How To Find Your Chinese Supplier

This is a photo of the China Sports Wholesaler's warehouse, showing stock levels

The sportswear supplier has a heavy influence on business. The better-chosen it is, the more chances to succeed in the industry. Did you know that in manufacturing, China remains to control one-fifth of the global output? This makes it a top choice for those looking for reliable and high-quality suppliers.

There are no ‘best’ suppliers, but only suppliers that are best for you. But how does it work from there? Here are the steps to choosing a reliable Chinese supplier:

  • Learn the supplier’s production model
  • Know their business nature
  • Ask about services
  • Familiarize shipping terms
  • Verify their credibility

By the end of this, you should already have an idea of which suppliers suit your needs best. For a better understanding, let’s talk about the different steps in detail.

Step 1: Learn the Production Model of Wholesale Suppliers

Before anything else, the first thing you need to learn is the supplier’s production model. SAP Help Portal says that this contains product and process information that make up the whole manufacturing process. Hence, it helps you get to know your supplier more effectively.

This picture depicts what the outer packaging of a wholesaler's merchandise looks like

This also allows you to easily monitor how well-established the system is. Furthermore, you can use this as a reference if you decide to visit the manufacturing company on-site.

Here are the most important sections to note in a potential supplier’s production model:

Sample Time

If you’re starting up a sportswear business then quality and durability are important. However, it is impractical that you purposely buy a certain number of products just to check. Especially, when a lot of bulk suppliers require a minimum order quantity per transaction.

The best thing to do in this case is to request a sample. By doing so, you get to evaluate not only the quality but the speed of the production as well.

Why should this matter? For smaller businesses that purchase items in low quantities, this means everything. It is a sad truth that there are a lot of suppliers that prioritize bulk orders. This results in longer lead times for smaller orders that could’ve been done quicker. Checking how long it takes to produce a customized sample should already give you an idea of the duration as well as the supplier’s service quality.

Also, through this, you may easily compare different suppliers’ sample lead times and determine which fits your plans better.

Production Time for Bulk Shipments

As a business, you also need to make sure that you never run out of stock. So as much as possible, you need to keep an eye on the supplier’s production time duration. In simpler terms, you need to make sure that your order is fulfilled as quickly as possible. The duration of the production process is called the Purchase Order Lead Time.

The purchase order lead time covers the duration from when the order is placed until the estimated time of arrival. For example, if you ordered something on October 1 and it arrived on October 20, the lead time is 19 days.

What if the lead time is too long? According to Investopedia, there are three things you can do.

1. Automate the Order Process

If you’re sure about the supplier, then we recommend that you automate the order process. This means that you set a fixed date of when an order should be made with your supplier. This could be on a monthly basis or whatever suits you.

 We recommend this to businesses with high demand and easily run out of stock. This way, you can save yourself from having to contact your supplier every now and then. In fact, you won’t have to worry about stocking up at all.

2. Increase number of orders

Instead of ordering in very large quantities, increase your number of orders. For smaller businesses, this saves you a lot of money upfront. Plus, this allows you to efficiently keep up with your demand.

3. Switch bulk Suppliers

If none of the previous ways work, then it might be best to change your supplier. Switching to suppliers at a nearby location can cut off the lead time a lot. Keep in check the wholesale supplier’s financial stability as well.

Minimum Order Quantity

Suppliers use the minimum order quantity as a tactic to surely gain profit from every transaction.

With this system, the supplier can generate high profit even with only a few customers.

Why should you know this? A supplier with a high MOQ is unsuitable for businesses with lower demand. It is very costly and impractical. But for high-demand companies, MOQ would matter less and could even be beneficial.

Hence, bigger companies who are looking to purchase in bulk should look for a supplier with an MOQ that matches their needs. While smaller businesses can go for suppliers with low MOQ or none at all. For instance, we at QUANZHOU TSINGYISPORTS CO., LTD allow customers to purchase at least one item for customer convenience.

Alternatives to Minimum Order Quantity

Just because a manufacturer doesn’t have an MOQ doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate. A supplier might use other methods that can either be better or worse for you. To help, we’ve collected alternatives to remember from Fishbowl Inventory:

● Minimum Per Product

For this system, you can only purchase a certain item if it is in large quantities. It focuses on the individual product instead of the entire order.

● Minimum Purchase Amount

Here, the supplier focuses on the total price instead of the number of items sold. For example, some suppliers may require you to purchase a minimum of $1000 per transaction. This is regardless of how many products you bought.

● Drop-Shipping

This is when the order is not shipped to you in bulk. Instead, after receiving your order, the supplier ships the items to your customers directly.

Production Capacity

Be aware of the maximum number of items that the supplier can produce in a certain amount of time as well. We call this the production capacity. Ideally, your supplier should operate at full, meaning that all equipment is utilized without random stops.

The maximum number of products they can produce tells you a lot about your supplier’s system. Those with higher outputs most likely manage their resources better than other suppliers. Plus, you need to make sure that they can cover the quantity you need in a given timeframe.

According to Marketing 91, the efficiency of the supplier depends on three factors:

● Available Raw Materials

Production doesn’t start unless raw materials are available. A good supplier makes sure that these are available whenever needed. For instance, materials for seasonal items should be set to arrive a few months before to give time for production.

● Well Managed Human Resources

Employees working in shifts are best to keep the machines running constantly. By adopting this method, the production capacity can double up.

● Sufficient Warehousing

The storage facility should be able to keep up with the production capacity. A supplier should make sure that they have the right storage and take note of the product’s shelf life. Since you’ll be dealing with sportswear, then there’s no need for special types of warehousing. However, their storage capacity proves their competence as well.

● Optimized Equipment Use

As mentioned, it is best to keep your equipment and machines running non-stop to maximize their use. Hence, the supplier should expect it to deteriorate sooner and take precautionary measures. This includes time-to-time maintenance services and replacement if needed.

Step 2: Confirm Trader or Factory

To ease up your search, every city has its own major industrial zone. The suppliers you find in these zones are most likely to be factories of a certain industry. For example, if the supplier is located in a garment zone, then they are most likely an apparel factory.

This image is intended to represent a trend among manufacturers in the clothing industry

 For customized sportswear, manufacturers are concentrated in two areas. These are Fujian and Guangdong. In the table below, we’ve rounded up areas to visit if you’re looking for sportswear manufacturing factories. We’ve also included the common products they produce.

Leading Sportswear Manufacturing Areas Common Products
Guangdong Shenzhen Compression Wear (Fitness, Yoga, Cycling etc.)
Guangzhou Outdoor Wear
Fujian Fuzhou Jackets, bodysuits, windbreakers
Xiamen Swimwear
Jinjiang Skiing and Snowboarding Wear
Quanzhou Sportswear

Although this is not always accurate, these are great references you can use while searching.

Office Location

In the middle of your search, you may encounter suppliers with their factories located somewhere else. This is completely normal. This is because suppliers have to carefully consider the factory location based on certain factors such as:

  • Access to Raw Materials
  • Closeness to Market
  • Availability of Facilities and Utilities
  • Government Policies
  • Remoteness
  • Availability of Human Resources
  • Local laws and taxation

This is something you need to know especially if you plan to visit on site. For QUANZHOU TSINGYISPORTS CO., LTD here is a map of our office and factory location for your reference:

How to Distinguish a Trader from a Factory

It can be difficult to tell a trader apart from a factory from a beginner’s perspective. However, the main difference is that factories create the products while traders are the ‘middlemen’. In other words, they connect potential buyers to manufacturers.

One can be better suited than the other depending on your needs. For instance, if you’re selling both sportswear and equipment then traders may be better. Whereas, factories are best for single-line products like sole sportswear and the like.

Tell between a trader and a factory with these distinctions from InTouch:

● Variety of Products

If the company offers products that are manufactured differently, then you are probably dealing with a trader. The majority of Chinese factories focus on one particular product type mainly because of the high machine costs. Hence, if you’re looking for a factory instead of a trader, then the company should only offer sportswear.

● Company Name and Location

Factories have simpler and straight-to-the-point names, unlike trading companies. They also have the name of their location in their main title. Meanwhile, trading companies have flashier and more marketable names. The reason for this is that factories are focused on production, while traders prioritize customer attraction.

We’ve mentioned major industrial zones as well earlier. Manufacturers in the sportswear industry are most likely found in those areas. However, trading companies are often situated in busy cities like Shanghai or Shenzhen.

● Company Website

Last but not the least, actual manufacturers have simpler websites than traders. It is simply far out of their priority, hence you may even notice that Chinese manufacturers have all-Chinese websites. Traders, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. Many of them are easier to use and English to attract global consumers.

Step 3: Know the Different Logo Printing Services They Offer

Next, find out the different logo printing services that they do. You wouldn’t want to settle for a supplier that can’t perform your preferred logo printing method. This will only affect the overall quality of your products.

This picture is to describe one of the steps in the process of printing a logo

To give you an overview, here are the possible logo printing processes they may have available. Always choose what’s best for your products as their process may be unsuitable.

Logo Printing ProcessesMain FeaturesBenefitsCompatible With
Screen PrintingAlso known as silk screen printing, this is done by pouring ink over stencil and mesh. Then, press it down using a squeegee to replicate the design on top of the apparel.High QualityDurableFast and ConvenientSoft and Rigid fabric large quantities simple designs
Vinyl CuttingUses a vinyl cutting machine and transfers designs using a heat press method. Often seen in the sports industry.Alternative to screen printing fast and simpleDurableNo cracksSmall designs small and large quantities
Direct to GarmentPrints logos using a DTG printer and ink. Just like paper printers, you insert the apparel into the printer, and then it prints out the design onto the garment.Easy to use high-quality soft finish easily change designsBeginners who want to design clothes by themselvesLight colored garments
Dye SublimationPrints logos by heating and pressing a special type of liquid onto the fabric directly.durable high-quality unlimited colors and designsOnly light fabrics (e.g polyester)Big and complex designsMulticolor designs large quantities
Heat Press PrintingQuite similar to dye sublimation. But instead of using ink, you print the design on transfer paper, heat up, and press it onto the garment to replicate the design.Eco-friendly easy to do great for start-up high-quality printsUnlimited desightsSmaller quantities shifts that are not sensitive to headlight fabrics

To know more about every logo printing process, please visit this article.

In case you’re struggling with choosing the best logo printing method for your product then we can help. You could simply visit our article on “How to Choose the Right Logo Printing Technology” to know more.

Step 4: Know How They Ship

This diagram shows the process by which a wholesaler delivers a shipment to a customer by sea

The shipping method and terms will affect your financial responsibilities. Thus, it is important that you are familiar with the shipping terms of your supplier. If not, then you may end up paying a lot more than you would prefer.

Below is a quick table of the four most commonly used shipping terms. This includes the responsibilities of both the buyer and supplier during the transaction.

Price Terms

Shipping TermsPaid by BuyerPaid by Supplier
Free on Board (FOB)All transport costs are charged when the goods are loaded on the plane or ship. (e.g freight element, and port costs)Supplier’s invoiceSea or Air FreightPort Destination HandlingCustoms Clearance Delivery to Final LocationDocument FeesEntry Summary DeclarationLicence FeeTerminal Handling ChargeCustoms ClearanceTransport CostsTelex ReleaseOther Local Charges (e.g storage, inspection, etc.)
Delivered Duty Paid (DDP)Unloading ChargesTransport Costs from Port to WarehouseLicense FeeProduction and Procurement CostPackagingInsuranceLoss due to Damage during TransportFreight Charges before ShipmentShipping ChargesImport TariffsCustom Duty
Delivered at Frontier (DAF)All costs charged after the goods are delivered to the port destination unloading ExpensesAll additional costs if they fail to pick up goods on time-cost of customs formalities, duties, taxes, etc. charged upon import (if it applies)All costs charged before they are delivered to the destination customs formalities charges, duties, taxes, and other fees charged upon export (if it applies
Cost, Insurance, Freight (CIF)Destination Handling ChargesDelivery to Final DestinationUnloading FeesImport duties, clearance, and taxesExport PackagingLoading FeesDelivery Fees from warehouse to portExport duties, clearance, and taxesTerminal ChargesLoading on CarriageInsurance
Carriage and Insurance Paid to (CIP)Clearance feesImport License feesAll costs to be covered from the port to the final destination additional insurance (if needed)Loading and unloading fees to the final destinationCost of marriage minimum insuranceExport clearance costs from transporting goods supplier warehouse to port

With these, you have a heads up on what your financial responsibilities are. There are a lot more of these which you can read about here.

Shipping Port

Aside from the shipping terms, you also need to consider the port location. The port location is one of the determining price factors in shipping. This means that if your supplier ships from a farther port, then your rates might skyrocket. But of course, just because it’s the nearest doesn’t mean it’s the best.

Here are some factors to consider to get the best shipping route from iContainers:

● Location and Size

In terms of location, the best ports are not necessarily the nearest. Instead, ports that are located in safe zones should top your list. Ports in areas that are prone to natural disasters can cause massive inconveniences during bad weather. Another thing, larger ports are more efficient as it offers more direct services.

● Infrastructure, Equipment, and Trucker Availability

You also need to make sure that the port has everything you need for easy and safe transport. This includes accessible waterways, large vessels, and trucker pools. However, there may be times when we experience a trucking shortage. Hence, the smartest option for this would be to opt for a smaller port and a different route with more truckers available.

● Customs Laws, Regulations, and Procedures

Lastly, consider going for the port with easier customs clearance processes. Every port differs in this area. You can save a lot of time, money, and effort on this so you may want to be on the lookout.

Express Delivery Form

Find out if they have an Express Delivery service. Although this can cost you more, this is great if you need products shipped in a rush. This is something that not many suppliers have. Thus, if you found a supplier that offers express delivery, then you landed a rare catch.

Here are four benefits of express delivery service:

● Receive your orders faster

The best thing about express delivery is that it is delivered as fast as possible. So what usually arrives in a week, could arrive in only 2-3 days or less. This is great especially if you’re in a rush and need the products a few days after production.

● Higher customer satisfaction

Merely having this option can already improve customer satisfaction. This is because they are reassured that if you need your products immediately, then that is possible. Moreover, nothing is more satisfying than receiving what you ordered in almost an instant.

● Guaranteed safe arrival of goods

With express delivery, you are not only assured of speed but safety as well. After all, nobody would go for fast delivery in dangerous conditions.

● Stock up on products quicker

As a business, you can easily stock up on products that have run out with express delivery. Also, you can request to have your products express shipped in cases when you need them earlier than usual.

Step 5: Verify Your Chosen Supplier

This picture is a handshake to wish you and your wholesale supplier a successful partnership

The last step is the most crucial part, and this is when you validate the supplier’s services. Although China is known for export, that doesn’t mean you can trust all Chinese suppliers. Thus, if you want to avoid any scams then a background check would be necessary. After all, a bad supplier could make you lose a lot of money in the process.

Now if you have the opportunity to visit on-site, then that is great news. Don’t worry if you don’t though because we have tips for you. According to Forbes Business Council, there are two of the widely used compliance checks to validate. These are the ‘Know your Customers’ (KYC) and ‘Know your Business’ (KYB).

If they pass these two checks, then it might be a good time to seal the deal.

Know Your Customers (KYC)

This is also known as customer identification. Initially, this was used at banks and financial services to track people’s transactional behaviors, hence the name.

But now, this has also become a great way to be sure that your supplier is legally run by a real person. Basically, the goal of the KYC is to make sure that your potential supplier is not lying. Depending on your preference, you can do so by simply having a video conference. Other methods include security checks and asking for legal requirements.

Know Your Business (KYB)

This is a simpler term for reviewing the licenses, business registrations, and other proofs available. For this, you can also go over their online presence and check the feedback from other customers.

Now if you’re dealing with a legitimate supplier, then this shouldn’t be a problem. Validating themselves shouldn’t be new to them as this is to keep trust in the relationship. If they hesitate to cooperate, then maybe they’re not the right ones for you.

In Conclusion

The process of finding the right Chinese supplier is not easy. However, it becomes more doable by knowing where and how to look. Naming what you’re looking for in terms of production model, services, type, and shipping method comes first. After that, everything should follow suit with verification.

But of course, in the end, it all depends on your choice as a company owner. After all, you’re the one who knows what you need best.


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