The effect of the coronavirus lockdown on the garment decoration industry has been abrupt and savage. As local companies shut down, many B2B orders instantly dried up apart from those from essential services.

In the US, however, some print shops have come up with a scheme that allows them to carry on printing in support of their customers, especially local indie businesses that have a loyal local customer base – for example, people’s favourite bar, restaurant, barber shop, coffee shop, or deli.

Tiny Little Monsters in St. Louis, Missouri, has set up an online store and fundraising scheme called Here For Good [], which it is sharing with others in the industry; similar schemes have been set up across the US, such as the one by Shirts 101 in Lincoln, Nebraska [].

A simple idea

The idea behind the schemes is simple – sell branded T-shirts on behalf of local businesses to as a way for the business’s loyal customers to support them while they’re closed. Many of these businesses have a loyal following and their customers want to see them survive and continuing to provide their products and services after the epidemic. Rather than asking for cash donations, printing merch that customers can buy not only brings in essential funds while the business is closed, it also raises awareness of the company every time the garment is worn. Plus, it helps the printer/decorator to keep turning money.

The model most are adopting state-side is to sell the T-shirts direct to customers via the print shop’s webshop for $20, with $10 going to the local business and $10 going to the print shop to help pay for T-shirt production, packaging and to pay furloughed staff. It’s a model that could work equally well in the UK and wider afield.

Most local businesses will have an online following that they can advertise the T-shirts to, and by keeping it simple – for example, one-colour screen prints – your costs are kept low. You print and despatch when you are able (this may even be after the lockdown – if so, make that clear to customers when they make their purchase), so there’s no cost to the local business and no upfront costs to you apart from adding the designs to your webstore.

Not only is this a way of supporting local companies and organisations you already work with during this uncertain time, it’s also a way of building up new contacts for your decoration company when business returns to normal. And ass Tiny Little Monsters points out, it makes “buyers feel like heroes and connected to that business for life”.

Commenting on the Here For Good scheme, Sloan Coleman, owner of Tiny Little Monsters, said, “We were watching our sales numbers drop to nothing and in speaking with some of our most reliable customers realised that we are all in the same boat. Fear, closures, and social distancing habits are slashing small business earnings to the bone. Something had to happen. We print T-shirts so we came up with this idea to sell T-shirts on behalf of local small businesses as a way to generate a different source of revenue for them.” 

Within five days of launching online and advertising the store to local businesses using only social media and the hashtag #HereForGoodSTL, over 40 St. Louis business owners submitted T-shirt designs to sell. In just one weekend, Tiny Little Monster raised over $7,000 and by April 7th over 3,000 shirts had been sold, generating $30,000 in sales donations delivered directly to the participating businesses. The Here For Good store is adding new businesses daily.

Let us know if this model works for you, and send us photos of any T-shirts or other items you’ve printed to support your own customers during the Covid-19 outbreak, so we can spread the word and support them too.