A lot of importers fear receiving a shipment of downright horrible, unsellable products. While this can happen, in my experience quality issues normally occur as a very subtle, gradual deterioration. The term quality fade is a popular term used by importers.
How quality fade normally occurs is that your first couple of shipments will be of excellent quality. For example, over time your supplier may switch a stainless steel fastener for a cheaper aluminum fastener or switch to a different fabric for threading. Some people might differ in opinion, but my belief is that most suppliers aren’t trying to screw you over by selling you garbage products. They’re making subtle changes that they hope neither you nor your customers will notice (and of course increase their profit margins in the process). And the truth of it is, if no one noticed or cared about the changes they’re initiating, the changes probably wouldn’t be a huge deal. The problem is, often suppliers go too far and make changes that are noticed.
The most important thing you can do to reduce your chances of experiencing a very bad dose of quality fade is diligence. The opening up of China has meant there are now more importers than ever who are careless in terms of quality control. Suppliers have likely dealt with foreign customers who don’t even mention quality fade issues when they occur and make the false assumption that maybe Western companies don’t value quality as much as they’ve made out to value it.
Expect to experience quality fade at one point or another. If you follow the steps below though you’ll lessen your chances of experiencing a devastating dose of quality fade:
-Expect quality fade to occur, don’t simply hope that it won’t occur.
-Document every important product specification in detail in POs/emails/etc. If you specify stainless steel fasteners and your supplier switches to aluminum, the chances are that your supplier won’t straight up dupe you and ignore these agreed to terms.
-Have either you or a third party inspect your first large order with a supplier before it ships; Do the same for the second big shipment where complicity is more likely to set in and your supplier is more likely to test the waters by dipping their little toe in.
-If you experience any quality fade issues inform your supplier immediately and put them on notice that you are diligent and will notice any quality fade.