If you’re planning a reunion (or any event) for the coming year, there are a million decisions to make. One important decision is what you will provide for a keepsake item. The goal is to make the reunion a fun, relaxed, carefree time, (with high attendance and participation) enjoyed by all. Making keepsake items as meaningful and personal as possible can be a motivator for participation so it’s important to give attendees something that is stylish, functional and affordable.
Custom printed reunion t-shirts and caps are popular choices for keepsakes because they are all of the above. When ordering for a large group, it’s important to keep costs down while obtaining quality merchandise and planning is the key to success.
It doesn’t take much imagination to think of issues that can occur when ordering custom t-shirts for a large group. Talk to any reunion planner and they will probably agree that ordering shirts for a large group can be a challenge. I’m sure that if you talked to enough planners, you would hear stories about misspelled names printed on shirts, or ones where planners didn’t order enough shirts to go around. You could hear even more about planners who waited until the last minute to order, who pulled their hair out trying to find a “fast” printing service with overnight delivery.
Each group has their own way of selecting and distributing these items to members. The most important message is to plan as early as possible and look at more than one factor (not only price) in selecting shirts for your group. Here are some tips; especially if you’re new to reunion planning, that might save you both money and headaches.
When looking at t-shirts, first consider your group and your budget. What does your group like, in terms of style, quality, colors, etc? How much can you afford to spend per shirt? Check catalogs and online for shirts that you think will fit your needs.
When looking at shirts, consider fabric weight, colors and sizes available, delivery charges, quantity discounts, production costs (which includes artwork costs) and the base price.
Fabric weight. The weight provides an indication of the number of ounces per yard of material. For example, you may see a 5.4 oz. 100% cotton shirt. That means that the shirt provides 5.4 ounces per yard of fabric and will be a lighter material than a shirt that’s say 6.1 ounces. The 5.4 oz shirt will be a good quality, middle weight shirt that works well in hotter temperatures. The 6.1 ounce shirt is considered a premium weight shirt and will be absorbent, while holding more heat. For a cotton shirt, it’s good to make sure that it’s pre-shrunk so that when it’s washed there is minimal shrinkage.
Colors and sizes are important in terms of price. Shirts in colors are generally more expensive than white shirts. Some shirts have mid level pricing for “heathered” colors, like heather gray, ash etc. So if you’re looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality, look at purchasing white (or heathered/neutral) shirts. In many cases, shirts that are larger in size than an extra large (XL) will cost more per shirt. Tall sizes are also extra in many cases. Also not all shirt styles are available in plus and tall sizes.
If you need to provide shirts for a wide range of sizes there are some shirt lines that carry “companion” shirts for men, women and children that are available in a range from youth to plus and tall. Don’t mix brands if possible, choose shirts in the same brand with a wide range of sizes to keep colors consistent. Look at the available sizes and any additional costs for sizing when choosing your shirt.
Delivery time and charges can add tremendously to the cost. Planning ahead and ordering in plenty of time makes delivery a snap. Most companies provide expedited shipment that includes overnight and 2 or 3 day delivery… for a hefty fee. The shorter the delivery time, the more you pay.
Don’t assume that the minute you hit the send button on your online order, or when you hang up from your phone order, that the delivery clock starts ticking. For example, if a company says the production time is seven days, don’t assume that you can order seven days before your event and have shirts in hand to distribute.
Production time is the time it takes to print the item, and it’s totally separate from delivery time. Production time is in working days and does not usually include weekends, holidays and peak times when the printer has more items to print. Once the item is produced (printed), it then leaves the factory via UPS, US Mail, FedEx, etc. for delivery to your location. Depending on your location and the service you select, it could take up to an additional ten days for your packages to arrive.
Also, it may take time for the printer to make any changes needed to make your art file camera ready. Plan to order t-shirts (and other custom printed items) at least 2-3 months before the date of your event. If in doubt, ask your printer.
Quantity discounts commonly apply for larger orders. The more items you order, the more you save. This is the tricky part of ordering t-shirts for a group that most people don’t think about until they are actually ready to order.
How many size adult small, medium, larges, etc do you order? How many youth small, medium and larges do you order? How many plus and tall sizes do you order? Do you estimate the quantity and sizes and hope for the best or do you survey your group to determine what they want?
A rule of thumb in ordering for a group is to plan (there’s that word again) in plenty of time to obtain information for decision making. It’s important to know as far ahead as possible how many people will want t-shirts, how many and what sizes for each person, including any children (teens, youth and infants) that might be participating in your event.
Sending out surveys or order forms early in the process, will give you hard numbers that make it easier to determine what is needed and allows you to take advantage of quantity discounts. It also keeps you from being left with a large number of shirts after the reunion is over or worse, not having enough for all attendees. You can order a few extras for any unplanned guests that may show up at the last minute. But at least you won’t order 200 shirts and be left with 100 or vice versa.
Production costs include the base price of the item (the shirt), the cost to set up equipment, run charges and art charges.
Set up charges are the costs associated with setting up equipment to print artwork onto your shirts or other items. There is usually a set up charge associated with each color and each location in your imprint. That’s because as part of the printing process, multiple colored designs have to be separated into four colors (CMYK) Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). You’re charged for the resources needed to set each of those colors. This process also has to happen for each location in your imprint. In selecting a shirt, look at the set up charge for printing your items, the number of locations you want for your imprint and the number of colors in your imprint (up to four) and start adding. The cost for multiple color, multiple location imprints can add up really fast.
To save on printing production costs, you might consider having a one color imprint or reduce the colors to fewer than four. You might also consider having your imprint in one location.
Artwork can be your own design, as simple as your reunion name and date to a complex graphic design, logo, family crest or emblem. Most printing companies will have stock designs or graphic design services available, from supplying basic lettering to full service design. If you have an artistic person in your group, solicit their services or have a logo contest and select judges from your group to determine which design to use. Another option would be to hire your own graphic designer.
Artwork proofs. It’s best to ask for a proof of your imprint before your artwork is finalized (if using a paid professional) and after it is received by your printer, before your shirts go into printing production. Some companies will provide proofs for free and others will charge a fee. Most firms will fax or email a proof, which shows the layout and wording used in your imprint. In my opinion proofs are worth every penny you spend for them, because you can make sure that everything is spelled correctly and arranged the way you want.
With most printing companies, it is your responsibility to make sure the artwork is correct and they won’t be responsible for any misspellings or layout issues after the fact. Don’t assume that they will offer a proof, but make sure to ask for one. To make sure that your imprint turns out the way you want, have several people from your group to proofread to make sure it’s OK before giving the go ahead for printing the final product.
T-shirt funding. How are you going to pay for your t-shirts and other reunion keepsake items? One option is to take orders and receive payment before the reunion, in time to place your order. Upon arrival to the reunion, everyone gets the shirt (probably along with other goodies) in a nice little package with other reunion information like programs, maps, etc. This option provides the best way to determine the correct number of shirts and sizes needed, and it will allow you to take advantage of quantity discounts.
Another option is to include the shirt pricing in reunion dues for the year. Make the dues enough so that you have enough money about two or three months ahead of the reunion to order shirts. Everyone that pays the reunion fees or dues gets a shirt.
You can always use money from fundraisers held throughout the year to pay for the shirts. As a matter of fact, t-shirts, caps, videos of past reunions, cookbooks, key chains, buttons, and other items are excellent fund raising tools. They can be sold before, during or between reunions to keep cash flowing. Put nostalgic photos from the “good ole days” on items and sell them for a small fee. The key is in finding items that are low enough in price to purchase so that you will make a profit, and an attractive design that will sell.
Sometimes local businesses and even national chains will buy ad space in programs or on t-shirts in exchange for advertising. If your reunion group is large enough, it might be worth it to talk to businesses that cater to tourists. They may place an ad with your group and offset some of the cost of printing your shirts.
These are some ideas for planning and saving money on t-shirts and other custom printed items. We have a number of quality shirts and other items available online right now. Use our site, that’s packed with reunion apparel and other promotional items for every need. It’s never too early to start planning and ordering.