What do garment decorators really think about their shop management, online design and e-commerce software choices? We find out
Business: Laramie Screen Printing
Software: FastManager (Basic)
JR Crum has owned Laramie Screen Printing in Wyoming, US, since 1987. The company offers screen printing and embroidery on orders that range from one item to 10,000. He started using the Basic version of FastManager three months ago, and he’s pleased with how it is working out, saying that it helps him to keep track of jobs as well as making it extremely easy to go back and track the art connected to each job. “Most shops dig through files or cards to find info for reorders and that takes a lot of time,” says JR. “This system is designed to let you start with a bid and take the job through completion, keep track of deposits and track the job within the shop.”
The different levels of the system mean that shops can start on the Basic level and move up as they grow, although there is plenty to use in the Basic level alone: after three months JR has yet to use all the many options that are built into his program, he says.
When JR took on the system, FastManager worked with him to ensure it was a smooth process. The pricing is clearly set out, as JR explains: “I paid $160 for the initial cost and $75 for the set-up of the company: this entailed working with Brenda and converting my mark-ups and catalogues to fit their system. The cost per month is $35.”
After three months using the software, JR concludes: “It seems to be exactly what I need.”
Peter Davies is the office manager at Yazzoo, supplier of branded hoodies, polos, workwear and many other items. The company is based in Burntwood, Staffordshire, and has been using LaunchPad3 for 12 months now.
The system is free to them, and to all companies that open a Cottonridge account. It was mainly the lack of cost that initially made Yazzoo decide to use LaunchPad3, having trialled a couple of other pay-for software solutions. Peter has been pleased with it, saying: “It has worked very well for us. The only issue is that it was very new when we started to use it and we experienced many updates to improve the system. The front end website is just about perfect now. We are using the back-end order processing system and we are helping them to improve it and make it easy to use. It is clean, modern and does everything we need it to do, but mostly it is very easy to use.
“I would recommend others to try it as it is free. It takes about 30 minutes to set it up and be ready to go.”
Business: Sional Promotional Merchandise
Sional Promotional Merchandise is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The company, based in Conwy, north Wales, offers a large range of printed and embroidered promotional clothing as well as promotional merchandise. Director Alan Jones says the company has been using the eTrader website since July 2014, adding: “It was, and still is, the best option for an e-commerce website for the clothing decoration industry.” The fact that there is no long-term contract with eTrader is another major benefit as far as Alan is concerned.
Alan was previously using a supplier’s website which, he says, was not suitable. The eTrader site is working out as he had hoped despite it requiring more input on the SEO side than he had initially allowed for, although he does point out this is not to do with the website itself, but down to the search engines constantly changing their requirements.
He would definitely recommend eTrader to other businesses, and advises those thinking of buying it to contact someone who already uses it for a demonstration.
Business: The Queensland T-Shirt Company (QTCo)
Software: ShirtTools V5
QTCo is a promotional merchandise supplier that has been operating for more than 25 years. The company, which is based in Brisbane, Australia, uses the latest version of DecoTech’s ShirtTools, V5. It paid US$999 for the software a little over a year ago, with hosting added on at an extra cost.
“We’ve been in the promo business for over 30 years selling in large quantities primarily to other businesses,” explains David Ashenden, QTCo’s graphics manager. “We were rebranding and wanted to update our website to allow customers to design their own shirt graphics online. That way we could open up our customer base to a larger market being able to sell one-off items without involving a salesperson.
“I researched various options and ShirtTools stood out to me initially because of the price and at the time it was only mobile-friendly solution out there. The set-up cost was one-off and there are no transaction fees. It looks clean, is simple to use and loads quickly, but has enough features to keep the end user busy with their own ideas. Plus, being built on OpenCart, it has the flexibility to easily customise the theme and have complete control over the shopping cart and products.”
The layout and colours of the buttons and tools in the designer screen is user-friendly, says David, adding: “For novice tech users, too many tools and options on the screen at once can be overwhelming. I guess it comes down to simplicity and ease of use, not to mention the whole site is responsive so it looks good on desktop computer monitors, tablets and smartphones.”
The set-up was straightforward and David says there have been no problems or issues, and if he does have a question, feedback and tech support is provided very quickly. DecoTech also listens to its customers, explains David: “Sometimes I have had suggestions on changes to the software and in most cases Dean has been able to incorporate them into future development updates.”
David would recommend ShirtTools, saying there are no negatives to the system. He advises new users to allow plenty of time for set-up and testing, pointing out that this is advice that applies to any new site development. “Getting my head around the back end of the OpenCart system took a little longer than expected. The benefit of being able to customise everything and add your own products range into the designer tool also meant all the content needed to be added manually. This part of the process should not be underestimated as all good websites take time to develop.”
Business: The Stitch Factory
Software: DecoNetwork V7.0.13
The Stitch Factory in Sheffield offers a wide selection of workwear, officewear, leisurewear, sportswear and schoolwear, as well as providing customers with embroidery and screen printing services. The company uses DecoNetwork v7.01.13, explains managing director Chris Bentley: “It’s a hosted solution with various price levels starting at £68 per month. We are on the Stores level at £139 per month. We have been testing for around three months and are now setting up products and designs for the launch. We had been on an old Actinic web site as we hadn’t found anything that fitted our business model without being overly expensive and no guarantee that the developers would make it run correctly.”
An aspect of DecoNetwork that Chris especially likes is the ability to have hundreds of products and thousands of colours available with no degradation to the server due to it being a hosted solution. “It allows our client base to instantly see garments we recommend,” he explains. “There are many positives and negatives to a hosted solution. Importing items and reporting are disappointing for us, which most users don’t need anyway. But these are outweighed by having Ralawise and BTC garments pre-setup in the system, as well as the quoting/order system’s ease of use.” However, he would still like to see a better solution for the import of new products and pricing updates.
For those thinking of buying into DecoNetwork, he says: “As with any IT, think long and hard about what you want your business to offer your customers, then test the solution to make sure it fits your need. Then test, test and test some more to make sure it fits your business model before you set up the whole thing.” He would recommend DecoNetwork, saying: “It will take time to get right, but if your requirements are answered by the solution then I heartily recommend it.”