Choosing the right wholesale supplier for your custom t-shirts can be one of the most important choices you make as a t-shirt business owner. Your supplier plays a huge part in determining how you price your t-shirts, what type of t-shirts you offer, and even if you can get things to your customers on time. It’s a pretty major decision. We’ve put together a guide to help you choose the best t-shirt supplier possible.
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2. Understand Your Distribution Channels

Before you start calling up different suppliers, it’s important to know where you fall on the supply-chain. That will help you start contacting the businesses that can help you out.

There are three major types of T-shirt wholesalers. 

  • Garment Manufacturers - At the very top of the supply chain are the t-shirt garment manufacturers, the ones who are making all of the T-shirts in the first place. Not only do they create a T-shirt, but they also sell to wholesalers.
  • Regional Distributor/Reseller - who buy goods from the garment manufacturers and distribute them within (you guessed it) a certain region. Finally, you’ve got the jobbers, who sell to places like local cloth stores and textile business.
  • Depending on the industry, there are sometimes also exclusive distributors who are the only ones with the right to sell certain T-shirt brands.

3. Try the Garment manufacturers

Before you dive into research, you can always start by asking the garment manufacturers first if you can buy directly from them. Smaller boutiques do this with small garment manufacturers all the time.

Your luck with this will depend on the industry and how large the garment manufacturers are. Smaller businesses will usually be buying from small wholesalers because they haven't started selling a lot of T-shirts yet. Larger businesses, on the other hand, can buy in bulk from big wholesalers for a lower price.

If the garment manufacturer says no, then it’s time to start your search for a wholesaler.

4. Network

The best deals arent always online. Don’t be surprised if your competitors know about the best deals and are just keeping the information close to the chest.

To try and feel out where other people are buying their T-shirts, it’s always a good idea to network. Join professional organizations and other groups within your industry to meet more people and build your network.

If you devote enough time to creating quality relationships, you’ve got a good shot of being rewarded with insider information.

5. Go to a Textile and Garment Trade Show

A great way to both starts networking and meet potential wholesalers is to head to a trade show. Since they’re geared towards retailers, you’ll be able to find everything you need in one place.

Not only will you be able to market your own business, but you’ll also have the chance to talk to potential wholesalers face to face. This is a great way to first get in touch with someone. Plus, if you’re able to cultivate a relationship in person, it'll help you out when it’s time to negotiate the price.

6. Read Reviews of the suppliers or wholesaler

Not able to make it to the trade show? You can still try to dig up some information on different wholesale suppliers by reading reviews of them online.

You’ll want to look to see if they have great customer service, deliver their T-shirts on time, and are generally easy to work with. If you see a lot of negative reviews floating around, that might be a sign for you to avoid that wholesaler.

It’s especially important to see if they have good customer service — you want to know that they'll help you out if something goes wrong.

7. Shop Around

ven if you think you've found the perfect wholesaler, it’s always smart to shop around to see if you can get a better price somewhere else.

There are websites and directories for everything, and wholesalers are no exception. Check major online marketplaces like Alibaba, Global Sources, and Buyer Zone to browse through different wholesalers and find one who’s right for your price point

8. Know What Price You Can Ask For

Speaking of price, know what price you can ask for before you contact a wholesaler. What price you can get is going to be determined by the size of your business.

The easiest way to geta great price on goods is to buy them in bulk. Small businesses who aren’t able to do that quite yet should try to build a long-term relationship with a wholesaler instead. Even if you pay higher prices now, there will be the chance of a deal down the line.

If you go this route, make sure you sign a contract.

9. Check T-shirt Offerings

This should go without saying, but make sure that you check the T-shirt offerings of each wholesale supplier you’re interested in. It’s always a good idea to double-check that they offer what you’re looking to buy.

You should also plan for the long term, though, especially if you’re hoping to grow in the future. Do they offer T-shirts that you hope to sell down the line? Will this still be a beneficial relationship in five years?

Ask yourself these questions before you decide.

10. Negotiate

The last thing you want is to be stuck in a contract with a wholesaler and then discover that they never ship things on time.

The relationship between wholesale suppliers and businesses should be mutually beneficial, but sometimes wholesalers focus on a few high-paying business relationships and let their other ones fall by the wayside. You don’t want to be one of the forgotten business relationships.

Ask other people who have worked with them what their experience was to double check

Finally, even if you think that you have a fantastic price with a great company, always negotiate your deal. You never know what you might be able to save.

You can negotiate things like your price, minimum order quantities, and even when your T-shirts are delivered. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you negotiate to get the best deal.

12. Work with a Reliable Wholesale T-shirt Supplier

With these ten tips,you’ll be able to find a reliable wholesale supplier who meets all the needs ofyour business. You can be confident that you’ve made the best choice.

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