Seven Ways Small Shops Can Tackle Inventory and Shipping Challenges

Small businesses must find creative, resourceful ways to keep shipping costs down allowing them to remain competitive in their pricing. 

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Small shops constantly deal with the challenge of trying to compete with larger companies. Bigger companies are able to buy shirts in bulk and inventory them to use as needed. Not only does a small decorator not have the space to keep inventory in this manner, it also doesn’t have the capital to invest in shirts that will be sitting on a shelf.

Small businesses must find creative, resourceful ways to keep shipping costs down, allowing them to remain competitive in their pricing. Here are a few ideas that may work for you:

  1. Find a local wholesaler/supplier. You might pay higher prices for the blanks, but when you can pick up orders, you avoid the shipping expense.
  2. The majority of products sold by successful decorators consist of a limited number of SKUs and colors. Having a narrow selection allows your customer ease of choice and makes a huge inventory unnecessary.
  3. Make friends with other shops in your area and build a mutually beneficial relationship where you might combine orders to reduce shipping costs.You’ll also gain a resource you can go to when you need shirts in a hurry.
  4. For larger orders that require big quantities of shirts, consider contracting with a larger decorator in your area. This allows you to grow your business without the need of inventory space.
  5. Another way to overcome no inventory space is to only order as needed. There are suppliers that can have product to you overnight. This helps to reduce the amount of stock you need to keep on hand since you can get it quickly.
  6. While having inventory can be a drain on limited resources, you need to have enough to cover misprints. Sometimes it’s not even a misprint but a shirt with a hole or stain. You want to have enough backup so you are not short while decorating the order. Use these reject shirts for test prints. These unsellable shirts can also be a tax write-off at the end of the year.
  7. Group orders to take advantage of free shipping minimums. Identify bread-and-butter products and add them to any order that needs a higher quantity to qualify for free shipping. Since you know you’ll sell them, you can never have too many.
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Mike Clark

Mike Clark is the editor-at-large for GRAPHICS PRO. Contact him at

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