What are jobbers?

[This is an entry for the glossary category. I really need to work on the glossary. Submit your glossary related questions, I don’t know what you don’t know.]

A jobber is a fabric supplier who sells mill ends (also called over runs), odd lots and seconds. Jobbers buy fabrics from textile mills and sometimes clothing manufacturers. Jobbers sell goods to individuals, one-off designers, small manufacturers and fabric stores. Jobbers typically have very small minimums.

Mill ends are the leftover goods that a fabric mill produces for which they don’t have any orders or the buyer ended up not taking delivery of the goods for whatever reason. In other words, mill ends are excess fabric inventory over and above that for which they had orders. Jobbers buy mill ends from the mill.

Odd lots are similar except jobbers usually buy these goods from clothing manufacturers. These can be fabrics that a manufacturer bought but ended up not needing either because they don’t know how to buy (in anticipation of orders), the order fell through between fabric delivery and cutting or they miscalculated their yardage needs. Similarly, sometimes there are large pieces of cut goods that remain from the ends of bolts on the tail end of a cutting run. Also, sometimes a manufacturer will buy excess goods thinking they’ll have reorders on certain styles (that then fall through) or the manufacturer had to buy more than they really needed to make the quantity for minimum purchasing.

Seconds are just what they sound like. There is some reason the goods have been categorized as seconds. The type of defects are myriad and beyond the scope of this entry.

Should you buy from jobbers?

Yes and no. It depends, doesn’t it always?

  • If you’re buying seconds, you can’t return them.

  • Jobbers have low minimums. Usually just one yard.
  • If you’re buying goods for immediate production and won’t need any more than that, jobbers can be a good deal.
  • If you’re buying for future production, be advised that you may not be able to get any more. You need to ask about continuity. Some jobbers do enough business with small companies that they will routinely stock certain fabrics but you won’t know which those are unless you ask. Likewise, even if the jobber does carry the goods in stock, their ordering schedule may not be congruent with your needs. In such case that they have run out, they won’t necessarily reorder them like a grocery does with milk; you may need to have a minimum order before they will reorder those goods. A word to the wise: many jobbers will say they stock certain goods -but not have them in stock- and are just waiting for somebody to come along who is willing to make a minimum buy which finances the jobber’s lot purchase of the goods.
  • If a jobber does guarantee continuity, a reputable jobber will never guarantee color matching.
  • In general, you should not use a jobber if you must have continuity. In other words, if you’re planning your line and ordering sample goods to sew prototypes and samples in preparation to show the line to buyers or at market, you shouldn’t use a jobber unless they can guarantee continuity. Again, a reputable jobber will not guarantee dye lots (exact color matching). It is a nightmare to produce samples for your line and then not be able to get the goods for production*. Ask around to see what others say about a given jobber. Some of them are less than ethical and will say they have continuity but they don’t. Ideally, you want to buy goods from a mill representative rather than a jobber.

*By the way, under no circumstances should you buy production quantities of yardage if you don’t have orders. Just don’t do it. Sure, you can get lucky sometimes but it’s like playing Russian roulette with your lifelong dream. If you don’t get any orders and you’re sitting on lots of yardage, you’ll end up selling the goods back to the jobber (assuming they’ll take them) at an incredible discount.

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