A free webinar: wide-format, signage, textiles, and apparel.

The thumbnail version:

  • A webinar by Ultraflex on new trends and new products.
  • Suitable for both textile and sign shops.

The full version:

Ultraflex is offering this seminar on new technologies and trends of interest to both the textile and sign industries. Webinars such as this one are well worth registering for. Not only do they cost nothing but time, but if the content doesn’t live up to the billing you can just bail out.

Technological developments come quickly nowadays and these webinars are a great way to stay on the cutting edge. So register for this one by clicking here. It’s at 1.00 pm ET on 17th May. And do so because your competitors will probably be attending too.

Reinventing textile screen printing shops

The thumbnail version:

  • Are textile screen printing shops going to have to reinvent themselves?

The full version:

About a year ago I raised this question in response to a discussion I had with an oil industry expert who said that oil companies were going to have to reinvent themselves as energy companies. Climate change, regulations, and public opinion were the main drivers behind his argument.

I thought about textile screen printing shops in that context and realized that they too were beginning to experience similar circumstances. Sustainability is an obvious pressure point but what about encroachment from other businesses outside the textile industry driven by changes in technology?

Direct-to-garment digital printing is gradually gaining ground and that technology is being acquired by businesses familiar with it.  And they are using it to access the textile market. For instance, Roland DGA, traditionally a supplier of equipment to the sign industry, has a direct-to-garment textile printer. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see their sign shop customers follow them into the textile market. In fact, they are being encouraged to do so as a diversification strategy.

Kornit, an already big but still rapidly-growing manufacturer of direct-to-garment technology now has 3D textile printing equipment.  In McKinsey’s state of the fashion industry report of 2021they wrote: “In this highly tempestuous and increasingly competitive market environment, players across the board will need to reflect carefully (but swiftly) on their next moves.” Those players obviously include textile screen printers.

Do you have your finger on the pulse of the industry and how much thought have you given to how to adapt as the pulse changes?

Ecologically sustainable garments from seaweed

The thumbnail version:

  • Another sustainability option
  • But it comes at a cost

The full version:

Last year I posted an article about a small start-up in England that was making tees and sweats from mostly seaweed. I recently visited their website (https://inlandsea.co.uk) to see how they were progressing. It seems that things are going well and the range has grown. For anyone concerned about the poor sustainability record of our industry, any new idea to improve things is a good idea.

However, there is a downside—price. GBP25.00 for a plain white, no-print Tee is a bit much for a potential customer who can pick up a printed Tee at Walmart for under CAD10.  Okay, so there’s an obvious quality difference, but it’s still only a Tee.

So, while we always need to encourage any advancement in sustainability in our industry, it would make things a whole lot easier if sustainability didn’t come at such a high price. This doesn’t mean that we give up the quest for a more sustainable industry, but let’s recognize that price is a very real stumbling block and that we need to work on making it easier for customers to buy into sustainable Tees.

What is your shop doing about it?

Special effects re-visited

The thumbnail version:

  • Special effects can give you an edge over the competition
  • Special effects speak to the technical ability of your shop

The full version:

I was reading an analysis of a special effects print in Images Magazine when I wondered why i don’t see more of it in Canada.

It’s true that special effects inks have been in short supply locally as a result of the pandemic, but the supply chain is recovering and it seems like a good time to again consider special effects prints. First of all, there is a shortage of special effects prints in the retail market and, secondly, you can once again access the materials to fill that vacuum.

The print I referred to combined high density, glow-in-the-dark, and discharge to create a great result. There are many combination possibilities given the range of available special effects inks.

Think about it.

After-sale communication

The thumbnail version:

  • Communication is an obvious but sadly neglected sales weapon

The full version:

In the previous post I wrote about the importance of communication with your customers if you expect them to visit your website. Now I’m going add that routine day-to-day communication is also vitally important to holding your customer base together with the ultimate objective of ensuring repeat business.

And here’s an idea that I know works very well . . . Thank every customer with a follow-up email after every sale. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive, and it’s appreciated. Remember that people like to do business with people they like, and people like people who apparently care about them and the business that they bring.

If you build it they will come. Or will they?

The thumbnail version:

  • This is about your website and traffic

The full version:

There is that famous line from the 1989 baseball movie, Field of Dreams: “If you build it they will come.” It’s a great line and may even be true for some things, but unless and until you’re an Amazon.com, it’s not true of websites. Not even if your SEO is properly set up and maintained.

Building your website is only half the job, the other half is continuously promoting it, even to long-standing users. People are busy and people forget. If you don’t remind them to visit your site, they mostly don’t. Oh, some will if they really need something and they know that you have it, but you need to interact with your customers more frequently than occasionally if you are to maintain that all-important bond with them.

And potential customers who don’t know about you and don’t know about your website have to be told about it and encouraged to visit. Building it, parking it on the web, and waiting for visits is not an economically-viable strategy.

How do I know this? Well, because I know that it’s extremely likely that the only reason you’re reading this post is because you were prompted to visit by the monthly reminder email.

Discharge printing revisited

The thumbnail version:

  • Discharge printing offers a great print with a beautifully soft hand
  • There are technical issues to take into account

The full version:

A common misconception about discharge printing is that it is a bleaching process. But bleach damages fibers and discharge inks do not. According to Paul Woodward of Magna (now an Avient company) quoted in Images Magazine, discharge inks “work by removing the dyed areas of reactive dyed garments to create a different colour in its place.”

Before proceeding with a discharge printing job the garments have to be tested because not all fabrics can be discharge printed. According to Woodward, “only cellulosic fibers like cotton can be printed with discharge inks and they need to be dyed with reactive dyestuffs.” He does however point out that printing poly blends can create interesting effects when the poly doesn’t discharge.

The full article is well worth a read and may prompt you to revisit discharge printing. It give you an edge on the competition. Talk to the crew at Stanley’s for more information on discharge printing.

 

Taping your screens . . . is there an alternative?

The thumbnail version:

  • Is there an alternative to the old practice of taping screens?
  • Tony Palmer writing for Images Magazine addresses the question

The full version:

An Images Magazine reader posed this question: “I hate seeing the guys taping up screens, it’s been a bugbear for me for years. Surely there must be a better solution?”

Taping has been a standard practice for a very long time but two things seem to have prompted this to-tape-or-not-to-tape discussion. The first is that tape is becoming expensive and the second is an environmental concern, namely sending all the used tape to the landfill.

Palmer (who admits to still using tape himself, albeit sparingly) offers an alternative that involves extending the glue that holds the mesh to the frame to serve as an ink barrier in the way tape does. It apparently requires a slightly wider scoop coater and an adjustment to the coating technique. Regardless, this wouldn’t apply to retensionable frames.

After considerable discussion of the pros and cons of taping and the process of coating screens, it seems that the answer to the question is, not really.

COVID and your mental health

The thumbnail version:

  • This post is a repeat from the Stanley’s Digital blog
  • It is being reproduced here because it is an important topic

The full version:

Since there’s no guarantee that textile printers will check out the digital blog (even though there’s a lot of crossover nowadays), this post is being repeated here because it is a very important topic . . .

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote about the impact of COVID on mental health as the pandemic dragged on. Well, it’s now a year later and in spite of the optimistic view of governments, it is still dragging on (there is now a concern about a possible “spring spike” in Canada).

So, it’s worth repeating  the message of a year ago . . .

“The impact of stress can creep up on one, particularly over a period of continual stress as has been endured by many business owners and managers over the past year. In my chapter, Healthcare Professional, in Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, I wrote, “Even among small business owners who handle stress quite well, there are those—particularly men—who are foolishly macho about their health and seek help from a healthcare professional long after they should have, if they seek it all. Don’t be one of those people.””

It’s as valid today as when I wrote it four years ago. Don’t be one of those people.

Toronto National Imprint Canada Show update

The thumbnail version:

  • Apparent enthusiasm for the show in April
  • Registrations said to be “skyrocketing”
  • Doctors call for caution

The full version:

An update issued by Imprint Canada paints an optimistic picture of the the upcoming show on 22nd and 23rd April at the Toronto Congress Centre. Apparently more than 4,400 people have registered to attend and that number is expected to rise. The update also lists almost 110 exhibitors.

Shows make an essential contribution to the industry. Attendance to meet, greet, and keep up to date on the latest developments in the industry should be on every serious shop owner’s calendar. And the COVID disruption of the past two years has understandably caused a pent-up desire for a “normal” show.

However, while Imprint Canada’s update points to a “dramatically improved health situation in Ontario”, today health officials quoted in the press and interviewed on TV were reminding us that the pandemic is far from over.  Today the latest numbers from Ontario are up in positive tests, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions. Some of the doctors interviewed are urging the use of masks in indoor settings regardless of the lifting of the mask mandates. Some are prediciting a spring spike in Ontario.

If you plan to exhibit or attend the show, please keep this mind and be cautious.

Your smart devices may be spying on you

The thumbnail version:

  • Businesses with smart devices connected to the internet are vulnerable to spying

The full version:

According to RGCS of Edinburgh, providers of IT and cloud services to businesses, IOT (Internet of Things) devices now in common use in businesses large and small, represent a spying risk.

What are these devices? Anything with an IP address connected to the internet. This can include CCTV cameras, industrial controllers, building energy systems, smart thermostats, Wi-Fi routers, and computers.

What are the risks? Hackers can take control of these devices and misuse them or use them to spy. According to RGCS: “Some IoT devices have pre-set, default and unchangeable passwords, which, if discovered by cyber-criminals can enable the device to be taken over and misused.”

What can be done?  There are many measures and it wouldn’t hurt to involve your IT resource in planning your security, but here are some suggested by RGCS:

  • Secure your router by changing the default settings.
  • Change the default settings on IoT devices that connect to your router.
  • Do not share passwords between devices.
  • Determine what each device collects  and how it collects it. You can then make informed choices about turning off things like smart speakers or cameras for privacy.
  • Regularly update each device’s firmware.
  • Take advantage of extra security features such as “three strikes, and you’re out.”

What does all of this means for your business? The IoT brings a lot of advantages but it also poses security risks. Your challenge is to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks.

And finally, do you still think this is just a big business issue? Well, you’d be wrong. I once had an e-commerce site hacked, and while the hackers didn’t get any valuable information, they wrecked the site. It cost my small business $8,000 to fix. We hadn’t planned for that in our budgeting. Have you?

Supply chain disruption update (it’s getting better)

The thumbnail version:

  • Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel

The full version:

While we are warned that generally the global supply chain is still somewhat dysfunctional, things are looking up for Canadian textile screen printers.

Avient, who dominate the North American textile ink market through it’s major brands including Wilflex, Rutalnd, Union, and QCM, are relaxing the rationing of deliveries. In a recent release, Avient refers to 2021 as “a year of unprecedented supply chain challenges.”

The same announcement mentions “new portfolios across all Avient Specialty Ink plastisol brands.” At this time it’s not clear what this means for Canadian textile screen printers but apparently we’ll know soon.

Stanley’s will make announcements about ink availability and other changes as they occur. In the meantime, feel free to call any of the branches with your supply questions and concerns. As has been the case throughout the supply chain disruption, Stanley’s has been focused on keeping Canadian presses turning.

It has been an exhausting juggling act that will hopefully be over soon.

Imprint Canada bringing a show to Montreal

The thumbnail version:

  • Le Salon National in Montreal in September

The full version:

Imprint Canada has announced that a “long overdue” national show is returning to Quebec at the request of suppliers. It will be on September 8th and 9th at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. According to the announcement, “Exhibitor information will be issued in the coming weeks and buyer registration will open May 16.”

This is of course good news for Quebec-based textile screen printers. However, Quebec is said to be seeing the sixth COVID wave at this time which should remind us to be cautious and remember what Robert Burns wrote in To a Mouse: “The best laid plans of mice and men do often go awry.”

Let’s hope they don’t.

Calgary Western Imprint Canada Show has been postponed

The thumbnail version:

  • The show has been moved from May to September

The full version:

Imprint Canada has advised that the show scheduled for May this year has been postponed four months to 23rd and 24th September at the BMO Centre, Calgary.

Apparently a big majority of the reserved exhibitors which number just over 60 at this stage, were in favour of the postponement. The notice didn’t mention COVID which, as we know by now, can change at short notice. It’s not over. For instance, even now when many jurisdictions are reverting to “normal” as if the virus has disappeared, huge cities and part of cities in China are being locked down.

So, by all means make plans to exhibit or just attend, but closer the time, be aware of the status of the virus.

Effective after-sales service will boost revenues

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s simple, inexpensive, and effective
  • Stay in touch with your customers
  • Demonstrate that you care

The full version:

It works. I know it does because I use it effectively in an online digital book business. I’m talking about effective after-sales follow-up.

You don’t have to look any further than basic human psychology to understand why it works. People prefer to do business with people they like. And people like people who demonstrate caring. And calling or emailing a customer after a sale to make sure that they are satisfied with the product and the service, shows a higher degree of caring.

It really doesn’t need any further explanation other than to say that you really have to care of course—don’t fake it. We can all spot a fake. And if you have to fake caring for your customers and their repeat business, perhaps you’re in the wrong line of business.

 

Your sales plan

The thumbnail version:

  • Your sales plan is a key component of your business plan
  • As things open up it’s a good time to review your sales plan

The full version:

You’re probably like just about every other shop owner—you hate “paperwork” which would include sitting crunching numbers for a sales plan. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It can be quite uncomplicated. And, unfortunately, if you’re the shop owner, it comes with the territory.

So, let’s make it easier by first dispelling some unnecessary fears. First of all, the sales plan doesn’t have to be complicated. Secondly it doesn’t have to be about a lot of writing or number crunching. These things can be left to an assistant or your accountant once you have completed the most important task as the owner (and the one you cannot escape, sorry!), namely, the thinking. And don’t hesitate to involve your employees in the thinking process because people resist what is imposed on them, but support what they have helped develop—it’s not complicated, it’s human nature.

Here’s what you (and your employees) have to think about . . .

  • What are your sales goals?
  • Where are you going to operate in order to achieve those goals, i.e., where are your target markets?
  • What resources (human, digital, and mechanical) are you going to need and where will you find them?
  • How and what are you going to monitor to measure progress toward achieving your goals.

And here’s something else, your sales plan is not cast in stone. You have to keep adjusting as circumstances change. But at least you will have a plan which is much better than no plan at all, just as having a flashlight in a forest on a very dark night is better than stumbling about with no flashlight at all.

Buying a press? There are key questions

Thumbnail version:

  • You need to answer a few questions before looking for a press
  • The answers are key to buying wisely

The full version:

Writing for the March edition of Images Magazine (as he does every month), Tony Palmer discusses a generally “ideal” press and lists the questions you need to answer before looking for that ideal press for your shop’s specific circumstances.

Overall, his ideal press is an oval powered by a mixture of pneumatic and electric servo and with a configuration that allows him to print 12 colours. It must allow for three colours to be flashed and must have an option for two loaders. You should read the article for Palmer’s reasoning.

In the meantime though, he suggests that you ask yourself these questions before you start looking:

  1. What is my average run quantity?
  2. What is my average colour count?
  3. Where is all the downtime?
  4. What space is available?
  5. What budget is available?

Clearly there are going to have to be compromises among those answers. The point though is that you must go through the exercise in order to buy wisely.

 

Supply chain disruption update

The thumbnail version:

  • The shortages are easing in some lines.
  • Textile ink is slightly better but still struggling.

The full version:

It has been a month since the last update and during that time things have eased up a bit. It’s not a big difference but at least it’s moving in the right direction.

Textile ink (particularly plastisol) manufacturers, are still experiencing raw material shortages, but it is showing signs of easing.

Still dysfunctional but improving slowly.

Emulsion availability has improved but manufacturing turnaround time is still about four weeks. In the chemical lines, even though things are still slowish, availability is improving.

For instance, Tekmar products (water-based adhesives and spot remover) are available and largely unaffected. Chemical Consultants products are available but turnaround time from the manufacturer is still around five weeks.

Stanley’s is managing the situation as well as possible and are still doing what they can to keep the presses turning. Feel free to call any of the four branches for product availability updates as the situation is fluid and can change at short notice, particularly as there are now signs improvements.

Western Imprint show confirmed for May

The thumbnail version:

  • Alberta’s relaxed COVID restrictions allow for the show to proceed.
  • About 50 exhibitors have registered so far.

The full version:

It has now been confirmed that the Western Imprint Canada Show will return to the BMO Centre in Calgary on May 13th and 14th. So far about 50 exhibitors are backing the show.

Assuming no change in the state of the pandemic generally, and assuming that Alberta’s hospitalization rates continue to trend downward, the show will proceed. The organizers say that they are in constant touch with local health bodies to ensure a safe environment for all.

Mark your calendar.

Build your contact list

The thumbprint version:

  • Email remains an effective selling and communication tool.
  • You must keep building your contact list.

The full version:

Of course your shop’s website and blog are important channels for keeping in touch and communicating with your customers. But on their own they aren’t enough. People are busy, too busy to make a point of staying in touch with your shop—that’s your job.

And the way to do that job is to have a mail list on a platform such as Mail Chimp. You can then use the list to keep your shop in front of customers by, for one idea, reminding them to visit your website and blog for the latest entries.

You need to make sure they don’t forget about you by communicating with them regularly and routinely. You have to of course tread the frequency fine line between staying in touch and being a nuisance.

Keep in mind that in Canada you may only add names to a “commercial” email list if they have agreed in writing to be on it. This isn’t as onerous as it sounds though. There are many ways to ask. You can ask for permission by direct email to existing customers and you can ask every new customer if they would like to be on the email list,

The key though is to be constantly building the list. Don’t miss a single opportunity to expand it. The more willing participants you have on your email list the more effective you’re going to be at staying in touch and keeping your name uppermost in their minds.

Another critical aspect to exceptional customer service

The thumbnail version:

  • Resolving issues is a part of exceptional customer service.
  • Customers want low-effort resolutions.

The full version:

One of the measures some businesses use to track their customer service performance is Customer Effort Score (CES). Smaller businesses don’t need anything quite this formal and nor do they have to invest scarce staff resources in any kind of formal monitoring process. But what they must do is undertake to resolve customer issues with the least possible effort needed from the customer.

There’s an important reason for this. A study has shown that 94 percent of customers who have had an issue and have had it resolved with a minimum of effort on their part, intend to repurchase. And only 4% of customers who had to endure a “high-effort” experience intended to repurchase.

The message is clear. Resolve customer issues quickly and with a minimum of effort required from the customer if you’re interested in repeat business.

Speed in customer service

The thumbnail version:

  • Customer impatience is on the rise
  • Inquiry response time has to be quick

The full version:

I harp on about customer service a lot because it is such an important, yet often neglected, aspect of customer service. And customer service is what brings customers back.

A recent survey by Shopify revealed that 80 percent of customers expect a response to an inquiry (particularly online) within 24 hours.  And, more alarmingly, 37 percent expect it within an hour.

Customers are being conditioned by the retailing giants with their state-of-the-art systems to expect prompt responses. Smaller businesses have no choice but to be aware of this and react accordingly. Customers are becoming more demanding and more impatient; this cannot be ignored.

Even now, one can still come across automated phone or email responses that promise to get back within 24 to 48 hours. According to the Shopify survey, this is not good enough for a huge number of customers.

if you’re serious about providing exceptional customer service, you need to respond to inquiries within an hour. As the Shopify article concludes: “There’s no doubt speed is a pillar of exceptional customer service.”

Screen tracking

Thumbnail version:

  • Track your screens efficiently.

The full version:

Do you know exactly what screens you have in inventory at all times?

A recent article in the February edition of Images Magazine featured an innovative solution to keeping track of a screen inventory. Cory Beal of Floodway Print Company was about to expand the company’s screen inventory when he decided that what they needed was a system for keeping track of exactly what they had in the screen inventory at all times.

What’s so clever about the system he devised is that it was achieved by means of just a label printer, a cheap bar scanner and, Google Forms—all inexpensive and freely available.

I’ve known of many Canadian textile screen printing shops that could use just such a system

You should read the full article. Actually, you should be subscribing to Images Magazine and reading it every month.

Past service experience is a key to return business

The thumbnail version:

  • Existing customers are the easiest to sell to.
  • It’s relatively easy to encourage return business.

The full version:

Shopify recently reported on a comprehensive study into customer behaviour. One aspect of the study focused on what influences customers to purchase from a specific brand.

The findings included a number of elements such as “strong quality” and the “ability to reach customer service in the channel of their choosing.” But a third element caught my eye because it’s so obvious and so easily provided. Sadly though, it’s so often overlooked. It’s “an excellent past service experience.”

There are many aspects to “an excellent past service experience”, all of them easily delivered. But the underlying fact of human behaviour that drives this is that people like to do business with people they like. And people like people who provide them with a courteous, efficient, prompt, and satisfying buying experience. And the best part is that this takes very little to deliver. The sad part is that many in business don’t realize this or can’t be bothered.

How much emphasis does your shop put on providing “an excellent service experience”?

Financing from family and friends is mostly a terrible idea.

The thumbnail version:

  • A recent Courier article encourage borrowing from family and friends for your business.
  • It’s a terrible idea fraught with relationship-destroying problems.

The full version:

It happens a lot. This doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It can cause problems. It can destroy valued relationships.

That’s pretty much the whole story in a nutshell.

But to enlarge a little . . . In theory, borrowing from your family or friends to fund your business sounds marvelous. And why not? They want to see you succeed, right? And they’d like to share in your success too, right? But in everyone’s enthusiasm for “that great idea for a business”  there’s a downside to startups and small businesses that is often overlooked; a very high percentage do not make it past five years.

Where’s my money?

And when a business fails, money is lost. And if the money is that of friends or families, amicable relationships can quickly turn sour. There’s nothing like money for getting people riled up as soon as good intentions and lofty expectations start going off the rails. The first time you miss a repayment, you’ll see the cracks in the relationship forming.

There is a lot to be considered when planning to raise capital. There are a lot of potential pitfalls. Get sound advice from an experienced source. There are third-party capital sources that aren’t burdened with emotional and relationship baggage.

To close, an excerpt from my book Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business: “Long after a business has failed and disappeared, the family will still exist. And it’s much better if at reunions, weddings, and funerals, everyone is on talking terms.”

Four top trends for 2022

The thumbnail version:

  • FedEx has highlighted four top trends for small business for 2022

The full version:

FedEx’s January newsletter, FedEx Momentum, mentions what they regard as the four top trends in small business for 2022. Some of these may help you in your  strategic planning.

  1. Support for small business: Apparently 62% of Canadians are “showing loyalty to this group” and “55% are interested in fueling small business growth with their online shopping dollars.”
  2. Mobile e-commerce: “According to Insider Intelligence, mobile commerce accounted for 34% of retail e-commerce sales last year.”
  3. Short-form video: This is dominating user newsfeeds on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.
  4. Gen Zers are buyers with heart: They are looking to support social causes such as sustainability and diversity.

So what does this mean for your shop, if anything?

  1. Since most textile shops in Canada are small businesses, this is an encouraging trend. You should look for ways to take this into account in your marketing strategy.
  2.  You need to be online and your website must be tablet and smartphone friendly.
  3. This one will not suit everyone. Video is harder to do properly and takes much more time then the advocates of video will admit. If not done properly it can be more annoying than helpful.
  4. Attention to sustainability and diversity is an important trend that can no longer be ignored. A commitment to sustainability and diversity is not only the right thing for your shop to do but it makes business sense as well.

An endearing feature of our industry (flatulence aside)

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s a common occurrence
  • Print shop pets have been around for decades

The full version:

Every month for over six years. Images Magazine has had a column, Print Shop Pooches, in which dogs at garment decorating shops are featured. It’s a popular aspect of the magazine because pets have been an endearing feature of this industry for a long time.

Many an article has been written about the positive impact of a pet at work. One of their important roles is stress relief.

Relaxing at the office.

There are of course times when they need managing such as in the case of people who are allergic to or afraid of animals. And you don’t want them making a nuisance of themselves at meetings. For instance, a cat strolling across meeting room table during a serious discussion is not a great idea. Then there can be other issues too such as I mentioned in the excerpt from my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business . . . 

“If asked, I’m sure former employees would say that I didn’t always practice what I preach (with regard to pet management at the office). They’ll probably mention meetings when five or six of us would be gathered around the table with both my Jack Russells dozing under it. Jack Russells seek human company, particularly a crowd; my two would never miss a meeting.

It would all have been fine if Cassie, four years older than Ryley, didn’t have an occasional stomach-churning flatulence problem. She knew it, and she knew that we knew it. She also knew that shortly after an emission there would be a very unfavourable vocal reaction followed by a scrambling evacuation of the room. So, as might be expected from a dog of her intelligence, she would slink out of the room immediately after a gaseous emission and be well clear before it wafted up and caused predictable mayhem and scorn.

It might sound like a gross encroachment on my employees’ tolerance, but it really didn’t happen too often and, in any case, one learns to adapt. Ryley learned to leave the room as soon as Cassie did, and I learned to quickly adjourn a meeting if I saw the two of them sneaking out.”

If you have a printshop pet story to tell, we’d like to feature it here. Let us know.

Supply chain disruption update

The thumbnail version:

  • Supply chain disruption continues
  • No encouraging signs yet

The full version:

Global (and our industry) supply chain is still dysfunctional.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of good news yet on the supply chain disruption in the industry.

Plastisol ink remains in short supply as the key manufacturer continues to ration distributors in staples such as blacks, whites, bases, and pigments. Specialty inks and mixing kits have been suspended entirely.

Spray adhesives have been on backorder for a umber of months.  And the emulsion manufacturers are unable to make certain products due to raw material shortages. Even equipment is affected because some parts manufactured in China are still in short supply.

Stanley’s is performing juggling acts trying to keep printers’ presses turning. Feel free to call any of the four offices for updates on the supply situation or for help finding solutions to material or parts shortages.

Frustrated by rising costs?

The thumbnail version:

  • Costs of everything are rising
  • Your prices have to rise too

The full version:

More price increases!

Of course it’s frustrating. As if the supply chain disruptions aren’t bad enough, now you have to deal with rising costs. And if  there’s just one thing most small business owners fear more than rising costs, it’s raising prices to to cover those rising costs. Unfortunately, it’s unavoidable if you are to stay in business.

And the key pricing message I want to covey in this post is that you have to set prices per your circumstances and not those of your competitors. You can’t base your prices on those of one or more competitors because their circumstances and cost structures are likely to be very different from yours. So a price that gives them a sufficient profit margin might not be good enough for you if your costs (rent, staff etc.) are higher than theirs. Or if they’re not pricing sensibly (and you won’t know this), then you’d be foolish to price according to them.

You must calculate your prices according to your needs and, only once you establish the prices you have to charge to make it worthwhile being in business, compare with the market. If you’re higher than the competition to the extent that you cannot attract or keep customers, then you obviously have to make adjustments to your cost structure. But you definitely don’t want to adjust your prices downwards without first reducing your costs.

Of course there are other considerations to be taken into account when pricing, but cutting your prices to compete for sales without regard for your margins or costs is a recipe for failure.

The focus on going “green” continues to intensify

The thumbnail version:

  • Another “drop-out” and “go-green” story
  • Inspiration for potential screen printing dropouts

The full version:

The December edition of Images Magazine has an article that could inspire any potential screen printing dropouts. It’s a must-read if you’ve been considering “dropping out” of the rat race and pursuing a more sustainable screen printing business and lifestyle. If it’s possible in the UK, it’s certainly possible in Canada.

Si Atkin closed up shop in London and moved to rural Somerset to a community of artists and artisans to prove that screen printing can be sustainable. Among the sustainable, low-carbon-footprint measures he has taken are manual presses and water-based ink.

I’m quoting here directly from what Atkin told Images in the hope that it will encourage you to read the full article: “Being part of an industry that encourages consumerism, I feel it needs to be done in a responsible and environmental way. Fast fashion leaves a large carbon footprint, and it has a poor record of eroding human rights. Printing a garment that is sustainably made and well made means it is going to last a lot longer than fast fashion or something printed for promotional purposes that is worn once and ends up in a landfill. When we relocated we made a conscious decision not to stock any harmful chemicals or inks.”

There’s a lot more to Si Atkin’s fascinating story. Read it in the Images December online edition.