Starting a T Shirt Business ?

by Ashvini on April 9, 2014 · 4 comments

in Business

I read a post on Reddit that said the writer wishes that “T-shirt business is the most commoditized business and people are not going to be successful pursuing another T-Shirt business” be made sticky ( reworded).

While I can understand the frustration of getting repeatedly asked the same kind of question, it definitely deserves an answer.

The question can be generalized “Is there any hope for starting a business in highly saturated market ?”. A Tshirt business is highly commoditized like hundreds of other businesses. The colors and designs have been done to death. Every T Shirt appears to be funny or attractive. There is hardly much differentiation. The market looks saturated.

Some years back , I met a person who wanted to provide services more cheaper than large companies like IBM. He was looking for funds to achieve that. Imagine trying to beat IBM in their own business. Imagine, how much funds that would take.

It is far easier to think of an idea when it relates to commodity business. It is easier to recall because we are bombarded by advertisements mostly related to commodity businesses such as soaps, TVs, apparel etc. We also see companies trying to carve out a sub niches in highly saturated niches.

Finding the niche and also being profitable is tricky

When you start selling your stuff , you realize that there are others who a) deeper pockets b) more clout and c) larger sales team.

But that is not really a time to back off. One needs to strategize better than running away from the competition.

A Tshirt business can be successful

Initially, T-shirts were meant to be worn under shirts. They were made of cotton and were created in plain colors.

With time, however the colors and design got better. Good fabrics commanded higher price. T shirts with funny messages were everywhere. Later on T Shirt printed with rock and pop artist images became very popular.

The T shirt industry moved into all segments possible

  • Cheap vs costly
  • Gym wear vs party wear
  • Matte clothe vs cotton
  • Branded vs unbranded

The segments kept popping up. There are so many of them now ( the example is of shirts but you can relate).

What I have observed is that commodity business runs on trends. What is cool today , maybe off tomorrow.ID-10075291 Good understanding of the market and the existing trends give a great insight into what is currently hot trend.

How do you crack this market? Here are a few ideas

Start by asking questions- The best thing to do is to strike a conversation with a salesman at popular T Shirt joint. Maybe buy one or two T Shirts to gain his or her confidence. By asking pertinent question, you can find what sells and what does not.

Observe the trends You can visit a lot of shops and check out what the Tshirt shops are displaying. Is it more branded stuff or is it more design oriented stuff that gets the prime space.

Find out price which buyers are willing to pay Without willing buyers , it would be impossible to sell T Shirts. A good survey of few shops in the area may reveal , how much T shirt buyers are willing to pay

Find out how you can reach the buyers  Is it with partnership with existing shops or selling on your own ? Often the young crowd hangs out at coffee joints.

Find out how you can network with them Social media gives a great way to reach your audience. Once you know what your customers like to share, you can create stories around them.

Willingness to experiment – You may or may not succeed in first attempt but by trying you will learn more about market. You will have better interaction with customers when you have a product. Refine your strategy and tactics based on the target market requirements

Carving out a niche – If you don’t have deep pockets, you can always find a niche that works out for you. Offering something different from what is available in the market will  set you up for success.

Cracking a commodity market is not easy but it can be done with right planning and strategy. So one can indeed

“Image courtesy of [basketman] /“.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Adrienne April 11, 2014 at 12:15 am

Hey Ashvini,

Okay, so it doesn’t make me want to go and start a T-Shirt business but I understand exactly what you’re saying. It’s not that it’s not possible just because you have bigger companies who can afford more advertising dollars and blow you out of the water so to speak. Sometimes you just have to come up with a much better angle. ;-)



Ashvini Kumar Saxena April 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Hi Adrienne,

Yes it is possible but it would take a lot of imagination and creative thinking before it pays off. The problem with T shirt business is that the fads change quickly thus making it difficult to predict what will interest customers next.
I am also not planning to start such a business ;) but I thought why not write something about it :).

Thanks and have a great day.


Lori Gosselin April 10, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Wow – now I wanna start a T-shirt business Ashvini! :-)
This is cool – and thorough!


Ashvini Kumar Saxena April 10, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Thanks Lori. One more business ? I bet you will be highly successful there :)


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