Official UK Government statistics for 2018-19, show a decline in traditional printing. Catalogues, magazines & other printed paper products aren’t in demand. Even so, a Sept 2020 Printweek article predicts future significant growth in the UK print on demand, direct-to-garment (DTG) market.
Sustainability advantages of on-demand production and the rapid growth in online retail are the way forward. This type of production, together with a 50-year-old innovation, known as drop shipping, is changing the way we all shop.
How dropshipping started
Mail-order businesses were widely used in the 1950s & 1960s on both sides of the Atlantic. This business model grew from the need of large companies to store large amounts of stock. Organizations who sold their items through both catalogue & shops would traditionally fill the postal orders by taking stock directly from the shelves.
To make sure there was enough stock, big warehouses were prepared to store large amounts of stock.
Companies which exclusively sold via mail-order started to list these same items in their catalogues, at a marked up price. When an order came through, the company purchased the item from the warehouse. The item would be shipped to the customer address straight from the warehouse. This is ‘dropshipping’.
With wider usage of the Internet for shopping, stores which traded like this in the past shifted their presence online. Many have come & gone but some have managed to stay the course. But the main winners are the ones which started as selling platforms. Amazon, Etsy & eBay.
These platforms have transformed how people can sell online. No need for specialised & costly online stores. Just list your items on their platforms & they’ll drive the traffic to your items!
You still need products to sell. You can either buy ready-made items or create print on demand pieces ( Printful ).
What is print on demand?
Bespoke or custom-made items are based completely on the specifications of the person ordering. Fabrics, measurements, etc are all determined by the customer.
Print on demand takes white-label goods & customizes with designs provided by store owners/ individuals. These items are then sold under their label/name
Whether custom-made or print on demand, articles are only made when ordered. Because of this, unlike traditional drop shipping or high street stores, no inventory or bulk buying is needed, making them greener options.
At Cool Sarky Prints, we primarily use Printful, because of their setup. Both novice & skilled business owners looking for balanced responses to modern shopping habits they can upscale, use Printful. Printful is one of the most successful print-on-demand firms, in the UK & worldwide. They offer a variety of merchandises which businesses & individuals can customize. Helpful additions like mockup generators & logo design aids are useful for entrepreneurs.
Companies, such as Printful, Printfy or Redbubble, not only print but drop ship the finished article. This makes it an affordable option for online stores & their customers. Firms wishing to use fewer resources & energy stocking products have the flexibility to do that.
If a product doesn’t sell, production can be stopped almost immediately, without losing money or wasting stock. This is a virtue from a customers point of view. According to the Harvard Business Review, buyers often say they want to purchase from brands that adopt sustainability in production. This article also revealed that certain kinds of products with sustainability claims had twice the growth of their conventional equivalents.
The two main techniques for designing t-shirts are direct to garment (DTG) & screen printing. Unlike pre-printed stock, print on demand goods can conceivably take 2–4 days to be fulfilled. Shipping times are separate to this.
DTG vs screen printing
Screen printing needs a “screen” (a stencil for non-techies.) Layers of ink get applied to the garment surface. Different colours use different stencils, one at a time. The more layers your design has, the longer it takes & the more concentrated the image on the material. Because screen printing is time-consuming, it is principally used to print articles in large volumes. The possibility of overstocking is high, so is problematic for producers trying to be greener.
Digital printing requires your artwork is prepared by a computer and then printed straight onto the surface of your merchandise. The way it’s printed onto the fabric is similar to the way inkjet printers print on paper/card. Compared to screen printing, designs with more detail show up better using DTG. Because there’s virtually no setup time, it makes it easier to set up small print runs. This has led to the ability for customers to design & print their designs very quickly & cheaply.
Which is eco-friendlier?
Traditional screen printing use inks which contain PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). PVC is is a dense plastic substance produced from vinyl chlorine. DTG printing uses water-based inks.
Water-based inks are very useful because of their versatility and ability to print a wide variety of items. They are great on items like stickers & stationery. T-Shirts & sweatshirts. A benefit of water-based inks is that designs using them can be ironed, while plastisol prints cannot because the iron melts the ink.