Why I import from... Turkey

It's not all about exporting - more and more startups are also choosing to have their products made abroad. Whether you're doing it  because of better technology, innovative methods, or simply for price reasons, it's an option for businesses at any stage. However it can also involve language barriers, cultural differences, and being unable to just pop over to the factory to see how things are going with your product.

The Johnson Quikdri Tracksuit is an innovative product - a tracksuit lined with towelling, so that you just put it straight on after being in the water, with no need for an extra towel - perfect for sporting events, days on the beach or just heading to the local pool. And as is often the case with innovative products, founder Tracey had to look outside the UK for a producer who could make her design a reality, eventually deciding to have her products manufactured in Turkey. We had a chat to her about the experience. Find out more about Quikdri here.

What led you to pick Turkey as the location for producing your product?

The production quality is excellent, and the factory honoured the production exclusivity. Having designed the product and produced the patterns, I didn’t have faith in going to China. I felt that by going to China, the product would most likely appear on the market before I could launch it myself.

Other countries such as Pakistan were an option for price and quality, but they source their materials from China, which would have built in extra timescales. Companies in Turkey, on the other hand, produce in-country. You can also transport products by roadfreight compared to airfreight - it's only 4/5 days shipping time by road.

How did you go about finding a producer for your product, and did it take long?

It took about a year, and I used a third party based in London to help me find a producer.

What was the biggest challenge?

Using a  third party had it benefits and problems. My designs and vision of the product were filtered based on the third party's view, and so the first sample batch produced was not correct and I had a real struggle to get the design patterns implemented the way I wanted. This also meant the first batch was a costly write-off. I now deal directly with the factory, which was the  agreement with the third party.

What are the benefits for you of importing your product?

I tried to get the product produced in this country, but unfortunately our clothing manufacturing plants have all but ceased. One company who could have produced it stated that my final product was of such high quality and such a complicated product that it would not be cost-effective for them to produce. So I suppose the business wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t import. Furthermore, there are obvious cost benefits to importing.

What things should you look for when choosing a producer or supplier abroad?

Try and get recommendations from either a trade organisation in your field, or check out customer and client reviews. Try looking closer to home too. People naturally think of China and Asia generally for cheap production, but a lot of the Eastern European countries are up-and-coming with competitive rates and quality manufacturing skills. Even places like Italy and Spain can be competitive on pricing and excellent quality.

What are your tips for anyone else considering importing a product or having it made abroad?

Importing the product is not difficult in today's global market, as transport costs are cheap and fast. A lot of companies will make a small quantity or one-offs to win your business and prove they can do the job.

One tip is to tie the factory down to production timescales, as missing those will be costly. There are organisations in different countries and regions who can check the quality of goods for you before shipping if you have to pay upfront. This can save time and money and a journey out to your country of production, and you'll be in safe hands as they are experts who know what to look for.

Another tip is, depending on what you are producing, check any CE kitemark rules, and safety laws if you are bringing in from outside of the EU. You also need to check whether your product attracts duty and VAT, as this will add to the costs on arrival and needs to be factored in in the overall costs of purchase.

Finally, I would suggest that once you have found a factory you wish to go with, get them to sign a non-disclosure agreement if you have an innovative product, and try to produce a small quantity first before to ensure you get the product and quality you expect.

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