What you wear oftentimes says a lot about who you are. You might wear a T-shirt with pugs performing various yoga poses so everyone knows you’re both a pug and yoga enthusiast. Maybe you want a first date to know that, “If you don’t like tacos, I’m nacho type.” Or if you’re throwing your best friend a bachelorette party, you might want to get everyone matching “Bride Squad” T-shirts.
The print-on-demand, Germany-based apparel retailer Spreadshirt enables consumers to show off their personality through printed T-shirts, hoodies, tote bags and more.
Spreadshirt, No. 537 in the newly released Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, reached $120 million in global revenue in 2017, according to the retailer. $27 million of that revenue, or 22.5%, came from U.S. consumers. And now, Spreadshirt aims to be a top contender in the crowded printed T-shirt market in the U.S., which already has multiple competitors such as Threadless.com (No. 595), CafePress Inc. (No. 369), Zazzle Inc. (No. 177), SunFrog Shirts, Redbubble and Society6.
“Our U.S.-centric strategy is working as we are rapidly gaining visitors and traction in this key market,” says Philip Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt.
Spreadshirt is an e-retailer offering on-demand printing of clothing and accessories where consumers can purchase designs offered by others or upload their own in Spreadshirt’s marketplace. Sellers who upload their designs to Spreadshirt’s website make a 20% affiliate commission from every item sold that carries their design. So, if a shopper purchases a $20 T-shirt with a seller’s design, that designer makes $4.
If shoppers purchase at least 26 products within one month from one seller, that seller’s commission increases by 0.5%. Commission increases based on volume max out at 40%. For example, if a designer sells between 101-125 designs, he will make an extra 2% commission (22% total for all products sold), between 501-600 products sold, an extra 12%, and so on up to a 40% commission on sales.
Alternatively, sellers can open their own shops to sell customized apparel and accessories from Spreadshirt. If a seller runs a bakery, for example, she can open an online apparel shop through Spreadshirt to sell T-shirts with her bakery’s logo. Spreadshirt handles order taking, printing, shipping and customer service inquiries, the retailer says. Sellers who open their own shops can make as much as 60% from their sales. So, they could get $12 back from a $20 T-shirt printed through Spreadshirt.
Shoppers also can use Spreadshirt’s T-Shirt designer to create personalized items with their own designs or designs from its more than 80,000 active sellers, the retailer says.
The web-only T-shirt retailer grew sales 18.5% in 2017 over 2016, and Spreadshirt is on track to continue that growth as it focuses on growing in the U.S., Rooke says. It runs two U.S. factories—one in Pittsburgh and another in Las Vegas—where it can control all aspect of its operations, from printed design to cost of delivery. “Our U.S. operations are looking better than ever,” Rooke says.
Spreadshirt is trying to win in the U.S. through several different avenues. To start, it has added more products, such as mugs, hats and smartphone cases, in addition to T-shirts on which consumers can upload and purchase designs, as well as offering shirt sizes up to 5XL. Many printed T-shirt retailers don’t offer as many size options, Rooke says.
The retailer also has made its mobile website more user friendly and saw an increase in mobile conversion because of it, Rooke says, declining to reveal exact conversion figures. 55% of Spreadshirt’s traffic came from mobile devices in 2017, which was a 4.6 percentage point increase from 2016. Additionally, 40% of Spreadshirt’s orders were placed on a mobile device—a 36% increase in mobile orders from 2016. Spreadshirt has a mobile app, but it’s not for buying; the app is for its sellers and members who upload designs. “We want to make sure we have a good mobile web interface,” Rooke says.
Another way Spreadshirt is trying to zero in on its U.S. audience is by “speaking American,” says Rooke, who is British. “American consumers expect to be sold to very differently,” he adds.
Spreadshirt hired a few Americans to work out of its headquarters in Germany. “We’ve empowered our American teams more to make decisions to do things in the American way,” Rooke says.
For example, some of Spreadshirt’s sellers make their living by selling their T-shirt designs on the site or by opening their own online apparel sites through Spreadshirt, Rooke says. When it markets that message to its U.S. audience, Spreadshirt focuses “on the dream of becoming a millionaire by giving up a day job to sell T-shirts,” he says.
“Americans buy into a vision and accept it and want the chance to go for that vision, which allows the American teams to have a little fun,” Rooke says. “While the German team wants to know if they actually are going to make a million dollars, drive fast cars and get a yacht by selling on Spreadshirt—they want the proof, not the vision.”
These tactics seem to be working in the United States. Spreadshirt’s U.S. seller base increased 81% in 2017, and U.S. sellers upload an average of 86,000 designs per week, the retailer says.
The retailer recently began selling posters and plans to launch more gift-related products. “A poster is great because you can buy a design or make a design on a poster for a gift, and then you don’t have to worry about buying something that won’t fit,” Rooke says.
By the start of the holiday sales season Spreadshirt plans to have more kinds of products for consumers to purchase. The holidays are an important time for the retailer, Rooke says. Holiday sales were up 15% last year, compared with the same time period in 2016, Hugo Smoter, chief commercial officer of Spreadshirt, previously told Internet Retailer.
“We were very happy at the end of last year and absolutely happy in where we are this year. We’re at a strong position in the U.S., and we will keep investing into it,” Rooke says.