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ISS Orlando Show Recap

ImageThanks to everyone for the great experience at the Imprinted Sportswear Show Orlando this past weekend.  Contrasting the ISS Long Beach Show and the ISS Orlando Show, the California show was much larger and had several times over the number of vendors participating.  However, I really liked the Orlando show as I was able to have more in-depth conversations with some old friends, and some new ones too.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Great job by the folks that came to my “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Lower Your Operating Expenses” talk on Saturday.  Everyone that attended was really involved in the class and we had a great discussion.  I love comparing notes from people in different shops, and hearing how other people have the same daily struggles somehow makes your challenges less intimidating.  Someone from the class wanted my article for “100 Things You Can Do To Make Your Company More Sustainable” so here’s the link if that would help you too: http://atkinsonconsulting.drupalgardens.com/content/100-things-you-can-do-make-your-company-more-sustainable
  2. Based on the many conversations I had at the show with both vendors and shop owners alike, I’d say that this industry is still reeling from the downturn that happened in 2009.   Sales are coming back, but not quite at the same level as before.  Lots of shops are tightening their belts still, and learning to do things differently and more efficiently is on the top of everyone’s minds.  A lot of shop owners are “interested” in new equipment or processes, but really only to see if it could be a fit for them long term, and most would contract out their embroidery or DTG if they could until they can build enough sales to make it a permanent production line.
  3. Spent a bit of time at the show with Ray Neeley with Gildan, and he showed off their new great mix of heathered colors in both tees and hoodies.  Definitely can see some potential using these for some projects.  I’ve always been a big fan of Gildan, as I like their color line and quality.  (www.gildan.com)
  4. I stayed a few extra days and had some Orlando time with my family.  Of course, since this is the #1 tourist venue in America there is a plethora of gift and t-shirt shops around.  I can’t help and stop in to see what’s in the retail shops.  Nothing too surprising on the decoration side, although my seven year old son loved seeing the “I Love to Fart” screen printed on butt of some tighty-whitey underwear.  All kidding aside, I did see some retail lines screen printing their “permanent tracking label” in the inside neck area of the shirt.  They are using their PO # and city that it was printed.  This seems to be a standard for the ones I reviewed that had it.  Of course, this was only on about 10% of the youth shirts I inspected.  My survey base was gift shops in a theme park, our resort hotel, tourist stores and a Walgreen’s.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission folks have made an impact as there are some labels, but they certainly aren’t everywhere yet.
  5. Customer Service is still king in tourist based Orlando Florida.  Love the attention and friendly staff doing their best to make sure I have a good time, or have everything I need to make my stay in their city a good one.  This is the attitude and dedication that I wish I could export to other areas of the country, as I frequently run into some real duds that are in customer facing positions.

Thanks again to everyone at the ISS Shows for setting everything up for me with my speaking engagement, they make it easy.  If I missed speaking with you at the show, please drop me a note at matkinson4804@gmail.com and let’s compare notes!

How Your Art Staff Can Use Pinterest to an Advantage

There’s a new cowboy that just rode into the social media town called Pinterest.  ( www.pinterest.com )  If you haven’t heard of it, you may not be alone, but this is a great free app that is currently taking over the social media like nobody’s business.  A February 1 article on Mashable by Zoe Fox (http://mashable.com/2012/02/01/pinterest-traffic-study/) stated that Pinterest users are responsible for more webpage referrals than Google+, YouTube & LinkedIn combined.  It’s no wonder.

The app is extremely easy to load, and actually quite fun to use.  Millions of Pinterest fans love to “pin” an image and share online their different viewpoints on everything including fashion, home design, cooking, DIY projects, photography, crafting, and inspirational images.  Once you’ve created an account, you can post a button on your browser so when you see something you like you can “Pin It” to one of the “boards” you’ve created.  The boards are akin to individual page in a book and can be labeled and segmented any way you want.  The user defines the text on each pin and board for easy searching or branding later.

So how can you use this free app to your advantage in the business place, and more specifically in your art department?  I’m still playing with this, but here are some that are evident to me at first blush:

  1. Saving Images for Later.  The concept of an inspiration art book isn’t new.  This is where designers have historically ripped a page out of a magazine, or use a sample of something and pasted it into a notebook for future reference.  Many designers have notebooks like this that date back years, and use them when they get “stuck” on a project and are looking for a new layout, texture, font use, or whatever.  Sorting and sifting through the pages can help land on the perfect idea for that project that’s due in two hours and you don’t know where to start.  Now, with everything at your fingertips on the internet as digital files you can do the same using Pintrest.  See a cool logo, layout, texture or font use?  Click your “Pin It” button and add it to one of your boards for inspirational reference later.  It’s insanely easy.
  2. Market Your Portfolio.  What artist doesn’t want to do that?  You can “Pin” your designs just as easy.  There’s also a dialog box that goes with each image so you can enter some searchable terms so other people can find your image.  Type in “Yellow Banana Text Logo” and anyone searching for “Yellow”, or “Banana”, or “Text”, or “Logo” will return your image with all the others that are labeled that way too.  Get your work in front of millions of people instantly and easily.
  3. Drive Referrals Back to Your Order Page.  Do you have a t-shirt design on an order page somewhere and you want to drive more referrals back to it?  “Pin” the image and enter some searchable words and post it on your board.  Others will be able to find it, and if they like it enough to want to order it, click through to your Order Page.  Others may simply like the design and “Repin” your image, thus spreading your marketing through passive interaction with others.

Those are the top three that I can see happening off the bat.  I’d love hear back from others on how they can use this new app to their advantage.  If you’d like to see my pins, my boards are located at http://pinterest.com/atkinsontshirt/….just like my blog name.  Happy Pinning!

ISS Long Beach Show Recap – Big Success!

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I just returned from an outstanding couple of days at the Imprinted Sportswear Show in Long Beach California.  I’ve attended many of these types of shows over the years, but this one stands out for several reasons.  First, and the most obvious reason, was that I gave a presentation on building a sustainability program in an apparel decorator shop.  Second, I was representing my new employer, Visual Impressions, and was very happy to see some great interaction with the vendors at the show.  Although, I didn’t get to see everyone I had hoped to (time limitations), I thought I’d recap some of the major highlights of the show and share with everyone.

  1.  I’d like to give the primary shout out to everyone that signed up for my class, “Sustainability: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and Lower Your Operating Expenses”.  Everyone that attended the class was involved from the start and we had a great interchange of ideas and tips.  If you were in the class, please give yourself a pat on the back for being so forthright with your questions and for sharing how you are doing it in your shop.  Great job!!  I’d love to hear back from you on how you implemented any of the ideas I presented or that others shared.
  2. Another big thank you to Laura Caskey with Nielsen Expositions for making my first time giving a presentation at the event so easy.  She was very organized and wonderful to work with.  Thanks!
  3. Jay Berman (owner of Visual Impressions, my employer) and I had a wonderful dinner with Greg Kitson, owner of Mind’s Eye Graphics, and Deborah Sexton, owner of Saracen Communications and long-time industry journalist.  It was fun sharing how everyone entered into this industry and thoughts on the future.  I’d also like to publically thank Greg for mentoring me on the presentation process with these shows, as I appreciate the help and support from a long time veteran.
  4. Had a great breakfast on the Queen Mary (sorry no ghosts were in sight), with Jay, Rich Pulliam with Midwest Sign & Screen Printing Supply, and Marci Kinter with SGIA.  I’ve known Marci seemingly forever and have spoken to her countless times on the phone, in webinar panels, and by e-mail, but unbelievably have never met her in person.  It was great opportunity for me.  Getting some insight on the current and future state of the Consumer Product and Safety Information Act challenges with our industry ink was extremely enlightening and worth its weight in gold.
  5. I also loved meeting and sharing some ideas with Rodney Blackwell with tshirtforums.com.  He’s a super guy, and I really like the free exchange of ideas on his forum.  Lots of new and future industry superstars go there first to start their journey in the biz, and Rodney gets to help them along their way.  Thanks for your time Rodney!  Keep up the good work!
  6. I was really amazed at the growth in the digital sector in the industry.  Every other booth has some sort of new digital printer, sublimation or process.  Anyone who thinks the future of the industry isn’t moving to digital is delusional.  The standout printer of the show is the new Kornit Avalanche. (see http://www.kornit-digital.com/NewsAndEvents/?page=22&pageType=3&ID=503  for their press release)  This is going to be a revolutionary machine in the industry, and it’s not just about the blazing speed either (300 shirts per hour) as they have increased the print size to a huge 23.5” x 35” image, and also the availability to run two completely different jobs simultaneously on the two platens.  This equipment can take an art file from the web and print it on a shirt without any art department prep or human involvement.  To me, this was the standout piece of equipment at the show.  Before the show they had over 40 of these placed in shops around the country, and I spoke with a salesman later Friday evening at a reception and they sold four at the show.  This is the direction we are heading folks.
  7. I also find it strangely amusing that people that interested in getting into the DTG market are not calculating the cost of the ink, pretreatment labor step, and other variables into their purchase price ROI calculations.  They all want the $20k printer, but aren’t looking past that purchase price and into the true cost of the printer which is their ink and labor.  (which also depends on their production volume – I get it)  I spoke to several people at the show and to a person they were dismissing this calculation and just focusing on the “get it in the door” price.
  8. Speaking of strangely amusing, I also am left wondering why so many printers have not even heard of the regulations for lead and non-phthalate inks as mandated by the CPSC.  For those of us that want to do this right, any increase in cost that we may have to add to the price of doing youth shirts is going to be undercut by some uninformed slob down the street that doesn’t even care.  Even some of the larger shop owners and production managers I spoke with aren’t following or worrying about this.   This is going to get uglier than it already is now.
  9. Another great new piece of equipment to see is SignTronic’s ScreenMaster, which is a fully automated direct to screen system that not only images the screen, but washes out the emulsion and dries the screen for you.  (here’s the link to the video http://www.signtronic.com/Video/stm-tex_web.mp4)  This was extremely cool, and a big thanks to Lee Bryhn for walking us through the system.  You can get about 30 screens an hour through the machine, and basically reduce your screen room labor down to just a few people, as the equipment does all the work.  Big price tag, and if you need more than 30 screens an hour it’s going to be too slow, but a great innovation.
  10. Loved talking shop with all the great folks at Wilflex/Polyone and NazDar.  Good to see them, and I’d like to say thank you to Rob Coleman for his insights with the CPSC regulations, Peter Walsh for just being Peter Walsh, but for also help arranging for a DM4 demo, and to Adam Scaife for introducing us to Dave Swart Director of Operations for New Buffalo Shirt Factory.  Great hearing Dave’s insights on the industry, operations, and resolving challenges.  Good seeing Carl Busey, and talking shop with him too.
  11. On a personal note, I’d like to give thanks to my new employers Jay Berman and Todd Richheimer with Visual Impressions.  They are truly great people to work for, and are actively involved with the business and “get it”.  I’ve been working for them since August and really love the attitude, feedback, enthusiasm, and respect that they have shown me.  Thanks for picking up the tab for me for this show and for next month’s one in Orlando.  If you do business with Visual, you know what I’m talking about when I say they are great guys…if you haven’t placed an order with us yet – it’s not too late!  Try us and see the difference.
  12. I’d also like to give some thanks and credit to my wife Jody for helping me as always.  She motivates me constantly to be a better person, see things that I don’t, and to remind me of not only where I’ve been – but more importantly where I’m going.  Thanks babe!  Daisy.
  13. Lastly, if I missed seeing you at the ISS Long Beach show, there’s another opportunity a few weeks away in Florida at ISS Orlando.  I’d love to spend some time with anyone and compare notes on how to resolve challenges, improve, motivate staff, build a better schedule, handle CPSC regulations, talk about sustainability, or just catch up on life’s struggles.

Explode Out of Your Box with New Ideas

So you’re sitting there at your computer wondering how you can get some fresh new perspective or creative ideas to start the New Year off with a bang?  It’s easy; you just have to be open and receptive to finding the ideas that are constantly surrounding you.  Reach out and grab them!

  1. Need more sales or more clients?  I talk to people in companies, firms or organizations constantly that unbelievably are still not harnessing the power of social media.  The lame excuse that I constantly hear is that they “don’t understand it”; and some even poke fun at people that have a Twitter, Facebook, WordPress or LinkedIn account.  No matter what your business, the power of the information connectivity with your core audience is at an all-time high.  You just need to solve the problem of not only how to connect with them, but when and what to offer.
  2. Make it easy for your clients.  Customers will flock to someone that builds a better mousetrap.  Let’s face it, as a human race we’re all basically lazy people.  If you are selling a product, make it easy to buy.  If you are selling an idea, keep your content current, easy to understand and receive.  Look at your business from the customer’s perspective.  What roadblocks can you eliminate to make it easier to do business with you?  How can you engage your customers so you stay in the forefront of their mind?  (Hint: see #1 above)
  3. Humor.  Want to hear something funny?  We all do!  Some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials ever have all had a great humorous element to them.  That’s what made them so wonderful.  Make it fun!   Engage with others in a silly, unpredictable way to gain attention, or make a memorable moment.
  4. Get out of your rut.  Do something new.  Go for a walk, get outside, join a club, or volunteer.  See things from a fresh perspective.  Be open along the way for an inspiring moment, conversation or idea.
  5. Talk to a kid.  That’s right.  Ask a kid for their advice on how to solve your problem.  Children aren’t bogged down with the “right & wrong” ways of thinking about being creative.  It’s ok to color outside of the lines, and can lead to great new sources of creativity.  Challenge the status quo – “Do we HAVE TO do something this way?”
  6. Read a book about something you don’t know anything about.  Ben Franklin, Australia, Japanese Brush Painting, Tennis, Astronomy, whatever.  Take something from that experience and try to link it to your challenge.  How have others risen to a challenge or succeeded?  What techniques or methods in a different industry can spark a new way of looking at your challenge?
  7. Try something with the knowledge that it can fail miserably and it’s ok.  Food recipes just don’t fall out of the sky – lots of really awful cakes get baked first.  Think about all the great inventions that we take for granted every day.  Some of the greatest ones were discovered by a happy accident, or the result of an experiment in developing something else.  Are you open to fail?
  8. Think about how to do something following the three tenets of sustainability.  Reduce, Reuse or Recycle.  In your group what materials can you reduce to achieve the same result?  Can you reuse something and repurpose an item for new life?  What can you recycle and gain a benefit?
  9. Ask for help.  That’s right, I said it.  Admit you don’t know everything and call in an expert, mentor, consultant or someone that’s traveled that road before.  Be prepared to be challenged though.  The only thing worse in not calling in an expert is not listening to their advice.  Even if this flies in the face of how you currently operate.
  10. Take a class and expand you mind.  Learning from others is a great way to expand your knowledge base and apply your learning to your challenges.  It really doesn’t have to be in your area or industry either.  Just get out there an do it!!

These Days You Need Some Hustle

I was having a discussion with someone yesterday regarding the lack of customer service that’s rampant in stores, businesses and restaurants around the country.  For every great experience and interaction, there seems to be two or three mediocre exchanges and at least one horrific one too.  Ray Kroc, the famous founder of the McDonald’s restaurant chain once said, “You are only as good as the people you hire”.  That is as true today as when Kroc said it then.

For example, I recently moved from Florida to Wisconsin and with winter quickly approaching it was obvious that I needed to replace my Florida grade anti-freeze with something a little heartier.  Using some technology, I quickly discovered that the closest business to my residence was a Midas Muffler shop.  Mid-morning on a Saturday, I drove over and pulled up to Midas and entered the building.  They had a large window out into the shop, and with five or six service bays and about a half dozen auto technician’s busy working.  Only three cars were up on the lifts, and one person was in the lobby leafing through a magazine.

I approached the counter and spoke with a young woman about getting my anti-freeze and oil changed since I was due.  She looked down at her monitor and told me that I needed to make an appointment for Tuesday, as that was the earliest that they could squeeze me in.  Huh?  One person in the lobby and about half of the car lifts apparently available and I have to come back three days later?  I explained that I needed the service and wouldn’t mind waiting a little bit if she could finagle my car a spot in the line-up.

She refused my request, and mentioned that she could call over to another Midas shop about 10 miles away and see if they had a spot.

I just don’t understand the rationale here.  A customer walks in and wants to spend money.  Why not try to do your level best to make them happy?  Don’t send them somewhere else!  To make matters worse, her cavalier attitude and apparent disregard for helping me really started to gnaw at me.  I thanked her and decided I would just wing it and find another place down the street…after all anybody can change the oil and replace anti-freeze; it’s pretty common.

As luck would have it, I found a local repair shop about three blocks down from Midas.  They were jammed with business, and after I spoke with the owner about what I needed, he said “Sure, we’ll fit you in quickly.  Would you like some coffee while you wait?”  Eureka!

Thirty minutes or so later I’m out the door and happy.  I don’t know if the difference was that Midas was a chain, and they have it staffed with apathetic people behind the counter – while the other shop was obviously locally owned, with the drive to be more helpful and caring as it directly affects them.

Lesson here – what signals and messages are you sending your customers when you interact with them?  How does your staff engage and communicate with your customers?