Sign shops looking for an additional source of revenue should consider entering the lucrative direct-to-garment printing market.
It isn’t much of a leap from what they are already doing in the digital printing market and it is one more way shop owners can market to their current clients, says Paul Crocker, director of marketing for AnaJet in Tustin, California.
加利福尼亚州Tustin AnaJet营销总监Paul Crocker说：“服装打印市场与数字打印市场做的工作并没有太大的跨越，而且标识商店店主也可以向之前的客户销售这一业务。”
Customers wanting to better promote their brand will often ask sign shops if they also offer printed T-shirts and other garments.
“Sign shop owners are getting tired of sending out that revenue to their partners so they would rather keep that revenue in-house and take the profit on that,” Crocker says. “It is a natural, automatic customer base. They can take advantage of that.”
From a technology standpoint, it is “typically a fairly short learning curve for them. A lot of their equipment already uses inkjet technology. They are familiar with inkjet technology,” he says.
Mark Bagley, director of marketing for the industrial products division of Brother International Corp. in Bridgewater, New Jersey, says that the technology used in DTG is very similar to what sign shops already use. The biggest difference is in the inks. Most DTG printers use water-based inks instead of UV or solvent inks.
When trying to determine which shops would be a good fit for DTG, Bagley says he focuses on which ones already work with artwork on a daily basis or sell apparel.
Many shops don’t want to get into screen printing “because of the space it requires, so they start looking at different decorating techniques or use a contract printer,” he says. “DTG printers use one or more print heads. We keep the printer in a controlled environment – temperature and humidity – like a digital sign printer does with its printers.”
Bagley adds that sign companies tend to be more proficient with artwork and “the better the graphic is, the better the shirt is going to look.” They also tend to be more creative and are willing to explore and do things a little bit new or different.
“They will take a more fashion edge approach to stuff that creates a new product that is out there,” he adds.
Mark Stephenson, director of marketing for ColDesi in Tampa, Florida, says that sign and digital practitioners are in the perfect position to expand into custom apparel. His company produces a Custom Apparel Startups podcast that talks about lateral marketing. How to get your big pool of existing sign and trade show customers to purchase something branded from you, like t-shirts or ball caps.
“There’s a lot of things you can do with today’s DTG printers that would feel very familiar to them as well. You’re using a RIP (raster image processor) software like what they use for sign equipment, preparing a substrate, T-shirt, like they do in the sign industry. There are lots of parallels. It is a great fit and it is really profitable,” Stephenson says.
ColDesi loves to educate new customers about the versatility of its DTG printers. It has more than 700 videos on custom apparel and it is launching a new website that will make it even more user-friendly. The company also offers weekly webinars; about every third one deals with direct to garment printing.
Once someone signs on as a customer, ColDesi offers in-house training or live online training sessions. It also offers weekly tech talks.
“We do as much as possible to make people successful,” Stephenson says. “We’re in a unique position because we don’t just sell the DTG printers. We sell commercial embroidery machines and two kinds of bling machines, and our sister company sells Graphtec cutters and vinyl and cap heat presses.”
Its Custom Apparel Startups podcast has more than 5,000 followers who are getting started in custom apparel. They talk to each other and the podcast tackles topics like how to do marketing, search engine optimization and many other business topics.
“From a fitting into their shop standpoint, DTG printers are a relatively small footprint compared to wide-format printers. It doesn’t take up a lot of space in the shop and creates a lot of revenue for a small space,” Crocker adds.
AnaJet’s mPower mP10i DTG printer is fast, easy to use, reliable and offers industrial performance. It can produce a white T-shirt in 20 seconds and a dark shirt in about 40 seconds, Crocker says. From a return on investment standpoint, a company can produce shirts around $5 apiece and sell them for $10 to $20 each.
AnaJet公司的mPower mP10i DTG打印机速度快、易用、稳定性和其他性能都很强。 Crocker说：“这款打印机可以在20秒内生产一件白色T恤，40秒就可以生产一件深色衬衫。从投资回报的角度来看，一家公司可以生产约5美元的衬衫，并以10至20美元的价格出售，这种回报率已经是相当高的了。
AnaJet was acquired by Ricoh last year. All of its printers use Ricoh industrial-grade printheads, which means they are more durable and longer lasting for industrial shops, he says.
Since the acquisition, Ricoh “poured their engineering resources into AnaJet. They have their engineers working round the clock on our machine. The outcome is that about six months ago, they overhauled the plumbing systems within our printer, which dramatically improves the stability of our machine and its ability to go for longer periods of use,” Crocker says.
ColDesi is launching a new DTG printer called the M6 that will have “an incredibly large print field compared to what we do now and it will be one-third again as big. One of the things that makes our printers unique is they can print on more than one shirt at a time,” Stephenson says. Its M2 DTG printer can print two adult shirts at a time. The M6 will be able to print up to six adult t-shirts at a time.
Brother considers its DTG machines industrial equipment.
“What makes Brother unique is the equipment inside the DTG printer,” Bagley says. One key component is the printheads.
Bagley说：“是什么原因让Brother公司的服装数码打印设备非常具有竞争力，一个关键部件 —— 打印头。”
Brother’s print heads are designed to print a crisp, clear design from a farther distance than other print heads designed to print on flatter items, like paper or banner material. By manufacturing the print heads to jet farther away from the substrate, Brother DTG users can print over hoodie pockets, seams and zippers easier. It also can easily print on ball caps and shoes.
“We’ve had printers out in the market since 2005 and they are still running today because of how the printer is designed,” Bagley says. “It is designed to be a workhorse. It may not be the flashiest printer out in the market but it is an industrial piece of equipment designed to work.”
DTG printers aren’t just for printing t-shirts. Some of AnaJet’s customers have gotten fairly creative in what they can do on their printers. Several print on wood for signs to make rustic graphics. Another customer prints photographs on wood plaques. They can also be used to reproduce photographs on canvas for wall art. Others have even used the DTG printer to print on metals that have been treated with a receptive coating.
To get into the DTG market, shops just need a computer, a printer and a heat press or tunnel dryer. Most sign shops already have access to a heat press, so that’s the most common purchase.
“The learning curve is easier for these guys because they already have the design skills in house too, so they know how to design a graphic for print,” Crocker says.
Stephenson adds that shops that want to move heavily into custom apparel should consider buying a pretreat machine so they can print on different materials that don’t accept ink as well as polyester blends.
Most DTG printers are fairly small. Stephenson says that the smallest DTG printers are the size of a desk.