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Promo item sourcing: Reviewing supplier price quotes

By Li Zhang

Supplier price quotes lay a foundation but as the importer, your job is to think, ask and analyze.

China sourcing requires frequent interaction with supplier price quotes. Clients may have multiple price sheets per week to review. Thoughtfully reviewing supplier price quotes will avoid some of the inefficiencies that plague the importing process.

In our last post, we gave an overview of critical questions and thoughts when analyzing the Chinese supplier’s price.

Promotional product buyers become frustrated with China sourcing and are quick to draw conclusions.

• China sourcing is dangerous.

• You never know what you’re going to get.

• The communication is difficult.

All this is true if an importer is not cautious before the start of the project and during the orders. The fact is, is that for successful orders, you must be diligent in control and work arm-in-arm with your vendor.

Does that mean China sourcing and manufacturing is dangerous? Not at all.

If it were flat out “dangerous”, then there wouldn’t be such advantage to successful orders (wide-range of customization, cost competitiveness, for example).

When reviewing your quotations from China, remember that…

Supplier price quotes tend to be incomplete

When dealing with promotional product buyers, suppliers leave out detail from the quotations.

Why is that? That is perhaps another post, but to add a small thought – when you infrequently work with a vendor or you quote a lot with a low closure rate, then the supplier tends to be less thorough. This is a good reason to establish long-term relationships with your vendors and work to transform your vendors into true production partners.

Download this resource:  PROMOTIONAL PRODUCT RFQ CHECK

When a supplier turns in a price quote, be sure:

• Everything you requested is included in the quote. If your specs and requests aren’t listed, then don’t consider the specs and request to be included.

• Timing: Promotional product orders rise and set based on delivery time. Make sure the supplier acknowledges your timing parameters. But remember, that a bare acknowledgement isn’t safe enough. Have the supplier show you HOW they’ll hit the date.

• Payment terms: Discuss the payment terms during the quoting phase. Many distributors aren’t used to paying full balance before the goods hit the water. This particular supplier may require that.

The supplier may not have understood your request:

Also keep in mind that once you get the quote sheet, it’s not impossible that the supplier misunderstood your request. This could be due to various factors; language obstacle, cultural misunderstanding or quoting too quickly.

As time allows, go back over the key points with your vendor. Make sure that what they included in the quote sheet is indeed what you requested.

It’s a risky path to assume that because the supplier put some words in a quote file, then for sure your request is properly considered and included. When you deal with a developing nation, low-cost workers, you have to have an expectation of some errors being hidden in the process. A successful promo product buyer, stamps out these errors.


Li Zhang has worked in international manufacturing and exporting since 2003. She has served global brands such as Bayer, Coca Cola and Warner Bros. Her background is in design and engineering. Li is a native of Jiangsu Province and currently finds herself back and forth between Suzhou, China and the USA. Contact Li at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find her penning manufacturing thoughts at her blog.

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