We’re close to 2019. It’s a week away.

As the New Year rolls in people are working on new projects and quotes.

The sample process goes hand in hand with quoting.

I thought it seasonable to provide tips on the sample process.

Usually when a project starts off, coupled with the RFQ phase is the sample process.

Once the importer is reasonably comfortable with price and the factory in general, the next step is to start discussing samples.

In the quoting phase, get a price for custom samples:

Do this while your supplier is calculating the original quote.

Don’t wait until after you have the quote to ask “how much for fully custom samples?”

It seems obvious, but many times the factory doesn’t consider you’ll ask for samples.

It’s as if they always have their fingers crossed hoping you’ll go right to mass production.

Reconfirm this as many times as necessary

Why would you continue to reconfirm the price for the samples?

Because the factory may not quote a certain aspect.

Don’t rush your first sample:

Avoid putting a fast and furious timeline on the supplier for the first sample.

A rushed sample will have errors.

They won’t put their full focus on the piece.

The supplier will hedge their bets thinking there’s going to be a second run anyway.

They’ll spit something out simply because you’re rushing them.

And there may very well may be a second run, but you don’t want them slacking or freaking out during the first run because you had poor timing and emotion control.

If the first sample is wrong, don’t be surprised.

Don’t let this ruin your mojo.

Don’t assume the supplier is incompetent.

For many vendors, the first run sample is an empty canvas. They’re making something and expecting you to come back and say:

-this is good.

-we like this.

-change this.

-now we’ve decide to include this.

…you get my point.

Many vendors proceed with caution on the first run until there’s further clarity on what you’re both talking about.

Sometimes after first run sampling, the buyer also decides to make changes.

Here’s a little secret

The factory, the sales contact who quote you and you are not all fully on the same page of what’s being talked about until they put their hands on the sample process.

Then the factory has light bulbs going off from what the sales contact kept telling them.

Now the sales contact has further insight on what you’re actually showing in those designs.

Finally you have more clarity on what the item once manifested starts looking like… The sample process is the time that ideas and designs come into the physical realm.

Completely custom manufacturing? You may face new pricing after sampling…

The price may change after the sample comes to light.

See what I said above.

Clarity entered the picture during the sample process.

That means previously the quote was based on “less than” clarity.

For the factory, the sample process is a work in progress not an exact science

Does that mean your factory is ugly cheaters?

No it means they’re not as precise at quoting as you hope they are.

It means they view the project more of as a work in progress instead of a one-time-kill-shot.

My suggestion is to make provision for this in your first quote.

Don’t put too much hope and stock into an initial quote until the sample is confirmed and the supplier issues the proforma invoice.

Sufficient sets of samples

This is critical.

Not only do you need a set to confirm. And maybe your brand does. Or your client.

But, you must make sure there’s a confirmed, labeled and sealed set of samples in your factory.

This way, when the QC company comes in to check the final shipment, they use that piece in the factory as the standard.

Without this piece, they QC team may inform you everything looks great.

It may look great.

But it may not look like the sample.

And without that physical piece, the QC company is in the dark on what you expect.


Here’s a post script point. I was thinking about leaving it off, because it takes the post into a larger conversation direction. Another can of worms so to speak…

But it still fits as a reminder tip on what to look for as far as obstacles go, in that initial sample process…

Find out how complete and thorough your sample will be:

The nature of the beast is that sometimes a certain aspect of your sample won’t be possible until ordering.

For example if your factory must dye material to match a certain Pantone.

Or if a certain process won’t happen until the factory buys material in bulk,

Come to terms on everything that your factory will include in the first pieces.

Best case scenario is that they can customize everything accordingly for first samples.

If there is something they refuse or say they’re unable to offer, you have a few options:

  • Pivot to a supplier that’s able to accommodate.
  • In case this isn’t possible, have the supplier prove their understanding of the request, by providing swatches or samples of previous work. If it’s coloring, have them “go to the material market” and offer swatches. If it’s material, they can send small pieces of material to confirm (ie if you’re going for textures, thickness, etc..).
  • Make sure once mass production starts, they send first run pieces of the complete piece. Insist and control and monitor that they do this BEFORE they go past a point of no return.

What I’m saying here the more experienced China importer will comprehend. For the novice, tread carefully.

This is Christmas evening here on the East Coast of the USA.

I wish you all the merriest of seasons and a happy New Year.