Sourcing materials through trade fairs is an effective way to get in touch with a lot of suppliers at the same time and gives you a good chance to compare products and suppliers. You can touch and feel each material, which is a great way to find the right quality product for you. However, it’s very important to ask the right questions to suppliers. In this way you avoid selecting a product that is not right for you.
With the Lineapelle fair just around the corner we thought this article would be very useful for anybody looking to buy new materials from new suppliers.
You can ask these questions to a (new) supplier at a trade show:
Do you want to look professional? Make sure you know the answers to these questions yourself too.
- What is the MOQ (minimum order quantity)?
- What is the price per piece/per square feet/square meter/yard etc.?
Make sure to ask what quantity this price is based on.
Usually suppliers can make better prices when you order bigger quantities.
It is important you know what you can spend on your materials. There are so many nice things around but if the price is too high you can’t produce your product. It is pointless to sample materials that you won’t use later on. You don’t want to waste the time of the supplier and yourself.
- Can you export to country X?
Some suppliers are not used to exporting to outside the EU. It’s important to know if they’ve exported before and if they have English speaking staff for example. It’s also good to ask how long they have been exporting to this country and maybe even ask if they have any customers that you can contact for a reference.
- What is the Lead time of material X?
How long does it take to produce the material, ready for shipping?
- Can you arrange COO (Certificate of Origin) & Certificate Of Health (in case of leathers) / or other shipping documents for country X?
Find out what the rules are of the country you want the materials to be shipped to. Each country has different import rules and the last thing you want is that your exciting new (and urgent!) sample and or production material gets stuck in customs. The supplier you’re starting a cooperation with should know of the requirements and you need to make sure they are able to arrange documents and perhaps ask them how long it takes to process these documents in local governments. It can add weeks to your lead time so very important to know, especially if you are working on tight schedules!
- What are the payment terms?
30% upfront, 70% upon shipment? Payment done by TT (Telegraphic Transfer) or LC (Letter of Credit). Perhaps the payment condition doesn’t fit your way of working, you can always ask if these terms are negotiable!
- What are the shipment terms?
Can they deliver the products to your doorstep? Do you need to arrange the forwarding yourself? Can they deliver to the port etc. For example; if you work with a shoe factory that is going to order the goods for production by themselves you need to know what shipment terms they like to use, FOB (Free On Board), CIF (Cost Insurance Freight) are just a few of the shipment terms that are available. These shipment terms have influence on the actual price per piece/square feet etc. Google the different terms if you are not familiar with them.
- What quality control measures are in place?
For example, can you inspect the goods before shipment or during production? Will they send a confirmation sample from production?
- Do you have different procedures for ordering sample materials?
Arranging documents and shipment for sample materials can be very costly if they are shipped to a country far from the origin. The supplier might have a different way of working for sample materials or maybe you want the sample materials to be shipped to your own office, in a different country than your production units?
Perhaps the supplier has enough material in stock to delivery sample material immediately so also ask for sample material lead times!
- Who will be my contact regarding my orders?
Do they speak good English/Do they speak your language, will they send you updates regarding your order and order progress. Who do you call if there are any problems?
- What guarantees are in place?
For example, what will happen if an order is delayed and jeperdises your production? What if you want to cancel the order? What if the order isn’t delivered to the quality standards? Will the goods be repaired/replaced/receive discounts?
- Are you able to do special development/private label?
Perhaps you would like a certain material in a different colour or you want something developed with your brand name on it? How flexible is the supplier in this kind of requests and what are development times?
We hope you find this useful and if there is anything that you miss or anything you think we can publish in the future we are always happy to listen and share your experiences.