Printful is a print-on-demand drop shipping company in the United States that allows you to create custom apparel and accessories quickly, easily and at a relatively low cost. It's a wonderful service, and I cannot wait to stop using it!
That's not a typo, I've got a plan to leave this service behind and improve my brand, but this post isn't to dump all over Printful. There are several advantages and disadvantages to utilizing a drop shipping platform such as Printful and for me, the cons are now outweighing the pros. Let's break it down.
Firstly, what exactly is it and how is it used? Printful is fairly straight forward, you create a product by selecting one of their multiple offerings, such as t-shirts, hats, phone cases, pillows or mugs. Then you upload your own artwork or create something new using built-in tools. They then print your custom creation and ship it anywhere in the world. This system works really well when you link it to an e-commerce platform such as Shopify. Now customers can visit your shop, buy an item, and Printful will then print, package and ship to the customer. It's completely hands off. All sounds great right? Well, it is! It's seamless, smart and a great way to create an online store with zero capital. The issues start to rise when you're using it as your primary printing and distribution channel for your business.
The biggest thing you lose when using Printful is control. While they do have a great selection of apparel and accessories available, it's still limited, and the colors of certain items are even more limited. Art placement is also restricted to certain areas, which is completely reasonable, but you have to adhere to the cookie cutter options available. The second biggest disadvantage is price. Again, for one or two shirts here and there, it's perfect. But when you start needing bigger orders those prices can't compete with mass producing large quantities, and your margins are low, very low. I want to keep my prices affordable and consistent for my customers and for one of my items, I only profit about $2. Not only is that not sustainable, it's hardly worth it. The third, and perhaps most frustrating, disadvantage is shipping. Whenever I'm asked if I would recommend Printful my first question is where are you and your customers located. If the answer is in the United States then I definitely would recommend. If you're outside of the US, like me, then I would not. Shipping to Canada is very inconsistent and often very slow. I've had orders take up to 4 weeks to arrive. Some orders don't arrive at all and it's not until I investigate that I find out they've been lost or redirected incorrectly, in which case the customer has to wait an additional 2-3 weeks. Not something you ever want to see when running a business.
It's easy to be disappointed and place blame but you have to remember there are limitations to everything. When putting your trust in another company to handle production you are at their mercy. Remember to consider all your options and all the factors that are at play before deciding on certain methods. There's no perfect solution but I've decided the disadvantages are no longer tolerable for my company and I'm excited to shift into something new.