What the hell is ‘Merch?

What the hell is ‘Merch?

If you have found yourself perusing Amazon.com lately, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t, then you may have noticed that they have a new, nearly hidden, section entitled “Merch by Amazon.”  A fairly innocuous webpage publicizes, “Sell your designs on the world’s largest marketplace with no upfront investment or costs.”  What?  No upfront investment or costs?  Have I stumbled into ecommerce nirvana?  But wait, I have questions.  What designs?  Who prints them?  What can I print them on? Can I print anything?  Does Amazon get a cut of my profits?  Seriously, what the hell is ‘Merch?

OK, so let’s start with the basics – ‘Merch is a new, up and coming, independent entrepreneur seller platform where, for now, anyone can request an invitation to sell their own, unique t-shirt designs on Amazon.  Once accepted, you upload your design, pick the color and type of t-shirt, decide on price, and viola – you’re good to go!  From there, Amazon will create a product page for your new, hip, and totally original t-shirts – and it will go live on Amazon.  Once a shirt is purchased, they will print them on demand and ship them to your eagerly awaiting customers.  They will even handle customer service issues.  All with absolutely no upfront costs.  So cool, right?

What about this invitation thing though, what’s that all about?  In an effort to accommodate the overwhelming number of new sellers, Amazon has initiated an invitation only system that allows them to respond to your invitation when there are available resources to support new sellers.  In short, ‘Merch may be a new Amazon entity, but it is taking off quickly.  Are you really surprised?  Everything Amazon does is ecommerce-a-maz-ing!

I know the real burning question you have – will I make any money?  Did you expect a yes or no response here, really? Listen, if Amazon accepts your invitation to sell and you have a good design concept that people want to buy, then sure, you will make money.  Everything is relative in the land of commerce, and how much money you make depends on too many variables to discuss here.  That cliché, “If you build it, they will come,” seems apropos, “If you design it, they will buy it” – at least that is the hope, right?

The truth is, no one really knows what will sell because trends change practically minute by minute.  If you do find people flocking to purchase your “‘Merch is Sexy” t-shirt (hey, I may have to market that…), then how much will you make per shirt? Amazon is going to get some of your money at some point, right?

The legal mumbo-jumbo.  Let’s throw out a basic legal term – royalties.  Royalties are what you, the designer, get paid after Amazon deducts their costs (materials, printing fee, packaging and shipping).  They also have a standard 15% listing fee to appear on Amazon.  Since you pick your price point (decide on a price for your shirt), how much you make can vary slightly.  Other variables include whether your shirt is printed on both sides or just one and what material (type of t-shirt) you want to print on.  So, if you have a t-shirt priced at $19.99:

  • The listing fee will be $3.00                                                                                                                                                                  
  • Costs will be $9.80 (single side printing on standard material)
  • Which makes your royalties $7.19 per shirt sold.

Is this, then, profit?  Well, yes and no. There are other considerations such as overhead, marketing investments, taxes – yeah,  all those things you need to consider when you sell more than a few t-shirts just for fun.  I suggest we not delve into that right now. However, there will likely be limited overhead in a ‘Merch endeavor.

Can I really print anything I want?  Again, yes and no.  Amazon reserves the right to deny printing of any design that they find offensive – use common sense here:

  • no pornographic, profane, hateful or discriminatory designs or language
  • nothing that that exploits children
  • nothing that capitalizes on a universal tragedy in a negative way

Furthermore, the image cannot violate (get ready, more legal terms) copyright or trademark laws.  Basically, your design must be YOURS, cannot contain a licensed, recognizable or iconic image (think Mickey Mouse) or name (President Trump, I know bummer) without the express written and legal consent of those who own the right to the name or image (and yes, there is legal precedent – not president – regarding “right of publicity” claims for public figures, but let’s gloss over that for now).  In short, if you want to print a shirt with the President’s recognizable face, he has to approve – and not in a Tweet, either.

Now your original design becomes your own intellectual property and it is also protected by these same laws.  This prevents other Amazon sellers from pilfering (fancy name for stealing) your awesome ‘Merch Is Sexy design!  If your design proves to be popular and you want to protect it, you may apply for copyrights and the like.

So far this sounds pretty simple – you have an original design you believe people would love to wear on a t-shirt, you have been accepted to sell on Amazon, you are ready to upload your design and start making your millions selling ‘Merch Is Sexy t-shirts.  Is that it?  Is that really all there is to beginning this ecommerce journey?  Pretty much, yes.

So there you go, the answer to, “What the hell is ‘Merch?” is that it is an awesome start-up opportunity on the world’s largest ecommerce marketplace for creative individuals who want to sell original, imaginative designs printed on t-shirts to eager customers with no upfront investment costs. Seems worth a shot, doesn’t it?  Are you ready to get your ‘Merch on?

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