How to get wholesale priced fabrics for large amounts of fabric

Written by b. maté
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How to get wholesale priced fabrics for large amounts of fabric
Wholesale fabric can be bought on reams or on larger rolls. (store display of fabric image by Joyce Wilkes from

When it comes to buying in bulk, most wholesale merchants sell to other businesses, and there is no exception to this rule when it comes to buying fabric. Sometimes, an individual can arrange a deal with an individual fabric merchant, for a one time purchase. However, more often, buying fabric is a business to business transaction.

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  1. 1

    Assess how much fabric is need and the time frame (turnaround time) it is needed by. Fabric wholesalers usually have minimum (and sometimes maximum) quantities they will sell. Larger merchants might not take a smaller order, while smaller merchants may not have the capabilities to fulfil a large order. Furthermore, the buyer's time frame will determine if they will be sourcing a domestic or international fabric merchant. For example, if time is limited, it would be best to source domestically.

  2. 2

    Research merchants that meet your criteria for fabric quantities and turnaround time. Often, overseas merchants will have a local representative, but if they do no not, they should respond quickly to e-mails and faxes. Sourcing can be done with various source books found in business libraries or by attending trade shows where fabric vendors are showcasing their goods.

  3. 3

    Send queries to the selected group of merchants that best fit your quantity and time criteria. The first contact can be made by phone, fax or e-mail, and the buyer should request samples. Buyers use these samples to inspect the quality of the merchant's fabrics and the capabilities of their factories. These samples could arrive in swatches, presentation cards or in a booklet form.

  4. 4

    Negotiate a sales contract by factoring in both parties' terms and agreements. This can include: terms of sale, minimum lots, order processing time and special orders. Firming up the terms will help when drafting the purchase order. The most important factor in the terms of sales is the shipping. Understanding who bears the responsibility for cost of shipping, insurance and duties is important. Common shipping terms are called incoterms, and will be used when ordering the product.

  5. 5

    Draft the purchase order, or the written sales agreement, including all the negotiated terms. This can be a form provided by the fabric wholesaler or a contract written on the buyer's letterhead. A purchase order is a contract, it is legally binding, and it should mention the specifics of the purchase including: order number, item numbers, quantities, shipping dates, cost, freight, insurance and duties (if it the merchant is overseas). Once the purchase order is drafted, it is submitted to the fabric merchant.

  6. 6

    Inspect the goods immediately and thoroughly to determine that the order is correct and there is no damage to report to the seller.

Tips and warnings

  • There are industry sourcing books, which can be found at many business libraries. If there isn't a business library available, they can be bought at industry book retailers.
  • Another place to find fabric merchants are at trade shows. Trade show calendars can be found online.
  • If a fabric merchant is located overseas, they will include incoterms in their terms of sale. A quick explanation of the terms can be viewed at the International Chamber of Commerce.
  • Remember to keep all correspondences with the fabric merchant simple, clear and professional.

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