A Look at the Books: Merch Sales this Summer


For a couple years, usually adjacent to shows I often get feedback for:

“Wouldn’t it be cool if our pinball-arcade group had shirts to wear to the show?”

One year, I engaged a friend / local collector who was in the shirt biz. The good news is, it was nice supporting a friend and his wife’s side-gig and the shirts turned out great. The downside is, it puts me “in the middle” in some unfulfilling combination of personal shopper, transaction guarantor, tailor and delivery-boy. Yuck.

This year, I decided to try to use some available online-services to meet this need. I set up a couple designs with a print-on-demand service, tied in to a shopping cart on the blog and made it live. Took maybe a day or so, in all. Nothing major.

Yada yada, [trolling]… yada yada..

Look, I normally don’t engage with trolls and I’m pretty good at ignoring negative crap from keyboard-commandos. I don’t want to break my streak and answer this, per se but call it a catalyst for this post that hopefully other hobbyist bloggers might fight insightful or at least entertaining. One of my favorite podcast networks, Bald Move, does this thing they call “Empire Business” where they divulge all of the nitty-gritty financials to their supporters. This is going to be sort of like that.. Remember Catalyst, not Troll Engagement! anyway….

Today, I found this little gem in my inbox:


I laughed (loudly) when I read this. Laughter provides a dopamine release that generates more happiness. This actually improved my mood, somehow - so thanks for that.

Putting spell check, toxic trolling, mental illness or whatever aside for a sec.. Looking back, when I did post the Merch link, I did post in our local Arcade & Pinball Facebook Group (that I helped to co-found) some throwaway line that “… and the profits… if there are any…. whatever, we’ll do something good with that”

.. and what I meant by that, was that I’d donate them to a good cause or try to do something positive in the community, hobby: generic social good with whatever pennies were left over.



This site is hosted on Squarespace. True, I have web-development experience dating back to my teenager years and while I could certainly build up a site / blog or roll my own Wordpress or similar - these days - why would you? Going with a provider like Squarespace gives me a solid content-management system with nice content-creation tools in native apps for IOS and Android. It also gives me a nice selection of highly customizable included templates that have mobile-friendly, responsive designs.
.. and it keeps my hobby from taking on aspects of my day job. For $10/mo that’s a no-brainer, friends.

Not for nothing, Squarespace also provides a robust analytics platform that can be pretty informative. Not that I pay it much attention. This is a passion / hobby project and creative outlet for me. (full stop)


So, my Merch experiment was based on Squarespace, Shopify and Printful. There are certainly cheaper ways to go about setting up a shopping cart but they come with tradeoffs in inventory management, up-front expense or up-front time expenditure.
Shopify Monthly Recurring Charges


Shopify provides a shopping cart platform. This is inventory management, order fulfillment and secure credit card processing.

June Hosting Invoice - $29.00
July Hosting Invoice - $29.00
August Hosting Invoice - $29.00


Printful is a really cool print-on-demand service. Your art, their products. They are secure, have a nice selection high quality products, an easy-to-use online interface for product branding & design.

Printful makes their money on the transaction. So, a $15.50 shirt would cost you about $17.80 shipped. Once you order it, Printful charges My American Express for your order. Once it is fulfilled, your payment minus their cut gets deposited back into my account. In this case, $1.95.

Other Platforms

I also use AWS for DNS, large file storage, CDN features. Not including any of that in this particular post, though since it doesn’t particularly pertain to my Merch Store experiment.

YTD Merch Sales


$183.09 were my total Sales in 2019. Don’t get too excited, though… $113.90 of that was me buying shirts from my own store. A couple for myself and a couple to give away at events, etc.

Bottom Line

Total Sales Revenue ……..$183.09
Less Inventory Buy ………$113.90
Less Production ………….$58.62
Less Shopping Cart ……..$87.00
Total Profits ………….. $(76.43)

Final Thoughts


Don’t feed the trolls

I don’t want to address the specific, ridiculous claims in the email above but it was a Catalyst and a reminder that I’d been meaning to express an open-door policy with respect to those financials. I took the store down last month (unrelated to this emailer, obviously) to keep my hosting fees in check but I definitely intend on doing it again in the future to make it easy for my friends in the hobby to get show-shirts, etc. Because… this is all for fun, folks. If you aren’t having fun - do something else. :)