How To Pick The Right Footwear Sourcing Agent

How To Pick The Right Footwear Sourcing Agent

Are you ready to take your footwear concept to market but are uncertain about how you are going to get your design manufactured? Are you having fit issues with your shoes that are in production? Maybe you have already reached out to a few factories or had initial conversations with sourcing agents. You have probably realized that manufacturing can be a daunting task. For any footwear company, regardless of the stage of the business a partnership with a footwear consultancy or agency is essential.

Why Would You Consider Working With a Footwear Agent?

Making great footwear that fits well and is comfortable is no easy task and requires extensive knowledge to prevent costly production mistakes. Agencies can offer the right combination of skills, resources, knowledge and network to make your project come to life. A good partner will have experienced footwear developers who have a deep knowledge of last design and a grasp of how material properties interact in the dynamic environment of the foot.  They also offer a robust network of sub suppliers and manufacturing partners that can meet to the specific needs of a client. Once manufacturing starts an agency will help ensure consistency through constant quality control practices during final assembly. Many big and small companies rely on agents due to their specific knowledge set and supplier relationships.

Overall, an agent is responsible for the manufacturing of your product. They are the interface between the brand and the factories.

Why You Might Reconsider Doing The Work Yourself

More recently, small and medium brands are deciding to oversee manufacturing themselves by developing relationships directly with factories in an effort to cut costs. For generic, basic, white label product this could be a good option (think a Vans like slip on or basic sneaker). Factories might have developed existing tooling and molds for such a product which would allow for low minimums and reduced upfront costs. Even with a basic product it is critical to be at the factory during production weather an employee or an outside representative. This will ensure that the final product meets your standards.

However, if your product is an original design or features new technologies, working with and agent or consultancy is the way to go. New designs require product development and while factories have sample rooms and may say that they have developers, they tend to not have the diversity of expertise needed to make a great product. To this point, the factory will tend to work in the realm of what they already know and will likely be reluctant to create something new. The factory’s goal is to improve their margins by operating as cost efficiently as possible and can influence the development of a product in such away that design or quality is compromised.   A good product developer will be able to help guide the factory in commercializing a new idea without compromise. In the long term, an original product tends to be a winning strategy as it provides a compelling reason for the customer to buy your product.

Being physically present at the factory both during the sample making process and during production is critical to ensure a high quality product with no defects and tends to be a three month long process. Paying for employee’s to travel back and forth to the factory can be costly in both capital and time. Agents tend to have staff near the factories they work with to ensure things run smoothly and efficiently.

How To Determine The Right Footwear Agent or Consultant For You

There are lots of footwear agencies and consultancies to choose from, so which one is right for you? The first place to start is to ensure that the firm has extensive experience in the category of footwear you are interested in producing. Each category has its own distinct construction methods and factory base, requiring specialized knowledge.

A firm with staff near your companies headquarters and in the manufacturing region is a huge plus. Let’s face it, the most productive work gets done when physically present and long email threads can be tedious. Close proximity to your key partners ensures ideas keep flowing and efficient communication.

Getting the most value as possible is extremely important when deciding which agency or consultancy to work with. Agencies who exclusively help with production typically take a percentage commission of the Freight On Board (FOB) price and depends on the order amount. It can range from 5-15%. If you require other consulting services such as a product developer, it is common to be presented with a retainer for the scope of the project. Footwear development typically will take 6-9 months to complete.

Why Concept 21 Is A Leader In The Space

Concept 21 has been building shoes for 40 years and have worked with some of the most iconic athletic, outdoor, and casual brands in the industry including Nike, Merrell, Supra, Sanuk, Solomon, and many more.  With dedicated staff both in both North America and in Asia, Concept 21 provides seamless integration between the brand, suppliers and factories. We specialize in bringing great ideas to market through innovative design, expert development and operational excellence. Check out concept-21.com to learn more.