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Contract vs. Retail Printing

Contract vs. Retail Printing

Business Tips

Most decorators will be familiar with this dilemma: do I go for contract printing or retail printing? Is it beneficial to do both or just specialize in one? Marian Hinebauch spent many years doing just contract printing but is now on a journey towards more and more retail projects. Today, she gives us a rundown of what she believes is the best, worst and most enjoyable aspects of each one.

You’ve worked with both contract and retail printing during your career. Could you give us an insight into how you got into them?

Sure! So I started off doing 100% contract work and did it for many, many years — and I still do it. Then I made the shift to doing retail orders, which was a real learning experience. We made an order with one department in a company who was very happy and told another department about it. Then they told another department, and then they told another department! So for me, it was a trickle effect and just an all-around really great experience.

What would you say is the best part of each type of printing?

I’d say the best benefit of contract printing is that it is consistent: It's every day, all day. And it's easy! Retail, on the other hand, is harder in the beginning because you're doing a lot of mock-ups with the art department, doing a lot of samples, and bringing in a lot of options for clients who might not know what they want. It’s time-consuming, but in the end, it's wonderful. I find once you get a retail job and the art is approved, it's just consistent reorders. Retail also lets us offer more things like folding, bagging and packaging our shirts in different ways – like putting SKU number stickers on the outside of the bag, things like that. I find I have a bit more fun with retail than with contract.

How do the two differ in terms of process and keeping in contact with clients?

Retail is more involved because you're dealing directly with the customer. We can send the mock-ups, art, and the PMS colors directly – and the turnaround time is so quick. While with contract printing, you're dealing with a business who is dealing with the customer. With contract printing, once we’ve put the art together, we have to send it to our customer, who then has to send it to their customer – so it’s a more time-consuming 3-step process.

You mentioned that retail is a bit harder to get into at first. What’s your advice on landing more retail jobs?

Once you do a job for someone and you know it was done well, always ask for referrals. I always ask for referrals; that's how I've grown my business. You just need to approach people and not be shy. I would also just tell anyone: "don't ever think you can't do retail." In the long run, it's actually easier. So don't ever be afraid of it!

And do you have a favorite out of the two?

It would be an absolute dream to have 100% retail. But to be honest, I really, really like both. Contract printing is just so consistent and I know there will always be a steady stream — and that's huge. Retail to me right now, as I’m just getting involved in it, is like a bonus!