Author Archives: Michael Best - Stanley's blog editor

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.

Adapting to a changing market

The thumbnail version:

  • The market is demanding small orders.
  • Market changes mean adapting.

The full version:

I remember a big textile screen print shop in Calgary back in the nineties that had licenses to print merchandise (mostly Tees and hoodies) for all the major professional sports leagues. I remember too how the production manager was in a constant battle with the sales manager over small orders.

The sales manager, in typical fashion considered a sale to be sale, whereas the production manager, also in typical fashion, considered a small order to be a nuisance. That was then; it’s different now. The licensed merchandise market took a dive, the big orders went away, and this particular big shop disappeared.

It’s a story about adapting to the customer’s circumstances and not expecting the customer to adapt to yours.

What reminded me of this was a recent article by Marshall Atkinson in Images. It is about “hyper-personalization” which he defines as: ” . . .  personalizing the garment to a unique individual. Very small decoration runs. Usually just one piece, but the print edition can be more if there is a unique something about it that is made for someone with a specific change to the garment.”

The article is worth reading in full. If he is right, it will be further evidence that the screen-printed textile market is changing and textile screen printers have to adapt to thrive, if not merely survive.

#1 in a series: Water-based vs plastisol? Good vs bad? It’s not that simple!

The thumbnail version:

  • Water-based versus plastisol is a legitimate comparison
  • Some of the differences raised are not legitimate, for example, the issue of phthalates.

The full version:

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. One of those facts concern phthalates.

Phthalates are a family of chemicals used to soften plastics. They are considered to have adverse health effects (including being carcinogenic). Ironically, this health threat is apparently still used in plastic tubes and IV bags in hospitals. It was an ingredient (and may still be in some brands) in plastisol ink. The leading manufacturers such as Wilflex, long ago began producing phthalate-free plastisol ink.

In the water-based ink versus plastisol ink debate phthalates are often raised as a reason to switch to water-based ink. There may be legitimate reasons why your shop should switch, but phthalates is unlikely to be one of them. Don’t be fooled by this argument.

We’ll explore the other differences between water-based ink and plastisol in future posts in this series.

Contribution margin. What is it?

The thumbnail version:

  • Understanding “contribution margin” is a good first step to managing the profitability of your shop.

The full version:

Let’s face it, most textile screen shop owners and managers would rather spend time handling interesting art and reproducing it as a great print on a Tee than concerning themselves with something called a “contribution margin.”

Every job must make an adequate contribution to fixed expenses; this is the “contribution margin”

But, and it’s a BIG but, ignore “contribution margin” and you may no longer have a business to produce great prints. So what is “contribution margin”? Joe Knight of business-literacy.com has a good definition: “When you make a product or deliver a service and deduct the variable cost of delivering that product, the leftover revenue is the contribution margin.”

In a textile print shop context that means that if you take the quoted price of a job, deduct the variable costs such as film, emulsion, ink, chemicals (anything you wouldn’t pay for if you didn’t run the job) what you’re left with is the contribution margin. Now, the point of course is that the contribution margin had better be a positive number in order to help pay for fixed expenses such as rent, utilities, and the staff that will be on the clock regardless of whether they’re producing or not.

Admittedly, in calculating “contribution margin” it’s not always obvious which is a variable cost and which is a fixed expense, but you get the idea of the importance and purpose of the “contribution margin” . Every job must have a contribution margin (the bigger, the better) for a shop to survive and thrive.

Understanding “contribution margin” is a good first step to managing the profitability of your shop.

Setting up a small textile shop — #6 in Series

The thumbnail version:

  • You’re going to be making film positives for which a printer will be required.
  • There are various options including having another shop do it for you.
  • Research is required.

The full version:

You are going to be making stencils and for that you’ll need a film printer. There are many types of printers but what’s most commonly used by small shops for producing film is an inkjet printer. Before buying a printer it would be wise to do some research including talking to few screen shop owners to confirm which printer would likely be best for you.

You’ll use inkjet film which has one side coated. The coating is what the ink holds onto. Inks differ—Epson uses UV-blocking ink whereas others use dye ink which is supposed to stop all light. Again, do your research.

To properly create your art you’ll need software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. If you’re new to these programs just know that there is a learning curve and it pays to get some qualified instruction to help flatten the curve. Then after creating the art you’ll need software for printing it and the most common program is AccuRIP. But, like everything else involved in setting up the shop, you need to do your research.

And finally, if initially printing your own film positives is a bit much to handle, you should be able to strike a deal with another local shop to do it for you.

Promoting your shop locally

The thumbnail version:

  • Support for local small business is a growing trend.
  • There are a number of ways to take advantage of this trend.

The full version:

Shopify recently reported that consumer trend data are revealing that half of North American buyers are changing the way they’ll shop in the future. When not buying online the preference is becoming support for small local businesses.

This is leading to an increasing flood of advice on how to promote your business locally. Here are some of the ideas being floated;

  • Google My Business is a free listing tool to manage your presence across Google Search and Google Maps.
  • Attendance at local events that attract an audience from the local market will give you local exposure. Knowing that there is a trend to supporting local small businesses means that you should make sure you cater to that sentiment.
  • Local workshops, demonstrations, shop tours etc. can raise local awareness.
  • Free local delivery is said to rate highly with customers. Shopify says that local online shoppers are likely to spend 23% more when local delivery and pick up are offered.
  • Local press releases or press coverage can spread the word to the local market looking for local small businesses to support.

Those are some ideas for taking advantage of the trend to supporting local businesses. With some effort you can probably come up with few more.

An encouraging eco-friendly story about garments

The thumbnail version:

  • An encouraging eco-friendly clothing story
  • Consider whether your shop could benefit by getting on board

The full version:

Illustration per Regatta Professional

The March edition of Images Magazine has an encouraging eco-friendliness story about a garment manufacturer. I’m not sure that their garments are available in Canada but it’s nevertheless a story that should encourage and inspire those of us looking forward to our industry making better progress in eco-awareness. It’s a global problem that could benefit from innovation in this regard from anywhere on the globe, for instance, in this case, the U.K.

Regatta Professional (check out their website here) are offering an 11-item eco-friendly line of clothing including bodywarmers, fleeces, softshell, and waterproof jackets they’ve called Honestly Made. What’s so eco-friendly about this line? Well, it’s manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. They’re very proud of the fact that since 2019 they’ve saved almost 2.5 million plastic bottles from the landfill.

We’ll let you know when we locate a similar line here but, in the meantime, if you could find such a line of eco-friendly garments it would help differentiate your shop from the competition in a market that is becoming increasingly aware of the bad eco reputation of the current clothing industry.

We sense a trend to eco-friendliness among Canadian consumers.  It could make sense to take account of it in your business model.

Setting up a small textile shop — #5 in a series

The thumbnail version:

  • You will have to be able to wash out and reclaim screens.
  • A separate and properly-equipped facility is best but there are temporary measures you can take.
  • There are things you must know about mixing chemicals and drainage

The full version:

You are going to have to have somewhere to wash out freshly-shot screens and to wash reclaimed screens.

Well-established shops have separate rooms equipped with wash-out tanks, power-washers, racks for chemicals, appropriate drainage, ventilation, and so forth. You can think of it as a bathroom for screens that is more commonly referred to as “the swamp”.

Once you have the necessary equipment (washout tank and pressure washer), the mechanics of the “swamp” are pretty straight forward. A less obvious but important aspect is eco-friendliness. This takes into account the types of chemicals you use and how you dispose of them. In most jurisdictions you can’t just flush the chemicals and ink into the public sewer system. You need to be clear on the applicable local bylaws.

Even if you find that you can flush your “swamp” run-off into the public sewer system (perhaps after processing through a settling tank, filtering, or some other such mechanism) you need to be aware of which materials you can and cannot mix in your wash-out system. For instance, I once saw the results of a print shop ignoring a warning that they couldn’t mix Varsol (used as an ink remover) and an SBQ (Styryl Basolium Quarternary) photopolymer one-part emulsion. The Varsol solidified the emulsion until the drainage pipes were completely clogged and had to be torn out and replaced.

A small washout tank.

When you are starting out and a separate and well-equipped “swamp” is not possible, a small stand-alone unit might be a good initial option. But even if this is not possible then there are temporary alternative ways of washing out and reclaiming screens. However, budgeting for at least a washout tank and pressure washer will make your life and production a whole lot easier. A separate, well-equipped “swamp” would of course be better still.

Talk to any of the Stanley’s folk at one of the four branches about your washout and reclaiming options. They can help with the equipment and chemicals you’ll need.

Positive language and irritable customers

The thumbnail version:

  • The language you use with a complaining customer is important
  • Negative language will compound the customer’s frustration
  • It’s a keep-or-lose the customer proposition

The full version:

While we’re railing against sloppy business practices (see previous post about ghosting inquiries via your website) let’s throw in dealing with irritable customers as well.

You decide which route to take if you want to keep the complaining customer.

An irritable customer doesn’t want to listen to explanations about why you cannot do anything for them; they want to hear what you are going to do for them. And the language you use is critical to the reaction you can expect. For instance, using any words or phrases that suggest that the problem is the customer’s fault (even if it is), or that the customer has to solve the problem themselves, or that you’re not able to address their concern for any reason whatsoever, is not a good idea.

So don’t say things like, “You have to . . .” or “I want you to . . .” or “Why don’t you . . .”, and so forth. Say things like, “I’m going to . . .” or “I can do this right now . . .” or “I’m going to work on this until it’s solved, can I call you back shortly?”

There are many aspects to handling customers’ complaints and concerns effectively, but positive language is one of the more important ones.

Now, that being said, you will run across the odd unreasonable, rude customer that cannot be pleased under any circumstances, no matter what you do. These are the ones where you want to take a deep breath, calm down, and politely encourage them to go deal with your competition by “admitting” that you’re obviously not capable of satisfying them.

 

Don’t ghost your “Contact” page inquirers!

The thumbnail version:

  • If you don’t answer inquiries via your “Contact” page promptly, you’re losing business.

The full version:

What do I have to do to get you to answer my inquiry?

If you think you’ve seen this here before, you’d be right. And you’ll probably see it here again in the not too distant future. This is because businesses just don’t seem willing or able to do this very simple but important thing—promptly answering inquiries made from prospective customers via their website “Contact” pages.

What is the point of the “Contact” page on your website if you don’t pay any attention when people use it? It seems to be a maddeningly common problem regardless of business type and size.

So here’s a simple way to differentiate your shop from the competition . . .  Make it yours or somebody else’s job to check for email inquiries off your website at least twice a day and to answer them right away. A prompt answer from a real person (not an automated response), even if it is just to say that the inquiry has been received and you’ll respond in detail shortly, is way, way better than no answer at all. And waiting a day or two to respond is as good as not responding at all in this impatient society.

“Ghosting” your next potential big-order inquiry is a really dumb way to do business.

Setting up a small textile screen shop — #4 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • A decent exposure unit is an essential item of equipment
  • You have research to do

The full version:

I once heard a screen printer explain how he exposed screens when he started out in a small shop in Hawaii. He said that his dark room was a grass hut and his exposure mechanism was a grass curtain in the ceiling that he drew back with with a cord and  pulley mechanism. The sun was his light source. This was how he burnt images into his coated screens.

Not an ideal dark room

He had figured out the length of time he had to draw back the curtain and “expose” the screen. Obviously unconventional, and definitely not recommended. First of all, Canada is not Hawaii, but secondly, we want to start you off using the right equipment because you can be sure that your competitors are not drawing back a reed curtain to expose their screens!

An exposure unit built by a reputable manufacturer is an essential piece of equipment. Quality matters. Precision matters. You also have to decide between a bulb unit, a UV unit, and an LED unit. LED units are a little more expensive but worth the investment because they last longer than UV bulbs, they use much less power, and the stencils are sharper.

Do your research. Ask the folk at Stanley’s; they can help and advise.

Finally, if the investment is a bit steep when you’re starting out, use a screen-burning service until you’re ready to make the investment in a good exposure unit.

HSBC webinar — the 2021 outlook for small business

The thumbnail version:

  • You need to hear an expert on the outlook for 2021 for small business

The full version:

Today HSBC hosted a webinar for small business owners about the outlook for the rest of 2021.

The key speaker, Ray Kong, highlighted some interesting points. Here are some of them in summary:

  • Contrary to what we’re frequently told, we’re NOT in this together. Some are worse off than others and some are actually thriving. You need to understand where your customers are on this scale of horrible to great.
  • A digital presence is a must. Though it’s not all digital or all brick and mortar, it’s a combination.
  • Surveys are finding that 75% of Canadians favour buying local. You need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to do so.
  • Consumers are looking for businesses who have set about differentiating themselves via socially-responsible and noble causes. he cited a textile company,  Mungo of South Africa, as an example.
  • Sample your business from the outside as a customer would. Fix what wouldn’t please you if you were a customer.

This is all good stuff and well worth taking seriously.

Leaping ahead of the COVID-19 rebound

The thumbnail version:

  • You need to get ready for post-COVID
  • There are 6 specific things you need to take care of

The full version:

Ben Richmond, an Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor, recently had some sage advice for small business owners looking ahead to rebounding after the COVID-19 situation subsides.

We want to see you celebrating at the end of COVID

He listed six ways to ensure that your shop is as prepared as possible to take the necessary actions when the time comes.

  1. Determine what your shop’s cash flow needs are going to be. Plan to preserve cash until at least June.
  2. If you have to secure financing before June, build a truthful but impressive case for lenders. Demonstrate your success before COVID and how you plan to return to those levels of business post-COVID.
  3. Anticipate inventory levels. This is not just to return to what you were doing before COVID, but also for opportunities that you may want to pivot to after COVID. For instance, think about the travel and accommodation industry gearing up again.
  4. Prepare to hire. Identify candidates. Stay on this issue and time hiring carefully.
  5. Continue to monitor safety precautions for when you gear up again. We are all going to have to be cautious for some time until COVID is well and truly beaten.
  6. Look for good financial advice from good accountants and financial advisors.

Take these measures to give your shop the best possible chance of coming out of this thing successfully.

Setting up a small textile screen shop — #3 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • Uncured ink will wash out
  • There are effective and ineffective ways of curing prints

The full version:

It’s a basic and inescapable textile screen printing fact—don’t cure the ink properly and it will wash out. So, what’s to know about this?

The answer is a decent conveyor dryer. Start-up screen printers will often try to save money by using a flash cure for the final curing of their prints. It can work but is not optimally production friendly and the possibility of under-curing is significant. Some have been known to even use a heat press for curing prints. But by far the best-case scenario is a conveyor dryer, and not just any conveyor dryer.

Lower-end versions bought from less-reputable manufacturers to save a few dollars can disappointed. Do your research. Ask many questions. A good dryer is a critical item of equipment. You can have fantastic artwork, all the right screens, the best emulsion, the best ink, and a great print, but if the print washes out, all the rest doesn’t matter.

Talk to the crew at Stanley’s about dryers. They can help.

Over-flashing your underbase

The thumbnail version:

  • Underbasing requires certain precautions
  • Over-flashing the underbase causes problems

The full version:

Stefan Mertes recently warned against over flashing your underbase. He points out that over-flashing the underbase causes the pallets to heat up to the point where they can cause the ink in the other screens to begin to gel or dry. This is particularly true of water-based inks. And that can mess up your prints.

His point is that even if you get everything else right about printing an underbase  including the right mesh count, the right emulsion thickness, the right squeegee, the right pressure, the right off-contact, and the right screen tension, you can still have problems just by over-flashing. The trick is to keep the temperature of your pallets as low as possible.

If you have any concerns about the right underbase and how to use it, talk to Stanley’s. They have the right ink and the right information.

Setting up a small textile screen shop — #2 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • New shops are springing up like mushrooms
  • There is much to consider in equipment and supplies
  • You will need a flash dryer

The full version:

A typical flash dryer.

Assuming that you’re going to be printing multicoloured designs with plastisol ink, you will have to be able to gel the ink. For this you will need a flash dryer. Gelling ink between colours is a quick process; the time under the flash dryer is generally just 5 to 10 seconds at most.

But understand that in established, high-production shops there are two types of dryers—flash dryers and conveyor dryers. Whereas a flash dryer is used in the printing cycle to gel ink, a conveyor dryer cures the finished print.

However, although curing prints with a flash dryer is generally frowned upon, it is not uncommon for smaller start-up shops to do just that. The main reason is avoidance of the cost of a conveyor dryer. Historically though, when prints crack or wash out, the reason is under-curing and often it’s because the curing was done by flash dryer in a smaller shop.

That said, some industry professionals will tell you that plastisol ink can generally be fully cured with a flash dryer. But then there are steps you must take to ensure something approaching a decent cure. You should set the flash dryer to its highest temperature and position the heating element just 3 to 4 inches over the garment for 25 – 30 seconds. You want to reach the 320 degrees on the surface of the print that plastisol generally requires for curing. You can test the temperature with a donut probe.  Expect to have to experiment to arrive at a print that doesn’t crack when stretched or still looks good after, say, three wash tests.

You will need a flash dryer but, ideally, you’ll also need a conveyor dryer. We’ll discuss conveyor dryers in the next post in this series.

Hear an expert on textile screen printing trends for 2021 (Video)

Adrienne Palmer, The Editor-in-Chief of Screen Printing Magazine, was recently interviewed on the topic of screen printing trends for 2021.

Now, that’s a great idea!

Some of the advice she imparted included the need for screen printers to:

  • Have an online presence for selling direct to customers.
  • Search Pinterest regularly for ideas and trends.
  • Visit designinspiration.com for, as the name implies, design inspiration.
  • Use Instagram for promotion of your prints.
  • Use TikTok for promoting your prints.

Screen Printing Magazine is exactly the type of resource Canadian textile screen shops should stay in touch with.

You can see the full interview: Click here. 

Print on demand — it’s really a thing

The thumbnail version:

  • Our culture is shifting away from the homogeneity of mainstream products
  • The time has never been better for print shops to make a switch

The full version;

This, intentionally, is the second post this month on print-on-demand coming to the the textile decorating industry (Yes, that includes your shop!). The increasing number of articles in trade journals about this phenomenon is “writing on the wall” that print shop owners should be paying attention to if they want to remain relevant in an evolving industry.

Ian Bell, writing for Images Magazine, claims that the time has never been better for print shops to make the switch from business-to-business (“B2B”) to business-to-consumer (“B2C”). He bases this on indicators that “our culture is increasingly shifting away from the homogeneity of mainstream products and markets to more niche, personalized goods and services.”

But, he argues that for a shop to maximize its profitability in the B2C market, a high degree of automation is necessary. He mentions digital technology, automated ordering systems, automated order processing, and highly-automated production (including bar-coding garments so as to be able to track them throughout the process from order to delivery).

To a traditional industry notoriously slow to adapt to change, this might sound like sci-fi dreaming. It’s not. It’s really a thing. It needs to be taken seriously.

Setting up a small textile screen shop — # 1 in a series

The thumbnail version:

  • New shops are springing up like mushrooms
  • There is much to consider in equipment and supplies
  • The first piece of equipment is a press

The full version:

So you’re planning to set up your own shop. Whether you’ve worked in a textile shop or not, this series will be helpful in determining what you’re going to need in the way of equipment and supplies. We’ll start with the assumption that you have suitable space set up for your operation, be it a rented space in an industrial complex or your own garage.

The first item you’re going to need is a press. Unless you have deep pockets and a reason to believe that you’ll be printing hundreds of Tees an hour every day right off the bat, you’ll be looking at a manual press.

There are many manual presses on the market that range from table-top models to multi-station models. Don’t make a press decision on your own! Ask a number of sources for advice. Read. Research. Watch videos. Talk to the people at Stanley’s.

Stanley’s has access to established manual press brands with tried and tested models. Your press is the hub of the shop, make sure you buy a good one.

The next post in the series will deal with gelling and curing your prints.

Print on demand — a growing phenomenon in 2021

The thumbnail version:

  • Print on demand forecast to take off in 2021
  • Speedy turnaround and delivery is key

The full version:

Writing for Images Magazine, Marshall Atkinson suggests that 2021 is the year the print-on-demand concept is going to take off for textile screen shops.

It’s not a new concept and has been a feature of book publishing for a number of years. I can deliver a copy of my own book, Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business, in the USA, Canada, the UK, or Australia within a few days of receiving an order, thanks to print-on-demand.

Print ion demand is about receiving the order and shipping it within hours.

Now the concept has come to the textile screen printing industry. All you need is an online store on Shopify, Etsy, or even your own independent website. The concept is built on speed and efficiency.

The shop has to be organized for maximum efficiency. The order comes in and the product is produced and shipped all on the same day, or the next day at the latest. In a textile screen printing context this means either direct-to-garment printing or pre-printed transfer applications. From an in-house investment efficiency perspective, it means lower inventory holdings (for instance, no printed Tees are kept in stock).

This increasing attention to the concept should come as no surprise given the online retailing trends in plain sight for us all to see. Screen shops looking for additional revenue streams in this competitive market would do well to consider print on demand.

Reading yet?

The thumbnail version:

  • ” . . .  they (books) are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

The full version:

I’ve just seen an article by Matt Duczeminski, “10 Reasons Why People Who Read a Lot Are More Likely To Be Successful.” It reminded me that we haven’t yet given you our annual reminder to make a resolution to read more this year, particularly stuff that will be helpful in growing your business and managing it better.

Business owners (and this of course includes all textile shop owners) can’t exist in an information bubble. If you’re not in touch with what’s being written about your industry specifically, and business management generally, your business will lag behind. It’s a fast-moving world.

And, as we’ve written before, if you don’t like reading entire books or think you don’t have time to read entire books, there’s a solution for you. Soundview has a service whereby they reduce business books to 10-minute summaries. Check them out here. 

Let me remind you what Charles W. Eliot said: “Books are the quietest and most consistent of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

And here is more evidence for the reading case from two names you’ll recognize . . .  Mark Zuckerberg, “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today.” And Bill Gates, “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

Special effects (but re-think glitter)

The thumbnail version:

  • Winter is the time to experiment in the shop with special effects.
  • There are a lot of special effect materials to use responsible, just not glitter.

The full version:

Winter is the time when things slow down for most Canadian textile printers, and right now COVID-19 is not making it any easier. But, on the upside, it’s a time to experiment in the shop with, for instance, special effects.

Glitter might look good on a Tee, but not so much in the ocean.

Realistically, special effects will never be your core activity, but it has the potential to add to both your reputation as a skilled shop and your bottom line. It does however require that you practice, experiment and become skillful at special effects printing. And what better time of the year to have some fun and invest a few hours in this than the slower winter season?

Popular special effects usually involve metallic finishes, high density prints, faux suede, reflective prints, and a number of other techniques and materials. One of those other materials has been glitter; but we need to re-consider that.

Recent research has shown how glitter is adding to the microplastic problem in the oceans as far away as the Arctic. At 1% It’s not a significant part of the overall microplastic problem but we have to start somewhere and glitter is one of the easiest to start with—just stop using it. There are plenty of other ideas and materials for creating special effects prints.

Call Stanley’s for the materials you’ll need to do special effects printing and add a new dimension to your shop’s skill set.

The power of email in conversion rate optimization.

The thumbnail version:

  • Email marketing is inexpensive and effective.
  • Services like mail Chimp make it easy.

The full version:

Businesses, particularly small businesses, seem to miss out on the power of email or treat it as a secondary option for conversions.

Email is an effective way to stay in touch with your customer base and to convert
sales.

Email is among the least expensive marketing tools available to businesses for a couple of reasons: (1) you already have the technology; and (2) the people receiving your emails are already familiar with your business. It has often been pointed out that it’s much easier to sell to existing customers than it is to persuade people who don’t know your business to buy from you.

There are various services that make maintaining an email list and emailing your customers easy, for instance, Mail Chimp. Another useful application tracks abandoned carts on your website and then emails to remind them to complete the purchase.

Give some serious consideration to setting up a mass-email base on a service like Mail Chimp, keep building it, keep it up to date, and use it to convert sales.

Raising investment capital for the shop? Start with a pitch deck.

The thumbnail version:

  • We’re in times where capital may be needed
  • It’s hard to raise capital
  • A pitch deck is one way to get a foot in the door

The full version:

Finding investment capital is hard.

Raising money for the shop can be really tough. And it’s particularly tough right now after almost a year of COVID-19 rotating shut-downs and lost sales. So here’s some advice from Courier that you should consider if your plan is to raise investment capital—start with a pitch deck.

I think it’s a good start to raising capital, large sums or modest sums, and from any source. It’s even a good idea for nailing down a clear overview of your business in your own mind even if you’re not anticipating raising capital at this time.

So what is a pitch deck? It’s a visually-compelling, succinct presentation that tells the story of your business at a high level of overview. It explains why your business is worth investing in. It’s not all you’ll need to seal an investment deal, but it’s a door opener. It should consist of about a dozen slides, each addressing a single, clear point in the telling of the story of your shop.

Here are some indicators to underscore why it has to be “visually-compelling and succinct”:

  • “If you can’t get an investor’s attention in 3 minutes, you’re going to have a lot of trouble getting a customer’s attention in that same time.” – M. Vernal.
  • “Investors spend on average three minutes and 44 seconds looking at a pitch deck” – From a study by DocSend.
  • “The number one question your pitch deck needs to answer is what problem your business is focusing on, why it needs to be addressed and how your business or product is the solution. However you tell the story of your business, it’s the problem you’re solving that needs to be addressed.” – Courier

With regard to the last bullet point above, the ecological impact of non-organic clothing items would be an example.

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.