As we enter 2021, here are four areas to consider quarterly to consistently improve your shop’s sales.
3.7 Oz/SqYd50% Polyester, 25% Cotton, 25% Rayon
Business Tips

4 Proactive Ways to Stay Profitable in 2021


4 Proactive Ways to Stay Profitable in 2021

At Bolt Printing & Embroidery, while our business was down significantly in 2020, we stayed profitable selling T-shirts online—and that’s been a byproduct of the decisions we made month by month. Those included making plans around our employees, suppliers, marketing and the industries we serve.

As we enter 2021, here are four areas to consider quarterly to consistently improve your shop’s T-shirt sales.

Look at your employee lineup.

We’re looking at three potential scenarios for 2021: One is that we remain in the same partial shutdown we were in 2020 through a good deal of 2021. Another is that with vaccines coming, things improve in the spring and summer of 2021, and keep getting better. The last and most uncomfortable scenario is that things get worse before they get better, with more stringent and longer widespread lockdowns.

As you think about your staffing situation for the new year, I recommend putting together three action plans and budgets based on those three scenarios. For example, if your business suddenly picks up, who will you bring back from furlough, or where do you go to find new employees? Which people know how to decorate and sell shirts the best?

If things slow down, do you tap into a shared work program? Do you have job postings already written to pop on online job boards? Do you belong to networking groups where you can easily access qualified hires?

Look at the markets you’ve been serving.

This is a sales activity that you should do quarterly, if not monthly, with our current economic climate. First, look at the business that you shouldn’t be chasing. Right now, that might include restaurants or gyms. For us, family reunion gear is a huge part of our summer business, but not so much in 2020, so we didn’t chase that business. (Check out our blog 8 Industries Negatively Affected by COVID-19 to get better insights into markets to avoid right now.)

Then, refocus your energy on the industries that are booming; for example, that could include your local construction companies, electricians and plumbers. Choose a very targeted marketing approach to reach out to buyers in these profitable industries. Be aware that you may need to revisit this quarterly in 2021, as things remain unpredictable with the overall economy. (For some inspiration, read our blog 10 Industries to Pitch Decorated Apparel to Right Now.)

And here’s another way to look at marketing through a geographical lens: If you market nationally, don’t target states with the most COVID-19 cases or hospitalizations, especially for certain niches like kids’ camps. Be aware of what’s happening across the country before you spend your marketing dollars inefficiently.


Look at your inventory and your supplier sources.

We’ve seen some inventory shortages due to supply chain issues. Of course, we can’t predict exactly what will happen in 2021, but what’s your shop plan?

Have you got multiple suppliers lined up for the T-shirts that sell? Have you got a list of your best-selling styles along with similar styles? And when a customer calls up wanting a particular product that’s not in stock, does your team know how to successfully suggest a different, but equivalent, item? Will you offer sale T-shirts? Have you got a staffer who can handle ordering goods from multiple suppliers in multiple locations?

Similarly, review your decorating supplies. Does it make sense to order more inks, screens or films now? It doesn’t hurt to call your supplier reps to learn what they foresee, and you may even score a discount if you order in bulk. If there was another 30-day shutdown, do you realistically have what your shop needs?

Look at how you can serve your customers where they are.

With many employees still working at home and formerly in-person events still virtual, think about how to pitch decorated apparel and promo products to corporate buyers. For example, to kick off 2021, companies can gift their employees with new logoed polos or T-shirts, bundled with other wellness or desk accessories. Or they can create thank-you gifts or sample packs of new items to send to their best customers. If companies are hosting virtual events, pitch staff shirts, and swag packs for attendees and speakers.

Since we don’t know how 2021 will pan out, it’s never too early to think about employee rewards and holiday parties. Many companies may still choose to host virtual events for their employees, even a 2021 kickoff bash in the first quarter. You can suggest that they give their employees high-quality logoed jackets or apparel. Or, you can create an online store where you sell T-shirts online with a selection of items that employees can choose from for a more personalized gift.

If you don’t have a business plan or haven’t dusted yours off in a while, now is the time to take a hard look at it. Set reasonable goals to sell T-shirts and stay profitable despite an uncertain economy. Things won’t feel as unpredictable if you plan quarterly for several scenarios. You may even be surprised at how your shop exceeds your sales goal expectations.

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