Why Are Some Small Brands More Expensive than Retail Chains?

Companies generally don’t talk about price, and there are good reasons for this… 
Today I’d like to break the silence. Why are t-shirts like Many Crowns or other smaller brands are more expensive than what you’ll find elsewhere? Like Boohoo.

If you are familiar with the retail industry, then you may not find new info here. But keep reading if you are interested in my view on the setup.

1. Quality is a Factor

Some brands care about putting out a good product.

 Firstly. Retail (the bigger brands/stores) work with thousands of copies of a single design. This means that they may not prioritise the quality to bring you an affordable price. This isn’t always the case but it’s a fair generalisation. 

Smaller brands, on the other hand, tend to favour higher quality materials and prints that last longer and build brand trust.

Smaller Brands Smaller Brands

2. Brand Perception

You tend to respect what you pay for.

Whether we are conscious of it or not, we tend to respect what we pay (or don’t pay) for. When you see the £10 t-shirt and the £30 t-shirt, you naturally assume that the £30 product is better on some level even if the material feels similar. 

Normally the £30 brand has put more effort into the look and feel of the brand. You the customer feel more connected to them and their products. In short, you care about what they have to offer compared to the £10 brand, so you have less trouble with the price difference.

3. The Business Must Survive

If the retail price doesn’t cover the running costs of the business, it cannot survive. 

Most people are not thinking about the owners of the business when they are shopping for themselves. You rarely shop out of charity. Be honest, you don’t (well I don’t, pray for me). My point is, businesses need to make a profit if they are to survive and grow. 

Costs of materials, advertising, delivery etc eventually increase over time. Businesses like Many Crowns need to be able to keep up by charging enough to pay for the cost of these items while making sure there is enough for employees who have rent to pay and families with children to feed. It’s not charity work but people with real lives are affected when you support any business, big or small. 

This leads us to the next crucial point…

4. Bigger Brands Have Used Money to Make Deals

Bigger brands can pay for lower costs!

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If you are rich (like scrooge McDuck) or just a big brand, chances are you can place massive factory orders. Factories love this for several reasons, which I may explain in another article (if there’s enough interest). Big numbers mean they quote less per product, and this means the big brand can charge you less for the product. Everyone’s happy!


Smaller brands have the opposite experience. They buy less stock or buy on-demand (like Many Crowns) so they are charged more and hence the customer (you) are charged more. 

The key point is that small businesses can’t exist unless they charge prices to cover their costs. It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. Some of you may be sceptical at this point so here’s a link to some factories; ask for a quote (Factories link and note the minimum piece order size). 

It is possible to start a small company and charge lower prices but generally, something has happened here.


1. You have savings, a loan or gift money (from friends + family) which you’ve used to buy bulk stock from the factory up front at a low price 
2. You have bought printing equipment to save you time (costing you £100s to £1000s) 
3. You are selling your products at a loss to build your brand until you have a big enough fan-base to either charge more or pay less or bothThis can work (but I’d stay well away from number 3). Plenty of small brands tend to start where they are and try and make the numbers work.

5. The Cost to Design and Print

The final thing that affects the price is the cost to design and print.

If you are the designer, then it’s all good (I design a lot of the Many Crowns T-shirts but not all). If you need professional help it will cost you, and it won’t be cheap (but sometimes it is). This cost is sometimes factored into the retail price of the product. 

Also, depending on your printing approach, you may have pay per colour used. In most cases, you will pay per design placement i.e. for the design on the front, the back, the left arm etc. This can increase the cost of one t-shirt very quickly. We have had to reconsider a few designs due to this in order to keep cost as reasonable as possible for you. 

You’ll find that our future designs will not have a front and back unless absolutely necessary and if so, the price will be higher. While this may put off some customers, we think it’s the sensible thing to do to make sure we stay in business.

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Our Advice

 Why not pick a product you like the look of and buy based on its own merit Find out about the brand’s development process to appreciate the work put into each product.

To close, if you are a customer, I hope this has given you an insight into the balancing act that smaller brands need to manage. And hopefully, it inspires you to support those you already know and love with a new zeal. 

For those who are brand owners, especially just starting or thinking of starting out, I hope this has given you some useful points to consider and will help you make the best decision for your business. 

For everyone else, thanks for reading and do let me know your thoughts if any in the comments!

Until next time ? 
Lao K

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