Chicago vs NY sewing contractor

Brooke writes:

What are the benefits of a full service factory over using a local contractor? I have both options open to me to produce my line of children’s clothing (10 pieces of higher end woven/knit separates). My original intention was to have it produced here in Chicago with a contractor. However, I have been increasingly frustrated with sourcing from here. Plus, the only contractor I have been the least bit impressed with — I don’t feel 100% that they will be able to produce when I need them to. Even though they seem to do good work, their business seems a bit shotty. They had a scrappy handwritten sign on the entrance to their business! While they were friendly enough, I’m just scared they won’t come through when I need them to. The full service factory is in NY and came recommended by a friend. They are highly polished and professional. I can’t help but be seduced by the fact that they will help source fabric, make my tags and so on. I like the idea of being able to oversee the work with the local contractor, but feel more secure with the full service.

I think it’s great you have options. I think your question about the benefits of a full service facility over a local contractor was largely rhetorical :). Perhaps a better way to phrase it is the downsides of using a local contractor -with whom you’d have to source your own goods- vs using an out of state contractor who would do your sourcing for you.

I think we all readily appreciate the reduction of stress and cognitive overload with an outfit that can help with sourcing but the downside is cost. For the most part, between the minimums you’d have to meet sourcing your own stuff with the local outfit vs buying exactly what you need from the NY contractor, and even considering the mark up they’d legitimately be adding to the cost of production, I can see something like that paying for itself provided the costs and mark up weren’t excessive.

It’s good you realize you can be seduced under the circumstances but you might want to consider over all costs and issues relating to proximity. Any contractor in NY is going to be pricey. I was talking to someone last week who said their NY contractor’s rent has just gone up -to $25,000 a month! Your local contractor may be a better bargain. There’s also the issue of shipping costs and lastly, travel there and back for you. Lastly, have you thought through what you’d do if there were a problem in NY that needed your immediate hands on attention? None of these are easy questions to answer and I’m sorry I can’t do that for you.

Regarding the “scrappy handwritten sign on the entrance to their business” of the local contractor, I urge you to look past this. I wouldn’t let this be the defining criteria of your decision. Keep in mind that these expectations are based on your experiences as a consumer in retail environments and don’t apply to this side of the business. Many contractors and manufacturers don’t even have a sign, much less a handwritten one. I don’t have a sign on my door and I never will. Having a listing in the phone book can be bad enough.

I think you should do what you can to keep your work as close to you as you can in spite of the seduction of easy sourcing. If there’s a crisis, it’ll be easier to manage and it’ll cost you less. I think you should stay focused and judge the merits of each contractor based on the quality and turnaround of their work.

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