Jim Sweeney Talks Growing Apparel Sales in Houston

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August 23, 2023 // Franchising.com // HOUSTON, Texas – Jim and Jane Sweeney are the owners of the Minuteman Press franchise in Houston, Texas for the last 29 years; they first joined Minuteman Press in June of 1994. Jim and Jane Sweeney have built their business in a very successful way over the years. They have excelled at growing their apparel sales in recent years.

Jim summarizes: “The past 2 years have certainly been interesting. As of July 2023, we are 30.5% in front of our 2022 sales. This is a 35% increase over 2021. It seems like the world (or our world anyway) came out of its 2-year long malaise in 2022.”

Jim shares more specific details about his center’s booming apparel business and how he and Jane’s Minuteman Press franchise in Houston have accomplished such strong growth in their apparel sales. Their center is located in Houston, Clear Lake City at 1040 Hercules Ave.

Growing Your Business

On growing the business over the past two years, Jim says, “During the early pandemic we pivoted to personal protection products, which naturally led to custom face masks. Jane was busy sewing 1000 masks while I provided custom logo cloth face masks to schools, hospitals, medical offices and service providers. We sold about 40 000 custom masks at that time. They were either heat pressed or sent to an area screen printer. We also donated a lot of masks to schools, non-profits, etc.”

He continues, “Finally, in 2022, our traditional printing was finally starting to climb back to pre-pandemic levels. As trade shows and marketing calls increased, promotional products also grew. There was a surge in large format printing, but it slowed after the initial rush. EDDM printing also became a greater portion of our print revenue. After we registered as EDDM suppliers on the USPS’s website, we certainly saw a large increase in Direct Mail in general. The Graphic Whizard’s slitter cutter and creaser have made business card printing even more profitable. Our marketing efforts consists of: heavy community involvement; direct mail postcards, especially this year with the Deal of the Month art provided by MMP corporate; SEO/SEM on the Minuteman.com website, and social media, specifically as it relates to Direct to Film Transfer sales.”

Building a Booming Clothing Business

Minuteman Press offers custom branded clothing as a way to help businesses build their brand and market themselves. Jim explains:

  • “We really started getting serious about apparel about 8 years ago when we purchased a commercial embroidery machine. Jane then put together an impressive lobby presentation around 5 years ago. This section features clothing, large format and promotional items.
  • The Epson F570 added dye-sublimation capability, and we then added DTG printing to produce one-offs (we sold the DTG machine). During this period we used screen printed transfers, mainly from 613 Originals or FM Expressions. Turnaround time became an issue. The turnaround time was the issue.
  • We purchased a second, and then a third Stahls’ heat press during this time. Then we decided to enter the Direct to Film printing business. About 2.5 years ago, after trying to print our transfers on several desktop printers, we bought our first dual printhead DTF large format printer and finisher. We have the capacity to produce transfers not only for our own use but also to sell to other printers and screen printers as well as sign shops, Facebook Groups/Etsy users. We added additional capacity with a 4 head DTF printer in January of this year (we will most likely be adding a third printer in the third quarter this year).”

Jim continues: “Wholesale Transfer printing is now approximately 20% of our monthly sales; we ship all over the country, with a daily capacity for printing thousands of transfers. Adding embroidery and our in-house t-shirt sales makes apparel approximately 30% of our monthly revenue.”

He adds, “Concurrently with this growth in transfer sales, the embroidery business was taking off. We get regular orders of 10-50 polos and button-down shirts. Our customers included a local hospital and two grocery stores. Each order consisted of 150-200 shirt. In the past, we have completed a $24,000 jacket embroidering order and delivered a $32,000 jacket order. Both clients are hospitals. Of course, we use a trusted local vendor for larger quantities of jackets.”

“Our apparel business continues to grow weekly with more, and larger, in-house turn-key t-shirt sales really ramping up.” -Jim Sweeney, owner, Minuteman Press, Houston/Clear Lake, Texas

Three tips for growing your apparel business

Jim shares 3 tips to help you grow your apparel business.

“1. The lobby display, along with wholesale transfers, continues to be the primary driver of our apparel sales. This display, which includes apparel samples, promo items and large format samples, was put in our store several years back. The display always attracts new customers, and even existing ones, whenever they come into the store. Around 1 out of 5 customers who enter the store ask about something they see displayed. About 85% of these inquiries are converted into sales.

2. Our CSR also knows a lot about apparel and all our other products. Allison, our CSR/production director, was our store manager in Galveston (which we will sell in August 2022) and has worked on every aspect of our company over the years. Although I understand that not everyone is as lucky, this does not mean that you should stop training your staff and giving them the tools they need to perform their job well. SanMar offers great apparel catalogs that include swatches, and their marketing tools allow you to create a simple website for apparel. It goes without saying, too, that your entire staff should wear logo shirts to showcase your abilities.

3. Attend a local trade show for the apparel industry, ASI shows, and especially the MMP International World Expo if you can.. Start with a few shirts and a heat press. Visit your clients to show off your new skills. Apparel is the perfect complement to all other services we offer to our customers. Apparel sales spur printing sales, just like printing sales should spur apparel sales.”

Client Example

Jim describes how he helped meet the clothing needs of a local hospital, one of his clients. He shares: “One of our regular ordering apparel clients is a local specialty hospital. They also have 15 physical therapy centers around Houston that they own or are partners with. We began by providing them with printing and large-format products. Then, we contracted with them for new building signage in each of their outlying offices. Finally, we grew to include apparel. We have them set up on 2 Stahl’s Spirit Sale websites. Both websites allow employees to buy branded apparel and new hospital employees to purchase apparel. In addition to standard corporate apparel, each department has their own branded t-shirt.”

Jim continues, “At least once or twice per year, this hospital does a bulk purchase of 430 t-shirts for all the staff members. This could include rain jackets or backpacks as well as t-shirts, jackets and other special items. We’ve provided $200,000 or more in just apparel and high-end promo items to the hospital in the last 3 years. This hospital then referred us to the hospital that I mentioned earlier in the article, who has just taken delivery of their second large jacket embroidery order.”

Clothing Advice for Others

When asked what advice he would give to others businesses about utilizing custom apparel, Jim answers, “Apparel is an easy sell. Wear your logo. Wear your logo. Ask for referrals. Don’t be afraid of it just because you haven’t done it before.”

For more information on Jim and Jane Sweeney’s Minuteman Press franchise in Houston/Clear Lake, visit https://minuteman.com/us/locations/tx/houston27/.

Learn more about #1 rated Minuteman Press franchise opportunities and read Minuteman Press franchise reviews at https://minutemanpressfranchise.com.

SOURCE Minuteman press International


Media Contact:

Chris Biscuiti
Minuteman Press International
[email protected]


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