Scorching under the flash cure

The thumbnail version:

  • Scorching under the flash cure is a common problem
  • There are solutions

The full version:

Scorching under the flash cure is a common problem. Sometimes it’s not immediately obvious but upon close inspection you may see a slight brownish or yellowish shading, especially on light garments. However, whether it’s slight discolouration or an all-out scorch like an overdone steak on the BBQ, you don’t want it.

First, be aware of the fabric in question and adjust accordingly. Delicate and light-coloured fabrics are more prone to scorching. You can raise and lower the flash cure so that if slight scorching is occurring raising it may take care of the problem.

Using low-cure inks will allow you to lower the temperature and thus avoid scorching garments prone to it when using regular higher-curing inks.

If you take all the measures possible and you still scorch the odd garment, there are scorch removers you can use. Stanley’s can help you with this.

 

In-person shows scheduled for Toronto and Calgary

The thumbnail version:

  • In-person shows are being scheduled for Canada
  • Planning ahead is a good idea

The full version:

As COVID is finally showing signs of subsiding enough in Canada for “normal” activity to resume, two dates have been announced for the National Imprint Canada Show in Toronto and the Western Imprint show in Calgary, respectively.

The Toronto show is scheduled for 7th and 8th January 2022, and the Calgary show for 4th and 5th February 2022. It may sound like a long way off but now would be the time to tentatively plan to attend or display. Booths are being offered at the 2019 rate of $1,925 if you reserve before July 31st (this Saturday).

Admittedly the COVID situation is still fluid, even though it appears to be more hopeful than it has been for some time. However, this is no reason to not plan ahead to either display or attend these shows. Apparently 43 exhibitors have already committed.

The cat’s out of the bag . . . well, partially anyway.

The thumbnail version:

  • A new product line will be announced soon.

The full version:

To serve today’s textile screen printing industry effectively requires that one stay on top of product and technique developments. Stanley’s is constantly on the lookout for anything that might make printers’ lives easier and their shops more profitable.

In that regard, there will soon be an announcement of the acquisition of the distributorship of a new product line for textile screen printers that will accomplish what everyone likes to find—a combination of good quality, at a good price, with good service.

Stay tuned.

Cannibalizing existing products can give you indigestion

The thumbnail version:

  • A new product line may appear to be an attractive proposition
  • Just make sure it isn’t going to cannibalize your existing lines

The full version:

Like other shops in this competitive industry, you may be considering ways to expand your business by expanding your product offering. This is of course a good idea but there are pitfalls to avoid—one of those is cannibalizing existing, lucrative offerings.

Don’t cannibalize your existing lines

Let’s say that your shop has a successful line of imprinted hats or maybe even a successful line of imprinted bags. In either case you may consider adding a less expensive version to your existing offering. If the new product appeals to a market you don’t yet have and it actually adds to your sales revenue, that’s good. But what if your existing customers turn to the new cheaper product? This would leave you with lower revenue which would not be good. This is known as  cannibalizing your existing market.

The only circumstances in which the new cheaper product would make sense if your current customers turned to it, would be if the margin per item were bigger or if overall volume and margins increased enough to exceed the cannibalization. This may not be impossible, but ordinarily it would be unlikely.

So, before adding that new, attractively-priced offering, make sure it’s the great idea it at first appears to be.

 

Have you considered two darkroom spaces?

The thumbnail version:

  • Ideal coating and drying conditions conflicts with washing out
  • There are solutions

The full version:

You don’t want unexposed emulsion to be exposed to light, whether it’s on a coated screen prior to exposure or on an exposed screen prior to washing out. So usually in both instances the coating and drying and the washing out occurs in a single darkroom.

The downside to this is that washing out creates a humid atmosphere which is less than ideal for the coating and drying process. The solution? Two darkroom spaces or some similar arrangement that separates the humid air of the washout area from the drier air of the coating and drying area.

If building a second darkroom or creating two darkroom spaces within your existing darkroom is not possible for some reason, a way around the issue is to do your coating and drying at a different time from your washing out. For instance, you could do your exposing and washing out in the morning and then coat screens later in the day for drying overnight.

The print on the stomach instead of the chest

The thumbnail version:

  • A story that illustrates the wrong way to manage staff

The full version:

Well you are a */!!/%# idiot!

I recently saw a Harvard Business Review article with the title Why Compassion Is a Better Managerial Tactic than Toughness. It immediately reminded me of a textile screen shop incident in which the owner of the shop could have used the advice in this article.

The staff were on a lunch break. The owner was wandering around the deserted shop looking at the jobs in progress. Suddenly he appeared at the door of the staff room where everyone was gathered around the table having their lunch and chatting. He was clearly agitated as he held up a sweatshirt with a print on the stomach area instead of the chest.

“Who printed this?” he demanded.

Reluctantly one of the staff raised his hand” “I did.”

“Well you’re a (expletive deleted) idiot!” he yelled, loud enough to be heard in the parking lot.

I covered this incident in my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, and have often wondered what impact this had on the ego of that employee. Surely there has to be a better way to handle a situation like this than humiliating an employee in front of his colleagues? Well, the author of the HBR article had some suggestions which we’ll cover in a future post.

The printed bag market may have arrived at another fork in the road

The thumbnail version:

  • Single-use plastics bags are going away for good
  • The replacements are good for the textile printing industry

The full version:

All they need are your prints

In recent times the single-use plastic bag has largely given way to the branded bag-for-life version in most jurisdictions. This created printing opportunities for textile screen shops.

However, according to a recent article in Images magazine, the bag-for-life version has itself come in for criticism for not being as environmentally friendly as a new compostable bag being offered by a UK supermarket. That said though, as we emerge from the COVID lockdowns, branded bag printers are looking forward to recovering the business they lost as a result of the pandemic. They’re betting on cotton and jute bags being in demand for some time yet.

It’s a safe bet though that whichever direction the branded bag takes, it will not be going back to the single-use plastic version; this is good news for the textile printing industry.

Time to consider adding branded bags (perhaps even the compostable type) to your shop’s offering?

 

And yet another big acquisition

The thumbnail version:

  • Another big textile acquisition provides a signpost to the future

The full version:

Spoonflower (www.spoonflower.com) has been sold to Shutterfly (www.shutterfly.com) for USD225M. Spoonflower built its business “on social engagement and proven direct-to-fabric print technology.”

In other words, you can order prints of your own design (or one of theirs) online and they will then print it using direct-to-fabric technology. So what does this news and the $225M price indicate? Well, first, the size of Spoonflower’s direct-to-fabric market and, second, the fact that it’s all conducted online.

This is another signpost to the future; another indication of where at least a substantial part of the fabric printing industry is heading. In spite of Avient expressing confidence in the future of screen printing with a screen printing acquisition (see previous post), garment printers should take note and cannot ignore what is evident when reading between the lines; neither the DTG nor the online aspects.

Another big acquisition

The thumbnail version:

  • Avient acquires another screen printing ink manufacturer

The full version:

Today Avient announced its acquisition of Magna Colours Ltd. for USD48M.

Avient (until recently known as PolyOne) now adds Magna water-based ink to its other acquired plastisol ink brands including Wilflex, Rutland, Union, and QCM.

Magna has been based in the UK since it was founded in 1978. It is described as a leader in water-based ink technology for the textile screen printing industry.

So what should a Canadian textile screen printer read between the lines? Well, first, the giant among textile ink manufacturers, Avient, seems confident that textile screen printing has a long  future. And, second, that future will see a growth in water-based printing.

Hot, humid summer weather and screens.

Thumbnail version:

  • Hot, humid summer weather requires special precautions before shooting screens.

The full version:

As summer finally arrives in Canada you need to remember to take extra measures to dry your coated screens and then keep them dry. This is particularly applicable if you are in one of the regions of Canada where the humidity rises sharply in summer.

The heat and humidity doesn’t affect only you. What about your coated screens?

The first item you need is a hygrometer. It will allow you to monitor the humidity in the coated screen storage area which should not be allowed to rise above 40% relative humidity. Why? Because dry emulsion-coated screens are susceptible to re-hydration. And why is that bad? Because if you shoot damp or re-hydrated screens, you will end up with the same effect as underexposed screens. Screens are only resistant to humidity after exposure.

You cannot underestimate the potential hassles if you do not dry screens properly after coating or if you allow them to re-hydrate before shooting. Pinholes, stencil breakdown, reclaiming difficulties, and ghosting after reclaiming are all possible. And who needs those additional problems slowing down production in the busy summer season?

So how to keep the screen storage area at below 40% relative humidity during the humid summer months? Dehumidifiers, exhaust vents and air conditioning can all help depending upon the circumstances in your shop. In most cases though, a dehumidifier should do the job. To be sure that a screen is suitably dry before exposure, a moisture meter can be very useful too.

A key component in a great print—the squeegee blade

The thumbnail version:

  • Squeegee blades should be kept in good condition for crisp prints
  • Some blades can be sharpened (trim off the worn edge)

The full version:

Writing for Images magazine, Tony Palmer reminds us that the condition of a squeegee blade can make the difference between a sharp print and a print out of focus.

In other words, if overlooked, a worn squeegee blade can be the weak link that prevents a print from being all that it can regardless of the excellence of everything from the art to the ink. And it’s probably the easiest to take care of among all the variables that together make an excellent print.

One suggestion is to make it standard practice to closely examine every squeegee blade to be used in a a particular job right as preparations are being made. Anything less than a blade in excellent condition can then be replaced or sharpened.

All of this is of course predicated on the right squeegee being selected in the first place.

Jumbo prints . . . worth the hassles?

The thumbnail version:

  • Some customer may ask for Jumbo prints
  • Appropriately-sized garments are essential.
  • It’s okay to decline work if it’s “not your thing”

The full version:

If you have printed jumbo prints with success then you might want to skip this post and move onto the next one. However, if you have been asked or have been considering jumbo prints and have never printed them before or, particularly, if you’re new to textile screen printing, then we have some things for you to consider.

It makes business sense to be able to say no to orders you’re not comfortable doing or that carry a risk you’d rather not take. For instance, some shops refuse to print on nylon jackets, particularly if they have been water-proofed. The extra work required to remove the water-proofing, the special nylon ink required, a ink additive often required, the curing temperature issues, and so forth, adds up to more than some shops are willing to handle.

So too do jumbo prints have their issues, in this case, with certain garments other than regular unisex Tees. . .

  • V-neck garments: The V will often intrude into the intended print area. Obviously their are just two options: (1) reduce the size of the print; or (2) decline the order. Both ways the customer is not going to get a jumbo print on a V-neck garment.
  • Tank tops: Same problem as with the V-necks, only worse.
  • Girls’ tees: usually these are smaller sizes and won’t fit onto jumbo pallets. If they’re stretched to make them fit you run the risk of distorted images and perhaps even damaged garments.

We all like to please our customers, but sometimes you have to draw a line. Jumbo prints might not be for your shop. However, if you want to have a stab at it, just make sure the garments are able to handle it.

What’s your T-shirt thing? Printing or selling?

The thumbnail version:

  • Print-on-demand is a growing phenomenon in the textile imprinting industry
  • You can embrace it regardless of whether you prefer printing or selling

The full version:

We’ve dealt with this topic before but it’s worth revisiting because it continues to attract a lot of attention in industry publications and on social media.

If your prime interest lies in selling Tees and other imprinted garments and you’re printing them primarily in order to be able to sell them, there is an alternative that is becoming popular—print-on-demand.

Whereas a print shop involves risk and a considerable investment in equipment and materials, a print-on-demand business model involves no risk and requires very little investment. You sell via your online store and the print-on-demand company does all the custom printing and  shipping to your customers. For dong all the work, they charge a percentage of each sale you make from your online store.

Print-on-demand has worked well in the book printing industry for some time. For instance, I’ve delivered copies of my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, within days of taking orders on my website from Australia, the UK, the US, and Canada, by print-on-demand. Tees and other imprinted garments are ideally suited to print-on-demand as well.

On the other hand, if printing is your real joy and you are currently a contract printer, including print-on-demand in your business model would add a new revenue-generating dimension to your business.

Keep the equipment clean.

The thumbnail version:

  • Well maintained equipment means a better return for longer

The full version:

You don’t need to be Einstein to understand this . . . it makes business and operational sense to keep the equipment clean and maintained

How many times have we urged that shop equipment should be kept clean and maintained regularly? The answer is many, many times because, aside from pride of ownership,  the business benefits are so obvious that it’s worth repeating from time to time.

And we aren’t alone in urging this. Tony Palmer of Palmprint Consultants in the UK recently had the same message accompanied by a short video on LinkedIn of a press that’s cleaned every day. And, not surprisingly, it looks brand new, even though it is eighteen months old and prints thousands of garments daily.

As he points out: “The machine cost a great deal of money. The machine can earn a great deal of money. Look after the press and it will earn you good money for decades to come.”

This would include all equipment, big or small, automatic or manual—the principle applies equally,

Kindness in the workplace as a productivity tool

The thumbnail version:

  • Kindness costs nothing
  • The benefits make business sense

The full version:

Great job! Thanks.

It costs nothing and is easy to do—practicing kindness. And the best part is that it creates a much happier atmosphere, which in turn creates a more productive workplace. This is the message in an article by Ovul Sezer, Kelly Nault, and Nadav Klein.

To quote them: “A commitment to be kind can bring many important benefits. First, and perhaps most obviously, practicing kindness will be immensely helpful to our colleagues. Being recognized at work helps reduce employee burnout and absenteeism, and improves employee well-being, Gallup finds year after year in its survey of workers . . . ”

They also note that: “Organizations benefit from actively fostering kindness. In workplaces where acts of kindness become the norm, the spillover effects can multiply fast.”

So, consider the question . . . Is kindness the norm in your shop? If not, why not? It only makes sense.

Setting up a small textile screen printing shop — #10 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • Finally in this series, there is the miscellaneous stuff you need

The full version:

Scoop, spatula, and scale

And, finally in this series, there are miscellaneous things you’ll need such as a scoop coater, screen tape, ink spatula, ink scoops, mixing containers, pallet adhesive, a Thermoprobe, squeegees, cleaning chemicals, and scrubbing brushes.

And if you’re going to mix your own ink—because it makes economic and operating sense— you’ll need a scale.

There are decisions to be made for some of the items above that will be influenced by your business model. For instance: aerosol pallet adhesive or water-based adhesive?; disposable wooden spatulas or reusable plastic?; regular squeegees (aluminum or wood) or ergo-friendly squeegees?; fast-acting regular chemicals or sometimes slower-working but more eco-friendly chemicals?

As with all the other stuff you need for setting up a textile shop, the crew at Stanley’s can help.

The environmental challenge for businesses per the BDC — told in percentages

The thumbnail version:

  • BDC surveyed business owners on the environmental challenge
  • It yielded some interesting results.

The full version:

The Development Bank of Canada conducted an extensive survey of Canadian businesses to determine the extent to which they are responding to the environmental challenge.

It’s a 32-page report worth reading but, in the meantime, here’s a story as told by some of the more interesting percentages:

  • 84 percent of entrepreneurs consider it their responsibility to take concrete action to protect the environment.
  • 82 percent of entrepreneurs have implemented concrete measures tp reduce their environmental impact.
  • 31 percent of entrepreneurs are encouraged to reduce their environmental impact as a means of improving their brand image.
  • 91 percent of business leaders state that it is entirely possible for a company to be profitable while reducing its environmental impact.
  • 34 percent of consumers consider the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions.
  • 60 percent of Canadian consumers state that price remains the most important purchasing criterion.

The last two seem contradictory. Consumers seem to be saying “I think the environment is important, but I don’t want protective measures to show up in product prices.”

So while businesses are overwhelmingly willing to reduce their environmental impact, their customers seem to be saying that they’re not willing to pay for it.

Regardless though of how you interpret the results of this survey, as a business owner you still have an inescapable responsibility to reduce the environmental impact of your business.

Boxes recycled to promote your shop

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s ecologically responsible and promotional.
  • It’s also economical.

The full version:

An article in Images Magazine about a clever idea used by a shop in New Orleans is worth taking note of. There’s no reason why your shop couldn’t do this as well, particularly as it’s probably the least expensive ecologically-responsible, promotional idea you’ve probably ever heard about.

Inferno Screen Printing recycles not only the boxes in which it’s shirts and other merchandise arrives but also those of some of its industrial park neighbours. They screen their logo, address etc. onto the boxes with water-based ink containing an air-dry catalyst in a big and bold design large enough to cover the existing printing on the boxes. They print some by hand and others on a press.

Once in a while a good idea worth imitating comes along; this is definitely one of them.

Setting up a small textile screen printing shop — #9 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • You have screen-coating options
  • Selection depends upon a number of factors
  • Stanley’s experts can explain the best options

The full version:

Applying capillary film.

A successful print depends upon the coating of your screens as much as anything else.

But the emulsion or coating method you select will vary depending upon a number of circumstances. These will include the type of exposure unit you have, the ink you’re going to use (water-based or plastisol), and the type of printing you’re going to to do (half tones), to name some.

Screen-coating materials come as either emulsions that are pre-sensitized or are accompanied by a diazo powder that has to be added to sensitize the emulsion, or as capillary film.

The pre-sensitized emulsions are very sensitive to light and are fast-exposing emulsions, which is a downside for newer shops that may not have the darkroom facilities to handle it properly. Initially a diazo emulsion would be a better alternative for new printers.

The diazo emulsions are slower-exposing but this gives you more latitude for exposure timing errors. It’s a better alternative, at least initially. But If you’re sensitizing emulsion you need to do so about twenty-four hours before you use it to coat a screen. The time is needed to allow the diazo to dissolve completely and for the air bubbles accumulated during stirring to escape. If the air bubbles are not given this time to escape, you’ll end up with pin holes on the screen.

Capillary film is essentially an emulsion film that you unroll and apply directly to the screen. It’s obviously light sensitive and must be applied under controlled conditions. The advantage is that the thickness is very precise and can be ordered according to the thickness you require. It is however more expensive per surface area than liquid emulsion.

Any of the experts at Stanley’s four branches can advise you on screen-coating options best for your shop or for any particular job.

Five mistakes to avoid in any negotiation

The thumbnail version:

  • Negotiating is part of doing business
  • There are some thing you must not do when negotiating

The full version:

This is the post that was intended for the previous date on the 20th before I was reminded of a story about a lease negotiation and decide to tell it.

So here they are now, the five things you must avoid when negotiating because landlords are not the only characters you’re likely to negotiate with; there are vendors, customers, contractors, partners, and even prospective employees.

  1. Do not rush to a conclusion. It’s a back-and-forth process that should include time to reflect. The party rushed into a conclusion is likely to come out second best. In fact, rushing the other party is a tactic.
  2. Do not say anything that doesn’t ultimately benefit you. Letting down your defenses, being self-deprecating, and answering questions that could harm your position (you don’t have to answer every question just because it has been asked), may create a friendly atmosphere but could position you as vulnerable.
  3. Do not fail to plan ahead. Know what you want and strategize to get it. Remember the fake folder in the previous post?
  4. Do not fail to see the negotiation from the opponent’s position. Knowing what the opponent wants will prepare you better for arriving at a win-win settlement.
  5. Do not show desperation. Showing desperation will put you at a disadvantage; to the other party it will be like “smelling blood”, which will embolden them. This could result in a settlement that disadvantages you and benefits the other party.

This is by no means all you need to know for conducting a successful negotiation, but it’s a start. You have some reading to do before your next negotiation.

Negotiating tactic or manipulation?

The thumbnail version:

  • A post turn into a story
  • Negotiating tactic or manipulation?

The full version:

This started out as a post about five things you must avoid when negotiating. But it reminded me of a lease negotiation I was a party to. So instead, here, by way of entertainment (and possibly education), is the story as I told it in my book Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business:

” I was about to sit down to negotiate the renewal of our main office lease with the property manager of the building. I’d heard that the landlord was aiming for an increase I considered to be higher than the market value, and certainly higher than I anticipated accepting.

A lease negotiation can be like a game of poker, with each party trying to guess the other’s cards before showing its own. I had minimised the guessing by advanced knowledge of the proposed rent increase. I also knew we were regarded as a desirable tenant and guessed that the landlord wouldn’t want to add to the existing unleased bays in the complex.

About ten minutes before he was due to arrive for the meeting, I had an idea that, in retrospect, and in all modesty, was not only fun but a stroke of genius. I found a manila folder and filled it with an assortment of colourful brochures, price lists, and sundry promotional material we had lying about the office. I then wrote ‘PREMISES SEARCH’ on the cover of the folder in a black marker pen and placed it on the far end of the meeting room table, where it was out of reach but close enough for the title to be read.

By the end of the meeting during which there were many furtive glances at the manila folder, we had agreed on a very modest rent increase in line with what I regarded as fair. In addition, my request for new carpeting at no charge was agreed to.”

Negotiating tactic or manipulation? You decide.

Anyway, the five things you must avoid in a negotiation will be discussed in the next post.

Going online — you need a plan

The thumbnail version:

  • E-commerce business is growing
  • It’s an avenue your shop should be pursuing.
  • But you must plan it properly.

The full version:

I love my e-commerce site!

Online business is still on the rise.  We’ve been pointing that out on this blog for some time. And recently FedEx ran a webinar for small businesses on the topic. After the webinar they issued a summary of the top ten considerations for making the shift to e-commerce.

One of those is particularly important and worthy of further exploration . . . Creating a plan for getting online. You must have a plan.

Setting a development budget, choosing a developer, choosing a dedicated employee as the liaison with the developer, must all be done. This requires a plan.

And it’s not just about the technology. In fact, once that is in place, it’s all about management of processes and administration. The process of taking and shipping orders will likely change and the people involved need to be trained and managed accordingly. This needs a plan.

And finally, but most importantly, you must identify who will manage the day-to-day e-commerce operations—a job that will include daily management of the website to keep it fresh and current.

All of this requires a plan.

Increasing sales — something to think about

The thumbnail version:

  • Increasing sales is a challenge for most shops.
  • Here are three ideas to consider.

The full version:

How can I increase my sales?

I don’t know of a single textile garment-decorator shop that doesn’t want to increase its sales. The perennial problem is, how? Well, Nigel Green, a contributor writing for Entrepreneur Leadership Network, offers three ideas for how it can be done.

The first idea is to raise your prices.

In the Tee-printing world this has been a bugbear for decades. Among textile screen printing shops lowering prices has traditionally been the key to competing. Its has been like a race to the bottom in which nobody but the consumer wins (and unfairly so). On the other hand, some shops have been successful by focusing on the quality and service-conscious areas of the market. So whether or not you can raise prices will depend where your shop has chosen to compete in the market.

If you  haven’t increased prices for some time, you may be able to do so now quite comfortably. (I know, you’re reluctant; we all brace ourselves when we have to hike prices, no matter how justified the increase may be, but usually it works out just fine). But do this calculation . . . Your current annual sales hiked by, say, 10 percent. That’s how much you’ll increase sales.

The second idea is to add new customers.

You’re going to lose a percentage of customers every year; it’s normal in most businesses. So, in any case. you have to work at recruiting new customers. The thing about new customers though is that they won’t balk at your increased prices because they don’t know anything different.

The third idea is to sell your customer something else.

It has long been known that it’s easier to sell to existing customers than to non-customers. So for a textile shop with, say, a T-shirt customer, offering caps, bags and other items you produce could work. Anything they buy after being made aware of it by you, would boost your sales. “Something else” could also be something new you’ve diversified into.

To quote Green, “Sometimes the best opportunities are the simple ones. If you implement just one of these tactics you could grow your business . . . “

Setting up a small textile screen printing shop — #8 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • Ink is a critical element in your shop.
  • Better-quality inks result in better quality-prints.
  • There are different ink systems e.g. plastisol vs water-based.

The full version:

The first decision you have to make is whether you’re going to print with plastisol or water-based ink. You have research to do.  However, regardless of the system you choose to print with, just know that the better the ink quality, the better your prints are going to be.

Make any colour with an ink mixing system

And generally “cheap” means poorer quality; don’t be seduced by the per-gallon price. If you calculate the cost per print (which takes into account variables such as rejects, ease of printing, and how much ink you have to put down) you’ll find that the so-called expensive inks are not that much more expensive than the cheaper inks; usually just pennies.

And while you’re considering ink, consider a mixing system. It makes a lot of sense for a small shop. Not only can it ensure accurate, repeatable colours, but you’ll be making only as much of a particular colour as you need for a job, thus not investing in a stock of left-over ink.

There’s a lot to consider about in ink. The crew at all four of Stanley’s branches can help you with advice.

Miss a call — miss a customer.

The thumbnail version:

  • Answer the phone and keep or gain customers.
  • If you can’t answer the phone, make other arrangemets for it to be answered.

The full version:

It keeps happening. you call a small business (textile screen shops included) and you have to leave a voice mail. You get mad because you’re impatient and, based on past experience, you can’t be sure that the voicemail will be returned in a timely manner, if at all. So you call one of their competitors.

A real live human immediately picks up at the other end. And not just that, they’re also friendly and apparently happy to hear from you. And you don’t care if the person you’re talking to is the business owner, an employee, or someone at a call-answering service. What you care about is that you’re getting action. And they’ve probably going to retain or gain a customer.

How does this apply to your shop? Make sure that every call is answered promptly by a real live human being. If it can’t be you or an employee, retain an answering service. You can’t afford to miss a call and miss a customer.

#2 in a series: Water-based vs. plastisol? It’s not that simple!

The thumbnail version:

  • Water-based versus plastisol is a legitimate comparison.
  • Some of the environmental differences raised are not legitimate.

The full version:

As we noted in the first in this post in this series, the water-based ink versus plastisol ink debate is a bit like the old Mac versus PC debate. People take sides and then find every argument they can, fact or fake, to support their position. This is referred to as cognitive bias and is a common human trait.

This is worth keeping in mind when trying to resolve a question about a serious technical or business matter such as whether your shop should print plastisol ink, water-based ink, or both. While conducting your research you have to push through the cognitive bias and get to the facts. Some of those facts concern their respective impacts on the environment.

When discussing the environmental impact of plastisol ink, critics often focus on two of its components, PVC resin and phthalates. What the critics fail to mention is that the better brands of plastisol ink haven’t included phthalates for many years and, in addition, there are now non-PVC plastisol ink options.

That leaves the disposal and chemical clean-up issues that applies to both types of ink. The “water” in water-based doesn’t mean “drinkable” as some of its advocates seem to imply when writing about how “safe” it is. So regardless of whether you’re printing in plastisol or water-based inks, product disposal and clean-up require that you keep the environment and local laws and practices in mind. It’s important.

Should textile screen printing shops be reinventing themselves?

The thumbnail version:

  • Screen printing as a garment-decorating technology is being challenged.
  • Are textile screen printing shops going to have to reinvent themselves?

The full version:

Something to seriously ponder . . .

An oil industry expert I know has been saying for some time that changing circumstances including the increasing emphasis on climate change, government regulations, public opinion and other elements is forcing the oil companies to reinvent themselves.

He predicts that companies we’ve long regarded as “oil” companies are going to have to reinvent themselves as “energy” companies. This is not hard to understand given technological advancements and the increasing demand to de-emphasize oil as the primary source of energy and to instead look to solar, wind, water, and nuclear for “cleaner” energy. In other words, the big oil companies in particular, are going to have to diversify into other energy products if they are to stay in business as big companies.

Are textile screen printing shops not in the same boat? With a growing demand for customized single prints, shorter runs, and the growing sophistication of direct-to-garment technology, is garment decoration not gradually shifting away from a reliance on screen printing? Major direct-to-garment equipment manufacturer, Kornit, is about to release 3D textile printing technology that will do high density and other special effects prints that until now could only be achieved by screen printing.

How long is it going to be before textile screen printing shops, like oil companies, are going to have to reinvent themselves? Will “garment decorating” shops offering screen printing merely as an option among other technologies become the new norm, replacing strictly textile screen printing shops?

Definitely time to ponder. Perhaps time to act and get ahead of the curve.

Setting up a small textile shop — #7 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • Screens involve frames and mesh
  • In both items you have choices to make

The full version:

Silk screen printing screens stored in a wooden rack ready for printing.

Textile screen printing takes its name from the next item you’re going to need—screens.

Screens are frames across which mesh has been stretched. So, starting with frames, you have choices: wood versus aluminum; and stretch-and-glue versus retensionable. You need to research frames as all have their pros and cons. Any of the Stanley’s branches can help you with advice.

Once you have the frame, you have to select the polyester mesh that will be stretched across it. Here you have more choices to make. It of course all depends upon what you’re going to be printing. This is pretty much a job-by-job decision. Mesh is distinguished on the basis of the fineness of the weave, for instance, a 110 mesh has 110 threads crossing per square inch. So the higher the count (156, 200, 230, 280, and 305 are common mesh counts) the finer the mesh. Then there’s the question of colour, white or yellow mesh?

You’d probably select a 110 white mesh for heavier deposits such as with white underbase or with “heavier” inks such as polyester inks. At the other end of the scale you’d likely use 305 yellow mesh for ultra-fine details, halftones etc. You have research to do. Again, any one of Stanley’s four branches can help with mesh advice and supplies.

Should you attend a training session or two on TikTok?

The thumbnail version:

  • TikTok has become a major retail marketing tool in the U.K.
  • The evidence suggests that Canadian textile screen shops should take this seriously.

The full version:

Images Magazine is reporting that Eventbrite (the ticketing and events platform) took six times as many bookings in 2020 over 2019 for its TikTok-related seminars, training and workshop events in the U.K.

Apparently brand sharing and product recommendations on TikTok are higher than on either Instagram or Facebook. This is significant when you consider that TikTok is said to have a worldwide audience of 689 million.

So the question for your textile screen shop in Canada is whether TikTok should be a major element in its promotion strategy. And this raises a second question about whether you or another person in your shop should attend a TikTok training session or two to not only find out what this marketing tool can do, but also how to use it to best effect.

The evidence from the U.K. says you should.

A reminder from a fire far away

The thumbnail version:

  • Are you disaster-ready?
  • There are measures you should take now.

The full version:

Photo per BBC.

Yesterday,  Sunday, 18th April, a fire on the iconic Table Mountain at the heart of Cape Town was out of control long enough to set light to the main library on the University of Cape Town campus. It destroyed the historic reading room that housed irreplaceable documents and records from South Africa’s past. It also destroyed a plant research unit.

So what does a devastating fire 15,000 kilometers away in the Southern Hemisphere have to do with textile screen printing shops in Canada? There’s likely no direct impact but it’s a reminder that disaster can strike quickly and devastatingly. And that in turn provides an opportunity to remind all shop owners:

  • Your shop insurance should be current and paid up to date.
  • You should assess your shop for fire safety and fire prevention (more than one textile screen printing shop in Canada has gone up in flames)
  • You should have a fire and water-proof safe or similar container to secure important documents, back-up USB sticks, etc.
  • You should have a remote daily back-up service for your shop’s computers.
  • You should have a photographic record of the the equipment, materials, furniture etc. updated regularly and kept off premises such as in a bank safety deposit box.
  • You should have copies (certified or notarized, if necessary) of important documents such as leases, agreements, and other legal documents stored safely off site.
  • You should have records of your various passwords stored safely off site or lodged with a remote service.

Make a point of attending to this now. Disasters arrive without warning.