Read on to see how to grow your team sportswear printing business.
By Cara Cherry
Heat printing is probably the easiest and most economical option when it comes to decorating uniforms. Small- to mid-sized shops can add heat transfers to their business with a minimal investment in equipment and supplies. Every decorator should have a heat press.
Heat presses (Figure 4) are available at different price points depending upon budget, volume, and space availability. They range in size from portable presses that start out around $500 for mobile decorating to air-operated presses for commercial use that can run up to $4,500. Heat printing offers great benefits including the ability to produce personalized apparel, short runs with quick turnarounds, and even print on demand. With minimal education and training and patented technologies such as touch screens, automatic open presses, and digital pressure gauges, heat presses are faster and easier to use than ever before.
Team orders typically range from ten pieces for a team to several hundred for a league. Heat-applied transfers are ideal for the short-run orders, especially those that require personalization. They are especially popular for teams on a budget. Simple names and numbers can be applied for a very low cost.
Heat transfer materials are available in a several different formats. Decorators can choose from stock letters and numbers (Figure 5), custom cut options, or they can purchase material by the roll and cut it themselves. Most manufacturers ship stock letters, numbers, and even custom graphics within 24 hours, which allows for a fast turnaround. Keeping an inventory of stock letters and numbers on hand also allows for fast, on-site personalization.
Heat transfer materials are available in a wide range of textures and finishes. Decorators who own vinyl cutters can purchase rolls of materials and cut designs for quick custom applications. There is also a high demand for neon, reflective, metallic, glitter flakes, and other special effect types of material, especially in the cheer market. Durability is another important factor and many heat transfer materials are guaranteed not to crack or peel and are designed to withstand tough on the field action.
Ken Chadwick, GroupeSTAHL representative in New England, has been advising team dealers who own a cutter to offer player numbers on cleats, gloves and bat bags. It makes it much easier for players to find their bags or cleats in the locker room. Trying to gain more business from an existing customer is also much easier than trying to cultivate a new one.
Another method that is catching on in heat printing, thanks to pro teams and big name brands like Nike, and Under Armor, is digitally printed names and numbers. This method uses digital printed heat transfer material and eco-solvent or thermo-resin print/cut systems to print full color images, fills, or effects directly onto the digital media. Decorators can offer custom fills featuring school mascots or sport-specific patterns like footballs or soccer balls in the design.
Sign cutters who already have print/cut systems need to purchase a heat press and the digitally printable material, and they can add garment decorating to their range of services. Decorators who aren’t ready to invest in the equipment can also order directly from manufacturers. Online ordering and fast shipping options make it easy for decorators to offer custom personalization with fast turnarounds.
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