Jim and Jane Sweeney have owned the Minuteman Press Houston franchise for 29 years. They joined Minuteman Press back in June 1994. Jim and Jane Sweeney have built their business in a very successful way over the years. Recently, they have really excelled in increasing their apparel sales.
“These past two years have been very interesting. As of July 2023, we are 30.5% in front of 2022 sales. This is a 35% increase over 2021. “It seems as if the world, or at least ours, has come out of its 2-year-long malaise by 2022.”
Jim gives more information in the following interview about his apparel business, and how he has grown Jane’s Minuteman Press Houston’s apparel sales. The center can be found at 1040 Hercules Ave, Clear Lake City; Houston – Clear Lake City TX 77058.
How much has your business expanded in the past two-years?
“During the first pandemic, we shifted to personal protection products which led naturally to custom-made face masks. Jane was sewing 1000 facemasks while I was supplying custom logo cloth masks for hospitals, medical practices, service providers and schools. We sold around 40,000 custom masks at that time. They were either heat pressed or sent to an area screen printer. We donated a large number of masks as well to schools, charities, etc.
Finally, by 2022 our traditional printing had finally begun to return to the pre-pandemic standards. Trade shows and marketing campaigns became more common, which led to an increase in promotional products. After the initial surge, large format work actually slowed. EDDM printing is also a bigger part of our sales. Direct mail increased dramatically after we registered on the USPS site as EDDM providers. The Graphic Whizard’s slitter cutter and creaser have made business card printing even more profitable. “Our marketing efforts consist of: direct mail postcards – especially this year, with the Deal of the month art provided by MMP Corporate; SEO/SEM for the Minuteman.com site, and social media specifically in relation to Direct to Film Transfer Sales.”
What have you done to expand your apparel business since its inception? What has your business done to increase apparel sales?
“We started to get serious about apparel around 8 years ago, when we bought a commercial embroidery machines. Jane created a wonderful lobby presentation about five years ago. This area includes apparel, promotional items, and large format.
We first added dye sublimation with the Epson F570 and then DTG printing (which we eventually sold). We used a lot screen-printed transfers during this period, mostly 613 originals and FM expressions. It was the turnaround time that became a problem. The turnaround time was the issue.
In this time, we bought a second Stahls’ press and then a a third. Then we decided to enter the Direct to Film printing business. We purchased our first DTF printer with dual printheads and large format about 2.5 years back after converting several desktop printers for printing our own transfers. 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. In January, we added a 4-head DTF printer (we’ll likely add a third in the third quarter of this year).
“Wholesale transfers printing accounts for about 20% of our monthly revenue. We have the capacity to print thousands of transfer every day. Clothing sales, including embroidery and in house t-shirt purchases, make up approximately 30% of the monthly revenue.
The embroidery business grew at the same time as transfer sales. We get regular orders of 10-50 polos, or button-down shirt for embroidery. The orders were 150-200 shirts each. We had a grocery chain, 2 local hospitals and a large hospital. We completed a jacket embroidery order of $24,000 in the fall and just delivered a $32,000 order to the same client. We use a local vendor to produce larger quantities.
Our apparel business is growing weekly, with larger and more in-house t-shirt sales.
What are three tips that other business owners can use to grow their apparel businesses?
“1. Our lobby display is the main thing driving our clothing sales. We put up this display with apparel samples, promotional products, and some large format samples several years ago in our shop. This display is always the first thing that a customer notices when they enter our shop. About one in five people who come into the shop inquire about something on this display. About 85% convert into sales.
2. Our CSR also knows a lot about apparel and all our other products. Allison, who is our CSR/production manger, worked as the store manager of the Galveston location that we sold in 2022. She has been involved in all aspects of our business. It’s true that not everyone has this kind of luck, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train your employees and give them the tools to succeed. SanMar offers great apparel catalogs that include swatches, and their marketing tools allow you to create a simple website for apparel. All your employees should also wear shirts with your logo to show off your company’s capabilities.
3. Attend an ASI or local tradeshow, but most importantly, the MMP International World Expo. Begin small by using your own shirts. Visit your existing clients to demonstrate your new abilities. Apparel is the perfect complement to all other services we offer to our customers. Apparel sales drive printing sales just as printing sales should lead apparel sales.
The hospital buys 430 tee shirts in bulk for the entire staff at least twice per year. The bulk purchase could be jackets (rain jackets), backpacks, specialty items or t-shirts. In the past three years, we’ve donated more than $200,000 in apparel and promotional items. This hospital then referred to us the hospital
What is an example of someone who used your services for clothing?
“One of the regular clients that we order apparel for is a local hospital. They also have 15 physical therapy centers around Houston that they own or are partners with. We first provided them with large format printing, then we contracted to create new building signs for the offices in the surrounding areas. Eventually, our relationship grew and included apparel. We have them setup on 2 Stahl’s Spirit Sale websites. The hospital can purchase clothing for its new employees and employees may purchase apparel to be branded. Each department also has its own branded tee shirt.
What else would you like to say?
Clothing is easy to sell. Wear your logo. Wear your logo. Ask for recommendations. Do not be afraid to try something new.
For more information on Jim Sweeney and Jane Sweeneys Minuteman Press Houston/Clear Lake franchise, visit https://minuteman.com/us/locations/tx/houston27/
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