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How to Find the Best Clothing Suppliers on Alibaba.com in 8 Steps

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With thousands of suppliers to choose from, sourcing clothing and textiles on Alibaba.com can be overwhelming.

Unless you have manual, that breaks down the process in actionable steps:

1. Find the right keyword and use the ‘Supplier search’ function

2. Review the supplier page

3. How to read the TrustPass profile

4. Review product pages

5. Select suppliers, submit techpack and request quotations

6. Order product samples from 4+ suppliers

7. Place your order with Alibaba Trade Assurance

8. How to book a sea or air shipment

1. Find the right keyword and use the ‘Supplier search’ function

Using the right product keyword is the key to success when sourcing products on Alibaba.com. All suppliers have their own product focus, and we need to be sure we only identify those that are relevant.

A few examples follow below:

  • Bamboo rayon t-shirt
  • Polyester yarn
  • Organic cotton baby clothes

Don’t go too specific, you won’t find matching suppliers.

Supplier search

Once you’ve found the right keyword, you must switch from product search, to supplier search. After all, we are here to find qualified factories, not product listings.

By now you should see a list of suppliers. I just searched “Organic cotton baby clothes” and got 832 options to choose from.

Obviously, that’s too many suppliers to process.

How to filter suppliers

The left column on Alibaba.com gives you many options for further filtering suppliers.

When sourcing clothing and textiles on Alibaba.com, I suggest that you only focus on ‘Mgnt Certification’ which enables you to filter suppliers based on the following:

  • ISO 9001
  • BSCI
  • ISO 14001
  • SA 8000
  • IS 13485

I primarily filter clothing suppliers based on BSCI, and in some cases, ISO 14001. These suppliers also tend to perform better in terms of quality and compliance.

fabric printing

2. Review the supplier page

BSCI, which is a social compliance protocol used in the clothing and textile industry, filtered the number of suppliers down to only 20. That’s easier to manage than 832 suppliers.

This is about as far as we can get, using the search function.

Now it’s time to open the supplier page, and make an assessment based on the information we find on their company page.

Use this checklist

  • Are they listed as a trading company or manufacturer?
  • Are they specialised in your product category?
  • Do they offer the same types of fabrics?
  • Do they provide factory images?
  • Do they have uploaded test reports? (i.e., REACH)
  • Do they have uploaded factory audit reports?

Gold Suppliers

You can also see the number of years a supplier has been a Gold Supplier.

This is of some interest, but certainly not the main thing I look at.

Alibaba Trade Assurance

It’s a big plus if the supplier is part of the Alibaba Trade Assurance program. I get back to that further down in this guide.

3. How to read the TrustPass profile

Alibaba.com provides verified company information for every Gold Supplier. This information can also be used to assess if the supplier is qualified or not.

When sourcing clothing and textile products on Alibaba.com, the only piece of information that truly matters here is the registered capital.

Look for suppliers that have at least RMB 500,000.

Suppliers with less registered capital are more likely to be traders.

4. Review product pages

Many buyer’s go straight to the product page, and then start reviewing the supplier page and TrustPass profile.

But what’s the point of spending time reviewing product pages, if the supplier is not qualified?

But that’s not the only reason I save the product page for last:

a. Many suppliers don’t provide accurate product listings. In many cases, you just see a few product photos, and a basic spec sheet.

b. Most suppliers only use product listings to ‘demonstrate’ what they can make for you. It doesn’t mean that they actually have the materials in stock, or even a pattern file ready.

c. Hence, product listings don’t really matter. What does matter, however, is the suppliers’ capabilities and main product focus.

There are of course exceptions, but this is the situation for most suppliers.

5. Select suppliers, submit techpack and request quotations

At this stage you should have a shortlist of at least 10 suppliers.

You can get in touch with the supplier, either by clicking on the ‘Contact Supplier’ button or ‘Chat Now’.

Your success from this point and on will depend largely on how you introduce yourself.

Most new customer leads are extremely vague. Hence, the suppliers don’t even bother to respond to many quotation requests.

Use this checklist to maximize the number of successful RFQs:

a. Provide patterns, specification sheets and component images

b. Introduce yourself and your company

c. Clarify that your intention is to get a quote, order samples and then place your first test order.

d. Request the supplier’s Wechat ID.

e. Follow up a few times per week until you’ve received your quotation

You should give your supplier at least 4 to 7 days to provide quotations.

alibaba clothing factory

6. Order product samples from 4+ suppliers

Despite the fact that you’ve already invested significant time in vetting suppliers and requesting quotations, the real test remains.

Making product samples.

This is not a small task. In the textile industry, I’d say that the fail rate is normally around 50%.

To avoid a situation where you have to start all over again, I strongly advise you to buy product samples from at least 4 suppliers.

Assuming that 2 supplier fail, you still have 2 options left.

Prices

Expect to pay around $50 – $200 per sample, excluding delivery fees.

You can either pay via the Alibaba payment gateway, or directly to the supplier.

Lead times

Most suppliers need at least 30 to 40 days to produce the product samples.

Request photos before the supplier ships the samples. That way you can spot quality issues, without having to pay $50 in shipping fees.

7. Place your order with Alibaba Trade Assurance

The Alibaba Trade Assurance protects you in 2 ways:

A. If the goods are not shipped on time (as specified in the digital purchase contract)

B. If the products are not matching the specifications (as stated in the agreement)

However, the coverage only applies if you strictly follow this process:

Step 1: Place order through Trade Assurance

Step 2: Use Alibaba Trade Center (Under My Alibaba) to communicate with the supplier

Step 3: Create Purchase Contract on Alibaba.com

This contract is only valid for the products. Trade Assurance doesn’t cover any warranties, replacements or other services agreed upon between the Alibaba supplier and the buyer.

This should be included in the Purchase Contract:

  • Patterns
  • Seams
  • Tolerances
  • Material specifications
  • Bill of Materials
  • Label Files
  • Compliance Requirements (i.e., REACH)
  • Export Packaging
  • Prints & Artwork
  • Packaging

You must also specify the final delivery date, quality check terms and incoterms.

Step 4: Confirm contract

Step 5: Make payment: Credit Card or Telegraphic Transfer (ONLY use the designated account)

You should also follow up each order with a quality check, before shipment.

The Trade Assurance doesn’t cover refunds or replacements once you have approved the order.

8. How to book a sea or air shipment

Once the goods are quality checked, lab tested and approved, you can go ahead and book the shipment.

You essentially have 3 options:

a. Let the supplier book the shipment (I suggest you avoid this)

b. Book a shipment via Alibaba (This is still under development, but they are expanding their logistics network worldwide)

c. Book a shipment via Freightos.com, Flexport.com or other online platform

Import duties, and other taxes, are paid once the goods arrive in the port of destination.

Do you want to import textile products from China, Vietnam or India?

It can be hard to go from a design drawing to finished product. To help you manage the entire process – from creating a specification, to sampling and quality control – we created a Starter Package for Apparel & Textiles:

a. Manufacturer Lists

b. Product Specification Templates

c. Label Samples (USA & EU)

d. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process

In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.

Alibaba Trade Assurance Explained: What Importers Must Know

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Starter Package: All Categories

Since Alibaba launched it’s Trade Assurance program in 2014, we’ve received countless questions about what it is, and how it can help importers reduce risk.

So, we decided to take a closer look, and uncover what the Trade Assurance is, and how it can protect start ups and small to medium sized businesses, buying from manufacturers in Mainland China. As we did that, we also found out that the Trade Assurance is only as ‘assuring’ as you make it to be.

How the process works

Below follows an overview of the Alibaba Trade Assurance process.

Step 1: Place order through Trade Assurance

Step 2: Use Alibaba Trade Center (Under My Alibaba) to communicate with the supplier

Step 3: Create Purchase Contract on Alibaba.com

This contract is only valid for the products. Trade Assurance doesn’t cover any warranties, replacements or other services agreed upon between the Alibaba supplier and the buyer.

Step 4: Confirm contract

Step 5: Make payment: Credit Card or Telegraphic Transfer

ONLY use the designated account

Trade Assurance protects you in 2 ways:

A. If the goods are not shipped on time (as specified in agreement)

B. If the products are not matching the specifications (as stated in the agreement)

This video from Alibaba shows what the interface looks like:

What is Alibaba’s Trade Assurance Program?

The Alibaba Trade Assurance Program is meant to add an extra layer of security to overseas buyers of goods, primarily, from Chinese suppliers. As such, the Trade Assurance allows the buyer to receive a refund, if any of the following occurs: Continue Reading →

How to Buy Products From 1688.com: A Complete Guide

1688 Alibaba

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1688.com is just like Alibaba.com, but all in Chinese, and for the domestic market in China.

Some believe that they can find better deals, by going directly to suppliers on 1688.com, instead of Alibaba.com.

But is that really true?

Keep reading, and learn if 1688.com suppliers are really offering lower prices, how to pay them and if they even have export licenses.

What is 1688.com?

1688.com is a B2B supplier directory owned by Alibaba Group. Just like Alibaba.com, 1688.com is portal were you can find factories, wholesalers and trading companies, in virtually any industry.

So why is it called 1688.com, and not Alibaba.cn? In Chinese, 1688 reads as “Yao Liu Ba Ba”, which (kind of) sounds like Alibaba.

Substituting words for similar sounding numbers is common in China and all over Asia. Continue Reading →

How to Order from Alibaba in 3 Steps

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Starter Package: All Categories

Do you have a product that you would like to order from a supplier on Alibaba.com? Ordering from Alibaba.com might seem like a simple task but a quick search on Google or the Alibaba forum proves the opposite.

This article provides you with a step by step guide to ordering from Alibaba.

Step 1. Sourcing products on Alibaba.com

There are three ways to source products at Alibaba. Product Search, Supplier Search or by posting a Buying Request. The Supplier Search is the latest Alibaba search option and in my opinion superior to the other two, below I explain why. Continue Reading →

Importing GOTS Organic Cotton Textiles from China

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Starter Package: Apparel & Textiles

Looking for GOTS certified organic cotton manufacturers in China? Then keep reading. In this article, you will learn what GOTS is, and how you can find GOTS certified suppliers online.

In addition, I will also explain how you can verify a GOTS certificate, and why should not assume that all cotton fabric suppliers in China are certified.

In fact, only a small fraction are.

What is Organic Cotton?

By definition, organic cotton is grown using methods that leaves a smaller environmental footprint on the environment. For example, organic cotton is only defined as such if the following criteria are met:

1. No use of toxins

2. No use of persistent pesticides (POP)

3. No use of chemical fertilizers

4. No use of GMO seeds

In the textile industry, organic cotton is the exception, not the rule. Further, the reduction of POP and chemical fertilizers reduces yields, and therefore results in higher prices.

Hence, you should expect to pay more for organic cotton, than non-organic cotton.

What is GOTS?

GOTS is the acronym for Global Organic Textile Standard, which is defined as follows:

1. Only fabrics that contain at least about 70% organic fibers can become GOTS certified

2. All chemicals such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria

3. A functional wastewater treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved and all processors must comply with social criteria

A supplier can be GOTS certified, if they pass a factory inspection performed by an accredited third party. There are only a handful of ‘GOTS accredited’ inspection companies with offices in China:

  • CERES GmbH
  • Control Union Certifications b.v.
  • Ecocert Greenlife

Continue Reading →

Selling on Amazon.com From Overseas: By Ariel B. C.

Almost half of our readers are located outside of the United States and the European Union. Yet, the majority of our customers in these countries are mainly selling in the US or Europe. Or both.

One of our subscribers, Ariel, is one of them.

In this article, he explains how he started selling in the United States, on Amazon.com, while being based in Israel and Europe.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before starting with your current business

I was born in France, and moved to Israel about 20 years ago.

I always had a passion to travel, so, logically, I always searched for source of incomes that can be managed from any places in the world.

I studied economics, but worked a very briefly as an employee. Only about 2 years, then I began to import goods from the United States, to France for several years when I still lived there. Essentially motorcycles and accessories.

When I arrive in Israel, I first worked in software for a big company.

In parallel, I began to sell online about 10 years ago, at Ebay France, managing the shop digitally from Israel while having a partner in France taking care of all the “physical” work.

Then I discovered Amazon FBA nearly 4 years ago, and I found it was a perfect fit for me.

It allows me to be free of all the worries about warehouse to stock my inventory and also I don’t have to deal with packaging and shipping every unit sold to the customer.

It also can be run from any place, so I can make a living while travelling around the world.

About a year ago, I was able to quit my job as an employee and work full time on my online business.

For half a year, I have a VA from the Philippines helping me with recurring tasks and social media. Continue Reading →

Furniture & Housewares Trade Shows in Asia 2018

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Starter Package: Home & Furniture

Are you looking for qualified furniture and housewares manufacturers in Asia? Then you should attend at least one of the many upcoming furniture and home product trade shows in 2018.

In this article, we give you a complete overview of furniture exhibitions in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India and Thailand.

You will also learn if you need a visa, product overviews and much more.

Hong Kong

HKTDC Hong Kong Houseware Fair

HKTDC Hong Kong Houseware Fair is among the most well-recognized and well-recieved furniture fairs in Hong Kong. In 2017, the fair was attended by more than 29,000 visitors, and around 2,200 brands and businesses displayed their products.

In 2018, the exhibition will take place in the third week of April in Hong Kong. The admission to the fair is allowed for only 18 years old and above. You also have to pay HK$ 100 which is equivalent to USD 15 to attend the show.

Visiting Hong Kong for short-term business visits does not require a visa so you can attend this event without applying for a visa. Hong Kong allows visa-free entry to 170 countries, which also include North America, Europe, and Australia.

You can explore a wide range of houseware categories in this event that include:

  • Art & craft items
  • Hardware & DIY projects
  • Bathroom products
  • Home appliances
  • Eco-Friendly products
  • Furniture
  • Outdoor & gardening accessories
  • Storage solutions
  • Kitchenware
  • Interior decor & handicrafts

You can also find hundreds of exhibitors from Hong Kong, Mainland China and other countries in the region. The event is organized by Hong Kong Trade Development Council, The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, and other partners.

The event takes place once a year, mostly in April.

Venue: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Expo Drive, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

IDFFHK

International Design and Furniture Fair Hong Kong, also known as IDFFHK, takes place in Hong Kong after every two years. It is expected to take place in August 2019.

The fair focuses more on interior design and hosts many top interior designers, in addition to exhibiting their designed products. The event is mostly attended by architects, property developers, interior designers, hoteliers and other professionals working in the design industry.

In 2017, more than 10,000 professionals visited the fair.

Venue: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Expo Drive, Wanchai, Hong Kong Continue Reading →

Alibaba Request for Quotation (RFQ): A Complete Guide

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Starter Package: All Categories

The free Alibaba RFQ service enables you to receive quotations from multiple suppliers, in a matter of days. All you need to do is to fill in a form, and click on the submit button.

If used the right way, Alibaba’s Request for Quotation service can help you save hours of work, as you don’t have to contact suppliers one by one.

But as always, you need to use it the right way.

In this article, you will learn how you can save time and money using the RFQ service, while making sure that you provide enough information for the suppliers to calculate an accurate unit cost.

In addition, you will also learn what to look for once you receive the quote.

How can the Alibaba RFQ service help me?

Alibaba.com is the world’s largest supplier directory. Even the most obscure product search can result in hundreds of suppliers.

It can take forever to shortlist suppliers and contact them one by one.

Even worse, many of them don’t even reply.

Now, what if you could turn the table, and let them come to you? That’s the idea behind Alibaba’s RFQ service.

In essence, you add product information, and a number of suppliers will submit quotes based on your requirements.

All you need to do is wait. Or well, that’s the idea at least. Continue Reading →

The Art of Finding the Right Supplier on Alibaba – By Gary Huang

Gary Huang 8020 Sourcing

You can find a supplier for anything on Alibaba.com. There are often too many supplier, rather than too few. As such, you might find yourself trying to navigate between hundreds of different suppliers in the same product category – all with varying levels of expertise (or lack thereof).

Rather than flying to China and visit 200 suppliers, you need to use information available on Alibaba.com, to identify the supplier that is the right choice for your business.

And that is exactly what this interview with Gary Huang, founder of 80/20 Sourcing in Shanghai, is about.

Gary, tell us a bit about yourself and how you started 80/20 sourcing

I’m originally from the US and born and raised in Los Angeles. I’ve been working and living in Shanghai since 2008. Some people say the sourcing is like a black box.

Since I am a 2nd generation Chinese American and being culturally and linguistically fluent in both cultures and countries – I have an unfair advantage in being able to do better business between China and the US.

I started 80/20 Sourcing because I saw that a lot of online Sellers and small business owners were struggling with sourcing products from China.

So I decided help online sellers and small business owners save time and money when sourcing products from China and to scale their online businesses. 80/20 Sourcing offers video courses, webinars, coaching, and free articles which can be found at www.8020sourcing.com. Continue Reading →

How to Utilize Freelancers for Your Ecommerce Business: By Mike Michelini

Asian Freelancer

Managing RFQ procedures and day to day communication with your supplier, can be very time consuming. Especially when you consider the time zones. Before, the only option would be to hire a procurement agent, and adapt to their procedures (and perhaps even use their suppliers).

Or, setup your own office in Asia – which is not a realistic prospect for startups and small businesses.

But things have changed. Today, you can go on Upwork.com or Freelancer.com, and tap into a huge pool of freelancers, that you can pay by the hour or on a per project basis.

A Freelancer, that will likely be based in Asia, can keep up to date with your supplier, coordinate shipments – and even negotiate prices, while you spend your time doing something else (rather than calling your suppliers at 10 PM).

In this article, the Shenzhen based founder of Global From Asia (www.globalfromasia.com) shares his best advice for hiring and managing Freelancers, and how they can free up hours of work, every week.

How have you been using remote workers in your businesses?

I have been using remote workers on my team even before I read the Four Hour Work Week in 2007. It started with customer service for my e-commerce business when I hired “military spouses” who wanted to work online as their spouse (normally husband) was traveling often for work so they couldn’t get a “normal job”.

I was blown away (this is 2006) that I could have a work at home professional customer service rep help me at all hours of the day or night. These were “moms” based in USA (Kansas and Texas – Michelle and Janet – you rock) who really were moms of my business.

The hardest part about working with remote workers is the setup of tools and systems – which is a ton of upfront work.

Once you get a good flow with you and your remote team, it is like working next to them.

I have used remote workers for almost every part of my various businesses now for over 10 years – starting with customer service to graphic design, video production, web design, app development, community management, marketing – basically every kind of role except meeting clients face to face (waiting for the teleport technology to develop more for this).

Basically, if a task can be repeated, it can be delegated. If it can be delegated, 95% chance it can be done by a remote worker. The trick again is the upfront training and tools, and then the ongoing management. Continue Reading →