In China sourcing something is always lost in translation

Today a vendor sent me pics of a sample they had been working for me. When I forwarded them to my client she pointed out that the vendor failed to grasp one concept of the product and how it is used. I explained to her that this is perfectly normal and to be expected because it sometimes it just takes time for vendors to come to an understanding about a product they are being asked to make. The reason is that American products are different from those sold in China in many cases vendors are seeing a product for a first time. When they do they look at a new product they see it with the eyes of a Chinese consumer and not the end American consumer. When I used to work with basket vendors in China making gift baskets for the US market I ran into this problem all the time. A case in point: Chinese consumers favor glossy finishes on baskets while American consumers traditionally liked more matte finishes. The result was that we tended to get more baskets with glossy than with matte finishes. Even if the vendor understood our requirement some of his/her workers might not have. I would add that sometimes, if not often, Vendors in an effort to please their customers take liberties with design, changes they think enhance a product but changes which of course are not acceptable to importers with very specific product guidelines.

The best way to circumvent little surprises like this is to gradually educate your vendor about your product and standards and to check production at every step of the way to make sure they are getting it right. Put problem areas in red on your spec sheets and make sure vendors pay close attention to them. And never accuse your vendor of negligence if you get back a product that is not to your liking. Chances are the flaw is in the design or communication and you have to keep in mind that you are relying on your vendor to help you build your business.

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