If you’re planning to start a clothing business, you have to be prepared for the grueling work hours, endless hard work, and the outrageous expenses that come with it. Finding the right clothing manufacturers can also become a daunting task, if not done correctly. Setting up your own clothing business can be challenging yet exciting. However, it’s important that you know the potential risks that come with it – both in terms of money and your time.
One of the most critical questions that you need to ask yourself when you’re planning to start a clothing business is: “Do I really need to partner with a clothing manufacturer?” From finding a reliable clothing manufacturer to placing bulk orders on time, you need to stay on top of everything if you don’t want to lose money in the very beginning, especially if you’re on a shoestring budget.
Working with clothing manufacturers is a risky affair. So, if you’re new to the apparel and clothing space, we suggest you move slowly. We don’t want you to get stuck in a situation where you’re forced to get rid of your inventory at discounted rates.
In this post, we’ll dive deep into working with clothing manufacturers and provide you with an overview of the best ways to find a reliable clothing manufacturer for your new clothing line. Read on to know more.
The basics: Look for these things while finding clothing manufacturers
If you search for clothing manufacturers online, you’ll come across a plethora of resources. Nevertheless, before you begin, here’s a list of some important things you need to consider while finding clothing manufacturers.
- Type of supplier
- Domestic vs. Overseas
- Fees, shipping costs, and shipping time
- Standard of quality
- Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)
- Production capacity
- Existing customer reviews and ratings
We’ll cover some of these points in more detail in the upcoming sections.
Type of Supplier
The first and most important thing you need to do is identify the type of supplier you want to partner with. The 3 most common ways to acquire your inventory are:
- Get a manufacturer to produce your original designs and styles
- Partner with a wholesaler to purchase existing brands and products
- Work with a drop shipper to supply products and fulfil orders of existing brands and products
There are pros and cons to each method, and depending upon your target audience, niche, and the market, one of them may be highly suitable for your business.
Most clothing business owners work with manufacturers to acquire inventory. You can work with a domestic manufacturer or an overseas manufacturer depending on your requirement.
Who is this option suitable for?
If you’ve validated your products on the market and are confident that they’ll sell, manufacturing can be a good choice for you. However, it will require a substantial financial investment.
- If you’re buying in bulk, manufacturers can provide you with great profit margins by lowering the cost per unit.
- Having your products manufactured means that you can build your brand and experiment with products as and when you want.
- Unlike wholesale and drop shipping, you can audit and quality control your product regularly.
- The initial costs are high.
- Manufacturing is a time-consuming process that involves prototyping, sampling, testing, improving, and production.
Working with wholesalers is a simple and straightforward course. You’re purchasing the inventory from wholesalers at fairly low prices and great discounts. The result – you can sell the products at much higher prices and earn profits.
Who is this option suitable for?
If you want to get started quickly or want to sell popular brands as a part of your business, wholesaling can be an ideal option for you.
- Since you’re selling established products, you’re at low risk of incurring losses after acquiring the inventory.
- Selling established products can also swing the other way, i.e., work against you since multiple retailers are selling the same products. More competition is equal to more hard work for your business.
- You cannot control the prices of the products and will have to play as per their rules.
- Dealing with multiple wholesalers can become a headache in due course.
Drop shipping is somewhat similar to the wholesale model. You sell products you don’t own. However, the dropship model is not limited to the acquisition of products; it also involves product fulfilment. You take orders from customers and forward them to your dropship partner for fulfilment. One way of doing this is with Amazon, and using their Amazon Pay to process payments.
Who is this option suitable for?
Drop shipping is the most inexpensive method here. If you want to keep your initial costs low, don’t want to hold inventory, and are not too concerned about margins, drop shipping can be the best bet for your new clothing business.
- Initial costs are low since you don’t need to acquire inventory.
- There’s a minimum risk of incurring losses since you’re not holding any inventory.
- Drop shipping is a good way to streamline your sales as your dropship partners are responsible for the packaging and shipment of your products.
- High competition as 20%-30% of online retailers use drop shipping.
- Low margins.
- Backordering and longer than usual shipping time.
Domestic vs. Overseas
If you’re planning to find a clothing manufacturer or wholesaler for your clothing business, you need to decide if you want to work with a domestic or overseas supplier. For most clothing businesses in the U.S., overseas manufacturers or wholesalers are clothing manufacturers in China, India, and Taiwan.
It’s always cheaper to find clothing manufacturers overseas. However, there are several other factors that you should consider beyond upfront costs and price per unit.
Domestic (USA) clothing manufacturers
Domestic clothing manufacturers are typically more expensive. Nevertheless, you usually get superior quality products and more structured labor standards.
Advantages of working with domestic clothing manufacturers
- Typically better manufacturing quality
- Typically higher labor standards
- Convenient and effective communication
- Common time zones and calendar holidays
- Faster shipping time
- Lower shipping costs
- No import duties
- Enhanced payment security
The downside of working with domestic clothing manufacturers
- Greater manufacturing costs
Overseas clothing manufacturers
Overseas clothing manufacturers typically come with lower production costs and price per unit. However, the quality of the final product is not always guaranteed.
Advantages of working with overseas clothing manufacturers
- Typically lower production costs
- More manufacturers to choose from
The downside of working with overseas clothing manufacturers
- Low perceived quality products
- Lower labor standards
- Involves import clearance
- Potential communication issues
- Differences in time zones
- Visiting the manufacturer can be a costly affair
- Longer than usual shipping times
- Less payment security
Fees, shipping costs, and shipping time
Before you finalize a clothing manufacturer, domestic or overseas, send them an email and inquire about their additional fees, shipping charges, and shipping time. This is vital information that can help you choose whether you work with a manufacturer or not.
Here’s a sample email template you could use for making an inquiry :
Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)
Before you finalize a clothing manufacturer, you need to know the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ), i.e., the minimum number of your items you’ll need to buy in a single purchase order. The MOQ could range from 150-2000, or even more. You’ll hardly notice any manufacturer without a MOQ.
If you feel their MOQ is very high, try negotiating as much as possible. Don’t settle for MOQ higher than 500 as you can be left with excess inventory if the products don’t sell as planned, especially in the clothing business where products depend on seasons and styles.
Standard of quality
Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can ask the manufacturer on the phone or email. Nevertheless, you can visit their manufacturing facility, check their manufacturing process and equipment, and examine the quality of raw material and the final products. If you’re dealing with an overseas manufacturer and do not want to spend unnecessarily on traveling, you can request them to send you some samples.
Quality is a critical factor when it comes to clothes. Remember, the quality of your products will define your reputation in the clothing industry. So, make sure you partner with a manufacturer producing superior quality clothing. You’ll be better off paying slightly higher prices than jeopardizing your reputation for a few dollars.
This is one factor that you may not want to consider until your business starts growing. When you’re just setting up your clothing business, you’re probably dedicated to getting your first few orders and fulfilling them. But, what if your sales skyrocket during the very first week? You’ve got to be prepared for the same, right?Therefore, it’s important to assess if you can rely on your manufacturer for handling greater capacity as your sales grow. So, if you don’t want to lose potential customers, don’t forget to talk to your manufacturer about their production capacity.
Existing customer reviews and ratings
This is one of the most effective ways to find the best clothing manufacturer for your business. To check their reliability, you can visit third-party review sites such as Yelp and social networking sites such as Facebook.You can also check their website and see what their customer or client feedback is like.
If you have a list of other brands who’ve worked with the clothing manufacturer in the past, try to contact them and know their experience. Did they face any issues? Were they satisfied with the quality? Nothing can beat honest customer feedback and testimonials.
Where to find reliable and top-rated clothing manufacturers
In the previous sections, we pretty much covered the question: “how to find clothing manufacturers?” Now, let’s learn a little about where to find them.
Even though you can easily find clothing manufacturers online these days, finding reliable and reputable ones can be a little tricky. Here are some tried and tested ways to find reliable clothing manufacturers.
Industry gatherings and trade shows
Industry meetups and trade shows can be invaluable for you if you’re searching for a clothing manufacturer. In fact, tradeshows are recognized as goldmines for finding and meeting established clothing manufacturers. As far as the apparel and clothing niche is concerned, there’s no dearth of tradeshows and industry events.
Some popular apparel and clothing trade shows are:
Search engines such as Google can help you a great deal in finding the best clothing manufacturers; both domestic and overseas. If you’re ready to do some research and dive deep into the search results, you can end up finding a suitable clothing manufacturer.
However, the tricky part here is that many clothing manufacturers use unfair means to rank high in search results. So, make sure you explore at least the first 10 pages before you narrow down your choice to one. Also, to refine your search, use specific keywords (t-shirt manufacturers in Miami) instead of generic keywords (apparel manufacturers in Miami).
Online business directories
Yes, you’ve read that right. Business directories still exist, and they can provide you with detailed information about clothing manufacturers such as their contact number, e-mail, office address, etc. Not only this, but you can also use them to find overseas clothing manufacturers.
Best directories for finding domestic clothing manufacturers
- Let’s Make It Here (UK based)
- Makers Row (U.S. based)
- Sqetch(Europe based)
Best directories for finding overseas clothing manufacturers
Networking is extremely important in the clothing industry. To make an informed choice, you can talk to people in the same industry for advice on how to find clothing manufacturers. Referrals are always better than research. Talking to people around you or those who have a similar business can help you get the right answers.
So, that’s it. In the ultimate guide to finding the best clothing manufacturers, we’ve covered almost everything that you need to know when you’re looking for a reliable clothing manufacturer for your business.
Remember, finding a clothing manufacturer is a critical decision for your business. So, make sure you spend quality time on research and find a suitable manufacturing partner who understands your requirements. The extra time you’ll spend on finding the best clothing manufacturer can help you in the future and save you from potential setbacks.
Choosing an unreliable manufacturer can lead to unnecessary expenses, production delays, and low-quality products. Not only this, but you’ll also lose potential customers to your competitors.