Are Print on Demand Providers the best you can do for Your Clothing Brand? - Screen Printing and 3PL Solutions
As a clothing brand owner you have a lot of 3PL options for your clothing brand and your garments. So many options and factors to consider, just related to your garment choice. Not even mentioning the design, printing method, time to produce, cost, target market and more. Curating your catalog for your clothing brand doesn’t have to be a nightmare or even a hassle.
First you have to figure out and decide who your target market for the garments and items you are selling is. Is this audience particular about the things they buy? Are they mainly impulse spenders or do they do extensive research before pulling the trigger. What is the main industry where they are employed? What is their average income, how much can they afford to pay for a garment, tee, or whatever item you plan to sell. These are all questions that play an important factor in how and what garment you select for your clothing brand. However, another important factor in selecting your garment is the printing method you choose. With the rise of drop shipping a new category of apparel decorating has emerged to take the world by storm. Print on Demand. Offering the allure of being able to apply your designs to a number of garments, list on Etsy or Shopify and let the orders roll in without you lifting a finger.
Well as we all know things are significantly more different than the narrative we were once told. Print on Demand has done amazing things, from being able to connect directly to your online shop your orders are automatically synced with your print on demand provider and batched for production and fulfillment. To have a vast inventory of garment options and colors to choose from all without having to stock a single garment and make a prepayment. Print on demand can really paint a rosy picture for the aspiring clothing brand entrepreneur. As you are reading you may have already clicked away to research some POD ( print on demand ) providers for your business, however please wait!
Print on demand offers you the ability to offer as many designs as you can list without the need to ensure demand for said product. Print on demand is able to print one off designs without problem, in fact this is one of their specialties they often advertise. This advantage comes with some downsides however, to achieve this marvel, POD providers employ a special kind of apparel decorating printer called a direct to garment printer.
A direct to garment printer works very similar to a desktop printer you have sitting next to you on your desk. However rather than the paper that typically feeds into the printer with a DTG ( direct to garment ) printer you load T-Shirts or your garment into the printer. The print heads just like in your desktop paper printer then move side to side laying down tiny droplets of your ink that will then become your design. The outcome from DTG when you first get the garment can be impressive if done correctly and on the proper equipment. However where the excitement and enthusiasm wanes is about where the greats of DTG end. Once you feel the print of the DTG printing method you may be sorely disappointed, direct to garment leaves a scratchy, unfinished unprofessional feel that does not fade with washes. Not only is the hand of the print itself not the best in the game but also the durability of the print itself also leaves something to be desired. Now depending on the garment base color the DTG printer either did a white layer of ink first then laid the color aspects of your design down in another pass of the tee. If on a dark garment where the under base white layer is required not only will your print be scratchy but also heavy and thick hand feeling due to the additional layers of ink. If your POD provider has their Pre-treat and DTG process humming and running smoothly producing quality prints ( which they should, you are paying them after all! ) your garments and designs should be able to last several washes without any noticeable degradation in the print or tee.
Print from DTG and POD providers
When comparing the print quality from something like a direct to garment printer and something that has been screen printed by hand or machine the results are frankly incomparable. While you are able to print full color gradient heavy designs with ease with DTG printers and POD providers. The colors produced are often dull, low quality and generally not up to snuff for the discerning client or customer. If done correctly the colors you receive when you get the garment will be the colors of the shirt throughout it’s life however do beware of the horror stories some brands have had with incomplete cure or incorrect pretreatment of the garment and the design washing out for your customer. Due to the turnover in the apparel decorating industry the use of temp and unskilled workers in POD providers fulfillment centers is rampant unfortunately making this more common than we would like.
If all of this does not sound like the rosy sit back and have a cold one dream that you were pitched when you first saw that ad, well I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that is not how things typically play out in the real world. All things require hard work and determination to succeed and this is no different. Swinging back to my earlier point regarding your target market and all the questions you must ask yourself and answer before listing a single garment for your clothing brand or shop. These answers are going to be essential in deciding whether you should go down the print on demand, DTG route or perhaps consider a more tried and true method for your brand / shop. DTG has and can be a great option, DTG and POD providers have found particular success working with popular YouTube brands, personalities and channels to offer merch to their audiences. POD providers can offer a comprehensive package that connects into the YouTube Channels existing eCommerce store to sell their designs all without the YouTube channel doing any of the heavy lifting. Where these providers can fall short is on the customer service side. Say for example, your customer used Apple Pay and needs to update their ship to address. This unfortunately falls outside the bounds of help that most POD providers can assist with, leaving you carrying the bag to make things right with your customer. What if that same customer accidentally ordered the wrong size too and requested to exchange the garment? Are you just going to tell them to read the policy and slam the door in their face? Hopefully not! And you don’t have to choose between losing $18 on an order or having a negative Nancy go on a tirade about your business to her Facebook friends.
Print on Demand and DTG is not for everyone, for those who are looking to provide a more personalized, quality, and friendly experience to their customers but not take the plunge and make the time and money investments necessary to make your clothing for your brand in house there is another option.
What is screen printing
Generally regarded as the highest quality ink apparel decorating method, Screen Printing is an art that has been around since 1911. Screen printing consists of pushing ink through a stencil on a mesh screen frame onto a substrate in this case being a T-shirt, though screen printing technology can be applied to a variety of substrates and materials the sky is truly limited. Screen printing gets its reputation as the best for its phenomenal colors, color representation, color accuracy, durability and hand feel. Depending on the ink used screen printed designs on the tees and garments can have literally no feel at all. You just feel the shirt through the ink of the tee, no scratchy or blotches to contend with. Overtime compared to a DTG garment after a number of washes the differences become even more apparent. While the print itself will not degrade if done properly the garment itself around the design will begin to show it’s wear. This is where on-top of the already subpar print relegates most DTG shirts to the housework pile of clothes after just 5-10 washes. When compared to a screen printed garment the garment will age the same as DTG however the print with it’s bright and vividness will still look like you just took it out of the plastic.
Downsides of screen printing:
Due to the nature of screen printing, the process is far more manual and takes a lot more setup and configuration than typical DTG and POD providers. Unfortunately with screen printing you cannot just load up the design and click print from your computer. Due to this screen printing lends itself well to designs you already know are popular, in trend and people want. Screen printing providers also typically have minimums for their orders which can be a hurdle to new clothing brands looking to get their start. The final downside of going with a screen printing shop in your area for your clothing garments for your brand is you then have to handle all the fulfillment for your orders. Organizing and storing the garments, then have to pick and pack each garment for each order that comes through your shop. The very thing most of you got into POD to avoid.
What if there were a better alternative?
A method that has been gaining traction among clothing brands in the United States is the use of a local screen printing shop and a 3PL provider. If you are unfamiliar, a 3PL stands for 3rd Party Logistics company. 3PL’s help you store, pack and ship your items all without you having to actually do any of the leg work. Once your garments are ready at the print shop you have chosen you have to then ensure each garment meets your 3PL’s requirements so it can be safely stored and efficiently picked and packed within their system. This may entail putting each garment in a bag with a special sticker or can be as easy as putting a sticker on the outside of the box. Once your items are safely stored in the 3PL once an order comes into your store you can then forward that to your 3PL for the final pick and pack typically within 2-5 business days and 3-5 business day delivery for your customers in the US.
At AMS Manufacturing & Printing we have taken all of this process and condensed it down to as close to a POD provider as we can while providing our same outstanding screen printing and embroidery services. With us you can easily link your eCommerce store whether than be, Shopify, Etsy, Squarespace or what have you. We link with every major eCommerce platform. Once your shop is linked you can select which products and designs you would like fulfilled and produced by AMS Manufacturing & Printing. After the commitment is made and you have your designs and listing assigned the grunt work for you is over. Behind the scenes we will analyze your store and orders to get a gauge on a proper number of garments for that design to make and stock on our shelves for you. Over the next seven days your store fulfillment will be built out and your shelves stocked with high quality screen printed or embroidered designs! Once an order comes in for a listing you have assigned to us, within 24 hours of customer payment we will pick, pack and ship the order using the packaging standards you outlined in your sign up. After your store is built out with us your orders will be continually replenished to your stores average to ensure there is always stock for your customers and you never have to wait for a shipment again. You never have to worry about arranging delivery between your screen printing shop and your 3PL when you work with us because we are both under one roof! Having to keep constant track of what your inventory levels are at and when your print shop can make your next order. We take care of the handling to ensure that there are never any labeling errors on your garments that would cause a delay to add to inventory or worse. When you use AMS Manufacturing & Printing Fulfillment you almost can have the allure that POD providers sold you on when you first heard their sea shanty.
Contact us today and offer your customers the experience you always wanted to without having to make significant time and capital investments. AMS Manufacturing & Printing offers in house screen printing, embroidery and promotional products as well in house fulfillment. We have been in business serving clients for over three years in the Houston, Texas Area. We focus on servicing our Texas clients but love working with brands and companies around the United States. We offer free nationwide ground shipping on all of our orders!