5 Things To Know Before Starting A T-shirt Subscription BoxSep 08, 2023
Interested in starting a t-shirt subscription? Discover five things you need to understand before starting a t-shirt subscription.
Inside Launch Your Box, members post questions every day. And if you’re paying attention, there are times when certain topics seem to be coming up more often than usual. Lately, one topic I’m seeing a lot is t-shirt subscriptions. New members asking questions about starting a t-shirt subscription box and experienced members answering their questions or asking their own about growing and scaling t-shirt subscriptions.
In a recent blog post, I talked about the perks of a one-item subscription box. From being easier to pack and ship to often offering a higher profit margin, there are many reasons to consider adding a one-thing-of-the-month subscription to your business.
One of the most popular one-item subscription boxes is a t-shirt subscription. There are a lot of t-shirt subscription owners inside Launch Your Box. And actually, two of my subscriptions are t-shirt subscriptions.
I was almost two years into my Monogram Box subscription when I decided it was time to add another subscription to my business. I always tell you how important it is to listen to your subscribers, so I listened to mine. They were constantly asking me for more t-shirts. And so my T-Shirt Club was born!
If you worry there isn’t room for your t-shirt subscription idea, let me reassure you. There is plenty of room! Each t-shirt subscription serves its own audience. Tees are designed with a particular audience’s needs and interests in mind. Your audience needs your t-shirt.
Before you start ordering shirts and planning designs, let’s talk about five things you need to understand about t-shirt subscriptions.
Choosing t-shirt styles, sizing, and brands
Consistency is important to your subscribers. I prefer to stick with one brand of t-shirt, but occasionally supply chain issues make that difficult.
The most important thing to your subscribers is the fit of your tees. You may need to use different brands, but you can’t use brands whose t-shirts fit differently. A customer who ends up with a t-shirt that fits one way one month and a tee that fits differently the next month will not be a happy customer.
If you do use multiple brands, try them yourself and size them to make sure they have similar fits to avoid subscriber confusion and possible cancellations.
Understanding printing options
When it comes to getting your designs onto your blank t-shirts, you have choices.
Screen printing is the process of pressing ink through a screen onto the t-shirt in order to create the graphic. These “screens” are stencils of your design. This method results in vibrant colors, even on dark t-shirts.
Screen printing is great for bulk orders - it’s the most cost-effective way to print hundreds or even thousands of shirts.
When I screen print, I like to use a maximum of 1-3 colors. You can use multiple colors, but keep in mind each color will be layered on individually, using a different stencil. This increases the cost. Sticking with 1-3 colors protects my profit margin and still results in a great-looking design!
Direct-to-garment or DTG printing is the process of having a printer spray the ink onto the t-shirt. The pigments soak into the fabric which makes it similar to printing on paper.
DTG is great when you have a full-color design. Limitless colors and advanced printing technology make DTG printing an excellent choice for multi-color, intricate designs.
I recommend using DTG printing for smaller batches, say 1-200 pieces. DTG printing requires a multiple-step process for printing on each shirt and, depending on how many printers you have, this could take a LONG time.
Direct-to-film or DTF printing involves printing directly to film. Once the design is printed out, it goes through a process of being powdered and cured before being applied to a t-shirt with a heat press.
DTF printing doesn’t require any pretreating. My team and I have used DTF printing for large batches of up to 1000 shirts.
In sublimation printing, dye is transferred from specially printed paper or transfer sheets to fabric using heat. Sublimation works best on materials with higher polyester counts and on white or light-colored t-shirts.
Heat Transfer Vinyl printing
Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) printing is a popular choice for custom designs, logos, and graphics. In this method, vinyl sheets are cut and applied to t-shirts using heat.
HTV printing can be great for small quantities or highly customized designs but can be less durable than other printing types.
Print on Demand
When you choose Print on Demand (POD) printing, t-shirts are printed and orders are fulfilled only after the purchase has been made.
One big advantage of POD printing is that it allows you to create and sell custom-designed shirts without holding inventory or managing production. It gives you a ton of options and is easily scalable. The biggest drawbacks of POD printing are the lack of quality control and lower profit margins.
Breaking down printing costs
Regardless of which printing type you choose, there are costs associated. Costs to be aware of include:
- Bulk printing - The more you print, the cheaper the printing costs. Be sure to ask your printer for a bulk printing chart.
- Number of colors - The number of colors you use will affect the overall cost of printing. With screen printing, each color has a separate screen and needs a separate swipe of color to be passed through those screens. With DTG printing, some designs need a white base layer. This layer may cost extra as well. It's best to talk to your printer before deciding on a design.
- Screen set-up - There is typically a flat rate fee for each screen used in a design. Keep in mind If you are going with screen printing, each color has its own screen.
- Graphic designing - If you don't create your own designs or need help formatting them correctly, your printer may charge you a design fee. They can usually help with the design process. Sarah’s Tip - be as specific as possible. The less they have to try and figure out the more efficient and inexpensive it will be to create your t-shirt designs for you!
- The t-shirts - You can buy your t-shirts directly from the manufacturer or through the printer if you’re having someone print for you. Be aware that buying from your printer means paying their markup. You can save money by purchasing directly from the manufacturer. Some vendors offer free shipping when orders exceed a certain dollar amount. Ask!
Adding little bonuses to your t-shirt subscription keeps your subscribers surprised and increases perceived value. A small, on-brand token goes a long way to increasing brand awareness and building your relationship with your subscribers.
I like to add a small quote card or die-cut sticker for a positive daily reminder. Other fun ideas include a digital download offer, a link to a playlist, or custom buttons and pins. The possibilities here are endless. Find creative ways to surprise and delight your subscribers.
You can also offer upsell add-ons to your subscription. For my T-Shirt Club subscription, subscribers have the option to upgrade to the T-Shirt Club and More which includes our cute monthly tee and a pair of coordinating earrings.
Get creative and think about what you could offer as an upgrade add-on.
Packaging t-shirt subscriptions
The best way to pack your t-shirt subscription is in a poly mailer. There is no need to pay more for bubble mailers - when shipping soft goods, a poly mailer does the job very well. I use a 10x13 custom bag from Sticker Mule for my subscription.
I love Sticker Mule for so many reasons. You can get high-quality, custom bags inexpensively whether you need 10 bags or 1000.
Design bags using your brand colors and add your logo and a tagline or funny saying. Take the opportunity to uplevel your packaging even with a lower-dollar subscription. Surprise and delight your subscribers even before they’ve opened the package!
A t-shirt subscription box is a great place to start. My T-Shirt Club is my biggest subscription and the easiest one to pack and ship. It’s also my most profitable subscription. Have fun designing t-shirts you know your subscribers are going to love!
Ready to learn more? Join the waitlist for my new course How to Start a T-Shirt Subscription! In this self-paced training, I share not only all the WHATs and HOWs of a T-shirt subscription, I also share my own personal go-to supplies and suppliers. Favorite brands of tees, packaging, printers, all the things.
Learn from me:
- Subscription Box Blueprint eBook: This $10 ebook covers logistics from product selection to packaging to shipping. Plus a 90-day launch plan and bonus ‘Instant Scripts’ for your social media.
- Launch Your Box: My complete training program that walks you step by step through how to start, launch, and grow your subscription box business.
- Launch Your Box Podcast: I share tons of practical tips and strategies to help you start, launch, and grow your subscription box business. You’ll also hear from industry experts and current Launch Your Box members who are crushing it - get ready to get inspired!
Find me on social:
Are you ready for Launch Your Box? Our complete training program walks you step by step through how to start, launch, and grow your subscription box business. Join today!
Hear from Sarah each week!
Do you want weekly tips for starting, launching, and growing a subscription box? Subscribe to get our latest content by email.