Business Development Tips for Apparel Manufacturers

Business development tips

I had several requests to discuss business development strategies for apparel manufacturers. Last few months I have helped to set up a supply chain for a new brand called TAYLRD NY. While visiting manufacturing plants, one of the first questions asked from me was how to find new orders. Below are some of the few proven strategies to land new orders.

1. Be flexible

Most manufacturing plants want big-volume orders. While this certainly makes sense, don’t forget that the buyers who offer big orders are established big retailers and wholesalers. They know what they’re doing and often times they bargain for the lowest price. As a result, the standard minute rate you get is low.

It is very important to have the flexibility to accommodate short runs and quick runs. This means sometimes buyers want less than 1000 pieces done in quick lead times. For these orders, buyers are very generous and offer a premium price. Once you establish a name as a manufacturer who is flexible on running small orders, chances are most buyers want to work with you. Essentially, in order to accommodate these type of orders, the factory needs to have lean management tools in place.

It is important to note that 80% of buyers are small and medium scale brands. Often sell at a premium price so they could afford to pay higher standard minute rate. Since these are small-scale brands, they do not need large quantities from one or two designs. They need to have many designs but small quantities. As manufacturers, we need to understand these market dynamics.

2. Know the trends

It is well noted that many manufacturers have no clue as to what is happening in the retail market. What are the latest colors, shapes, designs and new fabrics and trims? It is hugely important as a manufacturer to know what is happening in the high street in Europe and USA to know what inspires the customers, what are latest trends celebrities wear, what’s in the leading fashion magazines like Vogue, Elle and GQ. The purpose of this effort is to be proactive and source fabric and trims in latest qualities, trends, and colors and offer to your existing buyers and potential new buyers. When they visit your plant, instead of offering same old designs and colours, you could offer latest trends. This will prove your company is a forward thinking proactive company and surely get a front seat at the buyers meet.

Also read: 5 Tips on conducting buyer meeting

3. Be visible

I often find manufacturers who are looking for new orders rarely visit trade shows. They believe visiting trade shows is a waste of money and rather wait for someone to walk to the factory and offer an order. This thinking pattern needs to change and manufacturers need to be visible in the retail market. One of the most effective and least costly strategies is to participate in the trade shows.

One of the biggest misconceptions among many manufacturers is that when they go to a trade show and put a display on a stall, buyers should come and place orders. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. It is true that manufacturer may have spent nearly US$10,000 to get the stall and fly few employees to the show. But results are not instant but you're sure to get it over the next few months.

It is important to understand many buyers do not travel overseas and their primary method to find suitable manufacturers are through attending trade shows. If your company not attending trade shows, then you’re not on the buyer’s radar. Please note all most all the trade shows have their own catalogue which consists of all participating manufacturers. Buyers often refer to these catalogues after the show to find suitable production plants.

In another article, I will explain how to prepare to attend a trade show. It is important to target the most suitable trade event for the company and make all the preparations prior to attending the show to ensure maximum visibility.

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