Wouldn’t be great if you could just skip wasting your time on Alibaba.com or trade shows, and go straight to a supplier making goods for Apple or Disney?
Clearly, quality products are manufactured in China. If you could only get hold of a ‘big brand supplier, you’d be set for life. No more quality issues or delays. Quality goods, on time, every time. Just like Apple does it.
At least that’s what many buyers imagine. Reality is actually quite different, as I explain in this week’s article.
But first I’ll show how you can actually identify suppliers of major brands, or spy on your competitors – using online tools and other methods.
1. Official supplier lists
Some brands publish their supplier lists on their websites, while others operate databases with supplier details. Apple, for example, maintain regularly updated supplier lists on their website.
In the Apple Supplier List from February 2018, you can find hundreds of manufacturers located in China, such as:
- AAC Technologies Holdings Inc.
- Asahi Glass Co., Ltd.
- Boyd Die Cut Co., Ltd.
- CymMetrik Enterprise Co., Ltd.
- Daikin Industries Ltd.
However, they don’t provide contact details, or information about which components they subcontract to listed suppliers.
Importgenius.com helps Importers access US customs shipping records, which reveal the following information:
- Importer (in the United States)
- Supplier (for example, in China)
- Product type
In theory, this means that you can identify which suppliers your competitor is buying from – and large companies like Disney and Adidas. However, shipping records only cover goods that are imported or exported.
Big companies often use trading companies, with names that don’t resemble that of the parent company. As such, you can’t find data on many large companies, as they use completely unrelated company names on the importer of record.
As shipping records don’t track domestic transactions, it’s relatively easy for companies to keep their supplier network secret.
Notice that Importgenius.com only provides US shipping records. Hence, you cannot access records in the EU, Australia or other places.
Importgenius.com plans start from US$99 per month.
Panjiva.com is similar to Importgenius.com, in the sense that they provide shipping data. However, they go further than that, as they also provide detailed information about suppliers.
- Bill of Lading
- Cargo Weight
- Container Info (Value, etc.)
- Product Classifications (HS Codes, etc.)
- Company Info (Revenue, location, etc.)
- Contact Details
- Parent Company & Subsidiaries
- Country Data
- Part Data (Port of Loading and Destination)
Panjiva is not only providing US trade data, but also from other countries, including:
Their basic plan starts from US$150 per month.
4. Look for big brand references on Alibaba and Globalsources
Some suppliers listed on Alibaba.com and Globalsources.com advertise that they make products for major brands, such as H&M, Zara and Nike. It’s relatively easy to find such suppliers when sourcing online.
You can also contact suppliers and ask for buyer references. However, manufacturers that are not already sharing customer references on their websites are often reluctant to share such information.
Questions & Answers
Are ‘brand name’ suppliers generally better than others?
Big companies like Apple and Disney have high standards. They don’t buy from suppliers that cannot pass their social compliance audits, or manufacture unsafe products.
In that sense, the average ‘big brand supplier’ is more sophisticated than smaller manufacturers.
That said, many of these manufacturers are part of large international conglomerates, that only work with other large businesses.
You can’t go to Foxconn and pitch an idea for a new electronic widget, if you’re looking to buy a few hundred units. Suppliers of that size will not consider anything but orders counted in the millions of dollars.
Finding a ‘brand supplier’ is rarely even an option for startups and small businesses.
Aren’t there exceptions?
Yes, there are many smaller factories that do get orders from Wal-Mart and other big buyers. But, you are not Walmart.
You don’t have the same quality assurance processes as they do, or the buying power to make the supplier treat your orders the same as theirs.
A common misconception among smaller importers is that everything will work out perfectly once they find that amazing supplier.
But, the outcome is only partly dependent on the sophistication of the supplier. What matters more is, as I just mentioned, the quality assurance processes of the buyer.
A qualified supplier and an organized buyer can achieve great things together. However, even the best supplier will fail to live up to the expectations of a disorganized buyer.