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Maximize Your Time at Sourcing Trade Shows


If you are new to the fashion industry, sourcing trade shows can be a great way to meet suppliers and manufacturers and learn more about the process of building a brand. With Texworld USA and Apparel Sourcing USA happening in New York next week, I wanted to share some guidance on how to get the most out of these experiences. 

Here are 3 ways to maximize your time when attending sourcing trade shows:

1. Preparation

Preparing for a trade show is a great way for you to take a deep dive into your product assortment and create a framework for your brand. It’s easy to have big ideas about how many items you want to offer and what you want it to look like, but developing specific products from these visions will be imperative to the successful execution of these items. 

With a detailed assortment plan you can clearly identify the vendor resources needed to create your product. If you are planning to produce in the US you may have to source additional vendors like fabric dyers, pleating services and trims suppliers for example. Preview the exhibitors before you go and make a plan to seek out all material suppliers and production services you will need. 

Because you have access to a multitude of partners, think about future assortments and what your needs may be. If your brand promise is sustainability, meeting with as many sustainable manufacturers and suppliers would be beneficial for your current and future products even if you may not need them now. If you have highly technical fabric and want to keep offering the newest technology, seek those partners out now and start those conversations. Your goal should be to build lasting partnerships that benefit both you and the vendor and this usually this takes time.

2. Communication

Being prepared will help you to communicate effectively with the exhibitors and ultimately set you on your path to production. If you clearly communicate what you needs are, you should be able to quickly and effectively make selections on who would and wouldn’t be a viable business partner for your brand.

When talking to suppliers, the first thing to understand would be their Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ). Fabric suppliers generally offer tiered pricing with lower costs for higher quantities. Some require you to purchase a full roll of fabric to obtain the wholesale price and the amount of yards per roll varies by supplier and fabric. It’s also a good thing to understand where the actual production of the material is done. Many US suppliers produce their products overseas which can provide you a lower price but increase the lead time.

MOQs are also important to understand when talking to manufacturers. Their Product Development (PD) process is another important topic to discuss and understand. PD is an enormous investment when starting a brand and having the wrong partner can drain the bank and keeping you from launching. It can also leave you with a product that you’re not happy with and you’ll end up having to source another vendor partner to start from scratch. Unfortunately, I have heard this story from clients too many times. They thought they had a comprehensive PD package that could get them all the way to production. Because they didn’t fully understand all the steps needed prior to production, they didn’t know they would be required to pay more. Do your homework and get a detailed understanding of their PD process before making a commitment.

3. Be Professional

Exhibitors at these shows are bombarded by many different potential partners. How can you stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression? Be professional. Be prepared with business cards and other information you can leave behind so they remember you and what you are trying to do. Remember, you are building a business and seeking partners who can help you succeed so it’s important to make a good and lasting impression.

With any supplier or manufacturing partner you are interested in, be sure to ask them who your contact would be for follow-up and getting their contact information. In this industry you are responsible for being persistent in your communication and follow-up. Having the right person to contact can make or break your chances of getting what you want.

If you are entering into this industry for the first time, I would spend a significant amount of your time networking. Building a network of peers and mentors is a great way to create a foundation of support and guidance. You may be able to avoid a potential costly mistake or even find your perfect manufacturing partner by meeting the right person.

We’ll be at Texworld USA and Apparel Sourcing USA next week meeting with clients and making new connections. We hope to see you there!

Alice James