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Copyright 2006 Cornell University. All rights reserved.


Shipping costs, options, and payment

Negotiation for price and terms is done at the time of order

Shipping costs vary substantially and should be used as a negotiating item. It is reasonable to ask the vendor to cover shipping, ship small orders, or accept payment within a 30-day period as part of the price negotiation.

Lead Time
Lead time required for fabric orders depends in part on whether the fabric is a stock fabric or whether it is to be made to specifications. Open-stock fabrics are basics, made in anticipation of demand, and are often readily available for delivery and reorder. Fabrics made to specifications, or custom, require extra time to develop designs and approve samples. Mills as well as converters carry stock fabrics and many of them will produce other fabrics to specification. Converters purchase "greige," or unfinished, goods, then dye or print them close to market time once color and style trends of the season develop.

Mills photo
"You rely on people to pay you on time so that you can buy more fabric on time so that they can dye or print or knit fabric on time.."

Malia Mills discusses the interrelationships among all parts of the business. She describes how purchasing lead times can sometimes lead to missing deadlines.


A distributor carries a wider range of stock fabrics from a variety of manufacturers and could have minimum order requirements ranging from as low as one yard to much higher quantities. Many distributors discount in greater steps as the quantity being ordered increases. For example, if you purchase 50 yards, the price might be $4/yard. If you purchase 500 yards, the price could be $3.50/yard or even less.

A fabric ordering strategy for mass customized production might involve establishing a relationship with a supplier so that you agree to order on a regular basis, in small units, rather than once a year. You may be able to work out a 2-3 day shipping method. With an increasing use of flexible sourcing arrangements industry-wide, competition among suppliers means they are more likely than ever to be flexible about lead time and payment arrangements So, ask for ordering arrangements based on your business' needs.

Another factor to consider when planning lead time is distance from mill and shipping method, especially with off-shore production and smaller orders shipped on a regular basis. Be sure to negotiate what shipping methods will be used and the costs and time involved before committing to an order.

1. Why would you want to limit color offerings of your products?
2. Why is it advantageous to order materials that are in stock rather than materials with custom specifications?
3. What discounts does the term 5/10 net 30 give you for material purchase? When would you have to pay for the materials?
4. Would mills or wholesale retailers be more likely to have higher minimum order requirements?




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