Your Guide for Exhibiting and Selling T-Shirts at Events

Selling t-shirts at events can be very beneficial for custom apparel businesses. These events range from sporting events, to fairs, to city home days, or other conventions.

If there is an interest for a particular group, there is usually some sort of event that accompanies that interest.


selling t-shirts at events


One advantage of printing custom apparel with a heat press, is that you can print on-site at these events. If you have a smaller heat press, like an Auto Clam or Maxx, it is fairly light enough that you can easily take it on the road, maybe with the help of another person.

Going to events may not be for every t-shirt business, so as we go through this post, think about if it makes sense for you and your business.

There are costs involved, so make sure you prepare and know what you want to get out of the event.

There are several reasons you may want to take your custom apparel business to an event. This may depend on the type of event and your target market.

In this post, we will talk about the different reasons you would want to go to events:

  • Get exposure for your t-shirt company with some advertising
  • Sell custom apparel at the event
  • Collect leads at the event

We will also talk about some merchandising and display tips for your t-shirt business for when you are at events.



Advertising your T-Shirt Business at an Event

The most basic reason you may choose for your apparel business to be present at an event, is simply for advertising purposes. In this regard, you may set up a table, tent, or booth with some signage displaying your business.

Choose events wisely. If you serve a particular niche, choose events that are in your niche or ones that complement it.

Are you a producer of custom apparel for anyone in your city? Then you have a wider range of events you can choose from.

When you just want to get your name out there, you should consider giving away promotional products for people to take with them. That way, once people leave the event, your business doesn’t leave their memory, too.

Promotional products have been shown to have a positive effect on consumers. Being an apparel decorator, you can heat print some of the most popular give-a-way promotional products.

[Related Content: Supplementing Sales with Promotional Products]

In the case of using events for advertising, that is where your costs are going – advertising. Setting up a booth is rarely free, no matter how small the event is.

You also have to consider the cost of your time or an employee’s time of being there if you are having someone in your booth.

Another option is to be a sponsor for the event. Again, check the prices and if it fits in your advertising budget.

Keep in mind that when you are only advertising at an event, the return on your investment may come later with future sales.

However, this sort of advertising can be hard to measure. If you don’t use some sort of promo code or ask your customers where they heard of your business, you won’t know if your advertising at events is effective or not.

To take full advantage, try to promote a promo code at the event that you can track back to the event when someone purchases from you. Then you will know for future events how your advertising is working and if it is worth it to keep advertising in this manner.


Selling Apparel at the Event

Another reason you may want to go to an event as your t-shirt business, is simple: to get sales!

When you go to an event to sell apparel, it is important to know your goals, because there are a few ways you can look at this.

Instead of simply advertising at the event, selling apparel will give you an immediate return. In this case, you will see your booth as part of the expense of selling at an event, but you will want to weigh the cost with the sales you receive.

Are you ok with the possibility of breaking even for the event, or even the possibility of losing money?

This is where it is important to have goals before the event starts. For example, you mainly want to advertise, but if you can sell some apparel and recover those advertising costs, then it really only cost you your time.

However, if your goal is to make money at the event as part of a source of your income, then you need to have an optimal booth set up and also choose wisely the events you partake in.

If you are going to sell apparel at events, you want to make sure you are set up for getting the most sales possible in the short time period of the event. Your booth set up is crucial for success, which we will cover a little more in depth later.

t-shirt tent for events

Hang a banner and some shirts showing what is available.


Collecting Leads at the Event

Besides advertising or selling your apparel at the event, one of your goals may be to collect lead information. A lead is a prospect that is interested in your products or services.

Collecting leads is a different approach than just plain advertising at the event.

If you don’t collect leads, then you are relying on your advertising at the event to bring in business. After the event is over, it’s a waiting game to see what happens.

However, if you do collect leads, you can actively and continually market to these people after the event is over.

For instance, if you collected an email address, you can build your email list and contact them at a later time.

Don’t overlook the importance of collecting prospective customer information, such as an email address.

Look at it this way: if you are simply going to an event for sales, then once you leave the event, what you sold is the only fruit you will get (besides maybe the possibility of a second purchase if you were smart enough to include your business information with the purchase, such as a business card or hang tag).

But if you have their contact information, you have a better chance at more sales after the event is over.

Selling some sort of apparel and collecting leads would be optimal since you are immediately gaining the sale, and also getting their information for a future sale.

Once someone has made a purchase from you, there is a much more likelihood of an additional purchase. You’ve got your foot in the door, so to speak. You’ve broken the ice.

[Related Content: 4 Things to Try for Your T-Shirt Business]


Setting Up an Optimal Booth for Events

When you want to sell t-shirts at events, your booth set up will either work with you, or against you. To get the most out of an event, merchandising, signage, and displays, are all ways to help sell more.

When there is heavy traffic, you want to simplify the check-out process and make it as streamline as you can. This will eliminate confusion, crowded areas, bottlenecks, and upset and impatient customers.

Overall, you want to create a good experience for your customers, many of whom may be new.

Your goal should be to delight all of them so they walk away feeling satisfied with a positive experience with your company.

When you go to set up your booth, think about the brand of your apparel company as a whole, and make sure your booth reflects that brand.

[Related Content: A Quick Brand Guide for Lasting Results]

Think about what will be best for you to set up and tear down. Your booth (and time) are part of your costs.

Consider if you will be using this booth over and over. Find or build displays that will be the most cost effective for what you need to get out of them.

Your displays need to be eye-catching. Make it easy for customers to see what you have to offer. Displays that people can see and touch is important.

[Related Content: Creating a Point of Purchase T-Shirt Display]

Pricing is a common question, so have clear signage displayed as well.

Signs that answer common questions alleviate the need for people to ask you questions, especially when you are busy helping other customers.

Think about the entire process as a whole. People will come to your booth.

What is the process they will take to learn, browse, and purchase? Try to figure out places and ways that will make this process seamless and painless, for both you and your customers.

This will especially help if you get busy. A crowded, unorganized booth can be a real turn-off to potential customers.

You will also want to take into consideration staffing your booth.

How many people will you need to effectively man your booth?

Not enough hands can make for a busy and hectic day, along with longer wait times when busy. Too many helpers will result in idle hands, which if you are paying your staff, is wasted money on your end.

One last tip: having the ability to accept credit cards will also help your sales. The amount of cash people carry on them is limited, if even at all, anymore.

Credit cards allow for larger purchases as well.


accept credit cards at events


Accepting credit cards is easy if you have a smart phone, or a tablet with wifi. There are plenty of companies offering card readers for free. You just pay a fee of each sale (around 2 or 3%) to use the service.

It is definitely something to consider.

[Related Content: 4 Things to Try for Your T-Shirt Business]


Heat Printing On-Site at Events

If you decide to sell apparel at the event, are you going to be pre-printing the apparel or taking your heat press with you to print on-site?

If you have done events before, especially the same event in previous years, you can use that as a gauge for if you want to pre-print some apparel. The advantage of printing on-site is that you won’t have leftover inventory afterwards.

If your shirt designs are event specific, you don’t want to have printed shirts at the end that you won’t be able to sell after the event is over. Printing on demand will help reduce the amount of leftover inventory.

Another reason you may want to have your heat press on hand is to personalize apparel for people. Using Express Names, you can have common phrases available (such as MOM or DAD).

If you know you will be selling a lot of personalization, maybe you can pre-print the fronts of the shirts beforehand (or a portion of them), so all you have to do is print the personalization portion at the event.

t-shirt customization station

Photo courtesy of Ted’s Blog


[Related Ebook: 10 Things to Know About Heat Printing at Events]

on-site heat printing ebook