Licensing is a powerful way to bring fresh, unique, and trendy designs to your garment-printing operation. Read on to learn more about this competitive and rewarding market and how it can help your business grow.
By Lori Leaman
Prolific Screen Printing, Hayward, CA, started printing licensed properties for the collegiate market when it opened in 1992. The 25-employee, 7200-sq-ft operation holds licenses for several schools, including Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, San Jose University, California State University Hayward, and Santa Clara University. Figure 3 is an example of the type of apparel that Prolific prints for them.
Junia Chu, marketing manager for Prolific, says marketing is one of the most challenging aspects of serving the collegiate market. Even though a screen printer might hold a license to print garments for a specific university, it doesn't always guarantee product placement in prime retail outlets, such as a high-traffic campus bookstore. She says that many colleges and universities are controlled by their own licensing programs, and with so many printers producing apparel for the university, not everyone is guaranteed the prime spots.
"Make sure you have connections," Chu says. "Everyone can get the same garments and use the same printing equipment, but you might have a better press operator to produce a higher quality product. Even if you have a higher quality product, but you don't have the connections to get into the store, you're not going anywhere."
Prolific also serves as a subcontractor for Greensboro, NC-based VF Imagewear, a screen-printing operation that holds licenses for major league sports, such as the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NASCAR. In its role as a printer of so-called hot-market jobs (i.e., NCAA Championships) for VJ Imagewear, the team at Prolific is on standby during major league championship games taking place on the west coast. The shop is prepared to immediately begin printing the announcement of a team win and deliver the printed garments to various retail stores on the west coast within 12 hours. Prolific has printed apparel for professional sports teams including the Giants, 49ers, Raiders, A's, and Sacramento Kings.
Silkworm Inc., Murphysboro, IL, a 26-year-old, 50-employee screen-printing operation began printing licensed properties for Southern Illinois University in 1992 (Figure 4). The proximity of the company to the school gives Silkworm an edge. "It allows us to be competitive in serving our local university market with quality products on a short delivery time," says Bob Chambers, president of Silkworm. "When they win a championship, we can get the shirts to market very quickly without having to order through another licensed company."
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