• 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.


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    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.

    fabric printing

    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.

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    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.

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  • 1 Responses to “How to Find the Best Clothing Suppliers on Alibaba.com in 8 Steps

    1. thaara at 3:16 pm

      Awesome post! Thanks for the useful information. I hope you will share some more content. Please keep sharing!

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