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Barber and Company For the Love of T-shirts

Jul 1, 2009
by Judi Perkins

In a T-shirt filled America, Barber & Company is not merely just another provider. Although they began in 1985 by doing small scale, contract screen printing work, they now do primarily heat transfers, have four trademark lines consisting of 2,500 unique copywrited designs, and over twenty products on which these designs appear. While T-shirts continue to be their mainstay, Barber & Co. has branched into some additional items such as mugs, wallets and bumper stickers. They are also probably one of the few transfer companies in the U.S. which does sublimation printing, has an oversized press for supersized prints and requires their dealers to sign a quality agreement.

Dewey Barber, owner of Barber & Company, created the company to secure his family's future, and it has been steadily growing, based on common sense and a successful philosophy: if you find something that works, do it repeatedly. "When our first line, Dixie Outfitters, hit the market, we saw the success and continued to make Dixie Outfitters designs," said Barber. "Now we apply the same principles and strategies to our other lines, so we have used what works for Dixie Outfitters to expand into other lines of images and products."

Additionally, Barber has chosen low risk opportunities in order to diversify, which has made them a stable company. Sublimation, which is heat transfer onto polyester, is an example. "Sublimation ink penetrates the polyester fiber and stains the fiber color," said Barber. "You cannot feel it on the shirt, and it does not crack or wrinkle."

He explains that what has been holding sublimation back is the poor quality of polyester garments, which are unsuitable for a T-shirt. Now, however with microfiber technology, there are tremendous advantages over cotton. "We found the right producers of these shirts and they are available on a limited basis," Barber said. "There are so many advantages over cotton. It is also printed digitally, so you can print just one item." It can also be printed any size, as well as on car tags, tote bags, posters and wallets. "We took our assets, which are our copywrited designs, and created an additional way of selling those designs with a different process," said Barber.

The growing trend of Affliction and Ed Hardy shirts prompted them to recently purchase a huge press in order to do transfers covering the entire shirt. Since most of these presses are located overseas, smaller retailers are usually limited in what they can order. Said Barber, "Most of the time they have to order a bunch printed directly on the shirt, because these overseas companies are big companies. We have the equipment to fulfill all kinds of orders."

Products for all four lines, Dixie Outfitters, Christian Outfitters, All American Outfitters, and Bad Dog Apparel, are made in-house. "We have three artists on staff and we work with three freelancers. We also get suggestions from customers, so we are never at a loss for new ideas," Barber reports. Their customers cover all market segments in age and gender, and a wide variety of vendors. Barber maintains that they sell to almost everyone but the big retail chains. "Our goods are specialty products, and we are not in the market to be the lowest price. We offer unique things, and our prices are a bit higher than Walmart prices," Barber said.

Shirts mass-produced overseas are an entirely different market than the dealers who buy from Barber & Company. "I think we are the only transfer company who makes people sign an agreement to uphold our quality specifications," said Barber. "When Dixie Outfitters first came out, it was so hot everyone wanted it. But many companies were putting them on seconds and irregulars, really dragging our name down." In order to protect their name and trademark, they imposed specifications on the weight of the shirt, the way the transfer was put on, and a number of other requirements. "If they would not adhere to our standards, we would not do business with them," he said. "It was a big risk, because we were selling to thousands of wholesaler and it cut our number in half immediately. Twelve years later though, we are still a strong company with a recognized brand that stands for quality."

Dixie Outfitters is the largest of the four lines. Its extreme popularity is one reason why it is advantageous to carry the line, and why Barber & Company is strict about how it is represented. Of the 2,500 transfer designs, 1,500 of them belong to Dixie Outfitters. Dealers also have the opportunity to franchise on an independently owned basis. Two of the biggest advantages of franchise are a noncompetitive territory and the ability to sell online. To qualify, they must have a certain size store, in a successful location.

"They also have to carry a minimum inventory of our products. If they meet those requirements, then they may use our trademark logos and become a Dixie Outfitters southern heritage store," said Barber. "It is a sound business model. A transfer costs $1.60, and a tee shirt costs $1.50. You sell it for around $15, so you're making 5x your money, and that's unheard of in retail." At a fee of only $1,000, that makes for a quick return on investment, especially with the consumer devotion to the line.

Information about becoming a dealer or a franchisee is on their comprehensive website, and includes categories by trademark line, as well as by age and gender, and sub categories within each category. They also put out three catalogs. The Barber & Company catalog is strictly wholesale and is sent out twice each year. The Dixie Outfitters and Christian Outfitters come out three times each year. "The other two go to consumers, but our wholesalers use them in their store as sales tools," said Barber. The consumer catalogs can be found on their respective retail websites.

Barber & Company also does custom work, producing and sometimes designing lines for other companies. "There is one on my desk right now that's from an independent business owner who started his own line of shirts. He has us do his designs as transfers, and we ship them to him." He prints them on his shirts and distributes them. "We do this for several different companies," said Barber.

Aside from Barber's successful business philosophy, the most important factor to contribute to the growth of the company is their commitment to the customer. "Our goal is to produce a high quality product that's a real value to our customers," said Barber. "We are always there for them. We believe in doing business the old fashioned way: tell the truth, do what you say you are going to do, and back up your product 100 percent. That is the way we do business."

MINIMUM ORDER: Pricing is based on quantity. Minimum order on stock transfers: one, but upcharges apply through 11 items. Quantity pricing begins at 12 items. Minimum order on custom transfers: 50. Minimum order stock transfer is one, but there are upcharges on one to 11; quantity pricing begins at 12. The dropship charge is $5 per shipment. Dixie Outfitters has a minimum pricing structure, but recommended mark up is left to the retailer's discretion.

For more information:

Barber & Company
PO Box 220
Odum, GA 31555
Toll Free: 800-448-3061
Fax: 912-586-6989
Website: www.BarberandCompany.com

Topic: Company Profiles

Related Articles: t-shirts  tee shirts 

Article ID: 1092

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