Print-on-Demand or Drop Shipping for a Fashion Brand? Which Strategy Is Best?

By Rebekah Carter|Posted on 24 April 2023
Print-on-Demand or Drop Shipping for a Fashion Brand? Which Strategy Is Best?

The fashion industry is thriving, particularly in the online world. As consumers continue to prioritize variety, convenience, and simplicity in their shopping journey, many are venturing into the digital landscape to fill their closets. By the end of 2023 alone, the global fashion ecommerce market is set to be worth around $821.19 billion.

The good news for creative would-be business owners, is that the evolving landscape has also introduced a multitude of convenient ways for creators to begin selling. It’s never been easier to create an online store and connect with your audience thanks to low-cost, low-risk strategies like print-on-demand (POD) selling and dropshipping.

The question is, which strategy is best for your business? While POD and dropshipping have some overlapping elements, they also provide companies with very different ways to engage and convert their target audience. Today, we’re going to look at the primary differences between POD and dropshipping, to help you make the right choice for your fashion business.

What Is Print-on-Demand (POD)?

Let’s start with the basics: What is print-on-demand (POD)? One of the most attractive business models in the digital world, POD is a way of delivering customized products to customers, with the help of third-party manufacturers and fulfillment providers.

Essentially, with print on demand, creative professionals produce designs which can be added to a variety of products in the fashion landscape, from t-shirts to sweaters. They work with a printing company to add those designs to each item, using innovative printing and embroidery methods, and the same company ships the products to customers when an order is placed.

With POD, there are no minimum order quantity requirements for garments. Instead, items are only produced when orders are placed, eliminating the risk of excess inventory. This fulfillment method eliminates waste, and is often seen as one of the most eco-friendly ways to produce custom items.

With print on demand, you can ensure you always create the best product for your customer, based on their specific size, color, and customization requirements, without investing in high quantities of inventory. The business model leverages “white label” products, so there’s no production for fashion companies to worry about either.

What Is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping is similar to print on demand in many ways, with a few core differences. Like with POD, there are generally no minimum order quantities involved with dropshipping. You’ll choose a supplier to work with, who is responsible for sourcing products (or the materials to make them) producing products, and shipping them to customers.

However, while POD customizes items with your unique designs, dropshipping involves selling pre-made solutions already created by a wholesale company. You choose from a variety of existing fashion products, which you then add to your ecommerce store and sell at a “markup” price.

Dropshipping suppliers generally give companies access to a huge range of different items to choose from, however, the products you sell will be exactly the same as those listed by other companies working with the same supplier. There are still ways you may be able to differentiate your brand with some dropshipping companies, however.

Certain organizations will allow you to leverage custom packaging, and inserts for your items, to help highlight your company.

Comparison Between the 2 Business Models

Both dropshipping and POD selling are considered to be relatively cost-effective and straightforward business models for fashion companies. They offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell a wide range of different items, without spending a fortune on inventory and fulfillment.

However, while POD focuses on customized items with unique designs, dropshipping involves selling wholesale, pre-made products. Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences.

The Similarities Between POD and Dropshipping

Clearly, there are some significant similarities between print-on-demand selling and dropshipping. Some of the main areas where these two models overlap include:

  • No Inventory Management:

    Both dropshipping and print-on-demand selling won’t require you to purchase and manage large amounts of inventory. The supplier or manufacturer you work with will be responsible for creating and holding your products, so you only pay for items when a customer places an order.
  • No Shipping Issues:

    POD and dropshipping companies also handle shipping on your behalf, making sure products are properly packaged and delivered to your target audience. The packaging and shipping options offered by each provider can vary, but outsourcing fulfillment can save business owners a lot of time and money.
  • Minimal Risk:

    One of the main benefits of both dropshipping and POD is they both allow fashion companies to sell products with minimal risk. All orders are delivered on demand, so you don’t have to pay for anything until an order is placed. With a traditional business model, you run the risk of holding too much or too little inventory.
  • Product Promotion:

    Although POD and dropshipping companies handle a lot of the work of running your company for you, there are still tasks you’ll need to manage. For instance, you’ll be responsible for promoting your online store and drawing attention to your products. You may need to invest in a range of different marketing strategies, such as social media advertising, influencer marketing, and content marketing.

The Differences Between POD and Dropshipping

While POD and dropshipping certainly have some core similarities, there are some major differences between the two business models too. Let’s look at some of the core differences between running a POD business, and a dropshipping venture:


Perhaps the biggest difference between POD and dropshipping is that with print-on-demand, you can actively add your own designs to your products. You’re not just selling the same items as everyone else; you can make your products stand out.

The level of customization offered will depend on your POD vendor, however. Some organizations can only use basic printing methods, or add designs to certain parts of a garment. Other vendors, like Nova Tomato, can provide a wide range of different colors, fabrics, and printing options to choose from, based on your unique needs as a fashion brand.Customization The Differences Between POD and Dropshipping

Order Processing

The order processing journey is also a little different between POD and dropshipping companies. Most of the time, dropshipping items are mass-produced and held by the vendor, ready to be delivered to a customer whenever an order is placed. This does mean dropshipping brands take less time to create orders, but shipping times can still be lengthy in some cases.

With print on demand, when an order is placed, the customized item also has to be produced. While the garment used for the design may already exist within the company’s inventory, they’ll need to apply your design using a variety of printing methods. This can result in the fulfillment process taking a little longer, but many POD providers can offer relatively rapid production and delivery times.


The price you’ll pay for POD and dropshipping can vary depending on the supplier you choose. With dropshipping companies, you’ll pay for the base cost of the product, as well as the price involved in packaging and shipping each item to your target audience. With print on demand, you’re paying for the base garment, the cost of adding your design, and the price of fulfillment.

Overall, the amount you spend on producing and shipping your products will depend on the quality of the item, the shipping methods used, and various other factors. Fortunately, both dropshipping and POD strategies are usually quite affordable.

Profit Margins

While dropshipped goods are often less expensive to manufacture than their POD counterparts, the profit margins can often be a lot lower. Since consumers can access the same products from a wide variety of different stores, many companies need to cut their profit margins significantly, and offer lower prices in order to capture audience attention.

The money you’ll earn as a POD vendor will vary depending on a number of factors. The higher the quality of your items, and the more likely they are to resonate with your target audience, the more your customers will be willing to pay. Choosing a reputable manufacturer to work with will help you to increase your profit margins, and build your reputation. You may even find you’re more likely to generate repeat customers from POD.


Perhaps the biggest downside of dropshipping is the level of competition you’ll face in the market. As mentioned above, dropshipping involves selling mass-produced products, which countless other companies will also have access to. This makes it much harder to stand out in the fashion industry and differentiate yourself from other stores offering lower prices.

With print on demand, there’s not nearly as much competition to worry about. Because you’ll be adding your own unique designs to each item, they’ll be specific to your brand and company. This means you can build a name for your company and generate loyalty. The right print-on-demand sellers will even allow you to differentiate your business further, by adding unique labels to garments, using eco-friendly materials and more.

POD vs Dropshipping: Which Is Best?

Ultimately, dropshipping may be cheaper than print-on-demand selling, and give you access to a wide range of products, but POD offers unique benefits dropshipping simply can’t provide. With a POD strategy, you can add your own designs to your items, customize them however you choose, and build a reputable brand for your business.

POD vs Dropshipping: Similarities

  • No inventory to manage
  • No shipping or fulfillment
  • Minimal risk
  • Requires product promotion

POD vs Dropshipping: Differences

  • POD allows for better customization options
  • Order processing takes a little longer with POD
  • The prices for POD garments can be higher
  • Profit margins for POD companies are also higher
  • You’ll be able to differentiate your brand and beat the competition with POD

If you want to discover the benefits of POD selling for yourself, reach out to Nova Tomato today for an insight into how we can help you build and differentiate your brand with custom clothing.


Is Print on Demand Considered Dropshipping?

Print on Demand can often be seen as a type of dropshipping, as it involves working with a third-party supplier to create and send products to customers. However, with POD, products can be customized with unique designs, making each item specific to the brand.

What Is the Difference Between POD and Dropshipping?

While there are a few core differences between POD and dropshipping, the most important thing to remember is that POD allows products to be customized with unique designs and components. Dropshipping simply involves selling mass-produced items from a wholesaler.

Is Print on Demand More Profitable Than Drop Shipping for a Fashion Brand?

For fashion brands, print on demand is often a far more profitable strategy than dropshipping. Brands can add extra value to their items by implementing unique designs, adding their own branding, and selecting specific materials for garments.