by Mike Bellamy in 'China Sourcing Information Center'
I have been to the fashion jewelry show in Hong Kong during June in the past but have not been back to the show in five years. I am looking to start importing fashion jewelry again and need to know your expertise on finding honest, reliable manufacturers and how to handle this. Please inform me of your fees and the process.
Fundamentally, there are two paths you can take.
Option one is DIY.
Option two is to outsource your sourcing. For example, the company I started 10 years ago, www.PSSchina.com conducts research to help buyers narrow the large pool of potential suppliers down to the top 2 or 3 at a national level which fit your targets for price, quality and lead time. On the website above you will find their service details and fee structure.
But for those that wish to DIY, here are the steps and some tips.
The single most important factor in determining the success or failure of your sourcing program will be finding the right supplier. It sounds obvious, but making apples-to-apples comparisons of vendors at a national level can be daunting.
Initial research generates a list of 50-100 potential suppliers using web directories like www.GlobalSources.com and industry/trade show directories.
Assume the vendor is a middleman until proven otherwise, not the other way around.
Avoid factories that refuse to list the name or location of the production facility. If they only show a HK, Taiwan or other non-PRC address, then they probably don’t own the PRC factory and are a middleman of some sort.
Focus on those factories that can clearly show production experience with your particular product or production method.
Be aware that polished English skills do not reflect production skills. Often the most polished websites are set up by trading companies.
Look for clear information about operation size, equipment and staffing..
Review the 50-100 candidates’ websites and brochures against client’s desired attribute list (but hold of on price until later) and narrow the field down to 15 to 20 candidates. At this point, “first contact” is initiated in the follow ways:
Send an e-mail to ask for initial product-specific information (price, minimum order size, lead time).
Are samples available? If they don’t have samples readily available, they probably don’t deal in your product on a regular basis.
Granted the sales team will be the most polished in terms of English skills, but how is their understanding of your basic requests? If you ask for information on a red umbrella and get sent a sample of a blue shoe, you are going to have problems with communication down the road!
Confirm the actual production location and ask for ownership papers of the factory. Be explicit that the production location may be audited and that this location cannot be changed w/out approval of buyer. (You would be surprised at the number of middlemen who will take the buyer on a visit of a factory only to change the location to a less expensive and poorer quality option after the buyer leaves)
The above research should narrow the field down to about 5 highly qualified candidates. At this stage, Quality Auditors are engaged for a few hundred USD to verify the factory has a sufficient quality control system in place to make the desired product. It is also wise to conduct due diligence to confirm the factory has a good reputation, no legal problems and is sound financially. In other words, verify they are not going to disappear with your deposit and will be around long enough to complete your order! These are essential yet often overlooked steps by those looking to cut corners during research. Unfortunately, due to the massive number of trading companies and aggressive China sales staff who will say almost anything to get your business, visiting the production line in form of an audit is the only way to confirm the real situation.
Based on the results of the factory visits, the next phase is sampling, trial order or even Purchase Order placement with the top vendor or two.
BTW, if you haven’t been to the show in a few years but want to check things out, www.GlobalSources.com has a virtual trade show which has pictures and information on every booth from the recent show. You can also find videos of recent conferences I have hosted on topics related to China sourcing.
Hope my notes get you pointed in the right direction. Wishing you successful sourcing!
Answer written by Mike Bellamy, an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center. Mike is also the author of "The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing" and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions.