Printful, the company behind many personalized products on online marketplaces Etsy.com and Amazon.com, experiences a big lift in sales as consumers seek out new ways to make income during the pandemic, and shoppers seek loungewear and face coverings.

Personalized products manufacturer Printful, like many retailers, dropped its 2020 guidance due to the coronavirus pandemic. But for a very different reason than most: It has experienced “extreme, unprecedented growth” since mid-March, according to Davis Siksnans, co-founder and CEO of Printful.

David Siksnans, CEO and co-founder, Printful

Davis Siksnans, CEO and co-founder, Printful

Founded in October 2013, Printful is a white-label service for sellers and retailers, which means sellers design, sell and market personalized products that Printful then prints on-demand, packs and ships to the seller’s customers. The customer receives the product in the seller’s branded packaging and never knows Printful was involved. Since its inception, it has printed more than 20 million products, the company says.

Thus, Printful only makes money if its sellers make money and charges sellers for manufacturing and shipping. But sellers set their own prices to determine the profit they will make. For example, if a seller charges $22 for a personalized T-shirt, Printful charges that seller $12 for fulfillment (printing, packing and shipping) and the seller’s profit is $10. Printful charges sellers per the type of item fulfilled.

Printful’s service integrates with marketplaces such as Etsy Inc. (No. 18 in the ranking of Digital Commerce 360 Top 100 Online Marketplaces), Amazon.com Inc. (No. 3) and eBay Inc. (No. 5), as well as ecommerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento. It does not disclose the number of sellers it works with.

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The printing company had been growing before the pandemic; it finished 2019 with $116 million in revenue, a 50.6% increase from its $77 million in 2018, Siksnans says. And it expected to continue growing in 2020, just not this much, he says without being specific. But with more consumers furloughed or working at home amid the pandemic, they were looking for ways to make additional income, he says. 

“People were gravitating toward making designs online and at home. We were totally unprepared for that during the months of the pandemic, and the growth was even bigger than what we would usually see for holidays in a Q4,” he says without revealing specifics. “We didn’t have time to buy equipment or hire people in advance.”

This created challenges and strains on Printful, which is still grappling with how to keep up with orders. It caught up on orders in Europe, Siksnans says, but in the U.S. it has had to put some restrictions on orders just to catch up. Prior to the pandemic, it printed items on-demand within 3 days, but that time has been pushed to 3 weeks at most of its facilities. “We’re still battling and catching up, but it is a good problem to have,” he says.

Printful has manufacturing facilities in Los Angeles; Charlotte, North Carolina; Tijuana, Mexico; Barcelona, Spain; Riga, Latvia; and it is expanding into Toronto soon. The facilities can print personalized designs on 34 product types (mugs, leggings, phone cases, etc.) on various machines such as digital printing machines and embroidery machines, depending on the product ordered. And any order placed is routed to the facility that would ensure the fastest delivery time.

Worker in Printful facility works at an embroidery machine

A Printful employee works at an embroidery machine.

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Printful also added face coverings and neck gaiters (a scarf-like product that is worn around consumers’ necks and can be pulled up to cover their nose and mouth) to its product selection for consumers looking for added protection during the pandemic. In addition, its Los Angeles-based printing facility has stopped producing everything except personalized neck gaiter products because the demand was so high, Siksnans says.

As it continues catching up from its pandemic-influenced growth, Printful expects big growth in the holidays as it always hits “peak sales levels” in Q4, Siksnans says, without revealing more. It does not sell holiday-related decor, but usually, as Q4 approaches, it begins to encourage sellers to promote hoodies and leggings. But with more people sheltering at home, its loungewear products were still very popular the last few months, even in the hot weather, he says.

“We expect that will continue in the winter as well, and we will do the best we can to scale up production worldwide,” Siksnans says.

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