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International Garment Sourcing

(December 2001) posted on Fri Jan 18, 2002

Globalization has changed the way garment-printing companies compete, both in the US and abroad.

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By Rick Davis

In the past, one advantage that US screen shops had over garment printers in less developed nations was a better record on health, safety, and environmental issues. Many large corporate print buyers refused to conduct business with offshore printers if they felt human rights were being violated, pay scales were too low, and working conditions too poor.

But many overseas garment printing facilities have developed into safe and efficient operations that rival their US counterparts. What this means is that US contract-printing companies are really competing on an international level and have to work harder than ever to win new business.

Ironically, one way US contract garment printers are protecting their bottom line is by going to less expensive foreign sources for their garments. But finding a suitable garment-manufacturing source requires extreme caution on the part of domestic shops. All it takes is one late delivery because any of the previously mentioned garment parameters didn't meet specifications, and you could loose the entire program to another contractor who can deliver the goods on time.

You may be considering foreign sources for your garments. Or you even may want to contract out full package programs to foreign manufacturers. If so, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Search for a manufacturing facility with a solid (and preferably long) history of servicing custom merchandizing accounts. You can verify this through the foreign manufacturer's other customers. Most manufacturers will even provide the names of customers you can contact for referrals.

2. Confirm that the company has a solid on-time delivery history. The company's other customers can verify this as well.

3. Know the laws and regulations that apply to garment manufacturing and exporting in the country where the manufacturer is located.

4. Have a clear understanding of the duties and costs that you'll face in sourcing abroad, especially when the goods are produced from foreign yarns, fabrics, or components.

5. Establish a clear understanding with the foreign manufacturer of your turnaround expectations after final production samples are approved. Keep in mind that shipping time can increase by 4-6 weeks if the goods come from Asia.

6. If you opt to have a full package produced overseas, printing included, make sure that you know what the printing facility's capabilities and capacities are. Remember that it is easy to produce a perfect sample. The question you have to ask is whether the facility can reproduce that sample 5,000 times or more.

7. Determine whether language differences will hinder communication. Make sure that you and the supplier use terminology that is similar, especially in relation to specialty applications.

Sourcing savings

Sourcing garments through foreign manufacturers can lead to substantial cost savings. But you'll only realize these savings by selecting a stable and responsible supplier. If international sourcing is a strategy you'd like to try, make sure to do your homework.


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