I visited a company the other day and was surprised to learn that this company does not as a rule keep counter samples when they do production in China. The handmade nature of the product and the small order QTYs leads them to believe that counter samples are really not necessary as they pretty much inspect every piece upon delivery. Although I have never heard of an importer, particularly for a design driven product, that did not keep counter samples on hand, I can’t argue with them since they seem to be doing a pretty good business. Theirs is a design driven product with big margins. I simply suggested to them that counter samples is a very good idea. Maybe when their business grows they will see a necessity to do this. And most certainly if they get a large order from a big-box retailer they will need to do this.
As a rule I think it is a very good practice to keep counter samples on hand and to make sure your vendors have them as well. A case in point: a past client of mine emailed me recently and asked me if I could request samples of one of his products from a vendor we had discussed an order with a couple of years ago. It seems my customer had no more samples of his own product. When I emailed the vendor to see if they could do some more samples, they very politely declined. They explained that it was a lot of work for them to do samples and they did not wish to make any more samples without an order. And I do not fault them since it has been two years since we first approached them and my client has not given them an order in that time. Reading between the lines, I would just say they are busy and do not want to be bothered. But that is their right. Still in the end my customer does not have a sample of his own product. Hard to believe, isn’t it. He will have to dig out the artwork for the product and approach a new vendor to get new samples. This will cost time and money. And it just goes to show the importance of keeping a counter sample on hand at all times.