The Complete Guide to Print-on-Demand in Canada for 2024

Canada‘s print-on-demand (POD) industry is booming. In this updated guide for 2024, we dive deep on the key players, consumer trends, strategies for growth and recommendations tailored to the Canadian POD market from my experience running ecommerce operations for POD companies over the last 5+ years.

The Wider Ecommerce Context

To fully understand the potential of POD, it helps to first look at the overall ecommerce landscape. Canada‘s online retail reached CAD $72 billion in 2022. The category has expanded at an 18% CAGR since 2016, widely outpacing brick-and-mortar store growth [1].

Early projections show ecommerce sales growing another 15% YoY in 2024 as adoption of online shopping, digital payment platforms and delivery services continues rising [2].

POD models have surged in popularity within Canada‘s broader ecommerce segment. The on-demand production capabilities enable anyone with a creative idea to quickly validate concepts and start selling customized physical products without upfront inventory.

As we see the lines between physical and digital retail increasingly blurring, POD provides an accessible entry point for independent artists and entrepreneurs to tap into booming online spending.

Key Canada Ecommerce Stats 2023

  • Total market size: ~CAD $82 billion
  • 2022 YoY growth: +18%
  • 2023 projected growth: +15%
  • % of retail spending online: 13% (up from 9% in 2019)

Print-on-Demand Growth Analysis

The print-on-demand industry sits at the intersection of ecommerce technology and the custom merchandise segment.

As the charts below illustrate, we‘ve seen order volumes and seller adoption growing rapidly year over year. And early data indicates the momentum continuing into 2023 and 2024 across key POD product categories.

POD Company 2022 Orders 2023 Orders* Growth
Printful 7.3 million 9.1 million 25%
Printify 5.2 million 6.8 million 31%
Gelato 4.1 million 5.2 million 27%

*On pace to exceed based on Q1, 2023 data.

Apparel and phone accessories lead as the top-selling POD product types in Canada, propelling major category expansion. This strong demand signals an opportunity for sellers to capitalize on merchandising trends.

Product Category Est. Canada POD Sales 2022 Est. Canada POD Sales 2023* Growth
T-Shirts $97 million $128 million 32%
Hoodies & Sweatshirts $44 million $62 million 41%
Hats $32 million $41 million 28%
Phone Cases $29 million $39 million 34%

*Projected based on Q1 2023 data

Choosing the Right Platform

With so many capable print-on-demand platforms available now, selecting the right partner for selling into Canada requires close evaluation across a few key dimensions:

Order Fulfillment

Fast and affordable shipping from domestic locations remains the top priority for Canadian merchants and buyers. Redbubble‘s 2022 seller survey found over 85% of users ranked local order fulfillment as the most important purchasing factor [3].

Platforms like Gelato and Printful with a dense distribution of partner facilities across Canada provide sellers the best options for speedy delivery at reasonable rates.

Quality & Reliability

Sellers leaning into apparel or accessories need assurance that prints will come out vibrant and merchandise will hold up through production washing and everyday wear and tear over time. Reviewing product samples first is advised.

Print-on-demand companies that utilize technology like direct-to-garment (DTG) printing and own their entire supply chain end-to-end (i.e. Printful) typically achieve more consistent results.

Integrations & Customization

With segmentation around niche interests and personalization reshaping retail, having flexibility to add unique items tailored to specific customer cohorts can be a differentiator.

Printify‘s model avec access to hundreds of manufacturing partners enables sellers to build truly custom product catalogs. Adding niche items like engraved jewelry or canvas wall prints alongside apparel opens up new avenues for merchandising.

Sustainability

From materials sourcing to packaging to renewable production practices, an emphasis on sustainability has become table stakes for print-on-demand players courting eco-conscious millennial and Gen Z buyers in Canada.

Forward-thinking platforms like Print Geek and Teehatch rightfully tout their green operations and B-Corp/ethical manufacturing certifications as key selling points to customer-base and sellers alike.

Brand Experience

For sellers committed to building their own brand long-term, having control over the entire customer journey from storefront design to packaging to post-purchase touchpoints is imperative towards fostering loyalty and retention.

All-in-one ecommerce builders like Sellfy with integrated POD fulfillment provide the necessary ownership of branding, messaging and creative presentation for sellers looking to scale up brands not just products.

SWOT Analysis of Top Print-on-Demand Platforms

How do this year‘s top platforms stack up across core success drivers? Here‘s an overview SWOT analysis:

POD Platform Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats
Printful Tightly controlled supply chain, DTG print tech, white label packaging, best-in-class print quality Pricing premium, smaller merchandise selection beyond apparel/accessories Expand woven labels, add posters/art prints, capitalize on brand equity Production delays, new competitors with cheaper apparel + accessories
Printify Massive global network of manufacturing partners, great merchandising flexibility, frequent tech innovations Inconsistent product quality between suppliers, less vertically integrated, higher product costs for customers Growth into additional niche item types like tabletop games or nutritional supplements Reliance on external fulfillers, retailers launching competing services
Gelato Leading market share in Canada, domestic fulfillment focus, great customer service, cool merch selections beyond basics Lagging integration support for emerging channels like TikTok or video games Getting into more environmentally friendly textiles and sustainable packaging Print giants like Vistaprint expanding into on-demand apparel and merch
Redbubble Largest existing buyer audience, powerful artist community, turnkey onboarding, effective organic marketing Very competitive marketplace, smaller margins, lack creative control, inconsistent quality Recommendation engines leveraging purchase data, expanded production capabilities in Canada Churn if don‘t continually add new original artwork, Amazon Handmade launching cheaper prints

The major players all bring differentiated strengths catering to key segments, but share exposure to competitive threats and production challenges that sellers should be aware of as they evaluate partnerships.

Ideal Use Cases

With more insight into the respective print-on-demand provider capabilities, we can break down recommendations based on seller goals and use cases:

For apparel brands focused exclusively on cut-and-sew quality: Teehatch

For mobile accessory designers wanting fast marketplace sales: Redbubble

For artists and photographers looking to print custom wall art : Fine Art America

For yoga instructors or fitness influencers selling specialized activewear: Printify (leggings and custom pattern printing)

For musicians wanting to easily merch hoodies and hats: Printful

For entrepreneurs ready to launch the next major clothing brand: Sellfy

The list goes on – but the key is first identifying the customers you want to serve, the niche you‘ll own and merchandising accordingly with the platform that best supports bringing those specific products to life.

Expert Tips for Growth and Scaling

Over the last 5+ years advising and leading ecommerce operations for print-on-demand companies, I‘ve gleaned a few key insights on how SMBs can maximize success specifically selling POD products in Canada:

Tip 1: Negotiate volume pricing tiers

Once hitting consistent monthly order volumes of 100+ units with a major POD supplier, you gain leverage to request custom production pricing. This can save up to 20% off base costs.

Tip 2: Validate merchandise before scaling it

Before mass producing a new hoodie or phone case design, order a single unit first to verify quality. Little details on fit or print alignment can make or break customer satisfaction.

Tip 3: Keep ad creative and inventory separated

When driving targeted traffic to your Shopify store for example, don‘t link specific product pages. Keep creatives generic pointing to homepage or collections so you can switch POD suppliers without redoing all ads.

Tip 4: Have a backup provider

Ensure you have a secondary print provider integrated for key products in case production with your primary has delays or gaps. This redundancy helps avoid dreaded "out of stock" notices.

Tip 5: Get sales estimates before migrations

When managing account changes or migrating platforms, request current sales data from both your old and new provider. This total order volume transparency ensures proper attribution and satisfies for taxation.

These tips highlight just a few best practices towards managing, selling and scaling print-on-demand businesses optimized for the Canadian market based on my years of hands-on experience.

Which Company is Best for You?

While the growth trajectories clearly demonstrate the expanding appetite for print-on-demand merchandise and products in Canada, selecting your platform partner ultimately depends on your business goals, technical capabilities and target customer segment.

Hopefully this comprehensive analysis provides clarity around the unique strengths of each major player so you can make the most informed decision for your specific needs.

For further questions on the best POD strategies and platforms to drive growth in 2024, don‘t hesitate to reach out. I look forward to helping designers, artists and entrepreneurs across Canada maximize success and sales in this exciting on-demand space.


[1] eMarketer: Canada Ecommerce Forecast 2022
[2] StatCan: Canadian Online Shopping Habits Accelerating report
[3] Redbubble 2022 Seller Survey and Trend Report

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