How to Create your own Merch Store for the Holidays: What to Sell and How to Sell it

April 29, 2021

This is a post for users who have an existing fanbase.

Christmas is an insane time for online retail.  Most retailers drive up to 40% of profits in the months of November / December.  If you’ve got your own fanbase, you should consider setting up a store for Christmas.

First up, what should I sell?

Before jumping into what to sell for Christmas, do an analysis on your fans.  Things to consider include:

  1. Gender
  2. Age
  3. Income profile
  4. Geographic location, etc.

If you’re selling to a younger demographic, make sure to select stuff they can afford and that’s on trend.  Choose fun items that are ideal for the Holidays and that you actually like and would use.

 Some ideas of stuff you can make and sell for the Holidays are listed below:

  1. Christmas Socks

Socks are always in.  They offer lots of design flexibility to incorporate your brand and are super easy and cheap to ship.  Socks are ideal for Christmas as you can incorporate super cheesy designs. You can make socks in small quantities and they’re great for sharing on social.

  1. Christmas Beanies

Beanies are also awesome – they’re super cute and, like socks, can be in your own colors and with your own branding.  They’re very light and easy to ship and look great in pics.  Key with beanies is to go fully custom, not just stick a label on them.

  1. Christmas T-Shirts

T-Shirts are always in, whatever the season, whatever the time.  They’re super easy to make and some can look great. 

  1. Ugly Christmas Sweaters

If your audience can afford to spend a bit more ($50-$69), custom Christmas sweaters tend to be a winner.  Knitted sweaters look amazing and are completely original.  We haven’t seen many that don’t sell out very fast.

  1. Custom Mugs

In general, we associate the Holidays with a hot drink sitting around the fire.  What’s better than a limited edition custom mug.  While a little trickier to ship, mugs are a low cost fun item to put your brand on.

  1. Christmas Hoodies

Like t-shirts, hoodies are always a great merch option if your audience can afford to spend a little more ($45-$65).  Simple super soft hoodies are ideal around the Holidays and give the feeling of warmth and comfort.  Absolutely ideal for your customers.

  1. Christmas Stocking

Depending on your audience (for example, if you’ve got moms, etc.) Christmas stockings can be an amazing merch item.  You can create completely unique designs, ideal for hanging on the mantle, great as little gifts.  They’re easy to ship and will look fantastic on social.

  1. Christmas Water Bottle

Depending on your audience, water bottles can prove very popular.  They’re a great gift and easy to customize with your branding.  Creating something unique that reflects your brand values is important.

  1. Christmas Knit Scarves

Just watch what’s popular in the Gap or Macys during the Holidays.  Christmas scarves are always insanely popular – you don’t need to carry multiple sizes and they’re relatively small for shipping.  You can incorporate your full branding and excite your fans.

  1. Complete Holiday Gift Set

Whatever merch you’re making, we always suggest you do a gift set where you include a few items in a nice Christmas Gift Box.  Ideal as gifts and super easy to create, a fantastic way to add an extra product and increase revenue.

How to Source Products for your Christmas Merch Store

There are lots of options when it comes to sourcing – we’ve listed a few below. 

  1. Find manufacturers for each product

If you’ve got a lot of fans and are sure you can sell out, finding your own manufacturer / factory for each product is an option to maximise your margins (make the most amount of money on the stock you buy).  It takes a lot of time but Google is helpful – pick your products, search for manufacturers and see how you go.

A few tips if do go this route

  1. Ensure the company is legitimate – for example, things you should check to see are:
    a. are there good examples of their previous work on the website?
    b. do they respond to e-mails fast?
    c. is pricing really clear? Does pricing include shipping?
  2. Check the quality of the products – while it’s good to get a physical sample, pictures will tell a lot
  3. Make sure you know the exact specification of the sizes – this can be really tricky

Manufacturers typically have large minimum order quantities (the minimum you can order). 

In general, when starting your own store, working with manufacturers from China, Thailand, Turkey etc. is incredibly tricky.  We wouldn’t recommend you start with this.   

  1. Use a “Print on Demand” service

If you are making basic t-shirts or sweatshirts, this is an easy option.  Print on Demand is where you create a design and a company will print this design onto premade products like t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, etc. 

So it usually works like this 

Step 1: You submit your design to the platform

Step 2: You choose the products you would like to sell

Step 3: Pick a price you would like to sell at

Step 4: Start selling to your audience

Step 5: Once you sell a certain amount, the print on demand company starts making and fulfilling your product

Step 6: When the campaign ends, the print on demand company sends you your share of the profit

What’s good about it?

  1. It’s a super easy way to get started selling
  2. You don’t have any up front investment (apart from any design costs)
  3. If you don’t sell many, you don’t lose a lot of money
  4. You won’t be left with a lot of bad stock at the end

What’s not so good about it?

  1. In general, the quality of the end product is not great. They usually print on cheap t-shirts and sweatshirts and they don’t have your label on them.
  2. The margins (amount you make on each small) are really low – usually just a few dollars
  3. A lot of people use these services so it’s incredibly difficult to stand out
  1. Work with a Merchandise Partner to Help Develop the Products you want to Sell

Merchandise partners will work with you to help you develop a range of products that are suitable for your customers.  They will help work with you to create, sell and fulfil amazing products for your audience. 
Note: we must declare a little self interest here as we are a sustainable merchandise / swag partner.

What’s good about it?

  1. You’ll be working with experts who will have similar clients so know what works best
  2. You can create amazing products your fans will actually want – usually you can even create your own labels
  3. You don’t have to set up a shop or fulfil yourself as the merchandise partners will do that for you 

What’s not so good about it?

  1. The margins aren’t quite as good as if you go to the manufacturers directly
  2. In most cases, unless you have a huge audience, a small up-front deposit may be required 

Preparing for Launch

Once you’ve selected your products and identified how you will source them, we always suggest 2 things for first time sellers

  1. Talk about the products before you launch them
  2. Make sure you do a pre-sale

Once you’ve created your products, it’s really important you start to “tease” your audience by starting to talk about them on your various platforms.  Don’t just put them out there and hope they sell, get some suspense going as to what you’ll be launching, when etc.  Make sure to make them “limited edition” – do one run of them then move on to the next product, “fear of loss” is incredibly important.  This is when your fans are worried they won’t get their hands on them.

After you’ve started to build up and prepared your fans for the launch, we always suggest a pre-sale.  This is when you start selling maybe a month before they arrive – this is really important as it will give you an idea of how many you can sell so you’re not left with lots of stock at the end.

If you’ve got any samples, send them to anybody you know with a following to really get some momentum built up. 

How to Sell your Merch Online

If you’ve chosen to go with Print on Demand or a Merchandise Partner, they’ll help do the online shop build for you.  Make sure to incorporate your brand as much as possible.

If you’ve sourced your own merchandise, you’ll need to build your own online store.  We suggest shopify.com – even if you’ve never built a website before, shopify have made it super easy.  Just follow the instructions on the website and you’ll be up and running in no time.

How to Market your Merch

Do whatever you can to sell every single item of merch.  If you’ve got your own store make sure to install the Facebook Pixel and Google Analytics to help track where your orders are coming from.

If you are an influencer or have a good following for your site, make sure to show off your new collection in it’s best light.  Wear it, talk about it, show it and use it.  Demonstrate the value and make sure to tell your fans these will be “limited edition” and when they’re sold out, make sure you don’t bring them back – this way, next time you launch they should be easier to sell.

Using Ads

In some cases, your merch may need a little push.  Don’t be afraid, you’d be surprised how far a small campaign of $10 a day for a few days can go.  They’re definitely worth a try.  Facebook and Instagram ads are great to get a little bit of momentum going.  You can target your fans but you can also target parents / boyfriends / girlfriends of fans as your merch would make an ideal Christmas gift.

When using ads, be as specific as possible in who you target.  If gift packaging is being offered, make sure to say it in the ads.

Google Ads are more useful for retargeting people who have already visited your store.  Generally, you probably won’t need Google Ads until you get a little further down the road.

Picking, Packing and Sending my Merch (fulfilment)

This bit always sounds easy but it’s such a pain.  If you’re using Print on Demand or a Merchandise Partner, they will manage fulfilment for you.  If you’ve ordered the merch yourself and you’re taking orders, you can outsource fulfilment to a 3PL (3rd Party Logistics) provider or pick and pack yourself.  It’s tricky to outsource when you’ve no idea how much you will sell.

If you decide to pick and pack yourself, you will need a little space.  You will also need labels, mailbags / boxes, a good printer and the actual stock.  You will also need to arrange a delivery partner (USPS or a FedEx, UPS, etc.)

When the orders start coming in make sure to get them out as quickly as possible and always provide a tracking number.

Returns

Returns are always tricky to manage – we would all love to offer free 90 day returns but they’re so tricky to manage for a small business.  For print on demand and merchandise partners, returns are usually not provided as the products are custom made for the customer.

If you’re running your own store, usually you’ll need to offer returns.

A handy tip – a lot of returns for influencers are down to size issues, we suggest it’s well worth your while doing a lot of work on sizing up front.  If you’re modelling the product yourself – give your own measurements (height, usual size etc.) and write this all down.  Get size charts from the manufacturer and try the samples yourself – if they run small, say they run small versus a brand your customers will know (the Gap, Zara, H&M, etc.). 

In your returns policy, explain you’re a small business and returns are very tricky to manage.  Be clear (but nice) on the returns policy. 

Best of luck setting up your store!




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