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The Single Color of Money

(April 2008) posted on Thu Apr 10, 2008

The profit potential in single-color garment designs is a lot greater than you may realize. This month, Trimingham describes how to add visual impact, extra value, and a higher price tag to your one-color work.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Can a T-shirt printed with just a single color really be worth more than one decorated with a dozen? Today’s market for printed apparel says it certainly can.

I discovered this trend, much to my surprise, during a recent online investigation of retail prices for screen-printed shirts. A careful review of the top ten, highest priced, best-selling shirts showed how fashion trends, mixed with innovative garments, niche-specific branding, and unexpected designs, produce high-end shirts that can command hefty prices. And all of it is possible by using only one screen from the shop floor.

If everyone were able to obtain such results so easily, we’d all be in the business of printing single-color designs on T-shirts. So here’s the question we must answer: What makes one garment designed with a single-color graphic worth more than $50 at retail while another sells for a fraction of that?


Perceived value

The designs that grab the premium retail prices are those that convey a high perceived value. This concept, according to my findings, is more important than how many colors are present in a garment graphic—and it’s ultimately what allows one printed T-shirt to command a price ten times higher than another, even though both are produced the same way.

I created a simple spreadsheet to aid in my research. On it, I listed the number of colors on the printed T-shirts and the amounts charged to direct consumers. My review revealed that, in many cases, no correlation existed between the number of colors in a print and the end product’s cost. The shirts ranged from less than $5 to more than $55 apiece, and the expensive garments actually seemed to have designs with fewer colors than the cheapest shirts, which typically sported eight-color prints.

Such a scenario contradicts conventional wisdom, but it’s commonplace in fashion marketing, where manufacturers strive to produce goods that are similar to what is currently popular, yet are original at the same time. We can mimic large-scale, popular brands—but with a high-production mindset—and present our original work to a percentage of our more fashionable clients, who will pay more to look a little trendy.


The plan


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