2013 should be an extremely interesting time for the whole heat printing industry. Demand is up, heat transfer technology and adhesives are improving every day, there is more creativity in both fabric and garment design. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard all this before…but here are a few more predictions for the coming year.
Bump in Heat Printing Sales We’re already seeing a bump in sales with many newbies looking to replace lost income (let’s not forget the underground marketplace) and others trying to keep more profits in house, with mega-interest in heat printing at the first couple of trade shows this year, including the ASI Show in Orlando. We predict sales of heat presses, CAD-CUT materials, transfers and lettering will continue to rise. The first three items on that list might not surprise you, but lettering?
Increase in Lettering Yes, one of the most surprising trends for 2013 is in increase in the number of stores offering “while you wait” lettering. That’s right, walk in a store, pick out your words, and walk out with a custom shirt. That’s how it was done in the “olden days” when there was a t-shirt shop on every corner and that’s what we’re seeing again now. Why? With online companies helping to build demand and awareness for low quantity or one-off shirts, there are still many who don’t want to wait for the UPS or FedEx truck to arrive. Hence the increase in instant lettering sales. You can go to your local shirt store for straight text and get your shirt while you wait. And one of the easiest ways to offer text on shirts is by having a few kits of lettering and a heat press in the back room.
More Styles, Colors and Special Effects We will be seeing this trend for lettering kits explode as we see with more and more styles, colors and fashion looks available in stock distressed twill, flock or transfers. You’ll also see more sports teams using fashion forward letter and number looks that include Glitter Flake, Metallic and Reflective. Everyone is trying to be different. Everyone wants an original look.
Reflective Speaking of reflective, you can hardly purchase a high-end piece of sportswear without finding a reflective logo or small patch of reflective somewhere on the garment. If you do nothing else new this year, start using reflective heat transfer materials. This is a trend that needs to be repeated by anyone who sells custom sportswear. The added safety factor of reflective material to kid’s backpacks, running wear, skateboard wear, or jackets of any kind can be enormous. Consider adding your logo in a reflective material to everything you sell this year. It will not only help promote your business, it may help the wearer have greater visibility when they really need it.
Transfers You’ll also see a rise in the use of transfers. Many consumers don’t realize it, but almost every major clothing manufacturer in the world uses heat transfers for some type of decorating. Since transfers can be printed on just about any fabric, in any size, in any location, transfers just make more sense for retail store and online customizers as well. The consumer wants it now, the marketplace demands speed and transfers and lettering are the way to get any customization job done.
Stock Transfers The greater acceptance of transfers leads to another trend, which is actually a resurgence of something that never really went away, (similar to neon, it just never goes away does it?) is the popularity of stock transfers. Stock transfer sales will boom in 2013 for many reasons. First of all, the popularity of dogs, cars, travel, lifestyle sayings, funny sayings, and political statements, patriotic or just art for art’s sake continues to grow. It could be just plain text or complicated high end artwork.
Artwork, Hot Splits, Texture and Inkjet The artwork available is better than it’s ever been, new ink formulations and adhesives make the transfers work better than before and feel better to the touch. The hot split is coming back with vengeance, thanks to a demand for softer, lighter touches on fabrics. And since there’s a ying for every yang, you’ll also see transfers with rougher textures on purpose, such as transfers with washed out or distressed effects, and even transfers that have the look of the grain of burlap and other textures. You will also be seeing more artwork for sale that will help make your job easier. And did I mention the increase in the use of inkjet papers? Do you know that millions of sheets of inkjet papers are sold each month? Well more and more people are realizing how simple and effective it is to heat print multi-color logos with inkjet papers.
What’s driving all this heat printing? The marketplace is demanding a whole new world, and the internet has exposed more and more people to newer, faster possibilities in custom garments. But that doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable ordering custom items online. This opens up a world of opportunity to those who are able to provide instant customization while you wait.
Sublimation Blocking, No Hand It’s true. We’re witnessing a demand that’s almost outstripping our ability to manufacture certain products. We’ve been hard at work creating new CAD-CUT and transfer lines to supply the industry. In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, we are creating a whole new world of materials that stretch, have soft hand, offer sublimation blocking capabilities, materials that have chameleon-type looks yet have very little hand to them. This is especially important in the world of imprinting for professional and recreational sports. Remember the days when we used to describe the benefits of using Thermo-FILM as it having a chemical bond versus a mechanical bond? Well now we are talking about eco-solvent bonds and much more sophisticated adhesives and even lower melt points. But all you really have to remember this year if you want to be up on the latest and greatest heat printing trends is make sure you have a heat press. All you have to do to decorate just about anything is smash it on.
And while I stand behind all these predictions for the upcoming year, keep in mind that I truly don’t have psychic abilities or I certainly wouldn’t have sold my 1966 Shelby Hertz Mustang forty years ago. Just saw one online on sale for $214,000. Stop by and say hello if you are at the ISS Show in Long Beach this weekend.