When sourcing a sportswear factory for your activewear brand or business, it’s crucial to ask the right questions to ensure they meet your production requirements and standards.
There are thousands of factories out there, most of who claim to make for premium brands you want to compete with or offer ridiculous minimums of 50pcs per style at rock bottom prices to tempt you into placing business with them.
Finding quality factories within this plethora of suppliers isn’t easy but if you ask these 5 simple questions before you start sampling, you could save yourself thousands on samples and months of wasted time.
Here are the top five questions you should ask:
1. What Is Your Pricing Structure and MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity)?
Understanding the cost structure and minimum order requirements is essential for managing your budget and expectations. Here’s what to ask:
Pricing Structure: Seek clarity on their pricing model. Are they transparent about costs, or are there any hidden fees? Packaging, shipping, labels, trims all need to be clear from the start.
What do they charge for samples and are the samples made from the actual fabric used for bulk? If not, then demand they are, otherwise you have not way of testing the quality or fit.
What are the terms offered for bulk and what payment terms do they offer.
MOQ: Inquire about their minimum order quantity for various products. Ensure that their MOQ aligns with your business needs and budget.
By discussing pricing and MOQ, you can prevent surprises and financial constraints later in the production process.
If they offer small MOQ’s, ask what the surcharge is for these. Note that all trim suppliers and fabric mills also have MOQ’s and many provide smaller batches at a premium or surcharge. This is normal and will be added to the cost of the production.
Ask who else they have made for in small MOQ’s and perhaps look to get a reference from that brand.
If you are looking for small MOQ’s, make sure the factory use your nominated fabric supplier rather than off the shelf stock fabric where you have no guarantee of quality. Many low quality factories produce small MOQ’s by purchasing stock fabric from the local markets. Avoid this at all costs as you cannot replicate this order again and you have no idea of the quality of these fabrics.
2. What Is Your Production Capacity and Lead Time?
Understanding the sportswear factory’s production capacity and lead time is fundamental. It provides insights into their ability to handle your order volume and meet delivery deadlines. Here’s what to inquire about:
Production Capacity: Ask about their daily, weekly, or monthly production capacity for sportswear. This information helps you determine if the factory can handle your expected order size. If they produce ‘000 a week, and you are looking for small MOQ’s then they probably won’t be the right fit for you.
Lead Time: Inquire about their typical lead times from order placement to delivery. Ask them how far in advance you will need to place your orders and if they have busy times and quiet times. Also ask them when they are closed for national holidays and make sure you factor this into your lead time.
Ensure they can meet your desired timeframes, especially if you have seasonal demands.
This question sets the foundation for a successful partnership by aligning your expectations with the factory’s capabilities.
3. Can You Provide Samples and References?
Requesting samples and references is a crucial step in evaluating a sportswear factory’s quality and reliability. It allows you to see the actual products they produce and hear from previous clients about their experiences. Here’s how to approach this question:
Samples: Ask for samples of sportswear they’ve produced in the past. Examining these samples will help you assess the quality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail of their work.
Ask them to back up the samples with copy documents to prove they made this. Lots of bad factories will buy a sample from an established brand and send it to you, claiming they made it to gain your trust and orders.
Make sure you have a detailed tech pack and design that includes the following.
- Detailed and accurate design showing all stitch methods and trims.
- Tech pack that includes.
- Pantone references
- Nominated fabrics from suppliers inc. price per metre.
- Nominated trims from suppliers inc. price and MOQ.
- Graded size spec with all measurements of each size.
- Scaled drawings of all prints and embroideries with measurements.
- Scaled drawings of all trims and exact placement locations for these.
- BOM for all fabrics, components, trims and appliques.
References: Request contact information for past and current clients. Reach out to them to inquire about their experiences with the factory, including product quality, communication, and overall satisfaction.
This question ensures that you’re making an informed decision based on the factory’s track record and the quality of their sportswear.
4. What Quality Control Measures Do You Have in Place?
Quality control is paramount in the sportswear manufacturing process. Understanding the factory’s quality control measures ensures that the final products meet your desired standards. Here are important aspects to cover:
Quality Assurance Processes: Ask about the specific steps they take to maintain quality throughout production. This could include inspections, testing, and adherence to industry standards.
Ask them about approval samples and make sure they will provide size sets and PP samples to approve before bulk production starts.
Remember, the factory is the same as a builder, they make the products and therefore don’t rely on them to source or specify the fabrics, otherwise they dictate the quality and performance. You wouldn’t ask your builder to choose your front door, windows and taps. If you do ask them to source this, make sure they guarantee the quality and provide test results on the fabrics they have selected.
Defect Handling: Inquire about their procedures for handling defective or subpar products. Ensure they have a clear process for identifying and addressing quality issues.
By discussing quality control, you can trust that your sportswear will meet the necessary quality standards, reducing the risk of product defects or customer dissatisfaction.
Ethics and Audits
It’s important you find a factory with satisfactory audits in place to cover ethics, conditions, working hours and pay.
Your brand could be severally damaged if you are found to be using a supplier that doesn’t pay at least minimum wage, overworks their staff or have bonded or child labour.
Ask the factory for their up-to-date audits and if you want some reassurance that they are genuine, follow up with the audit company that conducted it to make sure it’s genuine.
So many factories provide fake reports themselves, usually in their local language to obtain business from brands that don’t conduct and due diligence.
In conclusion, make sure you do your due diligence before you start to produce samples. If it sounds too good to be true, then walk away. We pick up so many brands that have been promised minimums of 50pcs, production ready in 6 moths and low cost, only to end up with poor quality samples that cost them the earth or worst still, a 2nd bedroom full of poor-quality production they cannot sell.
If you want to find a suitable sportswear factory, please get in touch here