Note: this article is designed for individuals looking to get custom tea towels at a wholesale price for brick & mortar, boutiques, event sales, or other instances where they will be holding inventory. (Read on if you are curious about the benefits of that!)
If you are interested in drop shipped towels, you need a print on demand service for kitchen towels - there are plenty of options and, unfortunately, we don't know enough about it to provide a recommendation. Good luck and feel free to read on - you might still learn something!
What is Wholesale?
In this article, we will define wholesale as buying items with the intention to resell and at a price that allows you to sell it again with profit. As of the time of this writing, the tea towel market in the United States will largely bear a price of $12-$24 dollars for a tea towel.
To make any money, a retailer needs to be able to get 2x or more (so, double your money or more) on a product.
Minimum Order Quantities
Usually, wholesale pricing is achieved by buying in bulk. There are tons of factors that can affect what "bulk" means to different companies. This is translated with the term, "minimum order quantity" which is exactly what it sounds like. Minimum order quantity, or MOQ, is how many you have to order to be able to get wholesale pricing. Often, a retail license is required before you can even get access to this pricing. And the more you buy, the cheaper the price gets.
Tea Towel Quality and Printing Style
When deciding on what kind of tea towel to carry in your shop and how it is printed, there is a lot to take into consideration. Colors, fabrics, sizes, features like hanging loops, how big the print area is, whether it is one color or many colors. All of this can affect the price and the MOQ of wholesale printed tea towels.
Fabric and Finish
Cotton Tea Towel Wholesale Considerations
A cotton tea towel or flour sack tea towel is a popular option. These are light and breezy but don't absorb a lot and tend to wrinkle after washing. These tea towels are relatively inexpensive but are typically printed with traditional screen printing which usually has setup costs, costs more for multiple colors, and is designed for large quantities. Therefore, if you are trying to start with a relatively small run of printed tea towels, this method and style requires a heavy investment.
One benefit of cotton and screen printing is that the base color of the tea towel can be anything. You want to make black or navy-blue tea towels? No problem. Screen printers use white ink as a base under other colors to help create a good contrast.
Polyester Waffle or Linen Tea Towel Wholesale Considerations
Polyester tea towels have the benefit of using sublimation printing methods. This is a permanent, chemically bonded heat press transfer option. It's different from other heat transfers because it isn't sitting on top of the fabric but is chemically bonding to it. So, there is no raised texture or feel to the print. Sublimation also allows for full color options without any additional costs.
Sublimation is a great printing method if you are interested in starting with smaller quantities either due to budget constraints or because you are testing a new product.
It does start to lose its benefits when you are buying in the hundreds or thousands. But if you are looking to get custom tea towels wholesale in the dozens, rather than hundreds, it is an ideal printing method.
Polyester towels are available in a variety of finishes including a waffle towel and a linen finish, among others. Polyester absorbs wonderfully, doesn't shrink or wrinkle in the wash, and gets softer over time. The waffle towel provides a casual look, and the linen option feels a bit more luxurious.
One limitation of sublimation is that the fabric has to be light in order for colors to show up, because there is no under-coating and the ink sinks into the fabric. Therefore, these towels are usually white, off-white, or pastel.
Print on Demand VS. Wholesale Printed Tea Towels
Print on demand, or POD, technology is great if you are running a web store and don't want to hold inventory. It's best for artists and designers who are trying to maximize their profit on a piece of art or someone who is looking for more of a passive income thing, because they never touch the actual product.
Because print on demand ships directly to your customer and holds all the inventory (both physically and in their accounting), you get a much smaller piece of the pie. A *good* margin for POD is 20%, meaning that of a $20 priced item, the retailer only gets $4. Then again, they didn't pay anything up front to make that money.
Print on Demand sellers are designed for wholesale bulk purchasing of goods. So, even if you use print on demand for online sales but also want to host a pop-up shop, sell at events, or even open a boutique - purchasing inventory from them will cost a lot more than other avenues. It's just not what their business model is designed for!
Self-Sourcing Wholesale Tea Towels
Another option is to source towels yourself and find a printer. This can offer the highest margins, but the tradeoff is a lot of time. Some printers will have preferred vendors and can help you source tea towels, but, because you are dealing with two separate entities you may still face high minimum order quantities.
White Label Wholesaler
The third option is to find a white label or wholesale custom made vendor. This would be someone who does their own printing, already carries tea towels, and is willing to make your towels alongside theirs. This benefits both companies by being able to take advantage of bigger cuts in sourcing and gives them a bigger return on investment for the printing equipment they've already purchased. Essentially, this person has already made a larger capital investment and is inviting you take advantage of that in a win-win scenario.
Benefits of Having Your Own Line of Products
If you own a brand or have an idea for art, there are benefits to having your own line of products. For one, you can be sure the boutique up the street won't have the same thing. Secondly, if you've already got customers or fans, you want to have more to sell to them. Heck, even if you are starting a business, a custom line of products will help you stand out from competitors.
Why Tea Towels?
My dude (may I call you my dude?), tea towels are a best seller. It's giftable, it wears out, and almost every adult has a kitchen. Even if you have a million tea towels, one more won't hurt. Unless your audience is straight-up children, tea towels will likely sell. The price point is low enough to make it an impulse purchase too. If housewares, kitchen, or entertaining is at all in your wheelhouse - tea towels are a great place to start. And they are one of the easier items to get wholesale pricing on for custom designs.
Case Study: We Call It Home, Y'all
One of The 308 Collective's customers is an olive oil store. They also sell balsamic vinegars, tea, coffee, wine, and a variety of kitchen and entertaining accessories. The owners, Lee Ann and Rory, had the idea for a line of products that showcased the South Carolina emblem of the tree and moon, along with the phrase, "We Call It Home, Ya'll."
Carolina Olive OIl contracted with The 308 Collective to make white polyester linen tea towels, which we were already stocking for other projects. The 308 Collective created the design and printed them a two dozen towels to start. The towels sold out in a matter of weeks and the brand took off there. Other products were added and now, the two companies partner together to wholesale to other southern areas. It all started with an inquiry about custom tea towels wholesale.