QUESTION ON Finding a Reputable Apparel Manufacturer
How can I make sure that the manufacturer I want to hire to make my clothing line is reputable? They are located just over the Texas border in Mexico.
The best way to make sure that the company or people you will be contracting your manufacturing is to really go there and see their facilities. There’s nothing better than first-hand inspection of the manufacturing site to see how the business operates, talk to the management and employees, and see the quality of goods that they produce.
However, this may not always be possible and you have to rely on whatever information you can get your hands on.
At this instance, you may have to ask them to provide you a verifiable set of information. You need to protect yourself from fraud as well as shoddy goods. You need to get as much information as you can from the company and educate yourself to make sure that you are going to be dealing with a reputable business.
Some of the information that you may ask for consist of pictures of their facility, the number of people they employ, their bank references, their customers’ references and their management team.
Get their phone number and verify that it is indeed a land line as fraudsters often use a forwarding number or a VOIP number to disguise their location. Call the number and talk to your contact or at least an employee of the company.
You should also ask for copies of their previous contracts and shipments to their other customers. Also request if they have copies of their latest factory audits, or similar documentation.
Once they provide you with these information, it is important that you call their references to get first-hand information on how they operate. Ask them how it is like working with the company, whether they had a pleasant experience, what problems cropped up during the business relationship, how were these problems resolved, etc. This way, you can also check on their history of fulfilling contracts and whether they are able to deliver on time as contracted. Many sub-contractors fail to fulfill deliveries on schedule and this can affect your own marketing program. This one you have to make sure. Note that if you have doubts about their references (some unscrupulous business people have “shrills” to provide only good testimonials for them”) it is better to ask for at least three different references.
Unfortunately, since the company you plan to hire is located in Mexico, you will not be able to get third party information from the Better Business Bureau or Dun and Bradstreet. However, you can check with Mexican trade authorities if they have a service similar to BBB.
There are also companies that offer International Credit Reports. You may want to check them out and inquire whether they can provide you with a credit report for this particular manufacturer.
You should also proceed more slowly, ordering only a small trial shipment and not your entire inventory. Indicate to them your interest in using their services, but you only want a small order initially “to test our home market.” Request for their freight-on-board price, as well as price for larger volumes in the event that you decide to use them as your manufacturer.
Do check out the website of the company as well, or any online listings. Check the domain of their site to using sites such as www.whois.org and look at the website registration date, registrar name, phone number, and contact info including email. Note though that some domain listings are anonymous and no domain registrar is given; nonetheless, you can still get information on when the domain has been registered.
Consult with the government agencies and inquire if they can help you find foreign partners and suppliers. Check with the Export Assistance Centers of the International Trade Administration http://export.gov/eac/. This agency also has an International Partner Search service on their website that you can use to help you find suitable business partners outside of the United States.
Most of all, trust your gut instincts. If you feel there’s something wrong with the company – from the way they are being overly aggressive asking for payments or the types of payment they accept to being evasive about your questions — walk away.
Nach M Maravilla
Recommended Resources on How To Find Apparel Manufacturers
- The National Register of Apparel Manufacturers, Women & Children’s Wear
- The National Register of Apparel Manufacturers: Men & Boy’s Wear, Seventh Edition
- Going Global: The Textile and Apparel Industry
- Fashion Entrepreneurship: Retail Business Planning, 2nd Edition
Article originally published in April 2002. Updated May 23, 2012
Category: Q & A