It’s been a few weeks since I spoke about contacting suppliers for my new product and you may be wondering what happened next.

(The short version is, I narrowed them down, ordered samples, then went on holiday while I waited for them to arrive, but I’m guessing you’d like more details than that!)

Of the 25 suppliers I contacted,16 replied. This probably sounds a lot, but it didn’t take too long to whittle them down.

Firstly, if the response seemed like they’d just fired off a template (lots of unnecessary information about the company, they didn’t answer my questions, etc), I wrote them off.

I also rejected anyone who:

  • Didn’t speak great English. This might sound harsh, but being able to communicate effectively is really important, especially when you get down to discussing the details.
  • Couldn’t meet the specification I’d set out in my email.

One also said they didn’t manufacture towels (which left me confused about their Alibaba listing…)  After a few days, just 6 suppliers remained on the list.

We then started talking more about the specifics.  What I wanted from each of them was:

  • The price per unit.
  • Any additional costs, for example for packaging, anything extra you’re doing to the product, printing plates, etc.
  • The MOQ (get this for the product and for packaging if using – it might be different.)
  • The cost of a sample – including delivery.  Some offered free samples (I just paid the shipping fee), but they all vary.  It depends how much customising you want from the sample, or whether you’re just asking to gauge quality.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t do loads of negotiating at this point.  I tried to get the MOQ as low as possible – by stressing this was a trial order with the promise of more, much larger orders to come if the first order sold well.  For the price, I did let one supplier know I would like a sample, but they were way out with their quote – and they did reduce it.  Otherwise, I asked for their best price and I will negotiate further when I get to the stage of placing an order.

I had planned to order three samples, but I actually ordered four – as I couldn’t decide between two suppliers. (One was slightly cheaper, the other was just such a pleasure to deal with – which, in my experience, shouldn’t be underestimated.)  In hindsight, I’m glad I did, as it’s interesting to see the differences between products that ‘should’ be pretty similar.

I also decided, upon receiving the first sample, that what I thought I wanted, didn’t actually look too good in real life!  This actually prompted the order of the fourth sample, with a different concept, which I hope I prefer.

I’ll talk more about samples next time.

Just a final thing.  In my first post about contacting suppliers I spoke about using Amazon for product research.  In the few short weeks between me doing that and now, there are new products on the market.  So keep an eye on this right up until you place your order. Before you get to that stage, it’s not too late to tweak things if you need to.  Remember, in a lot of cases (but maybe not all) you need to somehow be different to the competition, so you have something to market.  If someone comes up with the same idea you need to be prepared to change it!