Term of the Week: Prosumer

Each week Printwear turns to industry experts to learn more about the terms used in the apparel and apparel decoration industry, as well as the business realm. Contact Printwear's digital content editor, Alexandria Arroyo, if you're interested in the opportunity to be featured. 

The common understanding of the term, a portmanteau of the terms ‘professional’ and ‘consumer’, came recently into widespread usage through the video and photography worlds, where it denoted a grade of equipment capable of producing professional work that was positioned both in features and price somewhere between amateur equipment and that used by working professionals.

For the purposes of embroidery, this prosumer-grade or crossover equipment refers to embroidery machines targeted to the home and craft market that have the characteristics of what is traditionally considered commercial equipment, e.g., multiple needles, a large sewing field, a driver for stitching on finished caps, etc. 

Prosumer-grade equipment does differ from commercial equipment, however, generally having a slower running speed and a smaller decoration area. It often includes features like assisted threading, positioning assistance, and other ease-of-use features once relegated to single-needle home embroidery machines. Prosumer embroidery machines are capable of light-duty commercial production and are increasingly seen in professional settings, including, but not limited to, gift and boutique decoration shops, mobile or event embroidery, and retail decoration kiosks in higher-end clothing stores. These machines have even begun to appear on the floors of commercial trade shows, where the increase of home-based producers seeking professional equipment and supplies has brought even traditionally commercial manufacturers into the ‘prosumer’ market segment. Despite some limitations, prosumer-grade equipment has also landed on the radar of primarily commercial producers due to the high availability of service and support, the features made to simplify operation, and the portability of the equipment.

Another primary meaning of ‘prosumer’ has to do with the decorators themselves. Prosumers are not just the target market for high-end enthusiast equipment in the home embroidery world; they are also the driving force behind a rise in small-run, often home-based embroidery production. These prosumers range from embroidery enthusiasts who want commercially competitive tools for their craft production and find themselves taking on paid work, to fully-fledged decoration businesses, often with multiple machines and comparable production capacity to boutique or storefront commercial decoration stores. 

The prosumer is usually seen as a highly skilled amateur or hobbyist, but with the increased availability and falling price of tools, training, and equipment capable of producing professional results, the line between an enthusiast who takes on some production and the small volume professional who started their journey with production in mind is increasingly blurry.

Source: Erich Campbell