Industry outsider starting new shoe line, advice please :)

Good day,

I’ve just begun my foray into the world of footwear production and am in the midst of starting a new line of women’s dress shoes.

I have a question in relation to factories. I’ve managed to find a manufacturer to produce one of my designs, but I’m concerned about how well I can trust them. Being new to the industry, I am weary of being taken for a ride by people on the other side of the planet.

I am currently in the sampling stage with a factory, already having seen one sample and am awaiting another with some changes. We are using existing sole molds and lasts as the design of this shoe is fairly simple. I haven’t discussed price with the factory yet, although I am shooting for a value price point. They have agreed to an initial MOQ of 200 pairs, with a promise from me to reorder regularly.

My questions are:

  1. How well can I trust my factory? I located them through a trade show (WSA) where they had 3 booths, is it safe to assume they are a creditable company, considering their presence at the show? Is there a reliable method for checking up on factories, or for finding credible factories in general (in China or elsewhere)?
  2. How do I avoid problems once we go into production? Should I hire someone to inspect during production, and/or at time of shipment (who?)? Or should I go there myself?
  3. What terms should I expect in the contract? Will they expect payment in advance? What’s fair/typical?

I’ve been shopping around for factories, although with my small order quantities it hasn’t been easy. Especially with me not really knowing where to look, or what to look for!
Please forgive my ignorance if any of the above sounds completely inane, as I said, new to the business :slight_smile: That being said, I would appreciate any help anyone could offer. Finding this forum and reading all the posts has already been such a great help!

Thank you in advance!

-Matt

What brands do they produce at the moment?

Whats their name? (Could be that someone has worked with them already)

Have you been to visit them yet?

The company is Ningb o Haitian, website haitiangroup com
I’ve only met them at the trade show.

This is the first time I’ve been able to access their website, and from the looks of it they are a trading company. I’d prefer to work directly with the factory, but how does one find a reputable factory? Just go to China?

I have worked with a large number of factories in Asia over the past several years. Of course working with someone competent and trustworthy trumps all, but as a general rule, you DO NOT want to work directly with the factory. A proper trading company will be your feet on the ground there, helping to do or coordinate QC, testing, sourcing issues (when the factory runs out of a component and doesn’t reorder) and so many other issues. It’s not the same as a middleman in the western sense.

An easier way to envision many factories is a large building, some equipment, a lot of people trained to do one thing a million times, and very little management. The trading company often provides the management of what’s going on and how to keep your projects on track. It’s possible to find factories that have trading company capabilities, but they will be much more expensive if they are providing management services. So they tend to not do well, because they cannot compete with unmanaged factories and do not get the feeder business from the trading companies. My advice would be to work directly with the factories after you can afford to have a team on the ground there.

In footwear, if you are not dealing with someone you know or referred by someone you trust very well, you should expect that you’ll be copied if you are successful. If your factory doesn’t copy you, others will - should you be so lucky. If this happens, it’s because you are so successful to be worth copying. If the large brands (like nike, etc) who are successful in China can’t stop the copies, it’s unlikely that you’ll find much value spending your time on this issue.

I wouldn’t agree here. Perhaps 10 years ago dealing direct with a factory was difficult as they often didn’t have people who speak english, or could do much in terms of development or sourcing, but nowadays it’s quite different and dealing direct with a fty can save you lots of time and money. At the very least a trading company will cost you 5-10% of FOB costs on top…

As for copying, don’t worry. Yes, you may be copied, but chances are pretty slim it will be exported to your market and thus take away any of your sales. In any case, it’s often not so much the product that makes the sales, but the branding, marketing and distribution. A copy alone is relatively worthless. Anyhow, going through a trading company won’t make any difference to this. Copies happen on the fty level, and while it may help to get a more trustworthy fty through an agent as opposed to cold-calling or online, this is far from a guarantee. I’ve even had the experience that a trading company may offer lasts, outsoles etc. from one brand they work with to another…

The good thing a trading company can do is help you with initial sourcing and this might be viable if you are new to the industry. Better yet however is to find a design/development partner that can evaluate the fty and help with the “management” of the project, overseeing production, etc.

If you’d like any more info, you can feel free to PM me, of course, if you like to take this offline. This is exactly what I do with my own consultancy so certainly have experience in this area.


R

Thank you for your advice. I’m not particularly worried about being copied, I expect it. I’ve already seen some of my design on fake sneaker websites from China (I customize sneakers, little known 1-offs, yet they still get copied! The power of the Internet I suppose … ).

I’m more concerned with the possibility of a factory closing down, or not meeting quality requirements and me being left with nothing to offer my customers.

Are 3rd party inspection companies a good method of verifying quality and factory competence? In lieu of actually traveling to the factory myself (which I plan to do, but may be difficult while coordinating the rest of this project). I hear stories of inspectors taking bribes and passing shipments of defective gear.

And thank you all again for your help!