Do you have a small clothing business? Here are some helpful tips for finding a wholesale supplier.
Finding a wholesale supplier for your small clothing business is critical. It can mean the difference between high and low profits, meeting or missing shipping deadlines, and getting the scoop on the latest trends. So, how do you pick the best wholesaler for such a pivotal role in your business? Below are 11 tips to help you narrow your list and make a final decision.
1. They Buy from the Best Manufacturers
Wholesale suppliers depend on their manufacturers to let them know which trends are up-and-coming from the designers. They also rely on manufacturers to use quality materials, fulfill their orders, ship them on time, and ensure the items arrive undamaged. They must do all of this for a low enough price for the wholesale supplier to make a profit. When doing your research on a wholesaler, look into their manufacturers too.
2. Read Reviews and References
Most wholesale suppliers sell online, where customers love to leave reviews. In the clothing business, reviews matter. Take time to read every written review, not just the bad ones. If there are fifty reviews and 49 of them are positive, that’s a good sign. If there is a mixture of good and bad reviews, pay more attention to the pros and cons to see if they affect your business.
If there are few reviews online, don’t be afraid to ask the wholesaler for references, which will most likely be email addresses of former or current clients.
3. Order Sample Products for your Small Clothing Business
A good wholesaler will have no problem sending samples. This gives them a chance to show off the quality of their clothing, their shipping process, and their customer service. When placing a sample order, keep track of everything from the date to the amount of time it took to receive your order. Note the appearance of the products upon arrival. If there are problems or damages, use them as an opportunity to test customer service with a phone call to see how they handle the situation.
4. Test Customer Service
A wholesale supplier’s customer service shows you if they consider you a priority or not. Poor customer service sends the message that they don’t care about your business. Great customer service makes you feel important and valued. Use the following questions to judge a wholesaler’s customer service:
What is their response time?
How long does it take them to reply to an email or phone call? If you have an emergency, but they don’t respond for two or three days, is that okay? An excellent wholesale supplier can respond within 24 hours for emergencies.
How do they treat you when you have a complaint or need help solving a problem?
If your products arrive damaged, you must contact the wholesale supplier to come up with a resolution that may include a return process, refund, exchange, or credit. If you contact the supplier and they treat you like the damage is your fault, this is a red flag. Suitable suppliers recognize when they are at fault and do what they can to make it right. They are eager to resolve the problem and keep you as a customer.
Do They Communicate Effectively?
What if your wholesale supplier knows your products will arrive late due to technical problems within their company. They decide not to tell you and hope you will not be upset when your items arrive a week late. Or what if they are discounting new arrivals for two days only but don’t let you know about the sale until the second day, leaving you little time to participate in the savings. Suppliers must be willing to communicate good and bad news promptly.
5. Meet Them in Person
If the wholesale company operates in the United States, you can make an appointment to tour their facility and meet with them in person. Or if they attend trade shows, plan to meet them there. While you may want to invite a wholesaler to your boutique, that takes away your chance to inspect their facility. Try meeting with them via video conferencing if none of these options work. The key is to build a professional relationship that can only be done through personal contact.
When you meet a representative of the wholesale supplier, have a list of questions ready to find out more about their return policies, shipping, and pricing options.
6. Interview Multiple Wholesale Suppliers
You can’t know if you get the best wholesale supplier if you don’t have comparisons. Have a list of “most important” qualities to test against each company. For example, quality, price, shipping, returns, and customer service. Create a rubric or spreadsheet to help you see how they compare.
Having comparisons also helps you when you want to negotiate for a better contract. Wholesale suppliers are often open to negotiating if you both can benefit somehow.
7. Range of Products
Wholesale suppliers can specialize in one or two items or offer a wide range of products. You want a wholesaler that provides numerous items to a small clothing business, making them a one-stop-shop for purchases. This will save you time and money.
If you see a dress your customers will love on your wholesaler’s website, check out their other products. They may have earrings, sweaters, necklaces, shoes, and handbags. This saves you from spending hours searching for matching accessories, paying various prices, and multiple shipping fees.
It’s all about the relationship you build with a wholesale supplier. The tips above will help you find the best wholesale supplier and build this relationship. Use resources both online and off to gather information about different companies. Get feedback and advice from other clothing boutiques about choosing a wholesale supplier.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Finally, don’t forget that you are the customer of the wholesale supplier. They need you just as much as you need them. Work together to create a long-lasting professional union where both of you are successful.