shipped the last order on his board and now didn’t expect to receive any more orders until September. What bothered me about this is the apparent assumption that he had to wait for the rest of the world to eventually beat a path to his door when they were ready. And there was nothing he could do in the meantime.

The message here is that this is the “new normal” in which things are going to be different from the “old normal.” Printers can’t sit and wait for customers to turn up as they might have done before. Some of those customers might not even be around in the “new normal.” And in the old normal there were no face masks to print but right now they’re a hot new item in demand. I’ll bet too that in the “new normal” virus-themed Tees will be in demand. When you think about it, there are all kinds of possibilities for cleverly-designed artwork, even for during-virus Tees.

So, even if you’re in rural area like this Alberta printer, there are things you can do rather than sit and hope that by September things will return to normal. They probably won’t. You’re going to have to adapt to the “new normal” if your shop is to survive.

Every business will be an online business?

A recent series of articles in the Globe and Mail about changes we should expect in our personal and business lives used T-shirts as an example while discussing online businesses. So let’s see how the writer, Sean Silcoff, mentioned T-shirts and what his overall message was (one that our industry should heed):

Wow! Look what these guys are offering online.

“Sanagan’s Meat Locker, a butcher shop with two locations in downtown Toronto, has been in business for more than a decade. But only in the past 18 months had it’s owner, Peter Sanagan, begun thinking about an online store. His reluctance to embrace e-commerce had partly to do with his products. Chicken breasts and steaks sourced from local farmers can vary in availability and size, making it harder to figure out pricing than if you’re selling say, t-shirts.”

Long story short, coronavirus drove Sanagan’s online and they now sell “whole chickens, pork butt, and duck liver mousse online for delivery.”

There’s a lesson in this for garment printers. But there’s a challenge too. If you can avoid just being another me-too online T-shirt provider and create a unique market or niche, you could do well in the “new normal.”

 

Marketing and re-opening

Our plans to adjust to whatever ‘normal’ is going to look like must include revisiting our marketing plans. Since we’re going to have to think it all through anyway, we may as well start at the very beginning and remind ourselves what ‘marketing’ actually is.

Here is Allan Dib’s “simplest, most jargon-free definition of marketing you’re ever likely to come across” from his book, The 1-Page Marketing Plan:

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying ‘Circus Coming to the Showground Saturday,’ that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed and the local newspaper writes a story about it, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations. If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and, ultimately they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales. And if you planned the whole thing, that’s marketing.”

Planning to go back? Big questions . . .

You may have bought into Symplicity Designs “Low Touch Economy” concept and are accordingly planning a transition. Or you may just be thinking ahead to re-opening your shop’s doors and operating as close as possible to the way you operated before. In either case, there are three important considerations. Quoting Symplicity Designs:

  1. Do you have projections? Will your customers re-engage? Have you asked them? Do you have an offering that is safe and profitable?
  2. Is your COVID-19 Operational Plan ready? Have you thought about workflow and congested work spaces? Are you ready to train your staff on hygiene and physical distancing? Do you know what PPE you should have? Do you have signage in place that will nudge the right behaviors? 
  3. Are you able to communicate this to your colleagues and customers? Your supply chain is likely decimated. Movement of goods may be slow and expensive. Have you factored that in?”

#1 should be answered and settled before embarking on #’s 2 and 3 because, as Symplicity points out: “No customers, no business. It’s that simple.”

Don’t freeze in this situation

Don’t freeze like a deer in the headlights.

I was in a discussion expressing concern about the fact that while a lot of small business owners were facing uncertain futures the longer this virus situation drags on, they don’t seem to be doing much about it. For instance, they’re registering for helpful (even free) webinars in much smaller numbers than I would have expected.

The response I got was insightful and I want to pass it on (slightly edited): “We talk about the fight or flight options in challenging situations but currently there’s a third option being adopted by small business owners—freeze.” The explanation continued . . . “Most (small business owners) are paralyzed from uncertainty and exhausted by the change. The variables of a fast-spreading pandemic and an economy that was already slowing have collided at dizzying speed. People are also exhausted by the volume of webinars and even if they want to learn, they do not know who to lean on for information. It’s a disorienting time.”

Here are some suggestions for considering your business’s options:

  • The freeze option is not an option.
  • “Fight” sounds brave and macho but a realistic assessment might suggest “flight”.
  • Objective, realistic input by a third party may be what you need.
  • An accountant or financial adviser can help you decide between fight or flight.
  • Read as much objective material as you can about the economic outlook.
  • To understand the virus and its impact, consider the opinions and assessments of scientists.
  • Stay in touch with as many trusted and knowledgeable sources as you can about all matters pertaining to the current circumstances.

These are difficult times but, to repeat, freezing in the headlights is not a good option.

A Webinar tomorrow (Tuesday 28th April): Changing Tides: The Virus, The Economy, and “The Dance”

 

Matt Symes of Symplicity Designs is offering this important no-charge webinar as a service to small businesses. Matt has kindly agreed to include Stanley’s customers.

You can register here for this webinar that shouldn’t missed . . .

Changing Tides: The Virus, The Economy, and “The Dance”

Since the 18th of March, our goal has been simple: save as many small businesses as possible.

73 live webinars.

1800 leaders tuned in.

We threw away the entry level paywall and tried to help leaders make quicker and better decisions.

Small business is too big to fail and entirely too complex to save with a single answer.

Canada lost 1M jobs in March. 490,000 of those job losses from businesses with less than 20 employees. Service has been hit hardest and first. It will be the last to come online.

Women have been hit hardest with a higher representation in the service sector and they are carrying more of the burden at home.

There is some good news – Canada is flattening the curve.

But a flattened curve is just the start. A world with more than 30 forms of a mutating virus with no known treatment plans and more than 16 months from a vaccine.

We are unevenly entering “The Dance.”  We know that masks, heavy travel restrictions, and a ban on large gatherings will remain in place for quite some time. Flare-ups, like we’re seeing in Hong Kong, Singapore, and China will become part of our regular life.

Safety will be at the forefront of our thoughts.

Businesses must transition to the Low Touch Economy. Changing buying habits will mean businesses will need to rethink their offerings, their capabilities and their ability to change.

Our mission remains the same: save as many businesses as possible. Now, that means supporting this journey to a low touch economy.

Join us Tuesday for our brand new webinar Changing Tides at 1 PM ADT.

 

 

Face masks — the new Tees!

Face mask image design possibilities are endless.

I’ve just heard of a textile screen printer unable to keep up with the demand for printed face masks.

Manufacturers have produced pallets for printing various types and shapes of face masks and cut-and-sew operators are producing masks. You have the printing equipment and expertise to produce fashionable or funny masks. So, what are you waiting for?

For now anyway, mask are the new Tees.

Time to reconsider your business model.

Time to seriously consider a business model redesign.

As COVID-19 lingers and the realization sinks in that ‘normal’ as we knew it may not be coming back, more and more articles and social media posts about reconsidering the way we do business are appearing. Soon books on the topic will follow.

The past couple of months have forced business owners to wonder what the marketplace is going to look like once we’re allowed back into it. Who will still be there? Will their outlook on life have changed? Will their buying habits have changed? Will my product or service still be in demand? And so on and so on.

These are all legitimate questions that have to be asked and addressed. The result for many small businesses will almost certainly be a business model redesign. Time spent on this sooner rather than later may be the difference between surviving or not.

And you know what? Fortuitously, a forced business model redesign might turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to your business anyway.

To borrow or not to borrow under COVID-19 circumstances?

To borrow or not to borrow?

Small businesses strapped for cash after weeks of downtime and an uncertain cash-flow future are being tempted by various sources with a variety of lending offers. But beware! Borrowed money has to be paid back and, in the meantime, has to be funded.

The small business owner’s decision to borrow or not borrow at this time is far from simple, mostly because the future is so uncertain. And even if borrowing is a well-considered solution there’s the added concern that not all lenders are created equally ethical or legitimate.

And here’s another and most important consideration . . .  Regardless of what overly-optimistic politicians seeking reelection might proffer, this dangerous, debilitating, disruptive COVID-19 intruder might turn out to be more difficult to dislodge than hoped. And who knows what eventually awaits the small business owner on the other side?

So, on balance, the hard to face but realistic bottom line may be that borrowing may just be digging a deeper hole.

Consult an accountant or business adviser. Get third-party, objective, dispassionate advice. Crunch the numbers. Borrowing might just be delaying the inevitable or it might be a lifeline; it’s not a decision to be taken lightly at this time.

A resource for you while business is paused for the Coronavirus

Researching the business literature and adapting it to the textile screen printing industry.

By now you’re probably well aware of being urged on this blog to make a point of reading business books and other similar material. That doesn’t mean we’re going to give up making this important point; it’s worth repeating.

Now is the time you never thought you’d have to read, so here’s a suggestion . . . Log onto Soundview here and consider subscribing at their discounted rates to receive summaries of business books. They relieve you from having to plow through complete books.

Do this and when you go back to full-time running of your business you’ll be so much better equipped with great ideas you can implement. It’s going to be a new ‘normal’ quite different from the old ‘normal’ so the better equipped you are to deal with it the more likely it is that your business will survive and thrive.

Stanley’s operating update

Stanley’s is offering curbside delivery

Stanley’s Edmonton, Calgary, and Richmond offices are open to serve printers but Cambridge is still closed per an Ontario Government directive.

Orders are being taken on the phone and by email. The open offices are working on a reduced schedule so it’s wise to call before picking up an order.

Curbside delivery is available. If you make your presence known when you arrive for a pickup and open your trunk, someone will bring your stuff to your car and put it in the trunk. This is all in the interest of social distancing to keep everyone safe.

Here is contact information you may need:

Edmonton: 780 446 4238; doug@stanleyssigns.com; barb@stanleyssigns.com; rob@stanleyssigns.com; sandy@stanleyssigns.com

Calgary: 403 243 7722; wendyw@stanleyssigns.com; graham@stanleyssigns.com

Richmond: 604 873 2451; howard@stanleyssigns.com

Cambridge: 519 620 7342; craig.blais@stanleyssigns.com

Outside Sales: 416 832 3162; alfredgunness@gmail.com

Realigning our understanding of ‘normal’

We have to adapt to a new ‘normal’! Get it?

The Coronavirus pandemic has turned ‘normal’ life on its head. We’re going to have to get used to a new ‘normal’ in our daily lives. So too in our industry.

It’s hard to argue with Nicola Davies, writing for The Guardian, when she points out that the fashion industry needs to fundamentally change in order to mitigate the environmental impact of fast fashion. And since Tees fall into the fast fashion bracket, we need to pay attention. And now that we have weeks of downtime it would seem to be a golden opportunity to mull over some of these issues.

The almost world-wide Coronavirus lock-down has brought pollution into sharp focus. People are seeing the difference between the lack of pollution now and comparing it with when things were “normal”. It’s bound to ramp up the pressure on polluting industries; fashion is one of those industries. Fashion produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions and uses 1.5 trillion liters of water annually. We’re told that a single European textile-finishing company uses over 466 grams of chemicals per kilogram of textile. This cannot be sustained.

As the drive for slow fashion as the only sustainable future for our industry and the planet picks up steam, we’re going to have to figure out how to make Tees fit that revised model.

This is something to think about as we contemplate the new post-Coronavirus ‘normal’.

 

Tips for working from home

It’s the new normal for now – working from home.

Yes, this is a strange time for all of us working in an unfamiliar workplace—home. For most it seemed like a great idea at first. No commuting, maybe working in pjs, walking the dog whenever you felt like it, more time with the kids, and a whole lot of other ‘benefits’ not available on a ‘normal’ workday.

Then it got tired, and disorganized, and unstructured, and unproductive, and frustrating.

Joyce Russell, writing for Forbes, has a list of items to bring some discipline, orderliness, productivity, and joy back into our work-at-home-for-now new ‘normal’. Even of you’re not actually working at home but just waiting to go back to work, this can be helpful in keeping some orderliness in your life. You need to read her full article but here, for now, are the tips we should all be paying attention to:

  • Set a schedule
  • Set up your workplace
  • Designate a quiet space in your house and keep it uncluttered
  • set work hours and communicate to your office when you are not available
  • Close your workday out at the end of the day
  • Let your family members know when you are working and when you are accessible to them.
  • Establish ground rules in the family for playing music etc.
  • Start each part of your work portion of the day with the things you really dread doing.
  • Make sure you take breaks during your day.
  • Get plenty of exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Think about how you want to use your saved commuting time.
  • Set specific work and home goals for each day.
  • Plan social connections.
  • Build in some fun each day.

These are tough times but with some organization, planning and determination we’ll get though it.

Stanley’s adjusting business practices to accommodate virus precautions

CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION!

Stanley’s is taking special precautions to protect staff and customers while this COVID-19 crisis continues. This applies to the Edmonton, Calgary, and Richmond branches until further notice. The Cambridge office has been closed for two weeks at least per an Ontario government order.

These are the changes that have been implemented:

    • Face to face contact between customers and staff is being avoided. Orders and consultations are being conducted by phone or email only.
    • Staff in attendance are being limited and members are being rotated.
    • The office doors are being kept closed and orders are placed in the foyer for pickup.
    • Door handles and all other items likely to be touched in the course of business are being sanitized regularly.

Customers can boost these precautions by bringing antiseptic wipes with them and wiping down containers and boxes when they pick up their orders.

It’s a bit inconvenient for everyone but it’s in the interest of being able to service printers’ needs safely.

Government help for your business — consult your accountant

 

You don’t have to figure out the assistance programs – leave it to your accountant!

Governments in Canada, the Federal Government in particular, are offering assistance programs for businesses.

Small businesses (which would be most textile printers in Canada) are a particular target for assistance. You need to be keep abreast of these programs as they are announced from time to time.

A good way to navigate what is bound to be a potentially confusing array of programs and paperwork is to consult with your accountant or bookkeeper whose job it is to liaise between you and the government. Leave it to an expert such as an accountant to make sure that you don’t overlook any benefits for which your business may qualify.

No thanks to COVID-19, we suddenly find ourselves in confusing and challenging times, but fortunately help is available. Make sure your business doesn’t miss out. Survival may depend upon it.

 

Serving vs. selling . . . it’s a fine line at this time.

Elephants aren’t the only ones with long memories!

Businesses everywhere are responding to the COVID-19 crisis in a variety of ways. On the one hand, some are seeking to serve, while on the other hand others are seeking to sell (we won’t even mention the ones seeking to gouge because that’s a whole different topic for a different day).

It’s a fine line between the two but it’s one that may loom large in customers’ memories once this thing is over. People are nervous right now (some are terrified) and the last thing they want is to be sales-pitched—it just seems crass and inappropriate. My experience of huge, disruptive, and dangerous life-taking and life-altering situations (in my case a revolution and a flood) is that many, many years later one remembers who fell on which side of the fine line in the time of crisis.

Every business owner would do well to keep this in mind right now.

Coronavirus uncertainty? Communicate with your customers!

Some, but not enough businesses are addressing coronavirus uncertainty as it affects their customers.

Are you open for business? Are you shut completely? If so, for how long? Are you operating but on a limited scale? Customers have questions in this rapidly-changing situation and you should do what you can to keep them informed.

Tell them what you’re doing or not doing, and update your information daily. This is where your social media platforms, email, blog, and even the telephone, can be useful tools at this time. Use them.

When all this is over, don’t you want your customers to remember that during a time of confusion and uncertainty, you cared enough to keep them informed?

It’s smart business.

Coronavirus and your shop

At the time of writing, small businesses are being confronted by the potential impact of this virus beyond just the obvious health issues. Are you going to keep the shop open? Are your employees going to come to work? Are customers going to suspend their activity?

Small business owners are mostly resourceful so hopefully all our Canadian textile screen shops will survive this challenge. Here are some ideas to consider in order to be compliant with the precautions health authorities want us to exercise:

  • Artists and admin staff may be able to work from home.
  • If you’re a small shop perhaps one person (the owner?) can carry on working alone.
  • If printing grinds to a halt there is always maintenance and cleaning to be done.
  • Quiet, alone time could be used to review your business strategy.
  • Online business and mail deliveries may be an option.

Let’s not kid ourselves, if the virus situation gets much worse it’s going to be tough on shops but a bit if ingenuity and determination could help see us through.

“We can’t come to the phone right now . . .”

An answering service can give your shop a professional touch and no more missed calls.

This is so often heard nowadays: “Thank you for calling ABC Tees. We are unable to come to the phone right now. Please leave a message with your name and number and we’ll call you back as soon as we can.”

If the caller is someone trying to get a bill paid, they’ll maybe leave a message but will likely call back. If the caller is a potential customer, they’ll more likely call the next shop on their list and forget about you. People are impatient. They want a real person to answer the phone and to be assured that their interest has been noted and a communication process has been set in motion. And let’s face it, “We’re unable to come to the phone right now” sounds very much like, “We’re a really tiny rinky-dink outfit.” This doesn’t build confidence.

So, the answer? An answering service. Before balking at the cost, consider what missed calls might be costing your shop. Consider what damage to your image might be costing your shop.

 

A packaging and shipping idea that could save you money

If you have an online store selling Tees (particularly one at a time) you may be interested in a new no-fuss packing and shipping concept introduced by 3M. It’s their Scotch Brand Flex and Seal Roll.

The blue padded material comes in rolls that can be trimmed to suit the size of item you’re shipping, in this case a T-shirt. It’s self-sealing and generally very convenient in other ways too.

Before ordering in bulk you can test the material because it’s available from retailers like Amazon, Staples etc. for about $15 a 10 ft roll.

 

More about developing technology . . .

Stay abreast of technology developments.

In the previous post we became aware of new fabric-decorating technology by Epson installed at George Brown College. We used it to underscore the need to maintain an awareness of developing technologies that could affect the textile screen printing industry.

In this regard, it’s worth reminding ourselves of something Bill Gates apparently once said: “In business by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone.”

Perhaps “running scared” is a bit over-stated but certainly watching, listening and learning are important if your textile shop is to keep up with developments.

 

Keeping an eye on developing technology . . .

There has been an interesting development in textile printing at George Brown College in Toronto that deserves attention from the Canadian textile decorating industry.

It underscores the reality that given the speed with which technology is advancing nowadays, textile screen printers are well advised to keep an eye out for anything that might require them to update their technology and perhaps their business model. Being unaware of developments could result in waking up one day to find that the textile decorating world has passed them by and their business is becoming redundant.

Epson has partnered with George Brown and installed a PureColor F9370 dye sublimation fabric printer. Fabric designers are excited by the ability to design onscreen and print on fabric in blended colours exactly as designed. You can see their reaction in this short YouTube video.

If you’re in the area of George Brown College or visiting the Toronto area, you might want to ask for a demo if for no other reason than to assess how this technology might affect your textile decorating business in the longer term (or perhaps even the shorter term).

Sell or walk away?

Leaving with a bag of money at the end.

Today I’m presenting to the Bridgewater Chamber of Commerce, Nova Scotia, as part of their Lunch-and-Learn series. My topic, based on the Acquirer chapter on my book Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, is, “So, What Is My Business Going To Be Worth?”

Four points capture the essence of the one-and-a-half-hour presentation:

  1. Small business owners (in your case read “textile shop owners”) should at least consider selling rather than just closing up and walking away at the end of their business-ownership journey.
  2. In order to extract maximum benefit from an eventual sale there are things business owners should know now and should keep in mind as they proceed on their small business journey.
  3. Business owners must engage properly-qualified and experienced assistance and advice with a buy/sell process from the moment it begins.
  4. Business owners need at least a basic understanding of the principles of business valuation in order to assess the advice they receive.

This should stimulate your curiosity. You have something to think about now and some research and reading to do. It’s all for a worthwhile cause—a bag of money at the end.

The turntable mixer that can’t mix “sticky” plastisol

Look carefully before buying equipment!

A Shanghai-based manufacturer of textile screen printing equipment has been very active on LinkedIn promoting its equipment. The images and videos of presses, screen-coating machines, exposure units and a variety of other equipment are always well done and impressive.

Recently, however, they produced a video of a line-up of turntable ink-mixing machines with cradles big enough for 20-liter (5 gal) ink buckets. Interestingly-designed ink paddles were in place, cradles with interesting-looking clamps were in place, and the machines were all turning. There was just one glaring problem in this demonstration though—no ink buckets.

A number of people responded asking to see the machines actually mixing ink, 5-gallons of plastisol in particular. After some back-and-forth, the company’s sales manager responded: “Because the market here is mostly water based ink, larger barrel ink mixing with another ink dispenser, for this one can mix plastisol but not with good mixing effect. However we have many customers who ask for plastisol ink, we are checking and probably will make a prototype soon for thick and sticky ink mixer.”

The lesson here? Ask the obvious questions and attend trade shows where you can actually see equipment working and doing what you need it to do before even considering buying it.

Red oceans and blue oceans

In the last post about a shop diversifying into bags, I mentioned the book Blue Ocean Strategy and promised a little more detail about it. We’ve done this before but we’re doing it again because it’s a concept every textile shop owner should understand.

In essence it’s about moving out of intensely competitive, crowded markets (red oceans of bloody competition) into less crowded, less competitive markets (blue oceans) and making the most of them before they too become red oceans.

The T-shirt printing industry is a red ocean. If you doubt that, just Google “T-shirts” and scroll through the 1,780,000,000 (yes, that’s heading for two billion) entries. Screen-printed bags too will become a red ocean as the market created by the banning of plastic bags attracts competitors but for now it’s a relatively blue ocean when compared with the T-shirt market.

Since most markets are bound to eventually become red oceans (some quite rapidly so in our commoditized economy) an astute business owner has to constantly be on the lookout for blue oceans. This is why the book is worth reading. If reading isn’t your thing, download the audio version. But one way or another give some attention to the red ocean / blue ocean concept.

Diversifying into bags?

A recent article about a T-shirt shop that has refocused on bags got me thinking . . . More and more jurisdictions in Canada have or are planning to ban plastic shopping bags so isn’t this presenting an opportunity for textile screen printers?

It may just be the opportunity you have been waiting for. The t-shirt market has been a “red ocean” for a long time now. Isn’t it time to strike out for a “blue ocean”? Can an expected upsurge in the demand for  non-plastic bags be that “blue ocean’? It was for the shop I was reading about.

Are you wondering what the “red ocean” / “blue ocean” thing is all about? Well, you should buy or download Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

In any case, I’ll be mentioning this book again in the next post. It’s too important to remain unread.