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Ask Nick Sparks Your Own Question

Nick Sparks
Nick Sparks, Executive
Category: Job
Satisfied Customers: 35
Experience:  Hiring, firing, working, quitting -- the works
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Questions Regarding Finding The Least Expensive Vendor or Maufacturer

Customer Question

Experts, I have been running my own business selling apparel, promotional items, athletic equipment and uniforms to businesses of all sizes, high schools, etc. My first set of questions surrounds the fact that I am looking to obtain the apparel and promotional items for the least expensive cost, so I can turn around and sell them to my clients and still make a quality profit margin. Currently, I am using internet sites to search and try to find the best prices available, but I don't think this is the best way to go about obtaining the best prices available because I am still going through to many middle men and losing out on my profit margin. 1) Can you provide me with some recommendations as to how to get these items at the lowest cost available or find direct vendors or manufacturers? 2) Do I need to join ASI or PPAI? 2a) Which one would you recommend joining if not both? 3) What about athletic equipment and athletic uniforms? I am always told that if I don't have retail store, I have to deal directly with the retail stores to get my products, sneakers, baseball equipment, etc.

Your help is greatly appreciated.


Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Job
Expert:  Nick Sparks replied 11 years ago.
Bill, allow me, please, to start with a sidebar based on my
experience with wholesale vendors. To me, the concept of
"price" includes not only the dollars I have to pay, but also
the time and stress required to complete a transaction
successfully. I am a great believer in evaluating the total
package offered. I realize you probably know this, and
could teach me a few things about it, but I find that it is
among the most important lessons a businessperson needs
to learn, so I repeat it often.

Can you express your needs in the form of a spec sheet or
Request for Proposals (RFP)? If so, I might develop one
product request and send it to appropriate companies
listed in ThomasNet (
home.html?WTsource=TR ), formerly Thomas Register.

In my own business, it doesn't seem to do me any good to
appear bigger than I am. It fools no one, and I waste a lot
of time with big companies who end up backburnering me.
Matching suppliers by size can make a big differenace in

I do not work in apparel, but we all know that a huge
amount of apparel is imported. Import-Export exchanges,
which are common on the web, might find you leads. So
might contacting your Chamber of Commerce or state
economic development agency for trade leads.

Often, a little industrial espionage is the best and simplest.
Who are your competitors using? If you can find someone in
your business who is not a direct competitor, they might be
candid about who is the best vendor. Sometimes when I
travel I drop in on companies like my own and ntroduce
myself as a fan of their products and a worker for a similar
company far away. I chat them up and see what I can learn.

I do not care for trade and professional groups personally,
but that's just me. Many people find them worthwhile. I will
not venture an opinion on that area.

When buying for direct resale with no value added (for
example, imprinting the team name ontop a uniform), you
will often be regarded as a threat to existing vendor-
reseller relationships, as you have described. If you can
somehow position yourself so that you are adding
something to the apparel, or selling something of your own
design, you are likely to be more credible. In a previous
venture involving t-shirts, I used stock from American
Apparel, then did imprinting in-house.

I am not satisfied with the depth and quality of this answer
given the price you are offering, and will understand if you
choose to pass. I do like to help fellow entrepreneurs as
much as I can, so I hope there is something here you can

Best of luck,
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Nick Sparks's Post: Nick, I appreciate you getting back to me, but I really need more specific answers to my questions in my original request. I need to know if there are currently websites or organizations out there that can provide me with these low cost items that I referred to. If so, what are they.

At this time, I don't feel that I received that specific information. Although you provided me with quality answers, these are steps that I am already taking.

Thanks again.

Expert:  sarah replied 11 years ago.

 bill, check out this link.  it is a list of distributors.  i've used them a few times, you may be able to find them more useful.



Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to sarah's Post: Sarah, thanks for your help, but I also have used these distributors in the past.
Expert:  Nick Sparks replied 11 years ago.
Sure, no problem. I think perhaps it would be helpful to
have a little more information about what you want to buy.
Can you provide some links?

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