Why you should pay attention to this chocolate story

The thumbnail version:

  • Godiva Chocolatier is shutting its U.S. retail stores.
  • There may be a message in this for T-shirt shops.

The full version:

Yesterday it was announced that Godiva Chocolatier, the well-known, 80-year-old, almost world-wide chocolate brand, is going to shut down all of its 128 brick and mortar retail stores in the U.S. by the end of March this year.

You might be wondering what chocolate has to do with Tees. Well, nothing directly but what Godiva is doing seems to give credence to the argument that retail business is changing, and changing rapidly.

Godiva is not going out of business—it’s focusing on its online and wholesale business. When an influential brand makes such a significant strategic change, the rest of us should pay attention—it might be the writing on the wall that we ignore at our peril.

So, how’s the online part of your shop doing? If you’re not online, how are your plans coming along?

Don’t just ignore the writing on the wall—read it, consider it, and take the appropriate action.

And here’s an “added value” tip for your online business—optimize your shop’s website for mobile devices. More and more nowadays, customers are starting their searches on mobile devices and completing the purchase later on their computers.

Deciding on an emulsion

The thumbnail version:

  • The emulsion you use depends upon the ink and printing process you use.
  • Here are ten questions to help determine the emulsion best suited to your purpose.

The full version:

Dave Dennings, product manager at Kiwo and well-respected industry expert, has just published a post on LinkedIn titled, “Key questions to ask yourself when deciding on an emulsion.”

He suggests that providing the answers to these questions will help your supplier (in this case, Stanley’s) find an emulsion best suited to your needs:

  1. Will I use water-based, solvent-based, plastisol, UV or other inks with this emulsion?
  2. What solvents do I use to remove inks at press and in reclaim?
  3. Do I reclaim most of my screens or reuse them for repeat jobs?
  4. How many screens do I image per day?
  5. How long are my typical jobs?
  6. Do my jobs require high level of detail?
  7. What type of screen exposure system do I use?
  8. Do I use a computer-to-screen imaging system and if so, which one?
  9. What type of automatic screen making and/or reclaiming equipment do I use, if any?
  10. How well is humidity controlled in my screen room and exposure area?

Online sales and free shipping

The thumbnail version:

  • Shipping costs are a significant consideration in online shopping
  • Businesses have to take this into account when trying to attract customers
  • There are various ways of addressing the issue

The full version:

If you operate an online store there are various ways to promote business. One of the more common ways is manipulating the shipping component of the total transaction price.

Big online business have been doing this for some time. Amazon is a good example. They offer various shipping-cost options including “Prime”, their subscription “free-shipping” scheme. You subscribe to Prime for $9 a month and are then offered “free” shipping on deliveries. $9 doesn’t sound like much but you can be sure that they’ve worked it out carefully and are not losing on the deal. However, that’s Amazon—it’s not going to work for a small business with a limited customer base.

So what can a print shop with an online business do to use the shipping-cost component to make it seem attractive to customers? You can’t simply eat the shipping costs if you want to stay in business. So here are some options to consider:

  • Build the cost of shipping into the product price and offer “free” shipping.
  • Build part of the cost of shipping into the product price and offer partially reduced shipping.
  • You can offer free shipping if the order meets a minimum value at which you can accommodate the the shipping cost without destroying your margin. But if you opt for this, don’t make the minimum so high that it is unattainable—it is bound to be disappointing to customers and probably more harmful than helpful.

If your online business doesn’t address shipping costs as an inducement to do business with your shop, it should. You really have no choice because online customers nowadays expect it, thanks to Amazon and a few other influential online businesses.

We need to know this about polyester

The thumbnail version:

  • Polyester is polluting ocean water as far away as the Arctic

The full version:

We need to be aware of the adverse impact of the products we produce, in this case, Polyester. Not because the mere wave of a wand to effect immediate change is possible, but because if we are aware of the problem we can start to contribute to a solution.

Here’s what we need to know about a recent study conducted in the ocean waters of the Arctic:

“The most comprehensive study to date found the microplastics in 96 out of 97 sea water samples taken from across the polar region. More than 92% of the microplastics were fibers and 73% of these were made of polyester and were the same width and colours as those used in clothes. Most of the samples were taken from 3-8 meters below the surface, where much marine life feeds.”

Setting goals for the shop for 2021

The thumbnail version:

  • 2021 is difficult to plan for.
  • Try a different approach.
  • De-emphasize traditional budgeting
  • Set a series of small goals.

The full version:

Can the detailed budgeting based on an unpredictable short term future. Try something different for 2021

So now we’re approaching the middle of January and you’re looking ahead to 2021 wondering how the year is going to unfold particularly with regard to COVID-19. For most of the country it’s not looking too good right now.

So given these circumstances, what do we do about projections, planning, and budgeting for the year? Whether you plan at the beginning of each year in the traditional way (strategic plans and a budget) or don’t plan at all (fly by the seat of your pants like so many other small businesses), this year requires a different approach. We’re in uncertain, unpredictable times, at least in the short term. Trying to budget in detail based on an unpredictable short term future may be a waste of time.

Ben Taylor, co-founder of the British knitwear brand, Country of Origin, has an interesting approach you may want to consider. He says they set short-term goals as opposed to detailed budgeting. They work towards growing the business by setting goals for the year for sales and campaigns. This, he says, organically amounts to growth.

Another point to consider is that since most small businesses operate in a fairly informal way, setting a series of smaller goals is likely to be easier to manage and achieve than a few grand objectives built on uncertain projections. A series of marginal gains can add up to overall success.

 

You can’t read the label from inside the bottle

The thumbnail version:

  • Do potential customers know what’s inside your “bottle” from the description on the label?
  • Outsiders may not be getting the message you want them to get

The full version:

How would anyone know what’s inside the bottle if the label gives an inaccurate description or no description?

Someone used this expression recently on LinkedIn in an article directed at business owners. I’ve seen it before using “jar” instead of “bottle”; I prefer bottle.

The message here is to take a break from your day-to-day activity within your business, step out, and view your business as others see it. Is the label on the outside of the bottle an accurate depiction of what’s going on inside the bottle?

In the case of your shop, the “label” would be all the stuff that potential customers see and consider when they’re deciding whether or not to do business with you. This would be your website, social media pages, pamphlets, signs, and anything else you use to promote your business. Are these things collectively telling the story about your business that you want to tell? In addition to looking yourself, ask people to look at your “label” and tell you what they think is going on inside the “bottle.” You may be surprised.

If you don’t view the label objectively from the outside once in a while, a disconnect between what you want the label to say and what it is actually saying could be inhibiting your shop’s growth.

 

Welcome back!

Welcome back and Happy New Year!

The crew are back at all four Stanley’s branches today, well rested and ready to get 2021 off to a flying start. 2020 was a difficult year and as we start 2021 we should do so optimistically, keeping in mind what Winston Churchill said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

And while we’re looking ahead to a better year, there’s another wise quote we can use. This one is from the author, Maria Robinson, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

Stanley’s is ready to attend to your needs. Just keep in mind though that the COVID protocols of last year are still in place.

Edmonton 780 424 4141

Calgary 403 243 7722

Cambridge 519 620 7342

Richmond 604 873 2451

 

Tie-dye sweat shirts are apparently back.

The thumbnail version:

  • Tie-dye is reappearing
  • It may be trend worth watching

The full version:

Tie-dye sweats apparently didn’t go away in the sixties after Woodstock. They’ve reappeared in California.

Tie-dye sweat shirt available from Waraire.com

Given that many of our fashion trends start down in California this might be one to keep an eye on. Waraire.com is offering tie-dye casual garments like sweat shirts and pants as a fashion item. And they’re priced like fashion items too. For instance, the sweat shirt shown here is listed at USD160.

The question is whether your shop should offer tie-dye garments. Perhaps an embroidered or printed design could be added for extra effect. If a tie-dye sweat is selling for USD160 from a fashion house, there must surely be room for a local shop to come in well under that to take advantage of a trend that may come to Canada.

But as you know, trends can come and go quickly in this industry, so you’d have to keep an eye open and be ready to move if tie-dye becomes an opportunity again.

Pivot [ piv-uht ]: verb (used with object)

The thumbnail version:

  • “Pivot” is the current buzzword in business
  • You need to consider the concept in these times of COVID

The full version:

“Pivot”—the new COVID-19-inspired buzzword.

In the context of business it’s come to mean turning to doing something else when what you’re doing isn’t cutting it anymore (a synonym for “pivot” used this way could be “diversify”).

For instance, a lot of businesses in a variety of industries pivoted to make hand sanitizer in the early days of the pandemic. Then there were the textile screen shops that pivoted to print masks, and the sign shops that pivoted to produce floor graphics.

It has recently been reported that more than 70 percent of small businesses in the U.K. began offering new products and services as a result of the pandemic. We don’t have figures for Canada but it would be surprising if it were much different here.

All this pivoting demonstrated short reaction times, creativity, and innovation—experience that could stand businesses in good stead in the future.

Did your shop pivot or diversify in 2020?

The concept might be worth exploring particularly now when you should be rethinking your business model and adapting it to the expected circumstances of 2021.

 

Stanley’s holiday hours

Finally! This crazy year is drawing to a close.

The crew at Stanley’s want to thank you for your support and for your understanding as they implemented the necessary measures to help battle COVID-19. It wasn’t always convenient but together we kept the industry going.

Next year will be more of the same initially but with responsible behavior and the introduction of vaccines, hopefully 2021 will be end up more “normal” that 2020 has been.

Regardless though, as always, the Stanley’s crew will be there to attend to your needs with their range of brand-name products and technical support.

In the meantime, if you’re going to need supplies from now to the end of the holiday period, please keep in mind that all four branches will be closing at 4.00 pm on the 23rd and reopening at 8.30 am on January the 4th.   

Fishing friend

The thumbnail version:

  • Stress-relief is essential
  • Business causes stress
  • A regular, scheduled break provides relief

The full version:

This month Images Magazine featured an excerpt from the Fishing Friend chapter of Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. This is the chapter that encourages small business owners to have routinely scheduled away-from-the-business recreational dates. It works best if set up with a friend or friends who can also benefit from such an arrangement.

Copyright: Michael Best

It doesn’t have to be “fishing” of course. It could be hiking, skiing, or any other activity as long as it’s outdoors (weather permitting) and completely disconnected from, in this case, the shop.

Here’s how the chapter in the book opens, I’d be surprised if you didn’t recognize the circumstances . . .

“”Harbouring regrets is unhealthy—I get that. But if I were allowed to harbour one regret, it would be that I didn’t routinely schedule whole days off from my business for recreation.” Here’s more: “I now know that one day a week away from my business would have alleviated a lot of accumulated stress.”

You have to do this.

 

More COVID-19 trends and responses that affect the industry

The thumbnail version:

  • Other industries are crossing over into textile printing
  • Customized and personalized prints have been on an upward trend
  • COVID-19 has spawned home-based competitors for textile printers

The full version:

To further reinforce the point made in the last post about non-textile-industry competitors being projected into textile printing by the circumstances of COVID-19, there’s more in Sign Media Canada about it. (Notice how these insights into the textile industry are now appearing in sign industry publications). It raises the question again about how concerned traditional textile printers should be about what appears to be a trend.

The excerpt in question . . .

“Personalization and customization trends continued through 2020, as brands moved their businesses online and smaller, home-based businesses entered the marketplace. Small-format, affordable equipment provide a robust yet easy-to-use platform, allowing users to quickly build a T-shirt, poster, sticker, and decal graphics printing business.”

More to think about!

These appear to be the appropriate questions for traditional textile screen printers at this time:

  • Is it time to diversify into the market places of those encroaching on our market place?
  • Do I need to diversify to offset the erosion of my traditional market place?”
  • Do I stick with my traditional marketplace but boost promotion?
  • Do I stick with my traditional textile screen printing but change my marketing and sales channels, i.e., look at establishing or boosting my online business?

 

COVID-19 spurs new e-commerce and beyond-industry competition

The thumbnail version:

  • The pandemic has prompted changes in the traditional T-shirt business
  • Direct-to-garment is now an option for other businesses beyond the industry
  • E-commerce on the rise

The full version:

Writing for Sign Media Canada, Ginny Mumm points out that the pandemic has given rise to an increased interest in home-based and beyond-textile-industry business solutions. What’s interesting about this observation and should not be overlooked by traditional textile printers, is that it’s in a sign industry magazine.

Your new sales channel.

Mumm quotes Lily Hunter, Roland DGA’s product manager who reminds everyone that if you can send a job to a desktop printer, you can design and send a print job to a direct-to-garment printer. She goes on to say that customized T-shirts are a great way to to make money and can be sold through one’s own website or through sites like Etsy and Facebook Marketplace.

Given what is commonly accepted, that e-commerce has received a boost form the pandemic and will only continue to grow, Hunter advises that companies should establish their e-commerce channels now. And she’s particularly addressing non-screen-printing businesses and home-based businesses, in other words, new competitors for traditional textile screen shops.

This might not be of concern to the bigger traditional textile screen printers but the smaller shops (which is the vast majority of shops in Canada) should consider this both as a threat and an opportunity.

If yours is a small Canadian textile screen printing shop still without an e-commerce option, it’s time to consider the old adage—If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

A no-go logo

The thumbnail version:

  • A professional-looking logo lends credibility
  • The logo must tell what the business is and does

The full version:

This topic comes up from time to time but it’s worth revisiting because it addresses an issue that costs small businesses, particularly startups, a lot of wasted money.

I recently saw a short video demonstration on LinkedIn of a logo being designed. The post and video were promoting the work of a logo designer. The use of the brush and ink technique was impressive. Any calligrapher would have approved.

However, the end result, though aesthetically impressive, had very little practical value because no name or product or service could be identified. Now, some business owner seeking a logo might argue that the “swoosh” doesn’t” say “Nike” either, to which I’d say, “But you’re not Nike.”

A small business needs its logo to lend credibility and to tell what the business offers. If, say, ABC printed T-shirts and displayed a “fancy” but indecipherable logo, it wouldn’t be helpful to a potential customer looking for a business called ABC or for a place that produces T-shirts.

Sign of steaming cup of hot coffee outside of a coffee shop. It doesn’t need anything more by way of a logo to tell prospective customers what they need to know.

The obvious solution is a well-designed, professional-looking but legible name logo that tells either the name or the product or service or perhaps just one of those—it depends upon the nature of the business.

Maybe one day your business will grow to be where it can be recognized by a swoosh or a golden arch. But, until then, settle for a well-designed name and product logo. Maybe even just a product logo.

Vintage T-shirt hunter

The thumbnail version:

  • A vintage T-shirt hunter has a thriving online business.
  • The prices are a bit of an eye opener.

The full version:

Here’s a story for anyone generally interested in vintage Tees, anyone who collects vintage Tees, or anyone who has vintage Tees they’d like to unload for a good price.

Ladi Kazeem is a vintage T-shirt hunter. His business based in London, England, operates according to a simple model—hunt down vintage Tees anywhere in the world and offer them at a markup in his store on the online marketplace, Depop.

According to an article by Chanté Joseph writing for PayPal, Kazeem has a thriving business. It apparently takes some experience and skill. As Kazeem puts it: “With T-shirts, you need to know about fabrics, the process of production, the year certain brands came out, and what T-shirts correspond with what dates. I know T-shirts inside out, so I know exactly what I’m looking for.”

If you visit Kazeem’s Depop store (by clicking here) you’ll see an interesting collection of vintage Tees priced anywhere from £75 to £250 (about CAD130 to CAD430).

Time for some of you old timers to go rummaging through those boxes at the back of the shop?

An e-commerce site becomes a necessity in 2020 (Part II)

The thumbnail version:

  • There are some essential necessities to build into an e-commerce site.

The full version:

COVID-19 has driven a lot of business online where much of it is likely to stay.

In the previous post we mentioned Erich Campbell’s Images Magazine article on e-commerce sites. We said we’d follow up with design and functional necessities based on his article. Here are some:

  1. You must have clear payment, shipping, and return policies.
  2. You must have well-monitored channels of communication
  3. Navigation around the site must be easy and quick
  4. You must decide if a general site or customer-specific sites suit your circumstances best
  5. Make sure you have great graphics (it’s the old sizzle and steak thing)

This post is a primer to encourage you to investigate the topic further and in some depth. Campbell’s article in the November issue of Images Magazine would be a very good place to start.

An e-commerce site becomes a necessity in 2020

The thumbnail version:

  • COVID-19 has driven more business online
  • Participate or lose out

The full version:

Further to our October 29th post, here is some reinforcement for the concept of taking your shop online from another source.

Writing for Images Magazine, Eric Campbell argues as follows: “E-commerce may have been a secondary form of sales for many apparel decorators in the past, but in the current climate it has become a critical method for serving your customers.”

COVID-19 has driven a lot of business online where much of it is likely to stay.

By “current climate” we can assume he’s referring to the COVID-19 restrictions under which we are all operating at the moment. And the thing is, COVID has exposed different ways of doing business, some of which are going to stay with us when things return back to “normal.” More online business vis e-commerce sites than before is likely to be one of those things.

Jumping ahead (before we come back in the next post with practical considerations) Campbell makes the point that just showing up online is not good enough, you have to provide a unique value and not be afraid to put forth your shop’s culture and character.

We’ll address some practical aspects of an e-commerce site in the next post.

Dealing with angry customers on the phone

The thumbnail version:

  • Angry customers happen
  • How you handle it is the key to a satisfactory resolution
  • That said, it may sometimes be impossible to resolve

The full version:

Fix. My. Problem!

Sooner or later it’s going to happen. You’re going to have an angry customer at the other end of the phone. Smiledog, a phone-answering service based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, offers some good advice on how to handle such a call . . .

  1. Validate the problem: The customer may not be right but nevertheless acknowledge their feelings and don’t talk down to them.
  2. Keep emotions out of it: This can be difficult, but you must do it.
  3. Practice pleasantries: Smile (it helps to keep you sounding pleasant). It takes some skill and patience to do this when you have an angry person on the other end, but you must do it.
  4. Get to the bottom of the problem: Figure out exactly what the problem is.
  5. Offer solutions: It’s not good enough to just apologize, you must offer solutions as well.
  6. Avoid delays: If at all possible, solve the problem right away. You may have to go find an answer or confer with someone, but explain what you’re doing and ask them to hold.
  7. Be transparent: If you’re wrong, admit it and then find a real solution; don’t BS the customer.
  8. Know when to quit: If in spite of all your efforts the customer remains angry, unreasonable, or abusive, it will be time to politely end the call.

This is good advice that should work in most cases. But, this is the real world, so in some cases it may be impossible to satisfy an angry caller and you may well end up losing a customer. It happens. It’s part of running a business. Don’t sweat it.

The old quality/price/service myth

The thumbnail version:

  • Remember the old quality/price/service , you can only pick two?
  • It’s a myth in today’s competitive small business environment

The full version:

Remember when customers were told that they had to pick two of quality, price, or service, because all three were not possible? Let’s call BS on this old myth!

Quality, price and service; find a way to deliver the combination.

Some established big businesses have the clout to stick to this two-out-of-three proposition because, well, they’re big and established. Some are virtual monopolies. So, in these cases, the public has few alternatives.

The examples that come to mind tend to satisfy the quality and price elements but really suck at service. Have you ever tried to get decent customer service at Costco or Home Depot lately? These are just two—I’m sure you can come up with your own examples.

You can probably also come up with examples where a different two of the three choices are offered. What about those that have great products and over the top service but expect you to pay through the nose?

Unless your small business is lucky enough to service a non-competitive niche market, in today’s environment small businesses cannot afford to mimic the giants. Their world is not your world. Your shop has to find a way to offer a balance of quality, price, and service or lose out to competitors who do figure it out.

Choose your computer technician carefully

Images magazine published and excerpt from Characters Who Can make Or Break Your Small Business in their November issue. It’s an important topic well worth revisiting.

The thumbnail version:

  • Your shop cannot operate properly without fully-functioning computers
  • You need access to a good technician

The full version:

The excerpt as published in Images Magazine . . .

“We live in an era of inescapable reliance on technology, and it’s hardly necessary to point out that most of what we do to conduct and administer a small business involves a computer. While both hardware and software are much more reliable and user-friendly than they were even just a few years ago, sometimes your shop’s computer network will need attention.

Unlike large companies with a dedicated IT staff, most small shop budgets cannot accommodate a full-time computer technician. Computer failure – hardware or software – will, however, bring with it the prospect of a one-two punch of downtime and a hefty bill. It’s enough to cause a shop owner to descend into a state of despair.

A good computer tech is a critical resource for your shop. Get references.

Choose your computer technician for those inevitable downtime emergencies with care. They come in varying degrees of competence; limit your choices to the upper end of the range. Not only will a competent technician save you when technology emergencies strike, but they will also help you make sense of the alternatives when new technology is being considered. They can help cut through the mind-bogglingly unfathomable techno-talk that often accompanies new technology.

Your shop will generally have access to one of three computer technician resources: sole practitioners, local companies consisting of a staff of technicians, and nationwide franchises.

The advantage of hiring multi-technician computer service companies over sole practitioners is that the former’s technicians have likely been tested for competence during the hiring process. When you engage a sole practitioner, the competence checking falls on your shoulders. In the end, however, it all comes down to whether the individual technician’s competence, regardless of whether they are a sole practitioner or an employee of a service.

My final advice, based on hard-earned experience, is to not engage a computer technician until you have recommendations from their clients with similar requirements to your own.

There are no guarantees that your selection will be perfect, but choose a computer technician with due care and you give yourself the best chance of enjoying a relatively failure-free computer network.”

Sustainability — it keeps advancing!

The thumbnail version:

  • Sustainability is advancing, period!
  • Participate or perish.

The full version:

Okay, so this isn’t your textile screen shop venting, but you get the message . . .

Page through any fashion or garment decorating magazine nowadays and you’re bound to come across at least a couple of articles that make reference to sustainability. This is probably because there’s an increasing sensitivity around the constant references to how the clothing industry is currently one of the world’s great polluters.

For instance, here are two article titles from the November issue of Images Magazine: “Brands must make sustainability efforts clear on clothing labels, says GlobalData” and “Amazon launches Climate Pledge friendly label.”

We don’t have to delve into the details in these two articles here to get the message that sustainability is an advancing phenomenon. And as with any advancing phenomenon in any industry, members can choose to be part of it and keep operating or ignore it and eventually perish.

Where does your shop stand on sustainability awareness?

DTG, Kornit, and Amazon in the news

Thumbnail version:

  • Direct-to-garment development
  • Kornit and Amazon strike a deal

The full version:

This is huge!

Here’s some industry news . . . Images Magazine is reporting that Kornit and Amazon have struck a HUGE deal whereby Amazon has undertaken to spend $400 million on Kornit’s digital technology and services over the next 5 years.

Amazon will be investing $250 million in existing Kornit products, including printers and inks. The remaining part of the $400 million deal, $150 million, is committed to future products.

What does this mean for the textile industry generally and DTG versus screen printing specifically, who knows? But it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on this development.

Quiz — What is being described in this MSDS?

The thumbnail version:

  • You are required to keep a current MSDS for every product in use in your shop
  • Here’s a quiz to make the point (can you guess the product?)

The full version:

Where is your MSDS file?

In most, if not all jurisdictions, you are required to have an MSDS on hand for all the products you use in your shop. Compliance inspectors may ask for them but, more importantly, if you have a medical emergency caused by a product, you need to have the treatment information that’s laid out in the MSDS for that product.

So to make the point, here’s the quiz . . .  What is the product that this excerpt from a MSDS is referring to when it talks about “ingesting” (eating) it? The answer is provided at the end:

“Wash out mouth with water. Remove victim to fresh air and keep at rest in a position comfortable for breathing. If material has been swallowed and the exposed person is conscious, give small quantities of water to drink. Do not induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Get medical attention if symptoms occur.” 

So what is this “scary” stuff you’re not supposed not eat?

Well, it’s plastisol ink.

By no means should we minimize the importance of a MSDS for every product we use, but really, what a sad day if you actually had to put up a sign in the shop that says:

PLEASE DON’T EAT THE INK!

Anyway, the takeaway here is to get your MSDS binder up to date and complete.

COVID-19 driving your shop online?

The thumbnail version:

  • COVID-19 is forcing businesses online
  • There are 10 tips to keep in mind if your shop is going online

The full version:

Simple, clean website to attract and turn viewers into customers

Perhaps you’ve joined the many small businesses that have adapted to the COVID-19 world by, among other things, taking their business online. Perhaps you’ve diversified in order to go online.

In either of these scenarios, Marshall Atkinson, writing for Images Magazine, has offered 10 tips for maximizing the success of your online venture. Here they are with a little embellishment and additional comments:

  1. Limit the number of items you offer. Don’t clutter the site. Remember the old 80/20 rule that holds that 20% of your offerings yield 80% of your sales. Of course it’s a fairly rough rule, but it’s essentially true in many circumstances; and it probably holds true in your shop too.
  2. You’ve seen those “people also bought” items on Amazon. Atkinson says it accounts for a third of their sales. Consider it for your site.
  3. This is an obvious one that should barely need mentioning . . . use high quality images.
  4. Keep the text uncluttered. Clean and simple is far more appealing to customers.
  5. The old odd-number trick still works. Customers know it’s being used, vendors know that the customers know what it’s all about, but everyone still plays along. So, instead of $20.00 make it $19.99.
  6. Keep the checkout process simple. Like everything else, “simple” should be your design mantra.
  7. People have questions. Make it easy for them to ask and get quick answers. Atkinson recommends a “live chat” facility. This might be a bit ambitious. I don’t know too many Canadian textile screen shops with the time to keep an eye on a live chat app. But you can answer a phone and you can monitor emails regularly.
  8. A “search” feature is also as obvious as high quality images. Even basic website templates include them nowadays.
  9. Offer free shipping. And again, it fools nobody; they all know it’s in the price. But everyone is happy to play along. So make a point of mentioning the free shipping (frequently).
  10. Atkinson recommends an “abandoned cart” facility. Again, like a chat line, this might not be particularly relevant to your shop’s site, but consider it anyway.

That’s it. Ten pretty good tips.

Screen tension revisited

The thumbnail version:

  • Screen tension is essential for good prints
  • Screen tension is often neglected
  • Proper screen tension saves money

The full version:

Wow! Tighter screen tension is giving me much better prints!

Screen tension. This is an aspect of screen printing that seems basic to manage but is often neglected. And screen tension allowed to relax to less than, say, 20 newtons, is going to affect print quality and ink consumption. In fact, screen tension is arguably one of the most critical elements in producing a successful print.

Aside from the end-result benefits, tighter screens allow you to reduce the off-screen distance and squeegee pressure. Reducing the squeegee pressure of course allows the ink to sit on the top of the substrate where you want it, not forced into the garment. The result, for one thing, is a softer hand.

A few bucks spent on good frames and some time spent on paying attention to high tension, will be repaid with better quality, faster production and ink savings.

Can your shop get by with fewer employees? (Get rid of the slackers).

The thumbnail version:

  • Employees are being taken back after COVID.
  • Some employees are not (the slackers)
  • Shops can get by with fewer employees by hiring carefully

The full version:

Various reports and articles are suggesting that as the COVID restrictions on business activity lifts, businesses are not bringing everyone back.

For instance, Marshall Atkinson suggests: “Those staff members that didn’t make the cut were left at home because the owners or managers decided, for one reason or another, that they weren’t going to put up with whatever slacker habits they exhibited previously.”

Slacker!

It seems that COVID has taught shop owners that by hiring more selectively they can get the same work done with fewer (but better) employees. It’s partly the old work-smarter-not-harder thing.

So what does a slacker look like? Well, aside from being obviously low energy, a slacker would lack initiative too. For instance, I knew a shop owner who wanted to prove this point about one of his employees. He placed a 5-gallon container of ink right in the middle of a walkway next to a press where this employee worked. For a week the employee stepped around or over the container many times a day but didn’t move it out of the way. These are the guys you don’t want  back after COVID.

Vegan Tees? Can they get you ahead of the competition?

The thumbnail version:

  • Vegan Tees are part of an ethical sourcing trend
  • There’s an international market for them

The full version:

Getting ahead of the competition

The Images Magazine October edition includes an article about an embroiderer, Mark Ludmon, whose new focus is “vegan Tees.” Now, while this is a story about Tees for embroidery, there’s no reason the principles cannot be as easily be applied to Tees for screen printing.

Ludmon has been a vegan for three years and was looking to apply the plant-derived principle to his business as well. This meant sourcing ethically-produced, organic, and entirely plant-based Tees. He says that it’s part of a broader trend of ethical sourcing in the industry.

These Tees are being labelled “100% vegan” and “Certified organic.” If you have doubts about the viability of such a move, consider this . . . a website set up in advance of production of the first Tees has been taking orders from around the world.

Something to think about when you’re looking for an edge in a competitive market? I’d say so!

Come on! Clean up the place.

The thumbnail version:

  • Many shops are messy
  • Messiness is bad for business

The full version:

An essential element of a well-run shop.

As a result of countless visits to textile screen shops over many years, I had to include a janitor as a character in my book, Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business.

Of course not all textile shops are messy. There are those where, as my grandmother liked to say, you can eat your lunch off the floor. But then there are the others . . .

The ink room of a large shop in Toronto (no longer in business)  in particular comes to mind. It’s hard to know how to describe it other than to say that it always looked like a rainbow had exploded in there. I can see how you’d get ink all over the floor, but the walls? Then there was the shop in Vancouver that had a lint fire that ran through the place like one of those gunpowder trails they lit in old cowboy movies.

My concluding thought from the chapter I mentioned above:

“I can’t think of a single circumstance in which janitor-free premises would boost staff morale or give a small business an edge over the competition. I wouldn’t have thought that anyone else could think of one either, but unfortunately cleanliness and orderliness remain concepts not fully grasped by many small business owners, who may never know the positive effects a janitor can have on their business.”

Over-promise and under-deliver. Don’t do it!

The thumbnail version:

  • Customers take your delivery promises seriously.
  • Late delivery causes disappointment.
  • Disappointment causes problems.

Full version:

Promising a delivery date is a matter to be taken very seriously. Customers usually don’t take well to late deliveries. People are impatient and even a bit childish when it comes to delivery expectations. Tell them that they’re going to receive something on a particular day and they’ll look forward to it and be disappointed if it doesn’t arrive.

Wow! Stuff is here already!

And there can be more to it than just normal disappointment. They could have made promises of their own to others based on your promise to deliver by a certain date. If they have to deal with unfulfilled expectations from whomever they’ve promised, you can be sure you’re going to hear about it. And not only can a rush at the end to meet your customer’s expectations cost overtime, excessive delivery expenses, and stress, but it may cost you repeat business.

No, it’s much better to under-promise and over-deliver.