Late last year I was asked to discuss some of my predictions for 2016 for an article for Imprint Canada. It was recently published online and here is the link to the publication. I am also reposting it here.
Build Your Business in 2016: Heat Printing Trends Are Opportunities
BY TED STAHL
(Originally published in Imprint Canada Magazine Jan-Feb Issue 2016)
With the imprinted sportswear marketplace continuing to explode, it seems almost impossible to fail when selling custom apparel these days. However, with more and more competitors jumping on the garment decoration bandwagon, it’s necessary to go outside your comfort zone in order to thrive. For some this might mean expanding by offering new services—screen printing and embroidery just aren’t feasible on many of today’s most popular fabrics. For others, it might mean being open to the newest trends and showing your customers that you offer more than one type of decorating. You also need to adapt to the demands of a culture that is increasingly demanding faster service, lower minimums and higher quality. Let’s take a look at some of the heat printing trends on which you can capitalize in 2016 and beyond. More than just “overnight sensations”, these trends are actually solid opportunities upon which to build your business.
Trends in Colors
There’s no doubt that the trend for metallic numbers is still going to be strong for sports uniforms, especially football, hockey and even soccer. If college football in the U.S. is any indication, you can’t help but notice the “fashion show” that is going on with some of them, each trying to outdo one another with more spectacular presentations. Metallic numbers can be purchased as pre-cuts or you can cut your own custom numbers and player names with metallic heat transfer films. We don’t expect the demand for metallic to drop off any time soon, but it makes one wonder what’s next for the teams that REALLY want to stand out.
Reflective is one answer. We predict that teams will be featuring reflective numbers and other touches, even if they are only using it as a background or accent. It is extremely easy to add reflective elements to any garment using a heat press. There are also number and lettering styles available in reflective options, as well as custom logos that can be produced. Reflective materials are also available in a range of colors and printable films can be used to combine full color printing and metallic effects. Offering the service of reflective printing is also an excellent way to get customers in the door. It’s perfect for adding onto kid’s backpacks or outerwear, as well as an addition to running wear. Businesses that have employees who deliver products in the dark or that need an extra bit of safety can also consider it for corporate wear.
Trends in Decorating: Full Color
In this coming Spring season, don’t underestimate the importance of full color logos and your ability to offer this service to your customers. If you are still in the dark about the importance of full color, this is the year to let the color shine in. One reason you may not currently have customers who purchase full color logos is because they may have been priced out of reach, or your customers may not have realized that they were an option. Today’s consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the affordability and availability of full color, even in small quantities. With so many full color technologies available, from digital transfers, litho transfers, direct to garment, sublimation and ink jet printing, there are more options than ever when it comes to full color printing. Don’t be afraid to say–“We can print that in full color.” If you own an eco-solvent ink jet printer, you can print your own full color logos in house using digital media designed specifically for apparel.
There are also printable films with low-temp adhesives for application on performance wear. Just print, cut and heat apply. If you don’t want to invest in new equipment, find a service provider that can offer full color custom transfers–even if you just need one.
You will also see more people using mixed-media or “mixology” techniques. This can include combining embroidery with screen printing or heat printing; or digital transfers with heat transfer films and flocks, Direct-to-Garment with embroidery, the list is endless. Just visit any professional sports stadium and you’ll see them incorporating bling elements, such as Glitter Flake materials or some rhinestone bling. Don’t turn your nose up at this trend, it’s here to stay. And even if your teams don’t seem interested in having their jerseys sparkle, don’t forget about fan wear or cheer wear.
If you’re currently not offering custom performance wear, don’t miss this opportunity. It’s rare to find a team that’s happy with a plain old cotton t-shirt anymore. It has to be polyester or some other wicking, stretchy, sporty fabric. These new fabrics are more difficult to decorate than cotton or cotton/poly but it can easily be accomplished with a heat press. With dozens of new low-temperature heat printing methods available for creating custom logos on stretch fabrics, you can service this sought after market. There are also heat print materials available with sublimation blocking properties, so you can add custom names, numbers and logos without worrying about dye migration.
All You Need is a Heat Press
You don’t need to invest in expensive equipment to take advantage of these apparel decorating trends. It’s possible for you to offer your customers metallic logos, names and numbers, reflective logos, glitter logos and names and even full color digital printing on performance wear in 2016. Take your apparel decorating services to the next level in 2016. All you need is a heat press and you are ready to say YES to just about any kind of customization, in any quantity, on any fabric.