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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Folks,
I need some suggestions or encouragement or something.

My business was really starting to grow over the summer. I was getting real good repeat customers and business was up double from last year when I started.

Now, I've been finding out that I'm being outbid on orders from the competition. I've lost several orders to other screenprinters even thought I've lowered my prices and even been running sales.

These are not new businesses but old established ones who are cutting my throat.

I just found out yesterday that I had lost a 400-450 shirt order for a fund raiser for a cheer squad. They wanted shirts with sponsors names on the back and school logo on front.

20 or more sponsors with twenty or more shirts/per sponsor which meant 10 or more seperate screens to burn. Not just all the sponsors names on all the shirt but each sponsor's name on the shirt they handed out that night.

I quoted them $5.36 per shirt no setup fees no other charges

Found out someone else is printing them for $5...

And this is getting to be the norm. If something doesn't change soon I'm going to go under.....

I know for a fact that they used to charge considerably more from people who have ordered in the past before I started printing. I have not undercut them nor will I as I know it takes too much to run a business successfully and still have capital left over to live on.

Is anyone else having to lower prices to get orders in this economy?

Or should I start changing directions and figure out how to escape bankruptcy?

Sorry for the long post. It just seems that my whole life and everything I believe in and have worked for is falling down around my ears.

Craig
 

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Craig, I'm not established either, and my business has been experience huge swings in ups and downs. I got outbid on a 450 piece order for a youth basketball league by a company that's been around for a long time, all over $1/uniform.

I've seen this other company's work, and honestly, I wouldn't pay for any of it. But that's not the issue here.

I've also lost out on school contracts over literally PENNIES. There's always someone, that when they get desperate for work, that will come along and cut your throat, even if it negatively impacts their bottom line as well.

I continue on as I always have, not sacrificing quality OR profits, and I'm secure in the fact that while it will take a while to establish myself, I am not compromising just to "get a job".

Hope that's helpful in some way. Sorry about your misfortunes!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think my biggest trouble has been that the competition didn't know I was out here. Then people started to find out about me and started the old proverbial "well I can get them printed here for $X.xx

So, the competition started undercutting me to keep me from getting any business.

Oh well, that's the way the ball bounces. I'll still keep plodding along as long as I can and sell out if necessary before filing bankruptcy.

Thanks for the post. I guess I just needed to get it off my chest as I'm already feeling a little better. Just been really bummed the last couple of days.

Craig
 

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October was eerily slow except for an event I attended where I took custom orders for personalized event apparel. I can see that in order to stay alive during these slow times folks are going to be undercutting, or coming up with creative ways to get business. Before you sell yourself short, think of other ways you can drum up some work. You mention school teams, perhaps you should drop off business cards at a larger doctor's office? I know there have been threads talking about creative marketing ideas like leaving business cards in the bathrooms etc, I think it might be time to start implementing some of those. I know I need to get flyers posted at all of the local feed and tack stores, I haven't done that in 2 years. Don't give up yet!
 

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Have you been focusing on local sales only? This is why when we started, we focused on both local and outside state sales. This way if the local economy erupts, we have business coming in from all over the country. Our sales currently present 40% Local, 60% Outside States. So if we focused on just local sales, we'd be gone by now.

I think others are getting desperate, and underbidding trying to stay afloat, we haven't budged on our prices and still continue to get a flow of our normal customers and new customers.

We received a call from a local printer last night right before closing, which surprised my socks off!, and he was straight forward and was asking if we could start referring smaller orders that we won't do to him. I was more then happy to refer smaller orders to him and perhaps offer him contract prices for larger orders he might not be able to fufill.

What scares me at this point is we're taking a two week vacation at the end of this month into december, and I'm not sure what to expect in December/January. It's always hard to start again when we lose some momentum in sales and try again after a long vacation.

Keep plugging away, and try thinking of some new marketing ideas. It's time to get creative!
 

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Getting it off your chest is a huge help. I refuse to quit trying though, but luckily I have a work-at-home job that brings in a paycheck while I'm fighting the good fight in the apparel biz.

I'm working a few different angles and trying to make full use of ALL the equipment I own to drum up some business as well. I work primarily in Vinyl, so decals and banners are always an easy option. In the past I've done customize candy wrappers and water bottle labels for events, parties and biz clients, so I'm starting to get that rolling again as well.

It's all a means to an end. Keep pluggin' away and something's bound to work out for ya!
 

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I have a quick question, are you afraid your business is going under because you lost a couple of sales from your competitors in the last couple of days? OR has your sales gone down considerably?

Winter season is pretty slow for the entire garment industry, so it is to be expected. In general the global economy being slow will effect everyone even more.

I say if you just lost of couple of sales because the customer said the others charged them $0.35 less, either its a bluff or its true. HOWEVER, if a customer is worried about $0.35, they will NEVER be a loyal customer. They will always be looking for the lowest bid no matter if you do flips for them.

So, just forget about them, and charge forward and perhaps look at your business plan and change some things around. I always say, a successful business needs to be flexible.
 

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get out there and try to hustle some orders. i try to go out once a week to get new contracts from business'. i have to admit i get at least 4 to 5 people interested, of that i usually get 2 orders, not to mention i have now left my business card with them. i have gotten calls 6 months later from a business i left my card with. i also send out mailers to all new business' in the ficticious business section of the paper. i dont just do shirts, i also do signs, embroidery, paper printing, and promo items. the signs, and shirts i actual do in house, everything else is sub-contract. i dont make alot on the other items, but i do make some profit, i get customers that say they are happy they can get everything under one roof. they dont have to deal with sending artwork to multiple companies. you should also use all you resources, by this i mean get some signs on your car, make sure all your friends and family have a few of your business cards, leave business cards around town(alot of places allow you to leave some in local business'). maybe print out some shirts for friends and family with your business. also dont forget to send out reminders or call your existing customers to see if they need anything. i can almost guarantee one of them will say "i was meaning to call you to place an order, i just havent had the time". i know some larger companies even send out gift baskets or cards during the holidays to there larger contracts. it lets them know your still there. from what i learned you need to have your name out there, people need to know thats what you do, and thats your company. they might not need shirts, but i guarantee you they will know somone who does, and when its time, your name and logo should be fresh in there mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks guys for all the comments. I won't be able to answer all of them but I'll try and answer some.

Yes I do mean that sales have been down considerably, not just lost a couple but many more. And Yes I do know that at least one of the competitors will do anything to get the sale. Even lose money. He used to be the only place around but now has to compete and he will try and under bid anyone competiting to run them out so he's the only game again.

I've tried most all of the ideas as far as advertising that have been mentioned but never get any feedback whatsoever from them. I've ran ads in the paper, sent out flyers, talked to business owners, left flyers cards and all that kind of stuff. Still no business.

It does get frustrating as I don't have another outside source of income except the wife's paycheck. Otherwise I wouldn't be so concerned.

But, I will just keep plugging along. Like I said, I just needed to vent a little.

Thanks guys for helping cheer me up.

Craig
 

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Main thing is remember at the end of the day it is just a business NOT YOU. If the worst happens remember another door always opens. Don't see it as a failure

BUT in the meantime it sounds a bit like you answered your own thoughts, your main competitor is panicking? Most likely he is facing the same things you are and is also starring down the tunnel of closing, hang in there (but don't get yourself deep in debt to do it!) If you have a shop front maybe a few laminated signs relating to quality versus price and customer service would be good. Make sure you have some letters on display from satisfied customers (if you haven't got any don't be afraid to ask some of your customers for them especially if they are a well known company/school/organisation) Perhaps look through your blank inventory, is there some that is dead stock? Whack some advertising on it and give them away especially to groups who you would market too (eg I know a guy who gave away a few free shirts every day at a local skate park for a few weeks with his designs on the front and his business on the back, the condition was they could have them but had to wear it EVERYWHERE they went skating, his businees boomed within 2 months of opening the doors and went really well until he sold up due to bad health 3 years later)
 

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Craig
Over the years I've done many small business turn-arounds in textiles and found that if an owner has to do all tasks then in tough times they tend to retreat to the task they are the most comfortable with...if that happens to be working the floor or creating designs rather than selling.... then the competition is always going to get one up on you. If you are into the selling side then find out what the competition is doing and do it better or faster. Find a niche and ride it to success.
In the late 80's I turned-around a company whose sales were down 50% and had to write-off almost 50% of its receivables ($3.5m). The sales manager found a niche, we cut our costs, and we turned the business around in less that 12 months (even though) the market was tight.

The guys that have deeper pockets are going to have an easier time doing business as usual, hoping guys like you bail sooner or later. Do things differently!
S Mackey
 

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Focus more on clients, and not customers. In my other business, I always educate the clients on the benefits of paying once and getting the job done right, as opposed to going to the lowest bidder and ending up coming back to me, paying twice, to get it done the way it should have been done the first time. Let the customer know you care about their work (which you should, because the more profitable they are, the more profitable you may be).

Put feet to street :)

Purchase the Zig Ziglar book called Secrets of Closing the Sale.

Enough of the goods from me :)
 

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25 weeks to better sales. Here is a suggestion. Take a map of your city. Draw a grid of 25 squares covering the city. Now ask your self what opportunities await you in each of the grid squares. Are there schools? Are there businesses? Are there organizations? Can you find 5, 10 places you can contact each week in each grid? Phone call? Flier? Visit? 10 spots x 25 equils 250 potential sales. why do other business get the business. Probably because of contacts. Make the contacts. Sure price matters. I see businesses close everyday because they were so desperate for sales they gave it away. As a very good friend of mind said profit is not a dirty word. Lou
 

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I've tried most all of the ideas as far as advertising that have been mentioned but never get any feedback whatsoever from them. I've ran ads in the paper, sent out flyers, talked to business owners, left flyers cards and all that kind of stuff. Still no business.
Craig
If you have tried all of that, and still no results, it means you didn't tried hard enough. :)
Good luck, and doesn't matter what, NEVER GIVE UP.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hey Lou!

My city consists of 2 houses, several barns, and about 60 head of cow/calf pairs. The Mayor of this city is my Dog Molly!

In case you ain't figured it out, I live out in the country on the family farm. The nearest town is 15 miles away and only has @ 3,000 people.

Out here, there are only a limited amount of jobs to go around, unlike the opportunities you in the city have.

I realize I need to at the very minimum move my business to town, but then I won't be able to keep up the 400 acre family farm.

And when you live out this far you don't just jump in the car and drive uptown or downtown marketing from business to business. I only do that when I go to town about once a week. And as you can imagine there ain't that many businesses, schools, etc. to go for new business.

And I aint' smart enough anymore to try and run a website by myself. I used to try years ago but didn't have much luck with it.

But, I am a little more upbeat than I was this morning. I may go under, but I will go down fighting!!!!

Thanks for all the encouraging post. It has really helped.

Guess I'd better see if the Mayor needs to go outside now! ;)

Thanks all!
Craig
 
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