I made a huge mistake on January 1, 2019. That was the day I decided to reorganize my entire pizza t-shirt collection. I pulled out every single one of them and organized the whole lot by color, then posted a picture to Instagram. The next day, I had dozens of messages from pizzerias wanting to send shirts to add to my “collection.” Until recently, only the touristy pizzerias in New York offered t-shirts, yet clearly they’re a popular item at pizzerias everywhere else. At a time when small businesses are looking for alternative means of making ends meet, I truly think t-shirts are an incredible way to boost sales and amplify your brand without breaking the bank.
Original design t-shirt sales in the U.S. alone is a $516 million dollar industry (SOURCE: Ibisworld). Customers love shirts that express novelty, humor and support for important causes. That could mean anything from political statements to obscure jokes from a podcast.
Your customers want t-shirts. Families haven’t been able to make their annual pilgrimage to eat your pizza. They’d certainly fill the emotional blank with a t-shirt. College students miss their favorite campus pizzerias and would love to wear their support.
The old school way of selling shirts is to contract a printer, invest in a large order, warehouse the product and fulfill orders. Today it’s much easier to offer t-shirts thanks to Print On Demand technology. This is the business model of a bunch of Websites with the word “Print” in the name. You just upload a design, choose the t-shirt you want it printed on, price it, then sell through a link on your website and social media. Your POD partner handles the transaction, printing and shipment. You don’t have to do anything.
Most POD services are free to use since the company makes their money only when your product sells. Shirts are printed only when products are sold, so they use a Direct to Garment print method that doesn’t look as nice as screen printed shirts. One major benefit is that these companies usually offer more than just t-shirts, so you can put your logo on hats, cell phone cases, umbrellas, etc. for no additional cost.
The POD companies I just mentioned offer direct sales, which means you provide the sole portal for customers to discover your products. If you plan to offer shirts to a wider audience, perhaps with artwork that isn’t specific to your pizzeria, you can use a marketplace option like Tee Public or Tee Fury. Those sites are popular for esoteric novelty shirts, but they’re also used by podcasts to offer merch to their fans.
There is an option for a custom t-shirt that offers the ease of POD with the quality of screen printing. Sites like Custom Ink offer Group Printing, which means you pre-sell a product for a limited time, then they print and ship only what sells. The more you sell, the less you pay per piece. Shirts and prints are of the highest screen print quality but you don’t have to warehouse and fulfill. It’s the best of both worlds!
Shirts are a great way to offer your customers a way to support your business while wearing a piece of hometown pride. If you’ve been holding out because of the time, space and expense you can rest easy knowing that technology has caught up with your dreams. Now make some cool shirts so I can wear them!
SCOTT WIENER is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org Instagram: @scottspizzatours