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Thread: T-shirts. Logistics. HELP!

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    Gold Member Mark Atkinson's Avatar
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    Question T-shirts. Logistics. HELP!

    Hi there!

    I'd like to know if anybody can help me out with figuring out the logistics for a new business venture of mine.

    Basically, we have an awesome idea for a new t-shirt design. It is very niche focused and we are pretty sure there will be a great demand for it.

    Being in the website and graphic design business, I have little to no knowledge on manufacturing and distribution - particularly that of t-shirts!
    What I do have is a design, and possibly somebody to manufacture the shirts for me. What I need help with is logistics, particularly with distribution, legal and, partly, marketing.

    You may assume that the shirts will be marketed via Facebook and other marketing methods, directing traffic to a website where orders can be made. Similar to http://www.tshirtterrorist.co.za, except we only have one shirt.

    So here goes.

    Distribution:


    - How? What would be the best way to get the shirts to people? Via post or courier? What's the cheapest? What's the most effective? What would be an efficient and cost-effective courier/logistics company to use should I decide to go the courier route?

    It's important to note that we are based in Durban, but one of our biggest markets will be in Gauteng, particularly JHB. On that note, though, the shirts will be in demand all over SA.

    - Outlets?

    You may assume that our shirt design is humorous and controversial. It is pretty specialised though.
    Would it be a good idea to market our shirt to clothing outlets? If so, where do I start? How do I go about approaching these outlets to "buy into" or order my shirts? What sort of information would I need on my order form? Bear in mind that it's not the sort of thing that would be marketed to huge chain stores such as Mr Price, Edgars, Woolworths etc. I think it would be targeted at smaller, novelty/specialty clothing stores.

    Or would it be best to do sales and distribution solely through the website? (Similar to how tshirtterrorist.co.za does it)

    - Returns/Refunds/Defects


    How would we deal with people wanting to return shirts? The way I see it, we should only take returns for physical defects with a shirt. Again, the issue of couriering shirts back would be a dilemma in itself.

    Legal:

    - Trademarks/Copyrights/Patents

    From what I can see, we probably won't apply for a trademark of the shirt's "brand", as it may be considered offensive to some.

    As far as infringing on trademarks is concerned, though, what is the regulation on how similar a logo can be before it is infringing on a registered trademark? If we had to make a "comic" version of, say, a famous sporting logo, would it be an issue? How would we work around this?

    The shirt is designed completely in good faith and is not intended to offend anybody. It just may be viewed as offensive by some, so I'm not sure what considerations I need to take into account here?

    With copyrights? Is it possible to enforce a copyright on the design of a shirt? Again, if somebody had to reproduce our design, making just a few slight alterations, would that completely bypass our copyright?

    - Risk/Insurance

    What would I need to consider here? How much risk is involved in the whole process and where does the risk lie? Would I need to invest in any insurance? If so, what? How? Who?

    - Seperate Entity?

    Would it be a good idea to create a seperate entity for the distribution of these shirts. It's not exactly the main line of business for our web and graphic design business (which is a partnership). If possible though, I'd like to start off the distribution under our current business (Site Fusion) and then should the market be big enough, THEN consider starting up a seperate legal entity. Anything else I need to consider here?

    - Capital

    What startup costs would need to be considered here? Other than the manufacturing of the shirts of course. (We intend to run a pre-order phase, to lessen our initial capital requirements.)
    We are working with a very limited budget, so keeping initial costs low is a must. There is no shortage of hard work and dedication here, though!


    My apologies for the lengthy (novel) post. I'm just really confused at the moment as this will be my first manufacture and distribution venture. (I'm only 19, after all! )

    Any assistance would be HUGELY appreciated. I have a great idea, an awesome vision and vast amounts of willpower! All I need now is a bit of help with the "action" bit.

    Please?
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    Hi Mark

    First up, I hope you've thought this through carefully. Having just one T-shirt as your only product, doesn't sound like much potential, but I could be wrong.

    Secondly, you're essentially asking how to run a business. There are many books on the subject and courses that can be taken to help prepare you. My short answers below are simply some quick guidelines.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Atkinson View Post
    What would be the best way to get the shirts to people? Via post or courier? What's the cheapest? What's the most effective? What would be an efficient and cost-effective courier/logistics company to use should I decide to go the courier route?
    Post is cheapest until you have to start factoring in the cost of lost shirts. Its not possible to give you a simple answer as to which courier company to use. Each one specialises in a certain aspect. Some focus on particular areas, others focus on lowering costs, others on service, and others on speed. You will need to contact a couple and see what they can offer you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Atkinson View Post
    Would it be a good idea to market our shirt to clothing outlets? If so, where do I start? How do I go about approaching these outlets to "buy into" or order my shirts? What sort of information would I need on my order form? .

    Or would it be best to do sales and distribution solely through the website?
    Its a good idea to market to as many people as you can, but how time, energy and money do you have to do this. Smaller shops will generally need to be approached individually. They will need to be convinced to buy - mainly by convincing them that their customers will buy.

    Not sure what you mean by your order form. If they want to buy they will send you an order detailing how many shirts and at what price.

    Sales solely through a website is the cheapest and easiest, but limits your customers to online shoppers who are pepared to buy your shirt. In SA that can still be quite limiting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Atkinson View Post
    How would we deal with people wanting to return shirts? The way I see it, we should only take returns for physical defects with a shirt. Again, the issue of couriering shirts back would be a dilemma in itself.
    Welcome to the complications of the business world. These are decisions you need to make for your particular business. Refusing returns makes people nervous to buy, accepting them increases costs and head aches.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Atkinson View Post
    As far as infringing on trademarks is concerned, though, what is the regulation on how similar a logo can be before it is infringing on a registered trademark? If we had to make a "comic" version of, say, a famous sporting logo, would it be an issue? How would we work around this?

    The shirt is designed completely in good faith and is not intended to offend anybody. It just may be viewed as offensive by some, so I'm not sure what considerations I need to take into account here?

    With copyrights? Is it possible to enforce a copyright on the design of a shirt? Again, if somebody had to reproduce our design, making just a few slight alterations, would that completely bypass our copyright?
    Copyright and Trademarks cost money. They then require further money to prosecute someone infringing your rights. Not sure if you're able to finance that.

    On the subject of you infringing on others, sorry can't help here. You would need to chat to an attorney who specialises in trademarks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Atkinson View Post
    What would I need to consider here? How much risk is involved in the whole process and where does the risk lie? Would I need to invest in any insurance? If so, what? How? Who?

    Would it be a good idea to create a seperate entity for the distribution of these shirts. It's not exactly the main line of business for our web and graphic design business (which is a partnership). If possible though, I'd like to start off the distribution under our current business (Site Fusion) and then should the market be big enough, THEN consider starting up a seperate legal entity. Anything else I need to consider here?
    The only significant risks I can think of are that you print a whole bunch of shirts and then can't sell them, so you lose the money spent there. Another is if someone sues you for trademark infringement.

    Based purely on protecting you from the second situation I would recommend you setup a separate cc. Then anyone sueing would attack the cc and not you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Atkinson View Post
    What startup costs would need to be considered here?
    Depends on how you choose to market and distribute your shirts: web design, bank accounts, courier fees, bank charges, cost of returns, credit card reversals, travelling costs if you decide to visit shops, advertising, packaging, cc registration fees, tax on profits.........

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    Gold Member Mark Atkinson's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot for the feedback. A lot of what you have said I have already considered.

    I guess what I was looking for is encouragement and reinforcement going forward. I tend to over-think things and, not wanting to fail, ask for advice instead of putting one foot forward. I should know by now that success comes only if you act. So I should act!

    As for the idea behind the business, it may seem strange to sell one t-shirt, but I'm pretty sure it'll be a hit There are ideas in place for expansion after the initial launch, but for now it will be the one standard product. I'll be sure to let you guys know when we reveal the whole thing!

    Oh and as far as I know, it's not possible to create a CC anymore. So our only option for limited liability would be creating a private company, which entails a greater cost again.

    I think I should consult a lawyer who deals with Trademarks before we proceed.

    Thanks again!
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    You're young, you have time on your hands. Go for it. What have you to lose?

    As long as you limit your personal liability by trading through a corporate entity, and you don't sign any personal guarantees / sureties, then all you can lose is time and the money you actually put in. The experience gained will probably be worth the price paid.

    AFAIK, you can still setup cc's. You can't convert pty's to cc's. This will only change when the new companies act comes into force. Don't ask when, nobody has a clue.

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    Hi Mark

    Counter-to-counter is cheapest, of the top of my head I think it is around R32 for under a kg. It is tracked and you can buy insurance but would not be worth it for t-shirts, imo. the post office is a lot better than it was.

    How many styles will you print? I would have thought at least 5 would be what you should be aiming for...it would be very hard to convince stores to just take one.

    You will have to market to smaller independents to start with, make a bit of name before moving on to the larger multi's

    What will the margins be? A quality, branded t can be sold for R200 - but as an up and coming brand would expect the price to be around R120. If I had to buy I would also be looking at a good margin, at around 2.2 so your wholesale price should be about R50.

    As for marketing, besides being on the web, your most effective method would be the good old sale or return. This is risky in away, but if it works, it works well. Find a shop YOU want to be in and give them 10 t's on a sale or return baisis, and go visit them every 2 weeks, charge them for the one's that are sold and restock. if it's not working, move them out to another location.

    I would not have thought you would need much capital to get this going, and starting off as a sole-prop is fine. I would have thought for screen printing 50 units of 5 styles, 250 t's would be a starting point. I wouldn't even change your bank account to start with.

    Start off small, part time and see where it goes.

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    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    I'm a little skeptical about you only having one tee shirt design. Problem with jokes and satire is that it wears thin over time.(no pun intended)

    Do the dream, don't un-doable the doable © AndyD

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    Gold Member Mark Atkinson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyD View Post
    I'm a little skeptical about you only having one tee shirt design. Problem with jokes and satire is that it wears thin over time.(no pun intended)
    It's difficult to justify just having one shirt design without revealing the actual product. Just believe me when I say that the product is highly marketable and is the only one of it's kind. Don't think it's a normal shirt with a "unique" printed design. It's not.

    What it is is something that every South African sports lover with a sense of humour will be interested in. It's going to be a brand of it's own. The one shirt will lead to many other products in the future, but for now it will do.

    Stay tuned for our big launch. We are just trying to find a manufacturer with the expertise to actually do what we are looking for. I've tried around 10 so far, with no luck I'm convinced that there must be SOMEBODY who can do it and when I find them, it will be all systems go. The plus side of this is that there is zero competition for us at the moment. It's one-of-a-kind.

    We've got the whole logistics and marketing plan down. We're just waiting for a manufacturer.

    Thanks for the advice though guys I have a clear picture in my head of where this is going. All it needs is somebody who can make that picture a reality.
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    Diamond Member adrianh's Avatar
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    You should speak to Justin Nurse of Laugh It Off. He had his fair share of court cases over copyright infringement and he knows what it takes to sell T-shirts.

    I can think of one T-shirt design that is a brand of its own. It is a T-shirt filled with leds that looks like a TV screen and allows you to display whatever you want.
    Last edited by adrianh; 16-Jul-10 at 12:16 AM.
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    Gold Member Mark Atkinson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrianh View Post
    You should speak to Justin Nurse of Laugh It Off. He had his fair share of court cases over copyright infringement and he knows what it takes to sell T-shirts.

    I can think of one T-shirt design that is a brand of its own. It is a T-shirt filled with leds that looks like a TV screen and allows you to display whatever you want.
    That's actually a fantastic idea! I didn't really know about Laugh It Off until now, but I checked it out and they're amazing!

    I have spoken to a lawyer and various other people about infringing trademarks and we have modified our design so that we should be A-Ok!

    As for that kind of shirt, well ours isn't that complex. It is something that's not available anywhere else yet though.

    Also, we have FINALLY found a manufacturer for our shirts!
    News on the launch coming soon!
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