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Succeeding as a Contract Garment Printer

(January 2002) posted on Fri Feb 01, 2002

Learn the advantages of contract printing and the challenges screen shops face in satisfying customers.


By Terry Combs

Overflow work is very good when you can get it, but I've seen contractors go belly up when they depended on this type of work exclusively. Non-printer customers will always need your service, even when their own sales are lean. But the custom printer sending you his overflow has all the tools he needs to take all his business from you without a moments notice.

Be cautious of working both sides of the fence. I'm talking about being a contract printer and also a custom printer at the same time, a two-dimensional printer who is out there bidding on work against all competition. People who use contract printers, especially ad-specialty distributors, are wary of printers who also sell direct to customers. The obvious fear is that you will decide to go to the final customer, explain that you are already doing the printing for them, and steal away the account.

You, as a contract printer, have all the tools to accomplish the complete job, while the ad-specialty rep has only their sales ability and rapport with the customer to offer. If you do operate as both a custom and contract printing business, make sure to keep your custom markets widely separated from the markets that your contract customers are calling upon.

A final comment I'd like to make about contract printing involves customer service. As a contract printer, you need a whole different structure of customer service than you do if you're serving a custom-printing market. As a contract printer, you rely on repeat business from customers, who, more often than not, are educated buyers. As a result, you'll spend less time on the basics (e.g., why there is a setup charge) and more time discussing your capabilities and production schedule.

Don't get me wrong. You still have plenty of customer-service to offer and plenty is expected. But you won't be starting from square one with each order that crosses the transom. Your customer-service department will best serve the customer by knowing the status of each of the customer's orders and the availability of time on the production schedule for future orders.


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