So, you finally found the courage to take a risk and go with a manufacturer possibly & most likely overseas. You want to make sure 100% that everything goes right.
Well, I am here to tell you that it won't likely go how you are planning it, or wanting it to go the first time. When getting to this point of starting or changing the way you are sourcing for your brand. There is always risk involved, but it can be calculated and easily reduce a lot of stress, as well as questions on your mind.
By going through this quick and easy list of questions you should ask. Below is what we will go over
Questions that will be discussed
1. What is your shipping time frame?
2. What is your shipping cost?
3. What is your MOQ?
4. Do you provide clothing samples?
5. Do you offer other products besides clothing?
6. Do you have other clothing similar to the style number I inquired about?
7. What is the lead time for you to make the sample?
8. What is the lead time for the bulk order?
9. Ask for DDP shipping when starting out
10. What is the turn-around time for orders?
11. What is the cost of the bulk order of shirts?
12. Do you do custom branding?
13. What fabrics do you hold?
14. Ask to see pictures of the product you are looking at
15. Ask for a shipping sample
What we will go over with the questions
1. Questions to ask
2. When you should ask those questions
3. Why you should ask those questions
Listen, buying and negotiating with people you don't know can be scary, but it doesn't have to be. I am here to give you these questions based from my own experiences as well as others from what I have found. These questions are in no order but, they are needed.
Ultimately these questions will accomplish three things I want you guys to get out these outcomes:
- Save Money
- Save Time
- Create levels of certainty for yourself and for your manufacture
You should ask some of these questions in your first message when talking to suppliers.
With 100% Transparency, lets get into it!
Question #1: What is your shipping time frame to [Insert Country], specifically [Insert your location]?
You should ask this question upfront when messaging suppliers.
The why for this question is pretty clear. You should ask this because this will help you partly project the full shipping times for when you need your sample, bulk order, and as well as further orders you may ask and need.
Question #2: Whats your shipping cost to [Insert Country]?
Ask this question upfront, you can also use this for your own personal information to see if you can find cheaper ways to ship it.
If a supplier doesn't give an exact answer this question, it's okay if they don't as long as you are making custom clothing. Because sometimes it depends on the methods of shipment and weight of the shipment.
However; this could be a red flag if they don't give any answer because they should know at least an estimate number if you are sourcing what they make.
If you are sourcing what they make, it is not custom clothing.
Question #3: What is your MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) for custom clothing? As well as your own clothing?
I would personally ask this in one of the first questions, especially when you know what you want/need.
You ask this question because sometimes the MOQ they promote, is the MOQ they want you to see. Similar to how vehicles are advertised on car listing websites. They want to be more appealing so you choose them for business. So, even if you see what their MOQ is, still ask what it really is. Just to be safe.
Question #4: Do you provide clothing samples? If so, how many do you make?
This is a double-ended question, but also are two of the first questions to ask and upfront as well.
100% of clothing manufactures that sell to "brands" should offer samples, if they don't offer samples, just leave and forget about them. You need to see the sample to know what your bulk order will look like.
Personally, I wouldn't be too happy if I spent a heavy penny for inventory that all came out wrong.
You should ask how many do they make, because if you have a certain collection you are making. You may & should want to see all colors & styles to make sure they come out correct. So, ask for how many do they make as well.
Question #5: Do you offer other products besides clothing?
This question is subjective to what you need honestly. You can ask this upfront or later in the process if you are still using the manufacture. But not everyone needs to ask this question. You may be one of them
The reason you ask this question is because a lot of manufactures may do other products that make sense with yours.
Example: If you are selling apparel that deals with wilderness awareness in the smokey mountains. Their company may make small animals that are easily affordable and you can include them into your packages to customers for a very affordable cost.
Question #6: Do you have other clothing similar to the style number I inquired about?
Ask this during your conversation getting all the details, preferably after you ask what the MOQ is.
If you are ordering certain pieces from a clothing manufacture. It's good to see if they have similar pieces. There could be more pieces you could use into a possible collection.
It may be something they haven't released yet on their website. Which is even better, because if it's a style that looks unique and trendy. It could give you a unique leverage against competitors
Question #7: What is the lead time for you to make the sample?
Ask this after asking any other sample questions, especially before ordering your sample you should ask this.
The lead time is how long it will take for your item(s) to be produced. This is one thing you'll need when estimating the turn-around time.
Question #8: What is the lead time for the bulk order?
This question could be asked in the initial conversation, but can really and ideally be asked after you know the lead time and shipping time for the sample.
They can't know what the bulk order lead time is going to be, without knowing how much fabric a sample will take, how long it takes for the printing of the sample will take(if it requires it), as well as setting up the machines.
Question #9: Ask for DDP shipping if starting out
You may ask this question when you are ready for your sample shipment, or early on.
Well before we discuss why, let's discuss what is DDP shipping. DDP means Delivered Duty Paid - which means the supplier is responsible for everything. They handle in making sure the shipping makes it to your destination and you don't worry about anything else. Just like if you ordered from Amazon, but more fun!
Typically suppliers may know what you need based on how you interact with them on Alibaba. If a supplier ever asks for example:
EXW shipping. Just know if you agree. They are only responsible for making sure it gets to the shipping destination, not your destination. You have to handle the rest including making sure you handle the shipping costs.
Question #10: What is the turn-around time for orders?
Ask this question after you have established you have a viable product that people want. This question is subjective, but ideally, you can ask this question when you start making pre-orders.
The turn-around time allows you to calculate how much time it takes for them to start working on a new order once you have received/completed your last order.
Another great reason is because sometimes, depending on the manufacture. If it's turn-around orders. You only have to worry about paying 1/2 the price until they finish making the next order.
Question #11: What is the cost of the bulk order of shirts?
Ask this before buying your sample. this 100% will save you from the manufactures trying to pull a fast one on you and your wallet.
If you order your sample, and you love it. They will know they have leverage on the price of the bulk order. By you asking a price before having any product including sample. You insure that the price they quoted to you, is the one you agreed upon.
If they don't answer this question without you ordering anything. Run away and find a different supplier.
Question #12: Do you offer custom branding?
This question is a great question to ask if you can find out you have a manufacture that does it all. You would be surprised at the amount that actually do offer custom branding. Ask this question upfront or when you are ready to start scaling your business. Typically with clothing. This question may not matter since you may have sourced you own ways of branding through 3rd parties.
This is a nice question to know and ask because, you could honestly order everything from one manufacture. Imagine all your inventory already comes ready to ship without you having to deal & worrying about poly-mailers, stickers, wristbands, ect. Because, your manufacture shipped it all together. You just have to make sure you ship it to your customers.
Question#13: What fabrics do you hold?
This is a great question to ask that most people don't ever ask. This is a simple reason why most brands never make in the short run it in my own opinion. I didn't even think about this question when I first started out. Ask this in the beginning.
Asking for what fabrics they hold, especially if you are having them do custom clothing for you. Can save you money, as well as help you see what fabrics you could substitute to make the feel of the clothing better. Another benefit is thinking for future collection pieces you want to come out with next.
Yes, every clothing manufacture should & will know this question.
Question #14: Ask to see pictures of the product you are looking at
- You ask this while they are making the sample.
- You also ask to see the picture of the product if it is on their website and you are inquiring about it.
- You ask during the sample process, because if something goes wrong. You can terminate that sample and save time as well as money.
- Most manufactures may have pictures on their website or on Alibaba. That does not mean they make that product anymore, or they could have just used the same photo from a different manufacture.
Question #15: Ask for a shipping sample
You only need to ask for a shipping sample if you are technically branding with that manufacture. If not, don't worry about this question. I made this mistake by asking for a shipping sample, just when i was ordering a t-shirt. AKA - a clothing sample, is just a sample.
If you are buying a whole packaging process from a manufacture. It's not only important to know your clothing comes out right. It's just as equally as important to know what your customers are going to see when you send them the clothing in a fully branded package.
Bonus: Order samples from multiple manufactures
Why is this important?
Ordering samples from multiple suppliers primarily does three things
1. It gives the option for you to play with sizes, order more of a certain color, or both between the samples.
2. It creates the option for stronger negotiations
3. It lets you see which manufacture also can deliver the quickest.
Negotiations are important to learn in any business. Having the skill to negotiate, especially over the phone. Is an amazing life skill to have in the business world.
How you use negotiation here, for one example is pretty simple. Once you get all the samples delivered from different suppliers. Tell every other supplier that didn't have the best rates. What the best rated one made, and see if they can match or lower their rates to beat it. This has worked for me many times as it may just work for you too.
The only con to this method is more sample cost. The pro you get though is knowing you have options in getting the best price for bulk orders, and ultimately that's what you want.
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