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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.


By Terry Combs

In such situations, your customer will essentially fill the role of an in-house department. Customer service will communicate information between you and this customer in much the same way as you would share production data with your own sales force. Your ability to be professional and have this information quickly at your fingertips will take your business far in the eyes of your contract customers.

Special requirements

Any tools you use in custom printing to make your business more efficient are doubly necessary in contract printing. Making money in this marketplace is entirely based on your efficiency in completing the job accurately. So it's critical that you have a total understanding of your costs because you have absolutely no wiggle room for error. Because you're not earning $3.00 extra on each T-shirt you sell to the client, you have no way of defraying the costs of downtime or production errors.

Some custom printers view contract printing as unimaginative, uncreative, and unchallenging in terms of relying on unique printing skills. This is far from the truth. In actuality, contract printing usually requires that you have the skill to accurately duplicate the style and execution of other printers (a contract customer may have several printers working on the same order) or to perfectly replicate your own orders time after time, year after year. This means your shop must be able to deliver a wide range of capabilities in order to satisfy a diverse collection of printing applications, such as process color, special effects, high-density printing, etc.

Most importantly, you must be able to maintain good records about the inks, mesh counts, and any special techniques required to produce an order the first time around. If you are doing overflow work for another printer, this information needs to come to you in exacting detail, preferably with samples for you to match against. In my experience as a purchaser of contract printing over the years, I often found it helpful to specify ink brands or supply special ink colors to contract printers.


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