Four Ways to Increase Your SBE’s Profit Margins

Photo courtesy of @west_express on Twitter.

Students and faculty love to express their school spirit by wearing a t-shirt or carrying a bag with their school’s logo or name on it. That’s why so many school-based enterprises sell or even print their own spirit wear.

However, the return on investment from an initial spirit wear wholesale purchase to retailing the products in the school store can often diminish if your prices are too low or if supply chain costs are too high.

Here are four ways your school store can reduce costs and increase profit margins on spirit wear sales.

1. Make your artwork as inexpensive to print as possible.

The first way to increase your margins when selling spirit wear is to make your artwork as inexpensive to print as possible. The majority of spirit wear products are decorated using screen print equipment and ink. Screen printing’s costs revolve around the quantity of pieces being ordered and the number of colors in the artwork. Specifically, the higher the quantity of products being printed, the lower the print price. Conversely, the more colors there are in the artwork, the higher the print price. The quality of a spirit wear product does not come from the amount of colors in the artwork, but from the actual design.

One-color spirit wear prints often look better on t-shirts than multicolor prints due to their simplicity. One way to keep print costs low and still achieve the look of a two-color design is to use the color of the garment being printed on in the design. Leave spaces between the ink lines of text or graphics when you create your artwork to let the garment color come through. When successful, this makes the design appear to be a 2-color even though it is only a one-color print, greatly reducing your print costs.

2. Streamline your designs.

Another way to increase your spirit wear margins in your SBE is by marketing different products that feature the same design. The majority of screen printing businesses have their prices set based on the total quantity of prints being ordered, and not the number of different types of products ordered.  This is because the true cost of screen printing is in the setup of the job, not the ink or the labor of printing.

To prepare a print job, one must coat a screen with emulsion, dry the emulsion, burn the design into the emulsion, powerwash away the emulsion from the design, dry the screen, and finally line up the screen so that it can print the design perfect every time. If a print job has more than one color, that process must be repeated for each color in the design.

So, if you know a certain spirit wear design is going to sell well, it is a good idea to have it printed on multiple types of products like t-shirts, sweatshirts, long sleeves, bags, etc. The more products that are printed using the same artwork, the lower your unit print cost will be because the printer still only has to perform the setup once.

3. Ask for a “color change.”

A color change is exactly what it sounds like: in the middle of a screen printing an order, the screen printer changes the color of the design. Color changes involve a small amount of labor for the printing company, and thus a small additional cost to the client, but will greatly enhance your product mix.

For example, let’s say your school’s colors are black and red. If the design is only one-color and printed in black ink, then the artwork can be printed on nearly any color shirt except black, but a color change from black ink to red ink would allow for black shirts to be printed as well. You can increase your store’s margins while offering a greater variety of finished goods to your customers.

4. Insource your printing.

A final way to increase your spirit wear margins is by insourcing your printing. Print Fundraising has developed a Learn and Earn program for DECA chapters and members to learn how to start, manage, and market an SBE decoration business.

How does it work? We sell a chapter a heat press and screen print transfers, allowing the chapter to print their own finished products on-demand. Screen print transfers have been around nearly as long as direct screen printing and offer great versatility. Because products can be printed on-demand (which reduces inventory costs) and artwork can be ganged onto a sheet (which reduces the unit print price), chapters can offer a great variety of custom-printed spirit wear products.

“Ganging” artwork means including as many designs as possible with the same color scheme into a single transfer sheet. Ganging maximizes the value you receive from each print. So, by printing spirit wear products in-house, not only can a chapter lower its costs and increase its margins, but students are introduced to entrepreneurship and all the valuable learning experiences that go along with running a business.
For more ideas about how you can increase your SBE’s profit margins, or how Print Fundraising can help you get started insourcing your printing, please e-mail us at

This article was written by DECA National Advisory Board partner and Corporate Social Media Correspondent, Print Fundraising. You can learn more about Print Fundraising here.

Categories: Chapter Development, Chapter Resources, Comprehensive Learning Program, School-based Enterprises