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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

How to Get your Custom Designed and Printed T-shirts into Retail Stores

Retail Ready Printed Shirts

Are you up to a significant challenge? If you’ve started a t-shirt line, you’ve probably already discovered that it’s a competitive landscape for selling custom designed t-shirts online. There are lots of eCommerce business models that allow you to sell print-on-demand t-shirt designs but those same companies feature hundreds, if not thousands of other designers doing the exact same thing. This model makes it extremely difficult to make any sort of real money as an independent t-shirt designer. If you do experience some success, then it is helpful to have that proven history of your designs selling. The print-on-demand method is known in the decorated apparel industry as direct to garment printing, or DTG, and while it’s possible to print highly detailed artwork this way, the resulting image is not as long lasting or as vibrant over time as screen printing. Depending on the expertise and sophistication of the t-shirt printer used to fulfill the order, the image can even fade after the first wash. While online t-shirt sales require less effort on your part as the t-shirt designer, your brand is connected with quality of the t-shirts printed, this could have a negative impact on your brand if the t-shirt printer isn’t high quality.

Because of the aforementioned issues, we recommend that serious t-shirt designers go the screen printing route for the sake of longevity of the product they are selling and their brand’s reputation. Screen printing typically requires a minimum number of t-shirts to be ordered. The more ordered at one time, the less expensive each piece becomes. The quality of the print is perceived to be more professional and screen printed designs will last the life of the shirt which is what consumers expect when purchasing decorated apparel. The professional presentation of your line is extremely important when approaching retail purchasing agents and they will look to match their customers’ expectations.

Develop some meat to your brand before trying to break into retail. Take the time and effort to develop a strong social following. This takes dedication to research on the types of posts that get a strong reaction. Analyze similar brands social accounts to get an idea of what performs well for them. You’ll also need to spend time developing relationships with your followers by liking and interacting with their content. While time consuming, having the social proof of a community that follows your brand will support your case when presenting to a retail buyer.

You can try to get an influencer to endorse your line or an individual design to develop momentum to your social following. Be aware that this can be very pricey. They do not share their influence for free. When evaluating infuencers to approach, make sure they will be a right fit for your brand’s image. It doesn’t matter if they have 100K followers if those followers have no interest in the style you are selling. And the influencer likely would understand that your designs are not a right fit for their image as well.

If you live in a larger city, consider buying booth space at an event that draws a lot of people like a “Downtown Saturday Night.” You can barter with people that show interest in your t-shirt designs to give them a free sample if they’ll take a picture of themselves wearing or showing your product and post it to Instagram and tag your account. While unconventional, it might jumpstart your following and could even produce some sales for you if their followers love the design too. These kinds of posts can also demonstrate to a buyer how well liked your design is by the public.

Create a lookbook to tell a story about your brand. There are lots of software choices for developing professional lookbooks, some are even free. Check out digital lookbook builders and templates like FlipBuilder for Macs, Lucid Press, and FlipHTML5. It’s important to put in significant effort to the digital presentation of your work. In digital format, you can easily include a link in an email if that’s the only opportunity you have to connect with retail buyers. Ideally you’d want to hire models and perhaps a professional photographer. If you don’t quite have the funds for all of that, be sure to read up on photography tips for best practices and enlist friends to model your designs.

Not to discourage big expectations for your clothing brand entrepreneurship, but you may be able to gain momentum for the big time by starting small. This means approaching local boutique owners on a personal level before trying the larger retail chains. Be very respectful when doing this. Your brand’s designs may indeed be awesome sauce, but a humble and friendly approach is appreciated by busy business owners.

Retail Shopping

You may need to get creative in your strategy when trying to get face time with the buyer for a store you’re interested in. It requires relationship building. Frequent the store and maybe even make a few purchases. Become familiar with the staff and express appreciation for the types of product they are currently selling. Try to find out when the person responsible for buying products is usually in the store and see if there is time that coincides with quieter hours. This person may be more willing to give you quality time if they are not overwhelmed with paying customers that need attention. Imagine if you had a shop full of buyers that were not being attended to because some sales person was doing their presentation. You’d probably bring that meeting to a close as quickly as possible.

Make sure your custom t-shirt designs are ready to go on the shelf immediately. This means custom hang tags and packaging. If you’re not ready with a professional presentation, your buyer isn’t likely to be ready to promote your products in their professional retail store. This also means you will already have an idea of what kind of profit you’re looking to make. Being prepared in this regard will help the buyer understand if their customer will bear the cost of the final retail price.

Print your images on a quality t-shirt product. This will increase the likelihood that your design will be perceived as a valuable commodity. If you wouldn’t want to wear the t-shirt product, then why would anyone else?

Retail Store

Be prepared for a lot of rejection if your designs are not unique. It’s a saturated market so designs that are similar to what is already being carried in major retail stores are not going to be well accepted especially when mass produced printed t-shirts impacts the price. People will not pay a premium for boutique wear when they’ve seen something similar in big chains for a lower price.

Have a professional screen printer in place that can handle volume when you do land your first retail account. Should you be wildly successful, this relationship will be pivotal to your continued success. Look for a custom t-shirt printing company that has a track record of successful relationship with other clothing brands. To accomplish this, the screen printer must be able to produce the same design with quality and consistency as well as having the capacity to source t-shirt products and deliver goods in a timely manner. Your screen printer should also be able to scale with you as you grow. When just starting out, you might think that a run of 100 t-shirts is a huge order. If you get into chains, you’ll need a company that can promise to produce thousands of t-shirts in the same time-frame without causing your sales rep to blink an eye.

How to Price your Brand’s T-shirts for Retail

Pricing T-shirts for Retail

You’ve finally made some coveted retail buyer connections that are willing to feature your brand’s t-shirts in their retail shop! Congratulations, that’s a big step! But now you have to price the t-shirts to make a profit, and appeal to your buyer’s interest without crossing their purchasing limit threshold. How do you go about figuring this out so you don’t ruin this extraordinary chance? It could make or break you t-shirt brand’s future. There are a variety of ways to approach pricing your custom t-shirt brand’s designs for retail.

Before you can start thinking about how much to sell your t-shirts for, you have to have a strong grasp on how much they cost to produce. If you’re starting with a small batch as a trial run, the cost per shirt is going to be more since you assumedly did not order bulk t-shirt printing from your screen printer. This is going to be a tough start and you may have to be flexible with how much profit you make initially. If your t-shirt design and relationship with the retail shop are a success, you can order in bulk next time to make more of a profit on future sales. However, you should not overprice your tees in an attempt to make more money at the beginning, if you do this, you could be sabotaging your chances for success and you’ll never know if the lack of sales was because of your design or the price.

Make sure you understand how the cost per shirt is calculated with your t-shirt printer. Professional and established t-shirt printers typically have a structured price break depending on the number of shirts ordered. Find out where their significant price breaks occur. If you’re ordering for your first trial run, it would be a shame to have missed out on a good deal simply for lack of understanding. However, until you have become an established customer with a history of significant repeat orders, do not expect wholesale prices from your printer. As custom clothing lines are a very popular endeavor, your printer has likely had many experiences with startup brands that don’t succeed, therefore are unwilling to offer specialty pricing until a pattern of success has emerged.

Your pricing will also depend on the quality of the t-shirt product you choose to have your design printed. High end products will garner a higher sense of value from your customer but you must also evaluate the type of customers the retail store attracts. Things to consider are the location and the general pricing of other merchandise featured, and the immediate local competition.

Location matters a great deal. If the surrounding area is swanky, you may get away with a premium price if it’s a premium product. If it’s more of trendy yet dive bar trashy area, consider tempering your profits with salability. Are the other products in the $30 range? Or is $20? Don’t underestimate the difference $5 can make in the mind of your customer. If there are two choices and one is $5 cheaper, that’s a venti latte at Starbucks and coffee is non-negotiable to some people. Is there a lot of competition in the vertical of apparel immediately surrounding the shop? Take a look at the products and pricing inside these local shops. That should give you a decent indication of expectations buyers have for the area.

Converging all of this information into pricing, you should still consider the value of our product. If you’ve produced a great design printed on a high quality product, and it’s being showcased in a retail shop that can tolerate a higher price, don’t be afraid to sell it at a price its worth.

Clothing retailers need to sell a lot of merchandise to stay afloat and they typically are looking for a gross profit margin of 25-35% as well to do this. How do you calculate your price with that figure in mind? For example if your cost to have each t-shirt printed is $15.00 and you wish to make a personal profit of 40%, 100% + 40% = 140%. Multiply the $15.00 cost by 140% and you come to an asking price of $21.00. In turn, for the retail shop to get their desired profit margin of 35%, they would then calculate $21.00 x 135% coming out to a retail price of $28.35 per shirt. When calculating these margins, keep asking yourself, will the market bear it and adjust accordingly.

So you have come to price that both you and the retailer can potentially agree on, but not so fast. Pricing is an emotional venture. You have to take some tactics of marketing into consideration when pricing each shirt. People react to subtle cues when deciding on a purchase. There’s actually an entire gamut of emotions consumers experience when deciding to make a purchase. They ask themselves, do I need this? What will I lose or gain from my purchase? Does this t-shirt fit my image and will it make me look good? That last qualifier is not really even about physical fit, it’s more of an emotional fit as in will I look stupid to my family and peers for having purchased this t-shirt or will I look like a smart, stylish shopper for having purchased it.

Custom t-shirt retail pricing

If it’s possible to have 3 price points, people like to have that choice. This could come in the form of your design printed on tote bags, t-shirts, and hoodies for example. Another way to manipulate the emotional aspect of buying is offer a price break with bundled products. If you have 3 different designed tees, offer a discounted price per shirt if all three designs are purchased together. Keep actual price tag cost just below rounded numbers. Even though it’s simpler, the difference between a $20 price tag and a $19 price tag makes the perceived cost much lower in the mind of the consumer.

2017 is predicted to be another great year for the fashion industry according to a McKinsey report that suggests 2.5 to 3.5 percent overall growths. According to the same report the vertical that is predicted to see the absolute highest growth is athletic wear so that’s definitely something to consider when deciding what types of apparel products to print your design on and offer to consumers.

When the Best Planned Events Go Bad

Event Crisis

Planning an event can cause some hardcore stress even on those who have take-charge personalities. But the stress factor can hit the roof when something goes catastrophically awry. You’ve taken the utmost care to plan everything out meticulously, the custom event t-shirts printed by have arrived on time as promised, the DJ is setting up his equipment, the tables and chairs are being setup, your bar tenders are shining the wine glasses, and then boom, the caterer calls and tells you the freeway has been closed down due to a serious accident, they expect they’ll arrive at least two hours later than planned. However your guests are arriving in less than ½ an hour and they’re expecting to be wined and dined.

When something as disastrous as a two hour delay for anything that concerns your thoughtfully planned out event happens, the true measure of your fortitude will come to light. Here are some pointers on how to handle things when the best planned events go bad.

The most obvious thing is not to lose your cool, maintaining a level head in the face of adversity is your best defense and option to smooth things out quickly. As commander of the ship, keeping a cool head will also inspire others that are assisting you with the event to do likewise. Stress can be very infectious especially when working with a novice team or personal friends and family. Make a point to project an air of confidence and serenity. People will happily follow a leader when they have confidence in that leader’s ability to handle the unexpected.


Maintain your authority. If someone else is compelled to take control because you’ve noticeably lost your ability to cope, at the end of the day, the disaster still rests on your shoulders and it will come back to haunt you particularly if the event is work related. Hold on to your initiative and provide directions and stability to your assistants whoever they may be.

Flexibility is crucial in crisis mode. Having a meltdown and stubbornly not accepting alternative solutions is not how a leader maintains control. Depending on what exactly the crisis is, in this example, the caterer, there probably are no true dining alternative options. But with some flexibility, you can send someone to a nearby store with a list to empty the deli of prepared snack plates, cheeses, chips, and fruit trays. It’s far better to serve something inelegant at the beginning of your event than to have a bunch of “hangry” event attendees glowering at the empty dining tables. This is known as making the best of it.

Before playing the blame game, find out if there were circumstances that could have been avoided for when you’re planning future events. In the case of our extreme example, there is likely nothing anyone could do without the use of a crystal ball. However if someone miscommunicated the time frame for which your event would be taking place, this could be avoided in the future with confirmation calls and verification. During the heat of a crisis is not the time to berate people that may have failed in their given task even if that person is you. Wailing and pulling your hair (or theirs) will not accomplish anything.

Whatever you do to mitigate the disaster, do it in a timely manner. Society in general has grown very intolerant of delays even if it was unavoidable. Don’t give your guests time to simmer and stew and tweet about their ruined evening. Diversionary tactics come into play here. If you planned on starting the music or serving alcoholic beverages midway into the event, start now. Even if it costs you more, it’s better than having disgruntled people. If you’ve ever experienced a substantial delay in a flight, you may have noticed that flight crew cheerfully offers a two for one on drinks calling it a happy hour special, *wink, or they may give you your choice from snack offerings that usually go for a substantial fee during a smoothly running and on time flight. There is some wisdom there.

Be transparent in your communication with event attendees what the issue is and how it’s being resolved. Making up excuses as you go is a terrible way to handle the event. It’s hard to be blamed for something outside of your control but it’s substantially worse for people to find out that you lied about the timeframe for when things might be resolved or what the next steps will be. When in crisis mode, we often want to deflect or make people feel better instantly but momentarily removing yourself from the hot seat during the heat of the moment using deception will come back to bite you when they realize your deception. This will also impact your credibility for future events.


So what can you do to prevent disasters in the future? Always expect the unexpected. Write a checklist of critical aspects that are required to make your event a success. Then write a 2nd checklist of alternative options should something go awry. For example, if your food provider isn’t able to fulfill the function they were contracted for what could be an alternative? Are there gourmet grocery stores nearby? What kind of options do they offer for premade platters? Can you quickly locate dinnerware?

If your event requires the use of technology for a slide show or presentation, make sure to test everything well before guests are due to arrive. Have a tech savvy person on call should something not work. Keep customer support numbers handy and review what type of support is available so you’re not blindsided by the requirement of a contract. Do you have a backup charger for your phone? In the case of an event gone badly, you’ll likely be using your phone heavily. Having a simple portable bank charger could save a situation from being bad to really terrible.

Slip Up

Finally, not all disasters are limited to something going wrong with the event; you might have something go badly at the event in the form of a guest being hurt or needing emergency services. Is there someone in charge of this? Have you researched the legal ramifications for an injury? Do you have special event insurance to cover the costs if you should get sued?

Hopefully whatever type of event you’re planning will include attendees that will be gracious and forgiving should your event not go off as planned, but if mishap does occur, keep calm, keep level headed, and keep it up until the issue is resolved in the best manner possible.

Comicon Culture in Phoenix

Comicon Costume

People like to say something about the West Coast being the Best Coast. Well, for fandom junkies, it really is because it brought about Comicon.

Comicom was put on the map in 1970 as a one day event located in San Diego. This “minicon” was meant to raise both money and interest for a larger convention. Later that year, the first three-day event was held, but it was only the beginning to this great worldly affair. The event was only held in San Diego for over 20 years before space at the event began to max out. The event then grew to affiliate locations, such as Phoenix and Tucson.

If you are ready to discover your inner geek, Comic-Con is the event for you. Phoenix Comic-Con creates guest panels with actors, authors, artists, and any other icons in the pop culture industry. These guests may also offer meet and greets, photographs, or autographs. The panels are typically free, minus the reserved seating section with costs an additional fee. The guests decide whether photographs or autographs will require an extra fee. Typically, they do not charge, but rather ask you to donate to a charity or fund instead.

Another one of the major thrills of the Comicon experience is the costuming, termed cosplay. Cosplay is just a connection of the two words costume and play. Fans come dressed representing characters from every source of media, including movies, T.V. shows, and comic books. The Comicon website warns that some costumes may be extremely risqué and others may be scary for children.

Comicon and Cosplay

Have you ever wondered where Cosplay and costuming originated? A woman nicknamed Morojo and her partner, Forest Ackerman were huge fans of fiction and produced a magazine together honoring the sci-fi world. In 1939, they attended the first WorldCon, the World Science Fiction Convention put on by Comic-Con International. It was there that they wore the first ever fan costumes publicly. Both are credited with this honor, but Morojo was really the one that had the idea. She created the costumes from scratch, beginning a popular craft for years to come.

Due to the recent events at this year’s Comicon, the Convention Director, along with the Phoenix Police Department and Phoenix Convention Center updated the list of prohibited item list. This new list included weapons of all types, including simulated, or prop, weapons. Those in charge did not want to diminish from the costumes and still allowed empty holsters, masks, signs attached to the costumes, and non-weapon props.

Comicon Culture

Be sure to bring the whole family down to Phoenix Comicon. Children under 2 years old are free with the purchase of an 18+ pass. Each adult may have two free children under their pass. Children ages 3 to 12 can attend the entire event, including 4 days, for only $10. Activities are held for children of all ages and there are event family specific events.

Are you too impatient to wait for next year to experience the fun? Check out the Phoenix Comicon website for links to their social media accounts. Videos or audio of many of the panels from this year’s event are posted as well as pictures and other information. Additionally, the Tucson Comicon event will take place in early November. If you are ready to dip your feet in, this is a great opportunity to prepare yourself for next year’s Phoenix Comicon. Adults can purchase a membership pass for the entire weekend for just $30!

In the past, being known as a “geek” or a “nerd” was not something most people would have liked to be associated with. Now geek and nerd are desirable monikers. An entire culture has sprung up with it too and Comicon could rightly be accused of being responsible. Except for Halloween, only at Comicon can grown-up people walk around in costume of their favorite DC and Marvel characters. Outside of the big labels, lots of smaller, indie types of cartoons get love at Comicon as well as characters from T.V. and games.

As a t-shirt printer, without the proper licensing, we cannot print images of the most beloved characters; however we can print in some cases references to the character if you’re really creative. Need a custom t-shirt for your next Comicon adventure but aren’t sure whether your idea would fall under trademark protection? Save your t-shirt design idea and contact us to review before placing your order and we can let you know whether we could print your Comicon t-shirt idea.

CrossFit in the Phoenix Valley

CrossFit Exercise

As health and fitness becomes increasingly popular, the industry continues to develop all new workouts for those who may get tired and bored of their regular regimens. Before 2010, Cross Fit was mostly for police and military, but since then it has grown in popularity with fitness junkies everywhere.

Cross Fit is a combination workout. It is a high-intensity fitness program that uses elements from multiple different sports or other types of exercise. Gymnastics, weightlifting, and running are just a few examples of where the workouts stem from.

CrossFit was founded as a company in 2000 by a man named Greg Glassman. As a young gymnast, he discovered that specialties led people to a deficit in other outlets. He approached fitness as a type of “cross” training between domains of fitness. He found that this prepared athletes the best for general physical needs.

CrossFit headquarters is located in Santa Cruz, California, where Glassman opened his gym. He began by training the local police department. This is where the community aspect of CrossFit came to light. Glassman discovered that he had too many clients to train and began to train multiple people at one time. The clients typically enjoyed getting to work out with others and since then CrossFit has been a group workout.

Who can do Cross Fit? Well, Cross Fit welcomes persons from all backgrounds of fitness. The program can be scaled up or down depending on your experience and strength level. The workouts are typically the same for everyone; however people may do more/less repetitions or may use a greater/lesser amount of weight. Regardless, it is very important to exercise with a professional to protect yourself from injury.

If you are interested in Cross Fit and want to give it a try, check out both Groupon and the gym’s website. Many Cross Fit gyms offer a free first trial class. If there are several in your area, try them al! Each gym has a different atmosphere and personnel. It is best to find the gym that suits you and your goals. Do not be turned off by the price of belonging to a CrossFit gym. If you decide you like Cross Fit, some memberships can also be found at a discounted price on Groupon.

CrossFit Maneuver

Upon introduction to Cross Fit, many programs will take you through a training program before you join the master classes. This program is typically called “Foundations” or “Elements,” and it is used for beginners to learn the fundamental movements of Cross Fit. This class is necessary due to the nature of the workout. Correct form and technique will give you maximal conditioning and reduce the odds of injury.

If you want to know if a gym is affiliated with CrossFit or if there is a gym near you, look no farther than If you are located here in the Valley, there are more than 90 CrossFit affiliates to choose from. Here are some great options for you to have your first or next experience with CrossFit.

Located right in downtown Phoenix, Core CrossFit is part of a program called Phoenix Fit. This group works to help individuals with not only a training regimen, but holistically, bringing in aspects of diet and rest, and recovery, as well.

Ladies, need some female-only time? Ahwatukee CrossFit is the place for you. This gym is an exclusive community of all women trainers and athletes. However, men are welcome in the Co-Ed 12pm class. Memberships for this class are available to both men and women.

CrossFit Full Strength prides themselves on being one of the oldest gyms in the valley and boast their coaches who together have more than 30 certifications. They do all of their programming in house and also strive to host frequent social events to enhance the community aspect of the gym.

8th Street CrossFit is located in Tempe near the ASU Campus. They strive to have smaller class sizes and very attentive coaching, while still creating a friendly atmosphere. Additionally, they offer discounts to Military, Police, EMS, and even students!

While Build Up CrossFit began as a small CrossFit only gym in a garage, it has grown to so much more. They now offer personal training, boot camps, Olympic lifting, yoga, tumbling, and Build Up Warrior classes. This gym wants to be a place for everyone to find their niche and promote a lifelong fitness journey.

When you really start getting into any program or lifestyle, you learn there are specific slogans and themes that people identify with. We have lots of Crossfit customers who order custom t-shirts for specific events or simply for unification at the gym. If you find that Crossfit becomes your lifestyle and you want to express yourself through custom apparel check out our t-shirt productsready for customization with your very own design.