Minuteman Press Franchise Review: Jim Sweeney ‘Talks Shop’ on Growing Sales With Booming Apparel Business in Houston, Texas


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Jim and Jane Sweeney have owned the Minuteman Press Houston franchise for 29 years. They joined Minuteman Press back in June 1994. Jim and Jane Sweeney did a great job over the years building their business. Recently, they have really excelled at increasing their apparel sales.

Jim summarizes:

These past two years have been very interesting. We are currently 30.5% ahead (as at July of 2023) of the 2022 sales. That was an increase of 35% over 2021. In 2022, it seems that the world (or at least our world) has recovered from its two-year malaise.

In the interview below, Jim shares specific details about his apparel center’s booming business. He also explains how he and Jane’s Minuteman Press Houston franchise have achieved such strong growth in apparel sales. The center can be found at 1040 Hercules Ave, Clear Lake City; Houston – Clear Lake City TX 77058.

How much has your business expanded in the past two-years?

Jim Sweeney:

“During the first pandemic, we shifted to personal protection products which led naturally to custom-made face masks. Jane was busy sewing 1000 masks while I provided custom logo cloth face masks to schools, hospitals, medical offices and service providers. We sold 40,000 custom-made masks in that period, which we either heat-pressed or sent to a screen printing vendor. We also donated many masks.

In 2022 our traditional printing finally started to return to the pre-pandemic standards. As trade shows and marketing calls increased, promotional products also increased. After the initial surge, large format work actually slowed. EDDM printing is also a bigger part of our sales. Direct mail increased dramatically after we registered on the USPS site as EDDM providers. The Graphic Whizard’s slitter cutter and creaser have made business card printing even more profitable. We have a lot of community involvement, direct mail postcards (especially this year), SEO/SEM, Minuteman.com, and social networks, particularly as they relate to Direct to Film Transfer sales.

How has your clothing business grown? What steps have you taken to boost your apparel sales?

Jim Sweeney:

“We started to get serious about apparel around 8 years ago, when we bought a commercial embroidery machines. Jane then put together an impressive lobby presentation around 5 years ago. This area includes apparel, promotional items, and large format.

We first added dye sublimation with the Epson F570 and then DTG printing (we ultimately sold the DTG Printer). We used a lot screen-printed transfers during this period, mostly 613 originals and FM expressions. It was the turnaround time that became a problem. We would have to wait up to two weeks for those transfers to arrive, and then we’d need to press them.

During this period, we purchased a second and then third Stahls’ Heat Press. Then we decided to enter the Direct to Film printing business. About 2.5 years ago, after trying to print our transfers on several desktop printers, we bought our first dual printhead DTF large format printer and finisher. Our capacity allows us to not only produce transfers for in-house usage, but also sell them to other printers. This includes screen printers. sign shops. Facebook Group/Etsy owner. In January, we added an additional 4 head DTF printing capacity (we are likely to add a third DTF printer during the third quarter of this year).

Jim continues:

“Wholesale transfer printing now accounts for approximately 20% of monthly sales. We ship across the country and have a daily printing capacity of thousands of transfers. Add embroidery and in-house sales of t-shirts to make apparel about 30% of our monthly revenues.”

“Along with the growth of transfer sales, embroidery was also booming. We receive regular orders for 10-50 polos and button-down shirts to be embroidered. Our customers included a local hospital and two grocery stores. Each order consisted of 150-200 shirt. In the past, we have completed a $24,000 jacket embroidering order and delivered a $32,000 jacket order. Both clients are hospitals. We use a local vendor to produce larger quantities.

Jim adds:

“Our apparel sales continue to increase weekly. We are selling more and larger in-house turnkey t-shirts.”

What are your 3 best tips to help other owners grow their clothing business?

Jim Sweeney:

“1. The lobby display, along with wholesale transfers, continues to be the primary driver of our apparel sales. This display, which includes apparel samples, promo items and large format samples, was put in our store several years back. This display is always the first thing that a customer notices when they enter our shop. Around 1 out of 5 customers who enter the store ask about something they see displayed. We convert about 85% inquiries into sales.

2. Our CSR also knows a lot about apparel and all our other products. Allison, who is our CSR/production manger, worked as the store manager of the Galveston store (which will be sold in August, 2022). She has been involved in all aspects of our business. Although I understand that not everyone is as lucky as me, this does not mean that you should stop training your staff and giving them the tools they need to perform their job well. SanMar offers great apparel catalogs that include swatches, and their marketing tools allow you to create a simple website for apparel. It goes without saying, too, that your entire staff should wear logo shirts to showcase your abilities.

3. Attend a local trade show for the apparel industry, an ASI event, or the MMP International World Expo if you can. Start small with your own shirts. Then, visit your clients and show them what you can do. Apparel goes well with the other services our shops offer our clients. Apparel sales are a great way to spur sales of printing, and vice versa.

This hospital purchases 430 t-shirts in bulk at least twice a year for its entire staff. This could include jackets or rain jackets as well as backpacks and other special items. T-shirts are also possible. In the past three years, we’ve donated more than $200,000 in apparel and promotional items. The hospital referred us back to this hospital

Could you give an example of how you have worked with a client?

Jim Sweeney:

“One client that regularly orders apparel from us is a specialty hospital in the area. They also have 15 physical therapy centers around Houston that they own or are partners with. We first provided them with large format printing, then we contracted to create new building signs for the offices in the surrounding areas. Then we grew with them into apparel. We have them setup on 2 Stahl’s Spirit Sale websites. The hospital can purchase clothing for its new employees and employees may purchase branded apparel on one of the two websites. Each department also has its own branded tee shirt.

What else would you like to say?

Jim Sweeney:

“Apparel sells easily.” Wear your logo. Wear your logo. Ask for referrals. Do not be afraid to try something new.

For more information on Jim Sweeney and Jane Sweeney’s Minuteman Press Houston/Clear Lake franchise, visit https://minuteman.com/us/locations/tx/houston27/

Read Minuteman Press reviews and learn more about the #1 rated Minuteman Press franchising opportunities. https://minutemanpressfranchise.com

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