CafePress Inc. wants to sell off its piece of the long tail to the public.

 

The online company that helps users sell and print their own designs on T-shirts, mugs and other items hopes to raise $80 million through an initial public offering, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday.

 

“The long tail” refers to a statistical principle that, in the consumer context, means flipping the standard model on its head, offering a huge number of products and selling just a few of each.

 

The editor of Wired Magazine, Chris Anderson, popularized the term in 2004, as CafePress was already making business of bypassing the big numbers of best sellers. In the regulatory filing, the company refers to “consumer demand for long tail selection and customization.”

 

“Beginning with the emergence of the ‘big box’ retailers, consumers have come to expect a constantly expanding array of choices,” the firm said in its pitch to investors. “Consumers increasingly expect a broader selection of both design choices and content to create or customize products.”

 

The company has over 325 million unique offerings—designs featuring everything from political slogans to family pets. During the first quarter, 160,000 new images were uploaded by users each week.

 

Last year, the company registered profits of $2.7 million on revenues of $127.9 million.

 

CafePress estimated that there is a $1 trillion U.S. market for customizable retail goods. The U.S. screenprinting and garment printing market is expected to grow to $8.1 billion by 2014 from $7.2 billion in 2009, according to research firm Freedonia, which was cited by the company.

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