Digital Decorating:

Niche Thinking

For sublimation success, focus your wares on a specific market.

By Aaron Montgomery, Contributing Writer

The YR Store Inc. develops unique pop-up stores with major retail brands, such as Levi’s, where customers can get an original product customized.

May 7, 2018

Sublimation still is growing in the garment-decorating world and won’t slow down anytime soon. Consumers and retailers are demanding faster turnaround times and smaller order minimums. With the wider range of polyester fabrics available today — compared to 30 years ago — the sublimation process has become a favorite for many fashion labels, sports-apparel manufacturers and even local teams.

Sublimation’s growth in the marketplace has made it even more important to find a niche and create ways to increase the perceived value of the products you sell. If your goal is to be the lowest-priced decorator in town, stop reading now. The race to the bottom never is successful, as it only commoditizes what you sell. Someone always will be willing to sell a product for a nickel less than you.

Let’s explore finding a niche, with some ideas for putting your sublimation equipment to work with the goal of maximizing profits.

From Topics to Niches
The wall of content and noise we all deal with daily makes it difficult to reach the right customers. To cut through it all, it is imperative that you find a niche, then “own” it at a level that makes it impossible for potential competitors to get a major piece of the pie. While that may sound daunting, it actually isn’t — as long as you hyper-focus your niche to one specific area you can serve well.

To start finding a niche, make a list of 10-20 topics and situations combined that you feel most comfortable discussing. Don’t give it a lot of thought; just start writing. Then, consider how those items may match up with your business capabilities.

Once you find a possible match, think of all the ways you could serve that niche and how its needs are not being met. That will be the intersection of your message going forward and your ability to provide a product for which customers happily will pay a premium price.

Within this process, set specific goals for your new niche endeavor and continuously measure them. If, after a period of time (one to three months is not suitable; think more like a year), you are not meeting the goals, try to refocus your niche and goals toward what’s working.

Market Examples
To help get those creative juices flowing, the following are examples of niche markets and how some companies are maximizing their profits therein.

1. One of the big advantages of sublimation as a digital process is that you can customize a product with images. For example, thanks to sublimation, grandma can have her grandchildren’s faces on a towel or coffee mug.

But the problem is most of us are not professional photographers with proper lighting and backgrounds. So when a sublimation expert receives a photo taken with an iPhone, it appears dull or the background colors don’t look right with the foreground image.

The folks at ( saw a niche for putting faces on sublimation-friendly items while solving the image problem. Their customers get excited about getting their faces or that of a loved one, including the furry variety, on all sorts of unique products. All customers are left asking is, “Which relatives need a towel with my face on it,and how many?”

2. This company not only discovered a better channel for a popular product, but also a better way to let customers take ownership of the final product. We have all see the fun, holiday-themed garden flags in local home-and-garden stores. The problem: Everyone buys the same generic flags. came up with designs centered on various holidays or certain times of year, and allowed customers to choose a design. Customers also can personalize flags with names, initials and more. This means each customer can have a unique flag and get a new one for any occasion.

3. YR Store Inc.: I was fortunate to attend a recent conference where Tim Williams, co-founder and CEO of YR Store Inc. ( discussed digital decorating and making the products on demand for customers. His specialty is understanding technology, and he saw that retail brands were being left behind because malls were closing and no one had a reason to visit department stores.

YR Store develops unique pop-up stores with major retail brands like Polo and Levi’s. Now, customers can get original Levi’s products at the mall and have them customized to fit their personalities.

Shirts sell for more than $100, and people line up to pay such prices for these limited-edition products featuring brand-name labels. The garment is decorated while customers shop and they get a text message when it is ready.

These are just a few examples of specific niches being leveraged, and how sublimation and digital decorating help these businesses own a space. Now, it’s your turn.

Aaron Montgomery has been involved with the garment-decorating and personalization industry since 2000 and the digital-printing industry since 1997. He co-hosts the 2 Regular Guys industry podcast at, and you can find blogs about a wide range of topics at