Is drop shipping for your t shirt brand the answer?

Shirtworks talks about drop shipping

So…the news from the frontline of t shirt printing is this…

Drop shipping may not be the answer.

This conclusion comes from hours of conversations over the last few weeks as plucky entrepreneurs with a t shirt brand idea, call up and we run through the pros and cons. The current Covid paradigm is producing a groundswell of interest in drop-shipping.

On the face if it, to the uninitiated, it seems like a great idea.

It sounds like you can build your Shopify store over the weekend, populate it with some photo-shopped images of t shirts with your designs on and start selling without having to commit to any stock.

The idea being, that as each order gets placed on your website, you simply pass the order automatically to your printer and they smash it out in a couple of days, using direct to garment digital printing and you have none of the hassle of fulfillment. You just concentrate on creating products and marketing them.

But lets examine the costs.


If you do a quick trawl on the internet for dropshippers, you will discover plenty of them doing it and they all have one thing in common…the costs are high.

You are likely to be looking at a single t-shirt costing you anything from £15 to £25 to be produced in this way and dispatched to your customer. Unless your brand and marketing skill can create a ‘premium’ brand message and unless you can sell your t-shirts for more than £30 why even bother?

To understand why these costs are so high you need to be aware of the processes required by your print partner to fulfill your order.

Firstly, your order needs to be put on their order system so they can process and track it and in most cases a digital mockup is produced so that you can sign off before production. A human being on 20k a year needs to do that.

Next, your garment needs to be ordered by another human being, usually in a procurement role, and they need to manually enter your requirement into a wholesalers website ordering system.

Next, that garment arrives in ‘goods in’ and another human being needs to pull it from the thousands of other garments that have just arrived and then pass it onto the correct department.

Next, the printer needs to setup your job, run a test print and then print it, pack it, manifest it for dispatch and throw it in the dispatch bay.

Next, the courier company pick it up and charges your print partner to deliver it to the customer and collect a signature.

If you managed to stay awake while reading the last 5 sentences, it may dawn on you that there is an awful amount of human effort required to get your garment processed and dispatched.


Human effort is costly, unless you want to break the law and only pay your staff a sweat-labour wage, and this all needs to be covered in the costs of producing that single t-shirt.

Printers are always looking for ways to create efficiencies in their processes which mean they can offer dropshipping at attractive rates, and you will find someone who is willing to do it ‘cheap’…but beware of ‘cheap’…because ‘cheap’ usually means ‘crap’.

It is soooo easy to produce crap digital printing and offer a crap service.

So..why bother even still considering drop shipping?

There is one good reason.


It does allow you to get product into the marketplace and it does allow you to test the markets response.

You will need to accept that this is a cost/profit neutral exercise that will allow you to plan your move to the next stage which is bulk drop shipping.

Once you have established what sells, you can then get your printer to produce 100 t shirts, store them at their location for individual shipping as your orders come in.

All of a sudden, you have reduced your unit costs per item from c.£20 down to c.£9 and you are making real profit on each sale.

That’s the simple explanation. conclude, dropshipping does have it’s place in your business startup plan.

It enables you to test the market without capital outlay on stock and it allows you to make a decision on whether a specific product can move to phase 2…bulk drop shipping.

You won’t make any real money on those single sales, but if you play it right, neither should you lose and it will provide you with the insight to grow.

Hit us up if you want more of the ‘lowdown’.

The Shirtworks Team


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