Why are we using print-on-demand?

Every product you order here is an individual item, printed on demand and manufactured by hand for you. That’s what distinguishes us from other e-commerce retailers. Here are the reasons why we use this production mode.


Against the commercial approach

Our activist cooperative is not a supermarket devoted to the over-consumption of t-shirts. Although we offer many different products, we do not hold any inventory and we don’t have a storefront. We could view it as we’re offering a service rather than selling something – you choose your design and clothing type, then we print it for you.

By printing on-demand according to orders, we can offer virtually unlimited designs choices because the printing process takes place only after a purchase. This production model makes it possible to offer a wide variety of designs covering a larger range of social themes that represent all struggles and social causes, even the lesser known. That’s why we have such a large products range, colors options and sizes, without risking over-production or waste.

Unlike us, conventional clothing shops usually use classic screen-printing as printing method. This method requires large investments to print batchs of hundreds of t-shirts, which would greatly limits the quantity of designs available for sale and their colors options. Batch screen-printing, with its minimum quantity constraints, usually puts shops in a position where they’re forced to focus only on the best-selling designs to lower the investment’s risk – and that’s exactly this mainstream capitalist logic that we want to avoid reproducing. We prefer variety rather than popularity dictated by market trends.


A question of budget and logistic

As a small cooperative who started with a very small budget, the economic factor was the main reason that guided our choice, since on-demand printing requires no major investment and minimizes the costs associated with our operations. More importantly, it guarantees our autonomy so that we don’t have to take huge loans from the banks and pay interests with our customer’s money.

The primary purpose why this shop was started was to raise funds for donations to activist causes. If we had chosen to multiply investments and take loans, we would spend more time repaying our debts rather than raising money to make donations – which would mean turning the shop into a capitalist business just like any other.

We currently offer a selection of over 3000 different designs available on 10 types of clothing and about 10 colors options. The average cost per unit with batch screen-printing would be around $5.00 for 100 t-shirts.
Imagine the incredible investment it would represent: 3000*10*10*$5*100 = $150,000,000. It means we would have to invest an incredible amount of 150 million of dollars to maintain our current inventory with screen-printing. This estimate doesn’t accounts higher priced products (like hoodies) and the costs related to inventory storage.

Holding no inventory makes it possible to constantly change our catalog by adding new designs and removing those that never gets sold after a while. On the other hand, screen-printing would force us to keep only the best selling t-shirts since we would have to invest a lot of money to print them in large batches.


The shipping factor

Another factor that significantly influenced our decision to opt for on-demand printing is our partnership with a printing company located in USA. The postal services in the United States have much lower pricing for international shipping compared to other countries. It would cost more than double of the current fees to ship the t-shirts from Canada or FranceSo even if we’re losing money due to the higher production costs, it allows us to offer lower shipping prices. 


The disadvantage of higher production cost

For us, this choice also has some disadvantages, mainly its higher than average production cost. Since each shirt is individually printed, we pay a production cost on a per-unit basis, unlike screen-printing which provides discounted wholesale price. In other words, this means that our production cost is always the same whether we product 1 or 100 t-shirts. Smaller margins makes it very challenging for us to offer competitive wholesale pricing and quantity discounts.


Towards autonomy and self-sufficiency – our projects for the future

Not having the financial means to buy our own machines, we went for a partnership with an american printing company. In the long term, we hope to be able of self-sustaining our production means by buying our own printing machines (DTG on-demand digital printer and Flex printer) and other equipements.

But this represents an investment of several thousands dollars and serious logistic challenges. However, we are always pushing things further and we are confident that the cooperative will continue to evolve in a positive way while showing it’s possible to do things differently.

Posted on: October 1, 2014 Last update: February 22, 2018