Stoked On Printing Builds Business with Online Merch Stores
The Las Vegas screen printer is cementing long-term relationships with its clients by creating and managing their merch stores.
IN A MARKET saturated by local and online competitors, finding your niche is one of the best ways to stand out and grow your business. Some shops find success narrowing in on specific clients – printing merch for bands or sports gear for school districts, for instance – while others boost revenue by specializing their offerings. (Did you check out last issue’s articles on Barrel Maker’s live screen printing events or Reach Clothing’s print a shirt, donate a shirt business model?)
For Las Vegas-based Stoked On Printing, building online merchandise stores for clients has turned into a lucrative, relationship-building niche and main channel of growth. Founded in 2010, the full-service merch company specializes in custom T-shirts, screen printing, embroidery, promotional goods, and company swag, with large bulk orders making up most of the shop’s orders. After supplying hundreds of merch shops managed by clients for years, Stoked On Printing has recently expanded its capabilities to build and manage online shops for clients.
The Demand for
Print On Demand
Print on demand is a growing market fueled by internet- and smartphone-savvy buyers, the popularity of fashion apparel and unique merchandise, and ever-expanding ecommerce. In fact, print on demand is one of the markets that had a positive impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, with consumers shifting to online shopping during lockdown and continuing those shopping habits as restrictions eased.
A Grand View Research report predicts the service segment of the global print-on-demand market to surge at a compound annual growth rate of 28.4 percent from 2022 to 2030, representing a big opportunity for print service providers expanding into end-to-end fulfillment through online merch store management. The report found the biggest setback for the market is lack of transparency and control for creators or brands; major online sellers are known to have quality control issues and may also deny access to client lists, leaving brands in the dark as to who’s buying their merch. The upside for screen printers? Those spurned by national online retail companies may be looking for exactly what screen-printing operations have to offer.
PSPs that build and manage online shops can offer their clients higher quality products, apparel and promotional product decoration expertise, transparency around orders, and, perhaps most importantly, better customer service and stronger client relationships than online competitors. Providing online store building and management services has led to stronger, sustained client relationships for Stoked On Printing. “Online stores have really benefited us in cementing longer term relationships with our customers,” Kevin Oakley, CRO, Stoked On Printing, says. “Instead of transactional orders where they simply need something printed, we are building them a solution where we actually have a one- or two-year contract to fulfill their merch online.”
Taking the Reins
Stoked On Printing isn’t new to online store management. “We have been essentially running in the background of stores that are managed by our customers for about four years now, which has worked really well,” Kevin says. “However, we are starting to find even better success when we can build the store for the customer.”
Stoked On Printing started out integrating their services into existing stores and print aggregators to fulfill orders. “But it became really commoditized a lot faster than we initially anticipated, which led to us reducing a lot of the volume from those parties,” Kevin explains. The shop took a step back and surveyed the market to see where their Merchloop technology could be a good fit – “And we landed on company stores!” he says.
Stoked On Printing has found that building and managing online merch stores can be an attractive offering to clients whose main business isn’t merch or ecommerce but that do have (or desire!) brand recognition. After really starting to pursue these clients in early 2023, the shop has built and is currently running about 10 online merch stores, not to mention the hundreds of stores Stoked On Printing works within the background.Advertisement
Getting Up and Running
Kevin says the process from client interest to store launch doesn’t take much time. “It’s actually very simple for our customers – all we need from them is their high-resolution logo,” he explains. “From there, we can build the store and start making products and samples.” It depends on the brand, but he recommends stores have around 10 to 15 core items like shirts, hats, mugs, and tumblers available on their site – “T-shirts are still the number-one seller,” he says. Kevin also suggests refreshing offerings monthly by adding one to three new items and taking a few others down; embroidered polos, hats, and bags/backpacks have been a hit for the shop lately. “Because we use our own Merchloop print-on-demand software, we are able to get stores up and running within days,” he says. “From there, the customer can give us feedback and usually be live within a couple weeks.”
For those just getting started Kevin says, “I would recommend looking into Inksoft stores as, from my experience, they are easy to set up and manage.” Stoked On Printing also offers its Merchloop software and free store builder to other screen-printing shops.
Once the online shop is up and running, Stoked uses its Merchloop software for order fulfillment. The print shop outputs on-demand orders using Brother GTX Pro Bulk direct-to-garment printers and Tajima embroidery machines, shipping orders within three business days of receiving them.Advertisement
Potential online merch store customers are virtually boundless. Stoked has worked with fundraising stores, company stores for employees, and brand stores with ecommerce fulfillment for a client’s customers, to name a few.
Have a nonprofit client getting ready for their annual fundraiser? A made-to-order store could help them hit their fundraising goals without getting stuck with unsold merch. Is your booster club or athletic department client frequently placing small orders? An online merch store could offer classic and limited-edition designs on not only T-shirts, but a wide range of garments or swag.
Online shops can open the door to more out-of-the-box clients, too. As content creators and influencers gain large followings, they often launch their own lines of merch. This growing market could be a great match for social media-savvy print shops expanding their on-demand services. Or maybe your shop’s location lends itself to hyperlocal potential customers, like the soft-serve ice cream shack with a cult following or independent artists who frequent local craft marts.
From small businesses to large corporations, all kinds of clients could benefit from having an online merch store for staff or their own customers, fans, or supporters. While the possibilities are wide and vast for clients, the same goes for printers. “Online stores are a great in for printers looking to get more business and lock in customers,” Kevin says.
One of Stoked On Printing’s newly launched official merch stores is for Tao Group Hospitality, an entertainment company with more than 70 branded locations ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants to nightclubs. Stoked On Printing’s merch store features seven branded offerings ranging from “dad caps” to cropped tees and hoodies for the company’s Las Vegas-based Omnia Nightclub inside Caesars Palace hotel and casino. The beauty of building a merch store for a client with many brands nestled under its umbrella? There’s always room for expansion, evident by the “coming soon” banners depicting some of Tao Group’s other brands.
PHOTO GALLERY (38 IMAGES)
Let’s Talk About It
Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry
LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.
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