I tried to sell T-Shirts before and got killed on them. The reason was it was nearly impossible to get enough of the right sizes and number of shirts. I may buy too many or not have the sizes people wanted. I still have a few boxes of shirts in my basement.
Over the last year, I think I have it all figured out. I have done several orders and came out way ahead. I thought I would share my method.
Put out a thread with a poll asking if the members want a shirt made. Here is an example...
As you can see by the poll I have interest of around 75 shirts. I need 100 shirts to put the order in, but dont worry, we'll get to the 100 shirt minimum. Let the members chew on that until you get about 75+ shirts promised.
Now, I use Standard Screenprinting. I use them for the following reasons. First, the stock shirt price gets you 1 color front and 2 color back. (or the other way around) The stock price includes all art, setup, shipping, everything. The stock price is also low. $3.99 for a white shirt if you order only 100. ($5.50 a shirt if you want colored shirts) The prices go down if you order more shirts.
Use whoever you want to print the shirts, and if you find someone better please let me know. But they have been the best / cheapest I have found. My contact there is Christopher James (email@example.com) I make nothing if you use him, but I would appreciate it if you told him Joey from forabodiesonly.com sent you.
Ok, next... Have the shirt company draw you up a proof of your design.
Now, you go to paypal. and there is a way to setup a buy it now button with the appropriate size options.
Next you create a page. for vBulletin 4 see this: http://www.vbulletin.org/forum/showthread.php?t=228112
On that page you put the proof image and the paypal button. Here is what my last one looks like (see attachement)
PRICING: I add $10 to the price of the shirt (I round the price to the nearest dollar) + $4 for shipping per shirt. Larger size shirts get a sugcharge as the shirt company charges more for 2x, 3x, 4x and 5x shirts. Shipping in the will cost you between $2 and $4 per shirt depending where your shipping to. You can offer free shipping if they buy 3 shirts. That will help get the shirt numbers up. I'll talk about shipping a little more later on.
Send a PM to all your members. (there is a hack for this on vb.org) In the PM explain your selling shirts (linking them to the page) and that the proceeds will help support the site. Also -- point out this is a pre-order and it will take about 3 weeks for the shirts to arrive. Also make a thread on the site selling the shirts.
After 7 days, post in the thread you made that you will stop taking orders shortly and that anyone else wanting shirts should get their orderin. After 10 days -- stop taking orders. Remove the paypal button from the page.
Tally up the orders. How many of each size shirts. You've already been paid so money isnt an issue. Contact the shirt company and order the shirts you need based on the tally.
The shirts will come in a few days later. Package them and ship them out.
If you have a busy site, you can repeat this more often. A slower site you might not be able to do so often. A busy site can do a new design / shirt every other month or so.
The biggest advantages to doing it this way are that first, you are guaranteed to ahve the right number of shirts in the right number of sizes, and you dont risk your own money. Further, if you follow my pricing, you can make $1,000+ for every shirt order you put together.
I use stamps.com (they gave me a free scale when I signed up) and bought a zebra printer from eBay. This prints the lables and postage for you. The Zerba printer isnt cheap, a few hundred bucks, but BELIEVE ME, you will thank god you have it.
I use polybags to ship the shirts in. They are cheap (I also buy them from ebay) This is the cheapest way I have found to package shirts. My wife and I (with the help of a friend) can package 500 shirts in an evening.
Once you have it all packaged up, the post office will just pick everything up from your front door.