Interview with Philip Rooke

Philip Rooke
Philip Rooke

We have seen product counterfeiting grow on Amazon
The print on demand industry is a relatively new entry into the world of apparel. It is gradually making a mark for itself in the industry. Of course, like all other it has its own pros and cons. It is especially growing in the developed markets. Philip Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt, an e-commerce platform for print on demand apparel and accessories shares details of the industry with

What is the size of the global print-on-demand apparel industry – both online and offline?

The size of global printed textiles industry is approximately $165 billion. We estimate that approximately $2 billion of this is online. However, this is a very fragmented market. We currently track over 200 competitors in the US alone.

What is the expected growth of this industry in coming five years? What are the likely contributing factors to this growth?

Expected growth in the industry is really hard to forecast, as it is a combination of disrupting the traditional apparel retail markets, changes in the promotional goods market and creating new opportunities. However, the print-on-demand industry is growing in exciting new areas, driven by consumer demand for the designs they want to wear and specifically around the memes that they are interested in or social comments they wish to make. Marketplaces for crowd-sourced designs, like Spreadshirt or Redbubble, are booming as the wide variety of creative designs are much more appealing to buyers than creating their own or buying the standard licensed items found in shops. Social influencers from all genres such as Youtube creators are also bringing about a new drive in merchandising. These new brands have rapid and variable product lifecycles and strong consumer loyalty, so are changing the way products are being created and sold. This is creating a new industry in micro-merchandising that is largely possible because of print-on-demand technology, connected via the Spreadshirt shop platform. In addition, at the end of last year, the ecommerce giant Amazon launched, Merch by Amazon, a service that lets games companies create and sell t-shirts, which are then shipped to customers by Amazon on-demand. While this might cause other industry players to worry, I am delighted to welcome Amazon to the market where they will be a valuable contribution, especially as they are targeting the gaming industry which has been slow to respond to the benefits of the print-on-demand market.

What are the challenges facing this industry?

In recent months, we have seen the product counterfeiting issue grow on Amazon, with hundreds of sellers copying our listings but pricing the items cheaper. This practice violates our trademark and customers that click on the cheaper-priced product might not necessarily know that it’s fake. The product can then take weeks to arrive and is of poor quality. This means official sellers like us are losing out on the sale, and often get the blame for fake products via Amazon reviews. At Spreadshirt, we expect to lose several million dollars in the US this year. And we are not alone, this is an industry-wide issue.

Which countries serve as the best markets for this industry, and which are emerging in a big way?

The US is our biggest market for print-on-demand marketplaces and micro-merchandising. But increasingly, we are finding that pop-memes from games, Youtubers and general entertainment companies are creating a global fan base. This means that we regularly deliver one idea from these new Merch stars to over 100 countries.

Who are your competitors? Please name some key players in this industry.

Spreadshirt has no direct competitor offering the full range of services offered on our print-on-demand platform. We are the only company to offer three different models on one platform: selling via international marketplaces, selling via white-label ecommerce shops, and via our create-your-own technology, where consumers create and buy their own ideas directly. However, our most direct competitors for create your own products are Customink and Shirtinator and Cafepress and Zazzle for their marketplace model. There is also newcomer Red Bubble, which has a more artist-centred approach. But since we offer both our sellers and customers a lot of unique features, I think this gives us an edge over the competition. Our ease of use, superiority of the platform technology, high quality printing, multi-production sites and best product materials makes us the best in class for custom apparel and accessories.
Published on: 29/06/2016

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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