Broder InkSoft retraction

Wow, i was wrong.  I apologize to AlphaBroder and InkSoft. I think they delayed offering the designs in your account for a few days and I stupidly assumed they were going to leave it that way.  The design studio is awesome for print and
can only rival CustomInk.  Huge step in our industry.  As soon as they start letting you create your own sites with this design center, no one in the industry will be trying to catch up with CustomInk technologically.

I think the only question is when AlphaBroder is going to buy InkSoft?  Otherwise, I’m not sure InkSoft’s motivation offering its studio for free.  It’ll be the tail wagging the dog soon at Broder as long as LittleJohn realizes what they have and gets the check written.  The only thing this offering may disrupt is the design heavy printers.  Now anyone can create great looking art and have it immediately available for printing.  I wonder what SanMar has up its sleeve now?

Staples: True Marginalization

First off: Happy Easter, Patriots day, marathon day and now Boston Strong Day!  I have to say how glad i am no one got to trademark Boston Strong and that this was true charity.  Too many folks trying to cash in on every event and online fundraising t-shirt programs now.

So, i needed to pick up an iPad cover and headed for Staples this morning in Acton (3 miles from our shop).  I was surprised there was not a larger selection and how EXPENSIVE iPad covers have gotten!  Wow. $79+ for a cover.  that’s a lot.  Luckily i found the last cheap one in the store ($15) and headed for checkout.  That’s when i noticed the schwag display in the copy center (do people still use the copy center?).  I went over to take the picture below of the display while a patron wondered what i was doing. It was basically a display with flyers on an embroidered hat, shirt, a printed mug and mousepad all with an example logo stitched or screen printed.  I thought of the old Awards.com deal with Staples when they put promo product kiosks in Staples.  Unfortunately, it seems the management at Staples forgot about how poorly that performed and the huge lawsuit Awards.com filed after Staples cancelled the arrangement.  Anyway, it was fun to see and hoped it would inspire customers to purchase promotional products at some point in the future. 

The next stop really threw me for a loop.  I went to the checkout counter and found Pop Tarts for sale!  This isn’t your average impulse buy like a soda or candy bar!  They were full boxes of Pop Tarts like you’d find at the grocery store.  You’re not going to eat these in the car on your way back to work.  I immediately looked over to see if they had converted the Tech desk to a salad bar!  That may be next because its a great idea and the Tech guys at that desk are useless.  I avoided buying a remote drive so i didn’t have to go to the Tech desk and ask for it.  I’d be pitched a service plan for $50 when the drive was $69 and USB cables they’d convince me weren’t the ones i already had piled up in an office drawer.

The point is, Staples has completely lost its identity and marginalized their brand.  I don’t fault them for trying to find other products they can fight Amazon.com and NewEgg.com with but they lose becoming experts in anything.  I seriously think they should take the paper clip out of their logo and replace it with a similarly looking food item and completely switch to a grocery/convenience store that provides all of your “staples”.  You need pads of paper, desk chairs and Pop Tarts.  Why not embrace this and become an ‘everything’ store.  Forget about being an office supply company and become a life supply company.  With more and more folks working from home, this isn’t crazy or me being sarcastic.  Walmart is selling groceries and so is target.  Go head first into a change…..going slowly just marginalizes your brand

Inksoft Broder Deal

Big News in our weird industry.  Broder launched an design online application on their AplhaBroder website that is powered by InkSoft.  InkSoft admittedly has an amazing online design tool for screen printing specific for end customer use.  Very much like CustonInk’s ‘lab’.  Of course, they don’t have an embroidery solution but that seems less important every day. The problem I see as a decorator is the behemoths continue to provide only “pho-ware” or software that is great at looking nice but doesn’t solve any back-end ordering inefficiencies.  This is inherently the problem choosing a software vendor versus an ‘operating’ decorator with software.

I do feel AlphaBroder consciously provides an incomplete solution to keep their strangle hold on a wildly inefficient market.  They benefit from lowering barriers to entry and adding yet another middleman in THE most layered simple business in the country. Why wouldn’t they develop software to help their customers sell and run their shop?  OK, they don’t know how?….well find someone that will help with it, right?  Nope, let’s introduce a new layer and add a technology company in the middle.  Why? Levels the playing field and reduces barrier to entry which means another 20,000 new folks selling screeprinted and embroidered apparel.  More small customers fighting for pennies is a good business and a smart move.  They play lip-service that they are helping customers offering design studios and they care about your business in particular.  Problem is, they are helping everyone compete with you at the same time.  They’ll never limit who they sell to so you’ll have to send multiple quotes for every order you take.  You won’t “win a customer” any longer, you’ll start having to “win every order”.  Might want to brush up that resume cause this form of business is unsustainable.  Add in all the websites reselling blanks from AlphaBroder for 25 cent profit and it’ll be over soon!

However, its not all doom and gloom: I do think it creates a great opportunity to provide end-customers with a complete vertical in our industry that is currently dominated by only two major suppliers that do not decorate and have yet to provide a way to process small orders efficiently.