Chris and Andrew Reilly have been building a network of websites and associated shops for some time, gaining a cult following, particularly in Scotland, for their topical t-shirt designs, all sold online and using a spread of social media techniques.
How long have you been doing business on the internet for?
At them moment it’s just the two of us and it usually boils down to Chris (design) & Andrew (words) but we both pitch in with ideas and try our hand at anything that turns up. We’ve had websites for over 15 years, starting off with personal sites showing some of our photos and designs and then progressed onto creating a few websites for local bands in Glasgow. We also had a site that collated all Andrew’s music reviews from the various websites and magazines that he has written for over the years. At the end of 2009 we started the WeKnowSFA football blog that looked all that was going on in the top flight of Scottish football.
You sell t-shirts online. How long have you been doing this?
We started our first online store in February of 2010. The WeKnowSFA site was proving very popular and we had to move server to accommodate the increased bandwidth. This new server was a lot more expensive so we looked into ways of monetising the site and we decided to create a T-Shirt shop and sell football related t-shirts that we could advertise from the site.
I know you have several online shops.
At the moment we have five different shops set up and another one due to launch in the next few weeks. We decided early to go for smaller individual shops and target niche markets instead of concentrating on one large site with a disparate range of t-shirts.
WeKnowSFA – This is our Scottish football related site with T-Shirts for all the teams in the SPL and a selection of designs for the Tartan Army to wear whilst watching the Scotland national team who never fail in letting us down home and abroad. Celtic & Rangers dominate most of the media and discussion space for Scottish football and our designs represent this imbalance with many more designs for the big two than rest of the league. This imbalance is also represented in the sales apart from small blips like when Dundee United won the Scottish Cup in 2010.
Cold Blooded Clarity – This is the T-Shirt offshoot of the music blog that we run that talks about our favourite music and bands who are passing through Glasgow at the time.
One of the ideas for maybe starting up a t-shirt shop in the first place was that one of our favourite bands Smog had really bad t-shirts. The shop has hopefully rectified the bad Smog t-shirts with a collection more suited to their musical output along with other deigns inspired by our favourite bands and music.
Get Around Glasgow – Get Around Glasgow was supposed to start as an informative website giving people useful and interesting information about the city of Glasgow.
The T-Shirt shop was planned to launch at the same time but due to time constraints and various other issues the website is still under construction but we decided to launch the t-shirt shop as we really liked some of the designs we had and wanted to the share them with our friends and the wider public.
Popland – This was set up just after the Cold Blooded Clarity site in order to provide a balance to our “musical taste”, it is more of a pop related site. In all honesty, the reasons for setting up this site would be classed as a business decision but to be fair, we have no business running a pop music site! We still think it is a really good idea for a site and in the right hands, it would do very well but we don’t have the time it needs. One day it’ll come good……..just probably not for us!
WeKnowFA – Again, another good idea for a site but one that we lack the time to promote properly and much like Popland, if your heart really isn’t in it, it is a hard task to keep plugging away. We like the concept and occasionally we will mess about with ideas but at the moment, there isn’t the time to develop this site.
I’m not sure we have any favourites but we are having a lot of fun at the moment with the Get Around Glasgow shop through our love of puns and being able to have a design out there catching the local zeitgeist as and when it happens. Recently when the Tommy Sheridan the ex Scottish Minister was jailed for perjury we had a tongue in cheek “Free Tommy” t-shirt available to buy within 20 minutes of the verdict.
How do you decide on the subject matter?
Subject matter is usually discussed back and forward via emails or in the pub, I wouldn’t say we research too much and mainly rely on our gut feeling.
What’s your best selling t-shirt?
The Tommy Sheridan range has sold really well in recent months as you would expect. When Dundee United reached and subsequently won the Scottish Cup last season, we had a lot of success through that. There is more of an excitement when a team like that triumphs and it is easier to ride the crest of the wave with t-shirts at that time. We probably use the word zeitgeist far too often and certainly in a tongue in cheek manner but there is a lot to be said for providing something relevant when so many people are caught in that moment.
You use topical subjects and stories as subject matter. Does the topicality make people keen to share details on Facebook etc?
I think that is just human nature. If it was up to Andrew we would have a whole range of Richard Nixon and Ted Kennedy t-shirts up for sale but outside of his strange little head, not too many people would be interested in that and it would be hard to create debate and promote them. The Tommy Sheridan story is a perfect example: even people with little interest or knowledge on the case have an opinion on it. And that’s what Facebook is all about isn’t it? It’s posting up an image of you that you want others to see. It is good to show you have an interest in the world around you or that you can joke about topical things.
If you were pushing it from a business angle you could easily bang on about hierarchal needs and of the importance of feeling part of a group and making jokes or liking a cause can allow someone to show an interest without having to articulate that feeling themselves. So there is that side and of course, its fun and fun is good!
You could easily argue that Facebook is just taking design and slogan t-shirts one step further. You could wear a t-shirt with a slogan and everyone you met that day would see it and know your opinions on a subject. With Facebook, you set your update status and potentially the whole world can know. So yes, social sharing is central to the idea of slogan t-shirts and probably plays a far larger role in our t-shirt shops than we think!
How do you deal with payments and fulfilment?
We use a company called Spreadshirt for the t-shirt sites – we find their business model suits us at the moment. Spreadshirt print the t-shirts, deliver the product and deal with the financial transactions paying us a small cut of each t-shirt that is sold. This is probably not the way of making the most money from t-shirt sales but as this is not our full time jobs it lets us concentrate on the more fun aspects of coming up with ideas and designing the products.
How have you marketed your shops?
We’re still of the opinion and mindset that it isn’t a “proper business” and probably don’t do all the things we should. As discussed, we used social media, and we have blogs around the sites to drive traffic but the blogs are as much about having a laugh or moaning about people we dislike as opposed to driving traffic. We try to implement SEO into the blogs and t-shirt sites with keywords and links but it isn’t something we do with any great purpose.
Twitter is the most successful medium we use. You can see where the blogs are successful and there are spikes of people hitting the t-shirt site through the links on the blogs but for proper relationship building and word-of-mouth (aspects that are crucial in long term development), regular, relevant and responding are the main tactics for Twitter success. If anyone wants to steal that for the new 3 R’s feel free!
Another thing we are keen to do is use the sites to support charities or good causes we agree with. Last summer, we had a very good reason to support the Beatson Centre so we organised a charity gig under Cold Blooded Clarity (or Cold Blooded Charity as we tagged it) to raise funds for that. We’ve also been known to donate t-shirts to raffles that we want to support. We are not naive enough to say that these steps will only be of altruistic benefit, it could bring the shops to a wider audience but it makes the sites seem more worthwhile.
How much time do you spend with ongoing marketing after you launch a shop?
It is an ongoing process but equally, it is an “as and when” approach as opposed to “we must devote x amount of hours”. The marketing we do is via Twitter, Facebook and blogs so it can often be a case of “if we have something to say, say it”. If something big happens, we talk about it. We’re not saying we make it up as we go along as there is uniformity in what we do…we just haven’t created a plan or formula for it!
Can you tell me about your blogs?
We have blogs for all of the t-shirt shops apart from the Glasgow one, which will come eventually. Again, we are just combining both our skills in the blogs and writing about things we want to write about. With regards the football sites, we get a lot of hits purely by being featured on the News Now network. If you have a football site, you have to get on that.
Social media can drive people to your site but if people are following you by social media, you are pretty much preaching to the converted. Things like News Now help bring in new or unexpected readers all the time. We do okay regarding traffic to the football sites, some days spike really highly depending on the articles but there is a steady following. On the blogs, we will usually have some form of advert for the t-shirt shops or maybe drop in a link or two but that’s about it.
Do you use ebay to sell?
We haven’t used ebay so far to sell any t-shirts but we haven’t ruled it out yet. With us not printing the t-shirts it would add another few steps in the process and at the moment we are happy with our progress.
Are there any other products that you could sell using the same business model?
Feasibly you could do it with any product. Looking at it analytically, we produce niche market products and we use blogs and social media to reach out to that niche market. Once we make contact, we try and develop relationships and advertise the products. This is not a complicated business model by any stretch of the imagination!
Any thoughts about taking the t-shirt sales offline?
No, we are both probably happy with the Status Quo…no wait, we both hate Status Quo but are happy with the way it is all going at the moment. That said, if anyone was able to come to us with a proposal that suited everyone we would be open to hearing them out. Not having a plan can be detrimental at times but it creates a freedom to make it up as you go along….which suits us!
Any other business ideas that you’re thinking about launching online?
Yes but probably all within the same fields that we are working in at the moment. We’d love to offer some books (picture books and word and picture books) and artwork of other forms but it is finding the time. We’re good at coming up with ideas but maybe not so good at time management to pull it all together.
You can visit Andrew and Chris’s websites and shops
Get Around Glasgow – http://getaroundglasgow.spreadshirt.co.uk/
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