What are you looking for in China?

Sourcing New SuppliersWhen importers tell me about their frustrations, I usually explain that other buyers have different experiences. And the reason is that they have different needs.

Not all buyers are looking for the same thing when they come in China. Some need a very low price, and don’t really care about quality as long as they don’t receive garbage. Some others want very good workmanship and finishing, but don’t really care about packaging. I could go on and on.

A useful framework is to make a list of your “order qualifiers” (the needs a supplier MUST fulfill to be considered) and your “order winners” (the other criteria that might not beĀ indispensableĀ but that are somewhat valued).

Here is an example.

Order qualifiers:

  • Ability to make woven men shirts
  • A level of quality slightly higher than the average product found in European supermarkets, but lower than in boutiques
  • Experience in selling to European importers
  • A Production lead time of 40 days
  • Acceptance of payment by letter of credit at sight
  • At least one English-speaking salesperson located in the factory

Order winners:

  1. Competitive price
  2. Good level of understanding of the designer’s expectations
  3. General respect of deadlines and open communication regarding production status

If I take 10 random purchasers on a trade show in Hong Kong and I list their needs as described above, I will probably come up with 10 different profiles.

So I encourage every importer to define what he is looking for, before he starts contacting potential suppliers. It will help focus and sharpen his/her sourcing efforts.

What do you think?