producing, distributing, storing Debian t-shirts
On several occasions people have asked me about Debian t-shirts and the
polo shirts when I'm going to an event or after seeing a video where I
am wearing the polo shirt.
At some events there are opportunities to mass-produce things in
collaboration with the event team, lowering costs and avoiding the cost
of shipping into the event. For example, the FOSSASIA team produced a
lot of roll-up banners and three Debian banners were included in the
batch. Similar deals can lower the cost of t-shirt production,
especially when the event takes place in a location where costs are lower.
A few people have expressed concern about the production of t-shirts though:
- production cost and difficulty of transporting in luggage, both
relatively high compared to the cost of stickers and some other merchandise
- lack of volunteers willing to handle and dispatch inventory (this was
raised by debian.ch after trying to retail some online)
Personally, I feel that clothing makes a particularly strong impression
as people only wear one t-shirt at a time and if they choose to wear a
Debian t-shirt, that is a strong endorsement of the Debian project.
Conversely, if there is an absence of Debian t-shirts in the community
(or if Debian was to produce too many shirts that all look the same)
people wear other things.
I also feel that the relative effort for a developer to organize a batch
of 100 is not much more than the effort of producing 10 or 20.
This brings me to a few questions:
- how do people view the distribution of merchandise, is the primary
goal fundraising or is it about brand exposure?
- would it be reasonable for 1% - 2% of Debian's reserves to be tied up
in slow moving inventory items like t-shirts that take up to a year to
fully turnover? As the reserves are mostly kept in cash Debian probably
loses at least that much to inflation each year anyway.
- what is the best strategy for production and distribution? Would it
be cheaper and less effort for volunteers if 10,000 shirts were simply
produced in China and divided up between every developer willing to
distribute them within their local community at their own pace and
without formal inventory controls? Or is it better to produce small
batches when the opportunity arises?
- what should be produced? In low quantities we get very standard
t-shirts. In higher quantities we may have more choices of fabrics,
more distinctive styles and printing techniques that last longer. We
could even produce some rolls of Debian fabric for people to have
tailor-made shirts, table cloth, curtains, etc.
- what aspects of production are people willing to volunteer for? For
example, some people have volunteered to create t-shirt designs and
other people have volunteered for Debian booths at events. What other
tasks do people need to volunteer for, e.g. keeping inventory, and are
- has anybody looked at any strategies to completely outsource
merchandising or to do such things jointly with other groups to get
economies of scale? For example, at some events the Debian t-shirts can
be retailed on a table run by the local community without developers
needing to be at a booth, all we may need to do is bring the stock and
take it away again later.