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Gandy Ink: Head of the Class In School Apparel

(February 2007) posted on Thu Feb 01, 2007

Learn how the company grew from a small job shop to a prospering specialty decorator serving elementary, junior high, and high schools.


By Lori Leaman

click an image below to view slideshow

Gandy Ink's staff believes it must constantly wow its customers by designing eye-catching artwork and pushing its printing capabilities beyond the limit in order to maintain the shop's position as a leader in the school-apparel market. Garment jobs range from two to three colors on simple spirit-wear designs (Figure 7) all the way up to 12 colors on certain orders. Typical print jobs involve six or seven colors. Phil Gandy says that approximately 60% of shirt orders require decoration on both sides. Jobs that involve hooded shirts might require four different screen setups for one garment.

"We're in a niche market where, in a given day, we might do up to 200-250 setups," he explains. "We're fast production, but we're also trying to get a look of four to six colors in a quick production mode. The give-and-take is to get it out quick but also achieve high quality. We don't have time to tweak it too much because we have 100 jobs lined up that we have to get finished in time for basketball playoffs."

Sean Carter also acknowledges the challenges that come with this type of print work. "The general public ceases to understand that we are in such a technological age now, where everything is crisp, high definition, and has so much intimate detail. But we're still printing on cotton T-shirts. That has not changed," he says. "We can print fabulous movie posters with a 3-D basketball coming out of a wooden floor, but with garments, we're still printing on cotton. The customers still expect the image to look like the image in the poster. That's when we have to put our heels in the sand and ask, 'How do we, in house, come up with a way to make the garment graphic look equivalent to the poster graphic?' We really do go above and beyond. When we say we can print something of a certain caliber, we don't just say, 'We can do that.' We say, 'How can we turn it up one more notch to be ahead of the game?'"

Exploring new markets

Gandy Ink continues to profit from printing its unique designs onto a variety of wearables for the school market, but the company is always interested in exploring new opportunities. Identifying new markets helps the business grow and keeps the presses running during the months when the demand for school-related print jobs quiets down.

The Nashville entertainment scene and the outfitter/camouflage market are two areas of interest right now. Gandy Ink has opened an office, with a team of three salespeople, to explore the possibilities in Nashville. The company's work with entertainers actually began with the Texas music circuit, but the shop is now prospecting in a city where music sensations are concentrated. Gandy Ink also realized an opportunity in hunting, a favorite Texas pastime. The state is home to many hunting outfitters, and Gandy Ink plans to introduce its products and services to the flourishing industry.

In the future

Gandy Ink plans to expand its equipment line-up with the addition of direct-to-screen technology and direct-to-garment inkjet printing. Phil Gandy will keep a close eye on both technologies and track their progress and changes before making a purchase. "The fewer steps in the process, the better," he says. "When you can eliminate the film and a few other steps, it's better for the quality overall. There is less chance for mistakes."

"Keep doing what we're doing and do it better" is also high on the list of goals for Gandy Ink, according to Phil Gandy, as is continuing to build business in the school market. He prefers controlled, steady growth, and he notes that Gandy Ink has consistently reported an average growth of 15% per year.

"We're really enjoying the school market. We're good at it. We just want to keep growing in that area and do the best we can do," he says. "If you do that—offer a good product and good service—the growth will come. It will just happen."


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