Initially I thought of using quality, washable, lightweight, solid-colored slippers and enhance them with graphics or filter variations from some of my travel photos. I quickly realized that there's more to it than printing on transfer paper, cutting, and ironing on. A suitable design style is crucial. And then there are slipper material and fabric. After a few prints on cheap thin disposables, I sent this project back to R & D for now.
Eek! It looked awesome on my big screen though!
Luckily, I do have a few designs that should work.
In the meantime, I met a talented and experienced crafter who creates very functional, high quality, affordable slippers. So, there's hope for a new "Handmade in Campbell River" collection at Shufu in spring 2021.
To get started without further delay, I imported a few models from China. I liked the colorful, playful designs and allowed me to check out the major websites in English, such as Alibaba, AliExpress, and DHGate. My overall experience wasn't bad, although I do have some stories to share in another blog.
The biggest issue are the lead times. For example, I ordered 10 pairs of socks in different colors at AliExpress, choosing the slightly more expensive shipping method AliExpress Standard Shipping with an estimated delivery of 15-30 days. The package arrived after 53 days and was stuck in Canada (at customs or Canada Post, not in China) for over a month! These were samples, highly recommended before ordering a larger quantity. So, even if Canada Post catches up on their huge holiday backlog, you are still looking at possibly 3-4 months before you can actually sell a new product. Besides, some products quickly change and the sample you just got excited about, might not be available anymore.
I'm hoping to offer products using all three methods over time:
Enhanced could use a "print-on-demand" model, although I doubt that I can use the specialized printers mentioned in the link: Too expensive and … they don't have slippers as "blanks" to print on. So, this needs to be done in-house.
Handmade and supporting local brings a big smile on my face! This could use a drop-shipping model. Instead of partnering with a far-away supplier, I would just team up with my local creator: I'll add her products to the Shufu store, each order automatically gets forwarded to her, she makes and ships the order.
- Imported represents the traditional method of finding and stocking ready-made products. Even enhanced items will need a manufactured slipper to work on, so starting with the colorful Shufus was an important learning experience.