What are sportswear factory minimums and why do these differ?

We produce sportswear for our clients through our network of trusted factories around the world and select a factory for our clients based on their needs taking into account, quality, service, price, technical ability and of course quantity.

Over the last 10+ years, we have worked with many start-up clients who want to minimise their investment in stock until the brand has enough history and traction that they can start to forecast and increase volume based on past sales and future growth.

We often get approached by start-ups who want to produce a tiny volume to test the market and this just isn’t feasible. Trying to convince a quality factory that produces kits for some of the best sports brands around the world to produce 50 pieces across sizes just isn’t commercial for them. In fact, it’s not really commercial for any factory unless the garment is an off the shelf team wear style that the factory produces day in day out and where the only difference between brands is the graphic print on the fabric.

The factories we have partnered with are based in Portugal, Lithuania, Sri Lanka, China, Vietnam and Korea and they all specialise in different types of products and have very unique sets of skills. They also differ greatly in how much production they are willing to accept.

Most factories minimums will be driven by the fabrics that the client requires. If the fabric is something very specific and cannot be substituted, then the factory will need to produce enough garments to use all of the fabric up. Most performance fabric mills need to produce 3,000mtrs per order and this could make up to 3,000 garments, however, there is usually a way around reducing this volume.

Quite often, mills will produce a smaller batch for a surcharge, which can be quite substantial (sometimes double the cost if the quantity is small) but it means the factory can then reduce their minimums to work to their own capacity. This can vary depending on the location and type of factory, with most factories in the Far East requiring 800 – 1,000 garments per style split over 2-3 colours and 5 sizes and European factories happy to produce 300 garments split over 2 colours and 5 sizes.

We work with a couple of factories in the Far East and Europe that will reduce the normal production line minimums even more with an additional surcharge but depends on the complexities of the garment and the minimums offered by the fabric mill. By accepting these surcharges from both the fabric mill and the factory, a start-up could dramatically reduce their cash exposure and risk, however, the margin will be the penalty the brand will need to pay to achieve this.

If you are trying to launch a brand and only produce 50 garments per style, then we suggest you have a rethink. Put yourself in the shoes of a quality factory that produces top-quality sportswear for blue-chip sports brands and ask yourself if you would accept an order for 50 pieces from a start-up when they could accept and order for, 1000’s from an established brand.

If you are thinking of starting a sportswear brand then please get in touch as I am sure we have a factory that can accommodate your needs, providing you don’t want to produce 50 garments split over colours and sizes.

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