Welcome to part two of the Is It a Match? blog series! In part one, we covered how to find a clothing supplier for your boutique. In this blog, we’ll teach you the top 10 questions to ask your clothing manufacturer or wholesaler before contracting with them.
These questions will not only help you vet potential suppliers to see if they meet your needs, but they might also get you thinking about the small logistics that sometimes get forgotten when you’re stocking your online store or boutique.
Question 1: Are you a manufacturer, a wholesaler, or a manufacturer/wholesaler agency?
Before your supplier discussion, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear understanding of their services. Ask them up front if they’re a clothing manufacturer or factory, a wholesaler, or an agency that manages client relationships with multiple clothing manufacturers and wholesalers.
Question 2: Are you taking on new orders right now?
Every business operates at a certain capacity. Get to know whether the clothing factory or wholesale supplier you contacted has the capacity to fulfill your first order and possibly even maintain and grow an ongoing relationship with your boutique business. Forming good relationships with factories and suppliers takes time, so make sure your prospects actually have the bandwidth to build that relationship from the outset.
Question 3: What products do you mostly produce or sell?
Some clothing manufacturers create handbags, belts, trousers, dresses – you name it, they’ll do it; some wholesalers have an inventory that may include even a meager supply of every product type. However, finding out what types of products each factory or wholesaler mainly produces or specializes in will give you insight into whether their experience meshes with your needs. If your designs mainly serve plus-size females, it won’t make sense to go with a loafer manufacturer or a supplier with a sparse women’s wear inventory.
Question 4: Who will I be discussing my order with and do they speak my language?
If you decide to manufacture or buy inventory from overseas, it will be helpful to know who will be handling your order or pattern, and if they are comfortable with your spoken and written language. Someone who has a good grasp on the language you’re using to communicate your order and your pattern designs will be less likely to misinterpret specialty instructions included with your design order.
Question 5: Do you have a minimum order quantity?
Most wholesale suppliers and clothing manufacturers have a minimum order quantity unless you’re working with a resource like MakersValley that lets designers produce clothes in any quantity. That’s fairly unique. Make sure that you find a manufacturing or supply partner whose minimum order quantity fits your needs and doesn’t leave you with extra, unsellable inventory taking up your precious shelf space.
Question 6: How much does your typical customer pay for X number of X product?
A lot of factories and wholesalers give bulk discounts so that as the quantity of your request goes up, the price per unit goes down. While it might not be realistic to ask how much a “skirt” or “denim jeans” costs (that’s too broad), asking for a range of product costs per unit and order quantity might give you a better idea of the investment you can expect to make.
Question 7: What are your typical payment terms or timelines?
Does your manufacturer or wholesaler want the full payment up front or in parts? Every shop has a different way of doing business, so find out what your options are before signing onto any type of contract.
Question 8: What is a realistic turnaround time for my order request?
Everyone’s business has a dream timeline, a realistic timeline, and a worst case scenario timeline. Make sure that you get a realistic expectation of the turnaround time your supplier will need to create your designs so that you can accurately plan your store’s year.
Question 9: How do you handle shipping?
This question is easy to miss, but you should absolutely factor shipping costs into your sourcing equation. Most wholesalers and clothing manufacturers outsource their shipping to freight or shipping companies like DHL or FEDEX. Ask what yours will do, and find out how active a role you’ll need to have in setting up the final shipping of your product from the supplier to you. Some manufacturers provide their services to designers through platforms like MakersValley that take on an active role in arranging the shipping of the product from the manufacturer to fashion designer.
Question 10: How would you handle defective items in my order?
Most clothing factories will have some general guidelines in place to address defective products. They’ll frequently have staff onsite to check your products in the factory, but with wholesale, quality assurance can be more unpredictable.
These are our top need-to-knows, but what are yours? If you have any additional checklist questions that have helped you to evaluate manufacturers and wholesalers, don’t be shy! Share your advice in the comments.
Guest Blog Courtesy of Makers Valley, an online B2B service platform that matches Boutiques & Designers with over 150+ Italian apparel Manufacturers & Artisans, with no minimum orders, no markups (pay factory price), and a dedicated account manager to guide you through the manufacturing process.
Find out more by using this special link for Boutique Hub Members.