Are Mexico and Latin America really an alternative to China ?

I have a project currently sourcing some home décor suppliers in Mexico and Latin America. And I must admit it has been harder than I thought it would be. The main reason I think is language. I have looked at the websites of 10-15 trade shows in Mexico and Latin America and I think only 2 or 3 had English versions. I was quite surprised by this because some of the shows look to be rather large in scope and are advertised as such, albeit in Spanish. And of the 50 or so websites of companies I visited I would say that only about 10% had English language versions of their websites. Nevertheless I learned the requisite Spanish to describe the product I am looking for and I emailed a handful of vendors in English assuming they would have someone who understood English and would get back to me but that so far has not been the case. The response has been nothing short of dismal. The response rate has been about 5%.

Of course this is just one project and just because vendors have not replied immediately does not mean I should cross them off my list. I do think there are probably some good suppliers for my client in Mexico or Latin America. But finding them will be far more difficult than were I looking in China. In China most companies have English versions of their websites and some staff who speak pretty good English. You will not find a big trade show in China that does not have an English language version of their site. And if I emailed 50 vendors out of the blue I think about 30 would get back to me within 48 hrs. And this is one reason why China has become a truly Global Player.

To source effectively in Mexico you probably have to spend a fair amount of time in the country visiting trade shows and suppliers and going back often to supervise production. Of course this is what I always preach to companies that want to source in China as well. However, I think the difference is that China vendors are far more responsive, just move a lot more quickly (obviously) and they somewhat understand the concept of Customer Service. For this reason, I think small to medium sized consumer goods importers in the US and Canada who are looking at Mexico and Latin America with the goal of shortening their supply chain probably need to stay with China a little bit longer.

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