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With clients ranging from Coca-Cola to MTV, Printful’s on-demand drop-shop model, alongside its customisable product offerings, are intended to reduce barriers to entry for fashion entrepreneurs and existing fashion giants worldwide and tackle overproduction. BoF learns more.
Printful Employee Working on Garment Production. Courtesy.
Printful Employee Working on Garment Production. Courtesy.
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Founded in 2013, Printful is one of the world’s largest print on-demand, drop-shipping, warehousing and fulfilment providers, with 17 fulfilment centres internationally and clients ranging from Coca-Cola to MTV. Partnering with direct-to-consumer brands, fashion retailers and those seeking to scale their business through both apparel and non-apparel products, goods are distributed through platforms and marketplaces such as Shopify, Amazon and Ebay via the Printful App.

Advantageously, products are offered and sold globally yet fulfilled locally in efforts to reduce supply chain emissions and increase resilience. BoF’s State of Fashion 2022 report, produced in partnership with McKinsey & Co., stated that around half of global businesses suffered supply chain disruptions in 2021, with one in eight severely affected. Similarly, 49 percent of fashion executives signalled supply chain disruptions as the top theme to impact their businesses in 2022.

To learn more about how Printful is seeking to democratise fashion entrepreneurship and create a more conscious way of doing business, BoF sits down with head of sales, Kaspars Kirsis.

Kaspars Kirsis, Head of Sales at Printful.

What makes a successful fulfilment strategy today?

Fashion trends are being set by consumers, influencers and celebrities — not so much from fashion brands. For some fast fashion brands, launching a new trend-forward product can take three to six months easily, and the pandemic accelerated this. Fashion brands with longer production cycles say, for example, six months somewhere overseas in Asia, don’t work anymore, even for basic, graphic t-shirts.

Agility is key — particularly in how fashion brands do production and fulfilment in the context of their demand and supply relationship. In this context, a hot topic is near-shoring — fashion brands moving their production sites and performance centres closer to their main markets. This was already relevant pre-pandemic — in 2019, McKinsey & Co. stated that 60 percent of apparel-procurement executives expect over 20 percent of their sourcing volume will be from nearshore by 2025.

What competitive advantages can localised fulfilment create?

Localised fulfilment can help with two things — inventory management and speed to market. In terms of inventory management, we are talking about forecasting challenges and forecasting demand. Changes in consumer preferences are happening faster than ever before, so localised fulfilment can help to weigh this forecasting challenge and inventory risk as brands are able to react faster in terms of the demand.

Changes in consumer preferences are happening faster than ever before. Localised fulfilment can help to weigh this forecasting challenge.

Brands are also more cautious about their inventory levels. One of the biggest strategies for brands is decreasing inventory levels in order to maximise full-price sell-through. That’s a big focus. In [BoF and McKinsey & Co.’s] State of Fashion Report 2021, 61 percent of surveyed fashion executives planned to reduce the number of SKUs used in their catalogue. They are primarily doing that as they are afraid of what’s going to sell, how consumer preference is going to change and the pandemic.

Why is speed to market such a critical consideration?

Traditional retailers speed to market on average for a product is six months. Some more advanced brands can perhaps cut that time down to a few weeks. However, even for them, weeks might be a missed deadline.

Back to the graphic t-shirt example or a trendy TV show, even two weeks lead time is not enough for something like that. If you are localised doing on-demand production, you can decrease that from two weeks to literally hours, where you essentially upload your design on a platform and release to your D2C website. Obviously, there it is a bit more complicated with licensing aspects involved, but that’s a different story.

We are fundamentally reducing overproduction.

What additional benefits can made-to-order manufacturing unlock?

Personalisation — where end consumers can customise the product either choosing their own graphic or writing — is also really exciting. In 2017, Deloitte stated 70 percent of US-based respondents said they would be willing to pay more for personalised fashion in their research among millennials. This is not possible without print on-demand. For brands, it’s more niche and interesting in terms of how brands can improve customer experience, increase loyalty and have something new and unique for consumers.

From The State of Fashion 2022 Report, sustainability is cited by 15 percent of executives as one of their top three concerns for 2022. Brands are then presenting this to their consumers so that they know it is made for them specifically and not mass-produced. With print on-demand, there is no overproduction. Here, with print on-demand, you only produce what sells. We just produce what people want — it’s a shared responsibility.

How does Printful help clients reduce overproduction across the retail ecosystem?

For e-commerce, all the items are made-to-order and printed only after a purchase has been made. Apart from the storage of raw materials, for example, a blank t-shirt in a warehouse, for the end product of a printed t-shirt, we eliminated overproduction.

For physical retail, we have a fast store replenishment approach where you don’t have to produce 100,000 t-shirts to spread across all stores. You can produce less. If you see demand picking up, you can quickly replenish. If a store in London runs out of a specific item, we can produce 500 more for this store and ship out in a few days. You don’t have to keep those 100,000 t-shirts. We are fundamentally reducing overproduction.

What is the next step in the evolution of Printful and its offering?

Number one is to make on-demand a global solution for brands. That is why Printful has these facilities all over the world. It’s important because other industry players are mostly very localised. Printful is going for global reach and supporting strategically global fashion brands who are thinking about how they are going to scale up globally and across other markets.

Second is on-demand production for more customised items. The biggest challenge is to create specific products in a short period of time. We can create products fast, but they are quite simple. Our vision is that a brand can design any product they want and Printful is able to construct that product and make it available for on-demand production within a relatively short period of time.

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© 2022 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions and Privacy policy.
Enjoy 25% BoF Professional membership until December 20