Making it on volume?

Textile screen printing is a tough market place. Per-print prices in the major centres like the GTA are so low sometimes that you wonder whether the printer understands anything at all about costs, mark-ups, margins, and overheads. You wonder why a printer would want to own a print shop, deal with all the responsibilities and hassles ownership involves, and work for less than minimum wage. Yet, it’s happening and, in the process, messing up the market for everyone else.

Look, I have a fair idea of the cost of ink, chemicals, emulsion, screens, artwork, screen preparation labour, printing labour, quality control and packing labour, shipping labour, reclaiming screen labour, face-to-face time with the customer, admin (invoicing, collecting money etc.), accounting, dealing with come-back rejects, and overheads ( rent, equipment leases, utilities etc.). I also know that you have to know what those expenses amount to if you have to know what to charge for your work to cover your expenses and make profit.

Stupid pricing is self-destructive

What I don’t know is how anyone can take all that into account and still think it’s okay to quote 35 cents for a six-colour print even if it’s a “big” run. It reminds me of a book I once read in which the author said that he’d always been fascinated by how the change machines in airport buildings made any money. He’d put in a five-dollar bill and get back five loonies. One day he saw a technician working on one of the machines and asked him how they made any profit if the machine always gave back the same value it received. The answer? “On volume!” That’s about as smart as making no money on a print but banking on making it up on volume!

At least think about it.