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Garment Printing

With the recent booms in personalisation and branding-led graphics, David Osgar looks at how now could be the perfect time to consider direct-to-garment options in your business

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Making the perfect fit

In recent years direct-to-garment (DTG) printing has become an ever-expanding industry thanks to an increase in branding, graphics, and vivid imagery.

The rise of e-commerce and the ability for small businesses to operate in new physical and online spaces means logos, merchandise, and uniforms have been critical to businesses establishing recognisable brands.

DTG printing has therefore been a crucial part of how companies present themselves, but also a big part of the services sign-makers and print-service-providers can offer their customers.

Advancements in technology and new equipment on the market is enabling businesses to offer new solutions to customers and fellow businesses.

The importance of branding

The increased popularity of individual designs and personalisation means DTG can offer customers the ability to get quick and unique prints that meet, or even exceed clients’ expectations.

Companies producing signage and wide-format print can easily add a direct-to-garment element to their business in order to complement other offerings such as brand creation, vehicle wrapping, and signage.

The prospect of adding or using existing technology to offer DTG in your business is a concept raised by equipment distributor, Hybrid Services – Mimaki’s exclusive distributor for the UK and Ireland. Reseller account manager, Martin Southworth, says: “For sign-makers with existing solvent print and cut systems, the opportunity to offer a range of new garment products is a great way to build relationships with existing, and prospective customers.

Direct-to-garment prints ink directly on to the fabric, meaning seamless designs that embed themselves into the fibres

“There’s a strong likelihood that a company a sign-maker is supplying vehicle livery or signage to will have a requirement for printed garments, so keeping that customer ‘in-house’ is a win-win.”

The boom in social media and e-commerce has meant businesses must rely on imagery and branding more than ever. For companies to survive, the customer experience has become vital when convincing potential clients to invest in your products or services.

The customer experience has become vital when convincing potential clients to invest in your products or services

Clean and strong branding demonstrates a confident business that no matter its size, can appear competent and professional thanks to small changes such as printed T-shirts and notepads. Some of the UK’s biggest brands and retailers have recognisable imagery and uniformity at their core.

To sell the public on their simple yet effective offerings, companies such as Amazon, Morrisons, and IKEA have all used recognisable colours, logos, and uniforms to stand out from the crowd.

Amazon utilises vans with its now recognisable blue tick alongside branded delivery boxes, tape, caps, polo-shirts, and jackets. If a company can supply all these offerings to a retailer, it not only creates a long-lasting relationship, but also a fantastic campaign to convince other clients to choose it when looking for a similar offering.

Many within the graphics industry have noted the increasing simplicity of logos and designs, with the emphasis on consistency becoming a theme in the business world. Tech retailers, Dixons Carphone, recently undertook a massive rebrand that joined four businesses into one.

Rather than confuse customers with different parts of the business and branding, Dixons Carphone became Currys plc, while Team KnowHow, Carphone Warehouse, Currys PC World and Dixons all became Currys. Uniforms were reinvigorated with the distinct PC World purple and bold white Currys lettering that all matches its signage, graphics, and vehicles.

Small businesses also replicate this approach by using simple but effective T-shirt designs, branded vehicles, business cards, and equipment.  

Southworth adds: “With many sign and graphics companies being able to employ existing hardware such as solvent printers and cutting plotters, it’s possible to enter the market with little or no capital outlay.

“For companies looking to dip their toe in the water, it’s a great way to trial products with customers without committing to a significant investment”.

The need for companies to diversify into services such as DTG is a concept also supported by Your Embroidery Services (YES Group) director, John-Paul Burton, who says: “The past year highlighted the need for businesses to extend their print production.

“Many businesses in the last year focused on e-commerce and on-demand garments, printing and selling on platforms provided by Amazon and eBay. The fundamental technological changes to printers have resulted in a combination of breakthroughs in efficiency and fast production, therefore delivering more revenue with less risk.”

Personalising innovation

The DTG market has benefitted thanks to the increased importance of branding, but also personalisation services. Companies like Vista Print and Moonpig enable and encourage customers to personalise clothing, mugs, or tote bags, both for business use and pleasure.

These services wouldn’t be available were it not for advancements in DTG printing materials. Southworth explains: “The development of lighter and more natural feeling polyester t-shirts has been a useful development for companies delivering dye-sublimation printed garments. As well as being suitable for accepting a dye-sub print, they offer technical performance advantages over cotton, typically being faster wicking and lighter weight.”

Describing the increase in popularity of DTG, Burton says: “Fast fashion is now a sophisticated business. Across nearly every apparel category you’ll find that consumers only keep clothing for the length of a season. That’s about half as long as they would have done about ten years ago. There’s no denying demand for printed garments is at an all-time high. For over a decade DTG Digital has established the standard for professional garment printing.”

Medium and small businesses have in many ways become the backbone for the innovations in garment production as their clients and communities have embraced the products new technologies can give them.

In 2019, YouGov estimated the personalised goods industry to be worth well over £1bn, with the average adult spending about £36.50 on personalised gifts and products. Research published in 2020 by Statista estimated that in 2016, the global custom T-shirt printing market was valued at $1.16bn (£853m) and was forecast to reach a value of $3.1bn (£2.3bn) by 2025.

Keeping up with the latest innovations is a big part of that growth, Burton explains: “Technology is evolving faster than ever; companies and individuals need to keep up with major tech trends or run the risk of being left behind.”

While many wide-format companies may now be looking to cross over into the world of garment printing, for many, these services have been the backbone of businesses for decades.

Speaking about how YES Group came into the industry, Burton says: “Your Embroidery Services is a family-run engineering business founded in 1995, we have been committed to supplying the decorative textile and apparel marketplace with world-leading embroidery technology from SWF and DTG Digital. Our direct-to-garment printers established a new standard for professional garment prints, fashion panels, and textile applications.

“26 years later, we continue to work alongside leading companies that are keeping up with major tech trends within both embroidery and digital print technology.”

O Factoid: In 2019 YouGov estimated the personalised goods industry was worth well over £1bn with the average adult spending about £36.50 on personalised gifts and products O

Companies like YES Group have kept up to date with innovations in garment production, thanks to the impressive DTG printers that are on the market. Brands within the print and wide-format sectors such as Brother, Epson, and KORNIT all offer solutions.

However, since the commercial launch of DTG technology in 2005, YES Group has worked with and supplied equipment largely from manufacturer, DTG Digital, which is based in New South Wales, Australia.

The DTG Digital M6 Industrial DTG Printer can print products like T-Shirts, hoodies, jeans and tea towels

The company was formed as a collaboration with suppliers in the USA, Asia Pacific, and Europe who have since worked together to produce machines such as the Kiosk and Kiosk II, the DTG Viper, and the current M Series.

YES Group is the UK exclusive supplier of both DTG Digital and Compress UV printers, after longstanding relationships with both Australian and US-based firms. The current challenges brought on by Brexit meant that when selecting distribution partners, DTG Digital was a far more practical option for YES Group due to quicker shipping and less logistical issues in comparison to European manufacturers.

Speaking about the importance of working with manufacturers, Burton explains: “We have direct links with the companies that we distribute, and so we’re fortunate we’ve had those relationships that have helped our customers in the UK grow. Our engineers here have helped build the brand through collaboration and feedback.”

Sustainability is key

The variety and number of options available in DTG printers is ever-expanding. For YES Group, the 2022 imminent launch of the DTG Q Series is undoubtably going to generate a significant amount of excitement throughout the garment printing world.

“Designed for low-cost, high-volume production, the new DTG Q series is superfast and very competitive, using a staggered array of print heads, running high-speed, in a single-one-pass colour and white ink. We believe it’s destined to become the investment companies have been waiting for, setting a new standard for printing” says Burton.

The possibilities DTG can bring a business has meant a variety of new printers have come on the market in the last decade from companies that operate all over the globe. Epson is one company that has combined its innovations in commercial printers and sustainability into the world of DTG.

Head of sales at Epson UK’s commercial and industrial division, Phil McMullin, says: “Epson has been involved with the garment printing industry for over seven years having launched its first official DTG unit in 2014. Prior to this, many of the DTG units were modified Epson photo printers.