Sublimation, like many other processes, has thousands of products to choose from and it can be overwhelming to know what and how much to offer. As business owners, we need to look at what equipment we have to work with, research the product, know the size of our production space, who are our customers, and how we are going to market to them.
Sublimation equipment and products
Our company owns three heat presses that only heat press flat surfaces, a hat press, a convection oven, and a sublimation printer. Knowing what your equipment is capable of is important when selecting new products to sublimate. If you do not have the equipment for the product you want to bring in, then you have another cost to add, so it is important to take a step back and double-check that your equipment can handle any new product(s).
Researching the product is important. Is it a fad or not? Is it easy to sublimate? How is the stock on this item? If something is a fad, be cautious. Make sure that you get in early on the trend and don’t carry too deep of stock or you could be stuck with it. If you get in early enough on the fad, you can capitalize and make a healthy profit quickly, but just keep your eyes open and pay attention to how sales are moving to reduce any backend potential loss in stock of the item.
If the item is not a fad, that is usually a safer item to move to next. Just be aware that your competition will most likely have this product, too, so make sure you print that product as good as them or better. Making sure this item is easy to sublimate is a must no matter the size of your company. The last thing you want to do is bring in a new product that is not easy to work with. It can create a massive error rate and loss of income — order six to 12 pieces to test on. The easier the product is to work with, the easier you make it on yourself and your staff.
Research the stock of this item. Make sure you know how many wholesalers or manufacturers produce it. Order samples if they are not the name brand and compare pricing. Always create a backup plan in case your vendor runs short, and make sure your pricing structure covers all pricing for both vendors in case you have to switch on the fly to keep orders getting done on time. You don’t want to increase pricing for your customer or have to take a loss in profit.
Production space for sublimation
You also need to consider the size of your production space. Each new product takes up a certain amount of space along with your equipment, so your goal should always be to maximize your profitability within your workspace.
Make sure the new product you bring in has a fair profit margin that you can produce quickly per hour within your workspace. In our case, for example, our sublimation room is only 14′ X 14′ with our computer/print station, heat presses, oven, production tables, and stock shelves. In that little space, one person can keep the printer printing, load the convection oven with up to 24 mugs, and run a heat press in between. By setting up your room like this, you create a productive workspace for new products, it takes fewer people to be productive, and makes your space more profitable.
For a word on knowing your customers and how that plays into product selection, click here.