How Many Shirts Should I Buy To Start a Business

How Many Shirts Should I Buy To Start a Business?

We’ve been involved with countless start-ups during our years of printing high quality t-shirts and custom clothing. And there’s no doubt, ordering your first run of custom tees can be a somewhat intimidating affair. Not least because there are so many things to think about and it sometimes seems like every one of them is make or break. But one particular question usually crops early in the process. And that’s how many shirts should I buy to get started.

Buying Tees for a Start-Up.

Looking at the smallest quantities you’re able to order is perhaps a good place to begin when buying tees for a start-up. Mainly because it’s helps to illustrate the commercial nature of the whole thing. We’re not talking about getting hold of a t-shirt business starter kit and printing a few in the garage. That’s to say, there is a minimum amount when you want to order screen printed t-shirts. The reason being that setting up a print run is not economically viable for numbers below a certain level.

  • Minimum: 50 shirts.
  • Cost effective: 100 shirts.

The above figures are fairly standard in the screen printing industry. In essence, volume generally means a lower cost per finished garment.

So, these are good numbers to consider if you want to dip your toe in the water. But they may not work for your specific circumstances. Each company has unique requirements. Below, we’ll explore other factors that can influence the size of your first print run.

Knowing your market helps with how many shirts to buy.

Knowing your market helps with how many shirts to buy

The Basics and How Many Shirts to Buy.

Starting a t-shirt business is the same as starting any other in many ways. That’s to say, you need to know your market and the main purpose for printing these tees in the first place. Therefore, answering some basic questions can provide real insight into how many you need to launch.

  • Are your tees for promotion /giveaway?
  • Is your market seasonal?
  • Will business be event dependent?
  • Is there an in-built limit to the number of sales?
  • Does your design concept have broad appeal?

Now, clearly some of the above could give you relatively precise numbers. For instance, a promotion is something that you control. In effect, you decide the extent of the giveaway and therefore how many shirts to order for it. Or with an event, the organisers may be able to tell you how many are expected to attend and the type of demand this generates. If nothing else, it gives a pretty good idea of the maximum amount of merchandise that will move.

Other areas here are more vague in terms of the help they offer. However, they can still be useful. For example, recognising that your t-shirt design has niche appeal would suggest some caution. Or let’s consider the seasonal aspect of certain markets. It doesn’t in itself tell you many shirts you should order to get your business up and running. But it does indicate peaks and troughs of demand. Which brings us to another point.

Testing the Market for Interest.

Many start-up t-shirt businesses find ways to test their target market before committing to high volume orders. Taking this approach may mean evolving your business as you become more confident. So, you could test the market with a print on demand model. There are different ways to do this but it tends to use the direct to garment (DTG) printing method where shirts are only printed once an order is received. It’s probably the cheapest way to start a t-shirt business. But it has to be said, there are downsides. One of those is that a print on demand t-shirt business profit margin is generally quite small. Still, you could try it and then move onto screen printing larger quantities of shirts when you’re ready to hold stock.

The blank shirts you buy to start a business.

The blank shirts you buy to start a business

Choosing Blank Shirts to Start a Business.

The plain shirts you print don’t necessarily have a direct effect on the number needed to start your business. However, they are very important and may have implications for the size of your initial order. For one thing, the cost of each tee is a significant part of the project budget. So, choosing a cheaper base could mean you can afford more inventory. Which is no doubt a tempting option. And one that should be given plenty of thought because low quality can stop a start-up in its tracks. Developing a reputation for high quality is invaluable when it comes to how to grow t-shirt business.

Shirt Size Ratios.

What do we mean by shirt size ratio? Well, put simply, it’s the size breakdown of your order. That is, the number of small, medium, large and so on required for each style and colour of the base t-shirt. These are details that need to be decided once you have a total number of garments. And again, it’s important to get it right in order to avoid having stock left on the shelves. Read our article on t-shirt size and quantity for more information.

Buying Sample Shirts.

Again, not a factor that will automatically have an impact on your thinking about how many tees to order. That said, opting to buy sample shirts will make a difference to the final cost of your first custom print run. Especially when you’re starting off with a limited batch. To explain, there is a sampling fee and it’s the same for a small or large print run. With screen printing, the cost of set up for design, screens and inks is constant whether for 50 or 500 shirts.

All t-shirt businesses are different.

All t-shirt businesses are different

So, How Many Shirts Should I Buy To Start a Business?

Well, there we go. You may have gathered from the above that there is no absolute answer to that rather tantalising question of how much merch should I order. In truth, every business is different. Some companies start slow and small, gradually finding their feet. Others have enough knowledge and confidence to go bigger right from the beginning. But the answer is yes when people ask can you make money designing t-shirts. So long as you do it in a way that works for you.

Stay up to date