T shirts on demand: From Carnaby Street to Cannes…

Interactive touch-screens
Interactive touch-screens

At Printwear & Promotion LIVE! in February, YR Store operations manager JACK YOUNG joined PHIL MCMULLIN, sales manager Pro Graphics Epson UK, to talk to delegates about how easy-to-use dye sub printers are inspiring brands and retailers to utilise ‘added-value’ business opportunities and experiences. Here Phil explains more.

YR Store’s unique interactive printed garment concept is quickly catching the imagination of fashion retailers in London and around the world and has captured the attention of Topshop and Selfridges. YR Store lets customers create personalised clothing on easy-to-use interactive touch-screen terminals then send the finished design for printing — in minutes — on Epson SureColor printers. Now Nike and Google are among the global brands that have used YR Store’s take on up-to-the-minute fashion to add a fun and creative element to corporate events.

Brands exploring new ways to engage with customers

For brands, the upside of the internet revolution is the rich selection of digital channels they can use to communicate with customers. But this proliferation has its downsides, like having to tailor messages to play to the strengths of different channels, and get them heard above the extra ‘noise’ of all those new channels bombarding consumers with information.

One way is to make brand engagement memorable, and for this a number of leading brands hire YR Store. In the words of founder Tim Williams: “YR Store works with brands, retailers and agencies to create and deliver unforgettable, interactive, immersive experiences for consumers.” Clients for YR Store’s digital store and event concepts include world-famous brands Nike, MTV, Vodafone and YouTube.

Technology benefits you can touch

For retail clients YR Store sets up and runs in-store design-and-print departments where customers can design their own garments on easy-to-use interactive touch-pod design stations before they are printed on the spot on Epson’s dye sublimation printers.

YR Store met with almost instant success in the retail sector. Within months of opening as a pop-up outlet in London’s iconic Carnaby Street, followed by successful temporary in-store pop-ups at retailers Liberty and Selfridges, the company pitched Topshop the idea of a permanent concession in the men’s and women’s fashion departments at its flagship Oxford Street store.

Tim believed from the outset that the YR Store concept would translate from the retail to corporate sectors. “It’s customary for people to leave corporate events with tangible mementos as well as sponsors’ messages, and T shirts are a common vehicle for this. YR Store adds greater value, not just because the souvenir is unique, but because creating your own t-shirt is such an engaging experience,” he added.

Nike was especially receptive to the idea, regarding it as an extension of its existing NIKEiD concept, where customers can customise Nike products online or using in-store NIKEiD ‘studios’. A pre-World Cup ‘celebration of football’ at Nike’s London Phenomenal House combined NIKEiD with YR Store’s live design and print facilities to allow users to create their very own customised football team T shirts.

Google Creative Sandbox 2014 at Cannes
Google Creative Sandbox 2014 at Cannes

YR Store was also in line with the thinking behind the Google Creative Sandbox at the 2014 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Billed as “an immersive experience built to inspire and involve”, the free-to-enter Sandbox provided delegates with a range of fun activities, including playful demos and free yoga. Its look and feel was the work of renowned graphic artist Anthony Burrill, whose involvement was extended by a YR Store installation where delegates could take their pick of Burrill’s iconic slogans and designs to create their own wearable memento from Cannes.

The NIKEiD and Google projects demonstrate another feature of YR Store that brand owners like, says Tim. “They differ from retail environments like Topshop, where customers have free rein in the images they use, because both brands provided a fixed range of images. This doesn’t necessarily impact on users’ creativity, but it does give brands a degree of control over their messaging.”

YR Store depends on quality, fast, reliable print

Amid the excitement and creative buzz around YR Store touch screens it’s easy to overlook the role of Epson SureColor printers in realising the concept, but Tim Williams is in no doubt how crucial it is. “YR Store is about delivering garments quickly — while customers wait as short a time as possible — to a quality that does their designs justice and which they expect from leading retailers and major brands. So the printers at the end of the process not only have to deliver all this but do it in an ultra-reliable package that can keep pace with potentially heavy demand — on one of the days at Phenomenal House we printed over 180 T shirts, and in Cannes we processed almost 1,200 shirts in five days. The whole point of YR Store is to make the experience engaging, immersive and easy-to-use, right through to the moment the customer picks up their garment after printing and thinks, wow!”

Epson – the logical choice

He adds that Epson was the logical choice to provide the print technology. “We operate three SureColor dye sub printers in our head office, and the SC-F6000 model is performing superbly in Topshop. As we operate YR Stores in a wider range of environments it’s good too that Epson offers us a choice of printer. For Google Sandbox we stayed with the SC-F6000, but for the NIKEiD event we used the smaller-format, more portable direct-to-garment SureColor SC-F2000 printer.

“Whichever printer we use we get superb output with maximum productivity and minimal downtime. Epson technology means we can provide the highest quality product in super-fast time, offering customers a great retail experience and their own unique garment.”

For more information visit www.yrsto.re or www.epson.co.uk

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