Some Numbers

We got to thinking the other day that there’s no reason we can’t share some of our sales figures here. Maybe you think we rake it in, maybe you never gave it a second thought. Either way, this should be interesting.

Here’s the big picture, August 7–15, 2:00 PM (that’s almost nine days, so more than a typical week):

  • Total sales revenue (does not include shipping & handling): $6,022
  • Total cost of goods sold (COGS): $3,648
  • Net profit: $2,374

That’s… not great. Ideally we’d like to be at 100% markup, just like any other retailer. Because we’re dealing with such small quantities, however, and because we are printing with water-based ink (expensive) on tri-blend tees (really expensive), a $25 tee just isn’t going to hit that ratio without selling in the triple digits. That said, let’s break down our sales for the week.

Units Sold, Pre-Order:

A normal week for us sees only one new product. The six locals are somewhat of an exception. We know they’re not going to go over 50 sales per tee unless we catch a break. In some ways, they’re sort of like a loss leader: we hope they bring people to the site and, more than that, we hope people like ‘em even if we can’t keep them in stock.

By the way, here’s something you should know about t-shirt sales: you need to print at least a few dozen—preferably way, way more—to make it worthwhile. You’ll notice only three of our seven pre-order shirts are in that range… which means we’ll need to order extra tees, cutting into profit until we can move them. It also means that while we love the new designs, next week will almost certainly be our last run. Don’t worry, we’re going out with a bang. (If your city didn’t make it, we sincerely apologize. The long tail of cities is… long.)

Beyond the pre-order, we were able to sell a number of in-stock shirts, hats, t-shirt mockups, stickers, etc. that amounted to a little over a third of our profit during that span. Those items have some additional costs like storage, guest designer cuts, and having capital tied up in the original inventory purchase.

Speaking of costs, we’ve got a whole bunch that didn’t make the above COGS list.

For example, we’re four people (Nate, Jay, Matt, Sara) putting in a total of about 15–20 hours / week coming up with the shirt concepts, creating mockups, adding products to Shopify, building the website and keeping it up-to-date, writing the newsletters, packing and mailing products, answering customer service emails, rounding up tickets and other goodies to give away, corresponding with you all on Twitter, and writing blog posts. (If you‘re wondering where the rest of our time goes, do you know about our sister site, Cotton Bureau?)

Then there’s the software we use like MailChimp, Shopify, Linode, Dropbox, and Slack. We’ve also got rent, parking, accountants, lawyers, shipping supplies, ad nauseum. Some of those costs are shared with Cotton Bureau, but not all of them. How do we quantify the 4+ years of developing a reputation as trustworthy, handsome, and stylish?

As far as promotion, we sent out two newsletters for this run and tweeted directly to the home page or product page at least 20 times, fretting each time we were making a nuisance of ourselves but equally worried that because these weren’t coming back, we’d hear for months from those that missed out.

So that’s a week(ish) in the life and sales of United Pixelworkers. Were these numbers bigger than you expected? Smaller? They fluctuate with our efforts and, of course, with the unpredictable winds of external publicity. Sometimes it seems United Pixelworkers has exceeded our wildest dreams; other times, we wonder if there isn’t another 10x it could grow if we just pushed all the right buttons.

Yeah, it’s all a little “to sell t-shirts you must first invent the universe”, but… it’s true. Retail is hard (like anything else worth doing, right?), but we like it, we’re getting better at it all the time, and we’ve got lots of buttons left to press.

Santa Cruz is here!

Local 831.

We’re so happy to welcome Surf City to the Pixelworkers team. Once a Spanish Mission town, Santa Cruz is now a budding seaside community just south of San Jose. Santa Cruz is one of the best surfing spots in the entire world and home to a design community that loves to take advantage of all that it has to offer. The Surf Museum was the only logical choice to be featured as our pixelated icon for this tee.

Cosmic Studios.

We’ve got to send a big shout out to our Santa Cruz sponsor, Cosmic Studio. Not only did they sponsor this tee for you, they designed it as well. Cosmic was founded by Eric Ressler in 2007 and his team has been producing beautiful (and responsive) sites for clients ever since. Some of their client work has included sites for PlanGrid and The Grateful Dead Archive Online. Thanks for making Santa Cruz happen, Team Cosmic!

Win a pass to Hybrid Conference in Sweden…and we’ll be there!

Conference season continues, and this time we have a free pass to our first conference outside the US: Hybrid Conference in Stockholm, Sweden on August 21–22. BONUS: we’ll be speaking there! If you want the pass, leave a comment below and we’ll pick a winner next Wednesday. As always, you have to provide your own travel and lodging, which is no joke (because once again, this conference is in Sweden). This ain’t no drive to Baltimore. Good luck!

Win a pass to CMX Summit.

Who wants to go to CMX Summit, June 12–13 (that’s next week!) in NYC? It’s the premiere conference for internet community building, and features an opening keynote from our pal Tina Roth Eisenberg (better know as Swiss Miss).

You know the drill by now…if you want to go, leave a comment below and we’ll choose a winner later this afternoon. Quick turnaround! Note: you must be able to get to NYC next week.

If you want to hit the conference anyway, use UNITED25 for 25% off a conference pass.

We’re choosing 2 winners to Front-End Conference 2014.

UPDATE: Congrats to Caroline Collins (Portland) Steve Shreve (St. Petersburg), winners of the two free Front-End Conference passes.

★ ★ ★

We have two tickets to Front-End Design Conference—one for St. Peterburg, FL on July 10–12 and one for Portland, OR on August 21–23—and we’re giving them away for free to two random winners! The cool part? You can’t even buy passes yet for the Portland conference! All you need to do is leave a comment below (and make sure let us know which city you’d like to attend) and we’ll pick the winners next Wednesday, June 4. Thanks to our pal Dan Denney for the generous giveaway. Good luck!

Win a pass to The Future Friendly Web in State College, PA.

Conference season continues, and we have yet another free pass to give away to one lucky winner. The Future Friendly Web 2014 is happening from June 9–11 in State College, PA, and all types of awesome people will be there: Jeremy Keith, Tiffany Shlain, Ethan Marcotte, Josh Clark, Luke Wroblewski, and others. Wanna go?

Leave a comment below, and we’ll pick a random winner on Wednesday afternoon at 2pm EDT.

Win the last pass (!) to Rustbelt Refresh.

UPDATE: Congrats to Toby Ashley, the winner of the free Rustbelt Refresh pass.

★ ★ ★


We’re giving away a pass to Rustbelt Refresh, a web conference in Cleveland, Ohio on June 6th, organized by our pal Brad Colbow. Karen McGrane, Jeremy Keith, Jenn Lukas, Pittsburgh’s own Matt Griffin, and a host of others are speaking. BONUS: the conference is sold out, so if you want to go, winning this pass is your only hope. Leave a comment below and we’ll pick a random winner on Friday afternoon around 2pm.

Sponsored Local Tees Page

We’ve got a new page on the site to keep track of which local tees are in stock. You can see everything that’s available (and, more importantly, everything that could be available) in the local tee collection.

Local tees

We’re particularly proud to note that seven of the 24 local tees we have in stock right now are brand new cities, and we’re looking for more every day. If you’d like to see Berlin, Prague, Barcelona, Dublin, Paris or any other city join the union, we need your help. Please check our our local sponsorship post for more information.

For those of you who might have missed your city the first, second, or even third go-round, we’ve also got a deep bench just waiting for a benefactor—in fact more than half of our previously designed cities are still up for grabs including several giants like Brooklyn, Houston, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Toronto, and Vancouver. If you’d like to be a hero to your friends and colleagues while also spreading the word about your company or conference, send us a quick note and we’ll get you squared away.

Finally, we want to take a moment to thank our many awesome sponsors again for helping us bring the local tees back and keep them in stock. Let’s hear it for these dedicated party leaders:

Interested? $500 buys you 50 tees, $1,000 for 100. Your company gets a prominent listing with your name, logo, bio, links, etc. on the shirt page plus the opportunity to include any small swag with the purchase of the shirt (stickers, pins, etc.) You hold the sponsorship until stock runs out. Oh, and a 15% discount on any United Pixelworkers merchandise for the life of the sponsorship.

Ready to be a sponsor? Email us.