Global Custom Polyester T-Shirt Market

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Global Custom Polyester T-Shirt Market

The t-shirt market is growing in the US, and custom printed t-shirts are a key part of this market. To maximize success in this area, companies need to consider a range of different factors. Companies must know their customers. Most custom printed t-shirts are purchased by teenagers and the Millennial generation, who see the t-shirt as an extension of their personality. Different segments of society have different preferences as to the best fabric. Technology is disrupting the t-shirt printing industry, and there is still considerable debate over the merits of screen printing when compared to digital printing.

Fabric Choice

  • Fabric choice is important because it plays a major role in customer satisfaction with a product. A number of people stop at cotton when it comes time to chose the fabric of their new t-shirt. This is because cotton is soft yet sturdy.
  • Linen has a textured weave. It is both breathable and lightweight. However, the need to iron a t-shirt sees fall behind in the t-shirt fabric stakes.
  • Polyester is a strong fabric, dries quickly, and does not attract mold or mildew. Although polyester had its renaissance in the 70s, it remains popular due in part to its easy washing and quick drying.
  • Lycra is popular with those who are likely to be moving about in the t-shirt. The elasticated fabric can stretch, making it a popular choice among the active population.
  • Blends have become increasingly popular in the t-shirt market, with fabric manufacturers looking to blend 2-3 different fabrics to maximize the benefits of each product. Cotton and polyester are the most popular blend, with the cotton giving it a soft, cool and light, while the polyester makes the t-shirt strong and wrinkle-free.
  • Like most things, individuals have their own preferences as to their favorite fabric. Some generalizations can be made. Older men prefer cotton t-shirts. Women tend to look for lighter fabric types, while younger generations tend to favor lightweight fabric blends. The 50/50 cotton polyester blend is popular across most population groups.
  • Trade workers favor a heavy cotton t-shirt as it is less likely to tear. The police and military look to moisture-wicking. And the weekend warriors, those that go for the occasional run, tend to look for t-shirts made of fabrics like the 25% cotton tri-blend.
  • When it comes to the experts, the jury is back, and it's overwhelmingly cotton. The reasons include cotton's ability to hold its shape, cooling properties, and its soft feel. Many consumers like cotton because it looks and feels better than other fabrics.
  • Ann Arbor Tees has studied these demographics and has orientated its focus on ensuring customers choose the fabric that best meets their needs. Often the fabric isn't adequately considered, which results in customer dissatisfaction if the t-shirt doesn't match the users' needs. This company makes certain information regarding the fabric choice is clear so customers can make an informed decision and experiences high-levels of customer satisfaction as a result.

Custom Designs

  • Trends are important in any industry, as they provide an insight into the mind of the consumer, and allow companies to organize their products and inventory to ensure they met the demand. The demand for original t-shirts generates $367 million each year in revenue in the US.
  • Any design must be current and relevant if it is to get the approval of the consumer. Some design themes that have generated the most discussion online are already trending upwards, with little sign of slowing. When developing designs, these three themes should be considered in 2020
  • Pirate designs are trending. Experts have suggested that a spirit of adventure and a desire to travel and experience places in the world few have ventured among the Millennial population may be the reason for this trend. Pirate skulls, octopuses, ropes, and mythical sea creatures are likely to feature prominently on t-shirt designs this year.
  • It seems the 80s are making a comeback, and bright neon colors and tie-dying are leading the charge. Bright colors represent fun, so t-shirt designers are likely to play with this theme and include a range of fun-themed designs.
  • Geometric designs and shapes will become increasingly popular design choices. The 1920s was the decade of Art Decor building design based on geometric designs and shapes. This trend is likely a subtle salute to the new decade while recognizing the last "roaring twenties."
  • CustomInk has recently introduced a whole range of t-shirts that are pirate themed in recognition of this trend.
  • Threadless has recognized the trend towards geometric themed shirts and has placed Google ads letting consumers know that these shirts are available from them. They have also run a geometric design contest.

Target Audience

  • Millennials will soon become the largest generation in the US. The importance of companies recognizing this should not be underestimated because they will soon hold the majority share of the spending power in the US. Custom design t-shirts tend to be focused on this generation, and younger generational groups. The reason cited for the enthusiasm younger generations show toward custom design t-shirts has been hypothesized as striking a chord with their hidden creativity.
  • When there is a flexibility to design each element of the t-shirt and ensure it meets specific demands, there is a creative edge that comes to the fore. The t-shirt becomes an extension of who they are and will usually match the wearer's attitude, personality, and style.
  • For the custom designer, this presents an opportunity to match the different personalities of the t-shirt wearer. This age group is looking for t-shirts that reflect style, humor, and individuality.
  • An example of how the Millennial population has influenced this custom design t-shirt market occurred at New York Fashion Week, when Jeremy Scott, an American designer, wore a t-shirt that said, "Tell your senator no on Kavanaugh." Other generations are now adopting this medium as a means of self-expression.

Digital Printing vs Screen Printing

  • The global custom design t-shirt market can be classified in a variety of different ways. Often t-shirts are categorized based on the printing technology, which in most instances, is screen or digital.
  • Screen printing can be dated back to China in 960 AD. In modern times it came to the fore as an alternative to iron-on transfers in the 70s and 90s. The efficiency gains when doing large orders saw it grow in popularity. For a period, it was the only option if a unique and customized design was required. Many still use the technique. From the 1990s to the present day screen printing has been at as popular as ever.
  • However, screen printing is slowly starting to take a backseat to digital printing, due in part to the advancing technologies that are now available. Computers have enabled unique designs and color palettes to be used without a minimum order requirement. This is where the true appeal of digital printing becomes clear. With digital printing, the consumer truly can have that unique, one of a kind design.
  • The finish between digitally printed and screen printed t-shirts is comparable in terms of quality. One of the advantages of adopting digital printing techniques is time saved. Screen printing takes time to set up the design before printing can take place. A new screen needs to be set up every time there is a color change.
  • Larger orders tend to favor screen printing, but on smaller runs, digital printing is often preferred. Digital printing offers unlimited colors; something screen printing will never be able to match.
  • The final point of difference is the finish. Digital printing incorporates the print into the t-shirt resulting in a softer finish, while screen printing lays the print on top of the t-shirt creating a harsher finish.
  • Threadbird is a company that has stayed with the tried and true, preferring to screen print the majority of their t-shirts. They use this to their advantage in marketing, emphasizing their expertise in the area. Threadbird is showing how a point of difference from competitors can be used to a company's benefit, even if it isn't the latest technology.

Digital Printing Equipment

  • If printing custom t-shirt designs, the most important decision is the equipment selected to do the job. One of the difficulties breaking into this market is it is bordering on over saturation in some countries. The best way to be successful is to let the product speak for itself. This means a quality custom print job on time.
  • The first consideration if electing to print the t-shirts is the volume of t-shirts that are expected to be printed each week. This ensures that any printer purchased is up to the job.
  • An essential checklist should be reviewed and any questions answered regarding the operation and its needs. This information will inform the equipment decisions. Key considerations regarding equipment should include the training required to operate the equipment, the warranty coverage, the job required, minimum requirements, breakages and parts — are they covered by warranty, and the support available if the printer does not meet needs.
  • Although reputable brands are likely to cost more, in the long-run they are likely to present fewer issues.
  • This insight has been included because equipment has the ability to make or break a new business. If the wrong equipment is chosen it can set the business up for failure before it even starts.
  • An example of a printer for a smaller operation is the Ricoh Ri 100.
  • An example of a printer for a larger operation is the Epson 2160 in unison with a quality heat press.
  • For Threadmob, they needed to plan and select a high-quality printer as they intended to offer only digital printing. The use of digital printing has disrupted the industry because now anyone can be a designer and have an original, one of a kind t-shirt. This was something that has not been previously available.

Research Strategy

We reviewed a range of industry publications, promotional material, and expert opinion to identify insights regarding the custom t-shirt printing market. There were several interesting insights. We have attempted to provide a range of different insights across a variety of different categories. We have also focused our insights on areas that are currently experiencing change. Although we attempted to obtain metrics relating to each insight, we were unable to locate any of relevance. Surprisingly, there is a lack of information available about this market segment. All the insights chosen are mentioned in multiple articles or discussed on many occasions by industry experts.