Let’s talk about t-shirt availability, or lack thereof.
If you’ve been here more than once, you know our history with t-shirt inventory is a strange one. The very first version of United Pixelworkers had a normal inventory process. We’d buy a batch of tees and slowly—very slowly—sell through them. It turns out we couldn’t afford to do that, so we switched to a pre-sale, get-em-while-they-last model. While that worked pretty well, it was never perfect. If you missed the pre-sale—whether it was because you knew and couldn’t afford to pick up the shirt at the time or just didn’t hear about it until it was gone—you were out of luck. To fix that problem, we started buying a few extra shirts after the pre-sale ended. That worked even better, but what if we ran out and demand wasn’t sufficient to order more shirts? Surely those people also deserve the shirt they came to buy. In our zeal to make sure every last customer was satisfied, we introduced yet another twist: sign up to be notified when your shirt and size is back in stock. That helped us gauge demand for which shirts to bring back, but despite that improvement, many shirts still had only five or 10 people signed up. If you’ve ever tried selling anything, you know that even these extremely qualified leads aren’t going to convert well-enough to make that model work. We’d end up ordering 12 or so additional shirts, maybe a quarter of the people that signed up would grab one, and we’d be left with half-a-dozen assorted sizes that nobody really wanted. Six months later we’d be back in the same position. A handful of people would have signed up to be notified when a shirt was back, and we’d be reluctant to add to the pile of shirts on the shelves that weren’t ever going to sell.
So now you’re up to speed. Entering the holiday season last year (2013), we had hundreds of shirts that barely moved. Because we didn’t have the normal constraints of a physical store, we saw no reason to remove shirts from the site that we might, someday, maybe bring back. This is the Internet, after all, we don’t need to be bound by convention. You know what, though? Even Wikipedia has deletionists. In order to be honest with ourselves and our customers, we need to acknowledge that many (most) of the shirts we’ve ever released aren’t coming back. We’ve done three completely different shirts for every state in the union. We’ve done over 60 city shirts. We’ve had dozens of guest designers and partners. Some of those shirts have been incredibly popular. We’re going to keep making those ones. Some have been less popular. We’re going to let those ones go. If you look at the home page, you’ll see the ones we’ve chosen to stock up on first. We’ve got:
- The Standard Issue and its sibling the Standard Blackout
- Alignment from Evan Stremke
- New York City from Jon Contino
- Coffee + Pixels = Victory from Ethan Marcotte
- Black Shirt from Matt Stevens
- Heart, Bike, and Jolly Roger
- And #001 in our Labs series
That’s 10 shirts. As long as those are in the rotation, they’ll always be in stock. As soon as we get low, we’ll order more.
Does that mean there will never be any other shirts on the site? No. We’ve got lots of plans for new shirts and for bringing back old shirts that sell consistently. In addition to that, the local tee sponsorship program is up and running. If you’re interested in seeing your local tee back on the site, contact us and we’ll get you sorted.
Here’s what you can expect as far as products go in 2014:
- Our best-selling tees will be in stock all the time.
- New shirts on a provisional, pre-sale basis. Unless a shirt absolutely blows up during the pre-sale, that’s going to be your only chance to get it. This time we mean it.
- Lots of new, non-shirt products. Everyone loved the thermals and hats—which is good because we liked making them. Be on the lookout for more in that vein.
One more thing. Mystery tees. That’s right. Mystery tees are back. Get ‘em while they last. $6. Cheap.