When it comes to bulk T-shirt printing, there are just too many alternatives.
Who should I contact? Where and why? Should I go to the small shop on the corner? Or the big overseas international company? They offer better prices but is the quality the same? And will they take care of my needs with a personalised customer service?
In this post, we’ll go over the basics of bulk T-shirt printing. What the options are and which cons and benefits they may have.
Where to go for bulk T-shirt printing?
It is a fact that when it comes to wholesale, you can always find someone who will do it cheaper, which is why it is often difficult to form a solid supplier-client relationship revolving this service. For the customer, it is hard to commit to a single company because there might always come something better down the line. Printers understand this (or should) which is why they always try to offer a better service than the competition — making the garment printing industry a crowded one.
This is not something that either side takes lightly as an order of such a size, can make or break a business. It is very common for savings to quickly transform into major catastrophic costs. This is due to the fact that with bulk ordering, one small mistake isn’t affecting only a handful of items, but often tens of thousands.
That being said, let’s go over the options businesses have when looking for bulk T-shirt printing options. There are three general categories of the types of companies you can pick to do your bulk printing.
The Local Shop
We’ve all been there, we’ve all seen them. This is your average T-shirt printing shop from the neighbourhood. They will make your personalised T-shirt for bob’s stag party but will they be able to handle your business?
- Safe and comfortable
- Support of the local economy
- Control over the process with face to face visits
- Negotiable price
- Little resources for customer service
- Limited scalability so turnaround will suffer
- Limited Capacity
- Long lead times
- No option to speed the service up in case of an emergency
High volume orders mean low figures for the printer and, usually, local shops cannot afford it. They would still need to run smaller orders simultaneously at a high margin in order to turn a profit. Because of this, they will never allocate 100% capacity to one order, but rather run it on the side. This will reflect on pricing and turnaround.
Although negotiable, their bargaining power with suppliers is low and therefore won’t be able to offer as great of an overall price. They can only source in the UK which limits their options.
Because of the size of the operation, a small shop can rarely sustain credit terms. The cash flow would be hit too hard. Local businesses will almost always need to receive payment upfront to even begin an order.
It is important to remember that small shops may have limited experience when it comes to dealing with the logistics of global shipping. These types of operations require detailed barcoding and packing, especially when we’re talking about big orders. Limited technology may hurt the scale of the operation.
Avoid smaller printers, for bulk orders you will most likely pay a cost much higher than the average, and you risk having the order be late. Keep the smaller runs and simpler stuff there.
The Established Printer
When we talk about a large, established printer, we talk about a company that has many years of experience. They may have several branches in the same country and maybe even internationally but they’re not a big corporation. They’re still approachable to an extent.
- Options (techniques, garments, inks, etc…)
- Sense of anonymity
- Having to chase orders
- No face to face interaction
A printer who has grown their business to a point where they are dealing with large operations will certainly have experience. More often than not, this experience is worth every penny. This knowledge prevents possible pitfalls, risks and problems that could arise in the production process. They have a better understanding of their tools, techniques, and most likely have previously made many mistakes, which they have learned from.
On the other hand, there is often a lot going on in these types of companies so you can sometimes feel anonymous. Things fall through the cracks and you often have to chase a bit to ensure things are getting done.
Although unlikely to offer terms straight off the bat, they’re almost always negotiable depending on the client/size of the order.
You have confidence they will be there tomorrow, and won’t disappear overnight.
As the operation scales, they will have buying power with suppliers (garments, labels, ink supplies and materials among others). All these costs add up so being able to negotiate, especially on larger runs, will allow printers to offer a better price at the end.
More often than not, if you’re bringing big business then the customer service will be top notch. Although that isn’t always the case. The problem with larger printers is that you lose a sense of familiarity because there are little opportunities for face to face interactions as they’re often very busy.
The International Company
They’re usually big but not necessarily larger than the established printer. Because they handle productions overseas, they can offer better prices but this does not necessarily translate to quality.
- Large selection of products
- Eager for business
- Large turnarounds (4-6 Weeks)
- Little communication
- Language barrier
The international company offers the best value for those looking to save the most amount of money. They also offer a great variety of products and are usually eager for business. The issues with the international companies arise usually with communication and turnaround times. Because of their long distances, orders can take anything between four and six weeks to arrive. While language barriers may prove tricky when trying to communicate.
In case you were wondering, here at Printsome. We run a hybrid model, where we can print in all three categories. Small-scale, in our London, Tottenham facility. Large Scale, in our Essex facility, and overseas via our Portugal or Spain facilities.
There are benefits and disadvantages to every business model so, in the end, every client needs to find the best option that adapts to their needs. Our bulk T-shirt printing consult is very simple: Tell us what you need, and we will guide you through the best process, that fits your business.
Where we get our wholesale clothes
Here at Printsome, we’re fans of BTC activewear. They offer many of our favourite brands, including Anvil, Bella + Canvas and Tee Jays, among others.
Printsome’s catalogue of custom T-shirts offers a great variety of brands which includes Gildan, Fruit of the Loom, B&C and many others. As for garments, we offer T-shirts (of course) but also sportswear and workwear which includes hi-vis vests and aprons of different sizes.
For the conscious crowd, we also offer products from Continental Clothing which is a brand that manufactures in a sustainable and ethical way.
Note: Here’s a blog post we wrote on organic T-shirts.
Why Print in Bulk in the First Place?
If you still don’t know which type of business will be the best one for your needs, then maybe gathering information on why we should pick bulk T-shirt printing in the first place will help you make a decision. There are several reasons why you should consider ordering in bulk for your next project, here are some of the main ones:
- You save money! The more you order then the lower the price per unit will be and the less cash you will spend in the long run.
- You get consistent quality! The quality of all your units is guaranteed to be the same since they were all produced within the same timeframe.
- You save time! The time spent when ordering in bulk is less than when ordering the same items separately.
- You’re friendlier to the planet! Ordering in bulk reduces the emissions of CO2 as there is less transportation involved.
- You get more stuff! When ordering more you get, well… more! Making it harder for you to run out of stock.
What are the cons?
While very convenient, ordering products can have its disadvantages. Here are some of them:
- Incompatible with perishable products. It is not recommended for perishable products as these may expire before you get a chance to consume them but since you’re getting T-shirts there’s no need to worry about it.
- Big space needed. It is not recommended for those with low storage space as more products require, well… a lot more space to store.
- Harder to calculate. It is very tempting to buy when you’re being offered more for less, but sometimes it leads us to buy more than what we intended in the first place.
To order or not to order T-shirts in bulk?
That is the question. There are different moments when you should consider wholesale clothing for printing. If you find yourself in any of the following situations then it should be a no-brainer:
- If you want to keep costs down
- If you want tees as a uniform*
- If you want tees as a giveaway
- If you’re a designer and have a ‘signature’ piece
* Note You may want to check out this awesome article we wrote a while ago featuring more than 80 examples of great personalised workwear!
When should I NOT order in bulk?
There are only a couple of situations I can think of when ordering in bulk would not be a good idea and they are both related to new businesses:
- You’re not sure if you’ll be able to sell all units
- You don’t have enough storing space
Nobody wants to end up with a bunch of unsold garments and assume all the losses. If you’re unsure of your selling capabilities (you don’t have enough clients yet, for example), it might be best for you to consider other options like a print-on-demand platform.
Also, if you’re running your business from a small office, a co-working space or maybe even your own home it may be wise to ask your account manager in advance how much room your order will require.
As with anything else, there are better and worse ways to do things. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices when it comes to bulk T-shirt printing:
1- Don’t be cheap
This might sound counterintuitive to the whole idea of ordering in bulk is to save money, right? (As if we hadn’t mentioned it enough). Well, yes it is, but think about it for a minute. Let’s say you get carried away by the idea of pinching as many pennies as you can and on top of ordering in bulk, you also buy the cheapest possible fabric.
At first, yes, that might be the case, but chances are that the inexpensive T-shirt is not the one with the best quality. Think about it this way: If you sell someone a T-shirt that falls apart after just a couple of washes, then chances are that that client is not coming back.
2 – Keep your designs simple
When ordering in large quantities it might be a good idea to keep the artwork simple. (If you want to learn more about the different printing techniques, you can learn about them here). It will not only help to keep the costs down, but also make the printing process easier. A typical design for bulk printing normally consists of simple lines and a handful of flat colours.
T-shirt Printing for Businesses
Thanks to our five years of experience in the apparel-printing industry, we are able to offer a service catered towards the needs of companies of all sizes. Printsome’s T-Shirt printing services are perfect for making souvenirs, merchandise and staff uniforms, among many other possibilities.
From the moment you get in touch, one of our ‘printing experts’ will answer all of your questions and find efficient solutions to your needs. It is our mission to help you reach your goals. We deliver all over the UK with flexible delivery services that can adapt to most deadlines. Printing T-shirts has never been this easy.
Why worry about inventory or logistics when we can take care of that? We deal with the boring stuff so you have more time to do what matters. To find out more, simply visit our website.