Neil Greenhalgh, product manager for textiles products at Epson Europe, discusses how to increase your DTG sales opportunities

The textiles production business is booming – digital printing in particular – and there are many companies entering the market or expanding their production capabilities. Recognising growth is one thing, tapping into it quite another, but there is the potential for some innovative approaches.

Pop-up shops or stands work well in the DTG market. Epson has worked closely with YR Store, a business which has created strong bonds with many frontline brands in this area with fantastic results. They have set up creative workstations for personalised products in stores like Topshop and Selfridges, and introduced fun and creative fashion at corporate events for companies like Nike and Google. It is a fantastic way for brands, retailers and agencies to interact and creatively engage with their customers and to add a fun and feel-good factor to the relationship. Much of the success is down to its clever software and ability to customise high quality and royalty-free images. Customers use touchscreen technology to personalise the product, which is then printed on the spot.

Added value proposition

Even if printers are not able to go as far as YR Store there is great scope for taking a highly portable DTG press, such as the Epson SureColor SC-F2000 or SC-F2100, and introducing it into a retail environment to generate customisation and provide an added value proposition. This could be the production of customised T-shirts, hoodies or bags in an independent fashion store, or the customisation of other cotton-based products in, perhaps, a gift shop. It offers the opportunity to create a short-run design linked with a range launch or the start of a new season or, equally, the possibility for customers to bring along images in digital format to have them reproduced on the spot.

If you take the latter approach, make sure you give guidelines on the format, size and resolution required to ensure a quality result and to avoid having to deal with disappointed customers.

These pop-up enterprises also offer a chance for a company to promote their activity through social media and generate interest among younger audiences who want to share their experience.

Epson and YR Store collaborated on this event for Nike at Phenomenal House

Another approach to consider is a partnership with a school or further education college. Educational sites that offer textile printing as part of the curriculum will tend to see the print shop as a cost requirement and not an opportunity. If a business were to help turn a cost centre into a profit centre, how welcome would that be? Providing or running equipment on a school’s behalf as an inplant on a full or parttime basis could generate business – think sports kit or teamwear, leavers T-shirts and hoodies, personalised products for homewear etc. Obviously students would still need access to the equipment for their coursework, but this could be a great opportunity to help with training, create bonds with potential future customers and even potential employees. It might just have the makings of a commercially-minded, corporate social responsibility project!

Online presence

But physical presence is not the only way of promoting printed textile services. For DTG or dye sublimation inkjet solutions, it is good to have a strong, online presence. Ecommerce has become a big part of people’s lives. Indeed, in a retail/brand study commissioned by Epson it was found that in Europe, half of retail research is done online – however, only 38% of actual purchases takes place online, 62% in store. The UK has a more online mentality: here, 45% buy online.

Textile printers can have an arm to sell direct online. There are many web-to-print specialists who can supply the interface to enable your web-based shop window to take an order and direct work via workflow to an output engine. DTG printers, including Epson equipment, can be linked in to this seamless ‘order to output’ concept.

Drawing traffic to your ecommerce operation is all important so in addition to ensuring you are picked up by the main search engines, at the very least remember to publicise your links in your e-mail signature, letterheads etc. According to award-winning fashion designer Richard Quinn, the fashion business is very social media savvy. He sees it as a critical element in raising his profile in the industry and, given his increasing fame as the one to watch among young designers, his tip is worth noting. Topicality, brevity, good illustration and wit work well in this environment but don’t forget the basics – use links and provide contact details.

Alternative routes to market such as these can add to your sales opportunities, but never lose sight of the basics. Good business relationships, good sales people, proper planning and efficient sales and order processing will never be replaced, only supplemented.