Is it better to go with a big vendor or small vendor in China ?

What people are saying about Mulberry Fields
“….very impressed with your blogs and knowledge.” – former Director of Product Development at Williams Sonoma

This is a follow-up post on a blog I wrote a few weeks ago about a client of mine who is thinking about giving an order to a good size company which is part of a conglomerate. Selecting a vendor

I remember about eight years ago I was working for a company in the US and I was in China with a couple of my colleagues to visit some suppliers. On our agenda was a courtesy visit to a big vendor outside of Shanghai, a vendor that supplied some of the biggest home décor retailers in Europe. Our orders must have seemed small in comparison and I am not sure how important they regarded us. However, the first clue was when they I called to arrange a time to come visit and the vendor did not offer any transportation to their office (highly unusual in China). When we arrived at the office we were asked to wait for 90 minutes. When our Account Manager came out, after exchanging pleasantries he asked us “what can I do for you?” And the attitude displayed during that visit was pretty much emblematic of their attitude when we did business with them. When there were problems it was hard to get them solved. And the only reason we continued in the relationship with this supplier was that they were European managed and had very high quality standards. But we were obviously too small to count for much with them.

More recently I met a bag vendor at the Canton Fair. This is a big company and they do bags for a lot of well-known companies. They were friendly and the costs they gave me at the fair were extremely good. So I thought I would give them a try. Accordingly after the fair I began the process of developing samples with them. Whereas other vendors took a few weeks or so to get me samples this vendor took over two months, and only because of constant follow-up emails from me. The sample, however, was good and my client wanted to proceed with them. I told her that I couldn’t recommend this vendor anymore because of all the delays but I would at least follow-up with them as she had asked me to do. I sent them an email accordingly and when I did not hear back from them in a couple of weeks, I told my customer that she really was barking up the wrong tree with this vendor. She simply did not have the order QTYs that interested them. She agreed and we dropped them from the list. Two months later, the vendor replied to my email. Our decision had obviously been the correct one.

Although it would not be accurate to say that all big vendors give you this lackluster treatment, it really is the typical treatment you will get with big suppliers in China – unless you are an important customer for them and have very good order QTYs.

Another thing to consider is that if you have a design driven product and you are used to working closely with your vendor you are much better off working with a smaller vendor even if costs are higher. You will not be able to expect the same input on your design from a large supplier. They are just too busy.



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