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Toes Are Wet, Water is Warm – Now Let’s Jump In to 2011

Toes Are Wet, Water is Warm – Now Let’s Jump In

8 Predictions for 2011 - Heat Transfers, Facebook, Online Fulfillment & More

Sometimes you need to get your feet wet before you can jump in. Well we all have our toes dipped into 2011. Like it or not, we’ll be fully immersed over the next 10 ½ months. As you go willingly or perhaps unwillingly into the year...it’s fun to look forward to what’s next while capitalizing on what’s new...

This article was written in the spirit of making 2011 the industry’s best year yet. Now that we know the water is warm, let’s make it happen!

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook

Hyper targeted advertising on Facebook will drive customization business across the country. This advertising type is the new best friend of anyone with the ability to customize for specific niche markets (think bridal parties, regional interest, car enthusiasts etc).

Smart business folks will invest time into this social media platform by building a fan page and recruiting people to “like” the page. Every “like” is someone that you can engage not only with wall posts but also with targeted advertising that shows up when they are logged in. There is no other form of social media that generates this type of opportunity for engagement and return on time invested. Keep in mind that setting up a page for your business such as Performance Screen Printing may yield some likes, but a page focused on your target audience such as Motocross in Fayette County for people to like may generate a specific list to target market to – especially if your niche market is motocross jerseys. Get it?

Cotton Up, Up and Away

Increases in cotton prices are here. This has begun to fuel additional growth in synthetic fabrics being used, mainly polyester. The price factor alone will drive a lot of us to incorporate more cotton blends with synthetics as part of our t-shirt styles.

What does this mean to decorating? DTG printing will need to adapt fast to be able to accommodate these blends more effectively. Unfortunately those who already have invested in a DTG printer for cotton will be limited on how they can react to the changing fabric marketplace. Moving forward, companies will need to heavily consider investing in versatile technology or a combination of technology that can accommodate a fast changing, comeptitive market where maximum profit per piece is paramount.

Personalized Promotions

The promotional products industry will feel the push towards mass customization of promo products. The orders of 500, 1000 and 5000 will still thrive, but opportunity exists for incorporating variable data printing into promo graphics, especially when decorating for businesses, schools or even doctor’s offices where there is a defined list of names who will receive the promo product, such as an appointment list.

Knowing this, digital print technologies and software capable of automating variable data graphics for promo products will become increasingly popular. Why is variable data trending? Variable data is widely used for direct mail pieces and yields increased responses, there is no doubt it will do the same for printed promotional products for the businesses that use them.

Customization Enters Business Casual

Screen printing fashionable graphics on dress shirts and sweaters is relatively new in the grand scheme of decorated apparel. In any department store you’ll see tons of dress garments with abstract graphics for trendy business people or for “night out” wear. With new customization technologies, offering customization options on these types of garments will expand. With the higher ticket prices on sweaters it will yield a lucrative niche opportunity for those who know how to decorate them.

Mixing Technology Enters Mass Customization

The highly sought after internet models like CaféPress and Zazzle will continue to set the bar for where decorators want to be online. These companies will keep expanding their focus to other saleable items outside of apparel. At least one new company will emerge that reinvents customization for apparel by offering an online generator that allows you to mix decorating techniques.

For instance, designing with DTG, Heat Applied Foil, Flock and Rhinestones on the same garment...this mixed media presentation is extremely popular with retail decorated garments, why not with customization? New heat transfer technology makes screen printed looks possible without having the barrier of a minimum quantity...this will reinvent mass customization.

Lifting the Level on Site and Online

The popularity of various styles and washes of garments continues to grow. Styles such as burnout, acid wash and garment dyes pace the way. While these styles will continue to gain interest, an entire new “not so blank garment” choice will emerge. Recently American Apparel started selling sublimated shirts in their line up featuring Sesame Street characters. While this garment has a target and may not be decorated beyond the sublimated graphic this presents an opportunity. Decorators with specific niche markets will leverage water based screen printing or foil printing in particular by stocking pre-printed shirts and then adding customization elements after the fact.

By offering these semi-decorated blank shirt options decorators will lift the perceived value of their garments, meet today’s trends and ultimately grow sales and profit. The negative is the inevitable increased inventory position of decorated blanks, so it’s important to come up with a few solid options to start and track sales closely by style. Consider having preprinted basketball inspired designs on a variety of garments and offering on site customization at a basketball tournament? Likewise, this concept works perfectly for ecommerce or brick and mortar retail models.

Numbering and Lettering will continue to evolve

Just look up Nike’s new Pro Combat uniforms or look back to the numbering used during the World Cup in South Africa. Printing a design inside of a number is becoming more and more popular. Harness digital equipment to achieve this result. Also uniforms will continue to incorporate reflective and metallic finishes as accents to lettering and numbering. We’re on the cusp of an entire new revenue stream for decorators. Companies like Nike are paving the way and pushing these styles in addition to stock uniforms, the opportunity exists for incorporating this “special edition” uniform into a sales proposal for high schools. See an article exclusively on this in the upcoming Team Sports Supplement from ImpressionsMag.com


The last prediction is a simple one. The decorating community will innovate and take garment decoration where it has never been before. The creativity of our industry is exciting and contagious. All you have to do is go to a trade show, attend a mixer or hop onto T-shirtforums.com and you’ll see it for yourself.

Please share your thoughts on this year by adding a reply to this article.

Josh Ellsworth is General Manager of one of T-ShirtForums Preferred Vendors, Stahls’ CADCUTdirect.com, and a regular contributor to t-shirtforums.com with expertise in heat applied graphics. Through his work he has visited some of the largest apparel decorators in the US and in OZ. To read more of Josh’s articles or to watch him on video visit JoshEllsworth.com

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Re: Toes Are Wet, Water is Warm – Now Let’s Jump In to 2011

Cotton prices are forcing t-shirt prices up by 20%. Indent overseas orders are quoted as 14 days only, some cannot even guarantee 14 days. I watch the same quote increase a $1000 a day:mad:

Expect t-shirt price rises soon.

I nearly bought a DTG about a month ago but noticed the white t-shirts and some dark t-shirts appeared to be blotchy. This machine only printed on 100% cotton and the chinese suppliers had been adding polyseter to the t-shirts for some time now.
I am now happy I did not go ahead as more and more suppliers are selling 100% cotton when they are a blend and this is causing a headache.

Saying that we are the busiest we have been for years so the world economy is picking up.

Thank-you for the good read!
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