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Re: producing, distributing, storing Debian t-shirts

On Sun, Apr 30, 2017 at 01:53:49PM +0200, Daniel Pocock wrote:
> Hi all,
> 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.

I'd seriously suggest you chat to Steve, Phil Hands and others who've
been involved in this over the years. It's not quite a no-win scenario
but it's probably not far off. Get good quality polo shirts, for
example, that will lst for a few years - and someone will wear the same
shirt for a long time, to multiple events or whatever - but you can't
then sell them another shirt quickly. With the numbers of shirts you 
can reasonably sell in five years or so, it rapidly becomes a large
outlay of cash up front for a small, delayed return.

Debian tartan, even more so - high production cost and will wear for
many years - but still desirable :)

> 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)

Debian.ch did one very cool piece of merchandise - customised Victorinox
knives with Debian logo. Fantastic, useful - and potentially illegal to 
carry but a lovely thing. I think it took a huge time to organise the
logistics although the cost wasn't huge since the manufacturers do this
regularly and the retooling isn't massive the overhead was high.

> 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.

See above :(

> 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?

Debian isn't "a brand" per se - and look back years in the mailing list
about logos, copyrights etc. - maybe the DPL may have a different view?

> - 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.

Some of SPI's revenues - as the umbrella body that handles finances -
come from providing tax/admin/donation handling for other projects. They
can best handle cash - handling physical inventory / accounting for it /
exchange rates / writing down storage costs might be too much.

> - 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?

10,000 shirts might be the project sales for thirty years if you're
unlucky :(

> - 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
> there volunteers?
> - 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.

It might also be worth talking to, for example, Randall Monroe of xkcd -
who is making an income off merchandise to find out just what's
involved. About the only thing I think we're missing a trick on is
female sizing and cut as distinct from unisex/male predominant sizing.
Given the demographics of the Debian (and Linux)) community, this is
either everyday sexism or just the norm :(

> Regards,
> Daniel

Andy Cater

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