Merch by Amazon is Amazon’s newest platform and sells t-shirts based on a print on demand model. I applied for an invite in November 2015 and got approved in late February 2016. I created 25 simple designs on my computer and uploaded them for free to the Merch by Amazon website. My profit for my first week at the end month of February was $49.84. I didn’t have to buy any inventory (Amazon owned and printed the t-shirts themselves).
At this time I didn’t know how the marketplace was going to work. Was it going to be like TeeSpring where I had to drive traffic, or was it going to be something different? I was thrilled to make my first $49 with 100% organic traffic. It proved to me that if I can make $50 with 25 t-shirts and no advertising, then it’s just a question of scale and publishing more designs.
Throughout March, April, and May, my business on Merch was growing. Political t-shirts were very popular. The anti-Trump and pro-Bernie Sanders T-shirts were selling well. Amazon limits how many designs you can upload. When I sold more than 25 t-shirts, I was able to go up to the 100 tier and have 100 different designs for sale. Now I had more capacity to upload more designs and test out more niches. Between March and May, I made about $1,400 profit a month. Initially, I priced my t-shirts on the high side, from $20 to $24.
One issue around this time was that my brother had started a couple of weeks before me, and he seemed to be selling more t-shirts and tiering up faster than I was. His prices were cheaper than mine. So I had to rethink my strategy – should my main goal be profit or sales volume?
In early summer 2016, my Father’s Day sales went completely crazy. Any t-shirts with Father’s Day on them seemed to do really well. But the downside to that was after Father’s Day, everything seemed to get very quiet. My income seemed to get stuck at this $1400/month profit level. It was really good, but I’m always interested in figuring how can I scale? During this time as well, my virtual assistant took over some of the uploading, which really saved me a lot of time.
Now it became more important for me to tier up so I could publish more designs, rather than chasing profit every month. Over June and July, I lowered my prices to get more sales volume.
In June and July, I was making in profit just over $2,000 a month, which was fantastic. In August, I was tiered up to 2,000 and I had reached $1,000 profit a week. As Q4 was approaching my focus was on research, getting new designs made, and uploaded. I knew this hard work would pay off once we came to Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the Christmas shopping season.
In August because I had more room to upload designs I decided to raise my prices in order to increase my profits. It definitely worked. My average profit per t-shirt increased from the end of summer onwards.
By September, I had got up to the 4,000 tier. By the end of October, I had got up to $2,000 a week profit, which was totally insane. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would get up to this level of profit. Halloween was a really busy time. I think a lot of sellers also saw this.
In terms of the two major factors that I found for increasing how much profit I earn on Merch every week or every month is the first thing is your prices. When I raised my prices, my profit per month did go up quite a bit. Secondly, every time I went up a tier and I got busy and I uploaded more designs, then this had a direct impact on how much money I was earning every month.
One of my strategies is always to try to have my design slots full. By mid-November, I was up to two and a half thousand dollars a week profit, which again is insane. That’s $10,000 profit a month. It really did blow me away that this was possible.At this stage, I decided to start a blog at http://www.merchentrepreneur.com/
This business was proving to be much more fun, a lot more straightforward and less time intensive than FBA. With FBA you’ve got to worry about buying inventory. You’ve got to worry about customer service. There’s a lot of things absolutely to keep organized.
There is nothing similar that I can compare Merch to. It’s crazy. I’m at the computer, I make a simple design in Photoshop or on my phone. I upload it. All my traffic is 100% organic. I do not do any paid advertising. The whole thing costs me nothing, and then someone pays $20 for a t-shirt, and I get $7. It’s really insane. There’s no customer service. You don’t have to pay for inventory. You don’t have to deal with suppliers in China or Amazon storage fees.
December 2016 was my biggest month. In this month I’ve sold over $39,508 worth of t-shirts and my profit has been $17,629. Plus for most of this month, I was traveling and not working a lot. I was in Spain, then in Ireland, in New York for a film festival and also in Austin, Texas for a business conference. Then I had a week off over Christmas and I still had my biggest revenue month ever.
My total Merch t-shirt sales over the 10 months starting the end of February up to the end of December 2016 was $128,295.78. My total profit for 10 months on Merch by Amazon is over $53,000.
There is still so much room for expansion. When I get tiered up again (soon hopefully), I will have space to upload even more designs. I am also hopeful that in 2017 Amazon will expand the Merch program to products like hoodies and hats, and maybe expand to Europe as well. This is the biggest opportunity I’ve seen in a long time. And this has only just begun. This is still the really early days. It’s really cool to think that there are people all over America wearing my t-shirts!
Comments Q and A
- Congrats on your success. I’m curious if you are concerned about the long-term viability of this platform. I read a significant number of comments of readers that are still waiting for Merch invites. Using the platform as a generic t-shirt shop seems to undermine Amazon’s intent to provide a method for promoting your content brand with swag. You can kind of see the writing on the wall with the publishing policy that was implemented in November and the cycling out of unsold designs. Thoughts?
A/No I’m very optimistic. For a number of reasons. To address your questions, yes people are waiting for Merch invites. There is a limit to how fast Amazon can scale up machines & printers and keep everything working smoothly, so it’s normal to have to wait. I waited for 3 about months before I got approved. Merch is meeting 2 needs… one for Amazon app publishers to earn extra money selling tees, and also I think Amazon has a goal to become the #1 place to buy clothes online. Having a really popular print on demand t-shirt section (and more clothes types in the future I hope), can only help that. I think removing designs that didn’t sell in their first 60 days is a good thing. It saves me time having to do mine, increase the chances of my tees being seen as there’s less competition and removes poor quality copycat tees that weren’t selling but just clogging up the store. No one can really predict where it will go so it is definitely really early days so far.
- What do you mean by tier up?
A/When you start off you can only upload 10 designs. Merch won’t give you any more space (tier you up) until you sell at least 10 t-shirts.
- How do you Make copyright-free designs? You can’t use google images for that, can you? Is the text on photoshop copyrighted?
A/Yes – it’s really important that you don’t use copyrighted designs and also that you can’t use any words or phrases that are trademarked. You can check for trademarks at the USPTO website.
- Do you honestly believe others could put work in and do as you? I have a pretty good base plan on how to do this merch thing using bsr, so motivation isn’t an issue
A/I think yes once you put in the work. The factors you can’t control and which will slow you down are:
1) How long you have to wait to get approved 2) What your sales volume is (more sales = able to upload more designs) 3) How often Amazon tier people up once they’ve hit their sales goals (can take days or 2+ months it depends