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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.

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By Terry Combs

A major selling point you may be able to offer and emphasize among your contract customers is the ability to warehouse and drop-ship products. From my company in Kansas City, KS, I print for two companies in Indianapolis, IN, whose people I have not been face to face with for several years. Their orders are faxed to us, art is e-mailed, and their blank garments are drop-shipped to our facility. Sometimes the product that arrives for printing is designated for specific orders. In other situations, I carry and track inventory on behalf of the customers, depending on the sales volume they expect to achieve. I then drop-ship completed products under their company names to their final customers.

Arrangements such as these require an earned level of confidence, particularly since your customer ceases to have the option of inspecting each order before their own customer receives the product. This level of comfort becomes a bond that is difficult to break, even when a newcomer tries to low ball a price in an attempt to steal your customer away. Other billable services you might offer to make your company more attractive to potential customers include special packaging, bagging, tagging, and even sewing services.

Securing orders

It's sad to say, but the world of contract printing is driven by the lowest bid price, at least initially. For lack of any other comparative factors in the eyes of many customers, price becomes the first consideration. A contract customer works to create a combined package of purchased garments and purchased printing service, then builds its own profit goals into the order. So, if you're a first-time contract printer that has no history with the potential customer, your bid must be comparable to the prices that the competition is offering if you hope to have a shot at the order. This means that your own efficiency becomes key in maintaining profitability.

When you're seeking new contract-printing business, running an ad in your local newspaper or a commercial on sports radio likely won't generate enough interest to make the promotion worth the cost. Since you will probably work with a limited base of repeat customers, direct contact with potential customers will be your best way to earn business.


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