Developing and producing a preprint line of garments takes time and effort, but as Trimingham explains, a foundation made of solid plans and the right mindset can build up to success.
If you have waited until this point to begin developing the products for your preprint line, then you will already have a significantly higher chance of success than most developers. Instead of shooting in the dark, you will be creating something for a proven market that has demonstrated real buying interest in your products. This is similar to creating custom art for clients who have already placed orders because of a known demand.
How to complete designs at this stage is all about putting the successful trends and tests together and making sure the final product fits the model that tested the best. Among other decisions, you’ll need identify fonts for any text in your designs (Figure 1) and finalize and lay out your selections of shirts and colors (Figure 2).
7. Lay out finished designs on chosen shirt bodies for final presentation.
Don’t make the mistake of saying your line is mostly finished or still under production. At this point in the process you should have more than enough feedback to finish the first tier of designs for a final presentation (Figure 3). Having everything complete allows for a professional buyer to view it with a sense that the designs are ready to be printed should they be selected.
8. Decide on a production model.
This decision flows from the demands of the market and how you’ve determined the preprint line will be sold and distributed. Using a process that minimizes inventory and allows for just-in-time printing, like direct-to-garment technology, may be a better solution for an online production model than ordering a large inventory of each garment size and color size and then having the garments sit and wait for the buyers. Inventory turnaround is the most important factor in any preprint line. This means that you must sell any amount of inventory that you produce in certain amount of time to make room for more. Use a production model—screen printing, transfers, direct-to-garment, or a combination—that allows the most flexibility in producing the right amount to achieve quick inventory turnaround.
9. Micro-test products and be reactive.
Depending on your market and production model, you might benefit from completing a small run of inventory at this point to see how well it performs in the marketplace. Now is the time when it’s crucial to be as objective as possible. Just because the initial reaction and sales aren’t mind blowing doesn’t mean that the line is bad. And if the beginning run performs well, that doesn’t mean that you can’t improve upon it. One thing about the fashion and decorated-apparel markets is consistent: everything changes. What was in fashion will go out, and what is out may come back in eventually. The most important factor is to learn why things work out the way that they do so you can react and make changes to adapt and come out ahead in the next round.
10. Produce limited inventory and systemize the process.
If the inventory test works out well, then it’s time to work on the system of estimating and staying ahead of the demand vs. the production. Properly estimating demand for a market so that excess money isn’t sitting on shelves is a fine art. In many ways an attitude of budgeting and containment helps with this concept. Make sure to address the production model and product performance on a regular basis so you can stay ahead of the curve and not get dragged down when one or two designs don’t sell as well as projected.
Maintain the right mindset
These ten tips are meant as a guide to help mold an effective pre-production marketing mentality. The guidelines can save a lot of money in the long run by helping you pre-test your ideas so that they will attract attention in this age of diminishing advertising results. If you’re positive and patient, you can develop successful preprints for your chosen market and, with the right attitude, launch the next top-selling shirt line. n
Thomas Trimingham has worked in the screen-printing industry for more than 15 years as an artist, art director, industry consultant, and head of R&D for some of the nation’s largest screen printers. He is an award-winning illustrator, designer, and author of more than 45 articles on graphics for screen printing. Trimingham can be reached through his Website, www.art2screen.com.
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