QP: How much investment is required and what kind of ROI can a printer expect to see?
Longtin: A dependable direct-to-garment printer, heat press, baseline equipment, and software start around $20,000. Anything less, and your vendor’s reliability, training, technical support, and aftermarket supplies should be suspect. Higher-speed solutions (30 to 50 shirts per hour) will range from $30,000 to $60,000. Larger, dedicated garment decorator businesses and in-plant facilities have even faster, costlier options.
Payoff and return on investment, as with all things, depend on your costs, pricing model, production/labor capacity, marketing effort, and many other factors. To cite examples, however, we have had franchise print shops, sign shops, and other commercial printers achieve full payoff in three months or less. They have sometimes come back to us to upgrade their printer. Their garment printing business has, in many instances, helped grow their primary business lines.
QP: What is the most important thing for a printer to know before they get into digital garment printing?
Longtin: The most important thing to know before you get involved in digital garment printing: your market. I say this as a marketing executive and as a digital apparel printer owner. Who are your customers? Are they buying printed apparel for personal use or for branding, promotional, team identity needs? Are you comfortable competing on speed, quality, and service, or do you race to the bottom on price?
Anyone with time and money can buy and learn DTG. If you do not know your market and have the discipline to go after them, is it worthwhile just to satisfy the itch to get a cool piece of technology? Too many people enter the market arena thinking their equipment will do all the work for them. After all, it is pretty cool.
The second most important thing to know is that, as with all your favorite suppliers, you will want to build an ongoing relationship with the printer vendor or distributor. Do your homework and look at the total cost of ownership, not just the acquisition cost. Get as much detail and documentation as you can. Some vendors make their profit primarily on the printers, others on inks, still others on systems integration.