July 12, 2024

Sourcing Essentials for Apparel Brand Owners and Trading Companies

Sourcing Essentials for Apparel Brand Owners and Trading Companies

Sourcing Essentials for Apparel Brand Owners and Trading Companies

This is how this article is structured:

  1. Abstract
  2. Intro to apparel platforms
  3. Platform traffic analysis
  4. Highlights and Notable Aspects of Key B2B E-Commerce Platforms
  5. Conclusion
Photo by Mediamodifier on Unsplash


As an apparel brand owner or a trading company, sourcing is a critical component of your business strategy. This blog post will delve into popular sourcing platforms that cater to diverse needs within the apparel industry, from white-labeled products and suppliers to manufacturers allowing for extensive customization.

When considering B2B sourcing platforms, apparel businesses generally have four main types to choose from:

  1. End-to-End Digital Solutions: These platforms provide a comprehensive service that spans from wholesale purchasing to storefront management. They are ideal for businesses looking for a seamless operation flow, integrating sourcing with sales.
  2. Dropshipping Websites: A great option for businesses looking to minimize inventory risks and upfront costs. Dropshipping platforms allow you to sell products directly to the consumer without holding any stock. The supplier handles storage, packaging, and shipping directly to the customer, which means you can focus on marketing and sales without the burden of managing physical products.
  3. White-Labelled Product Providers: These platforms specialize in offering products that can be branded with your label. They are a go-to for businesses that prioritize speed to market without the need for customization in terms of fabric and construction. You can still do some printing customization on the top of white-labelled products.
  4. Manufacturing Partners: These platforms connect you with manufacturers, giving you the flexibility to customize products extensively. This option is perfect for businesses that require specific adjustments in fabric and measurements, tailoring products to unique brand specifications.

If you opt for white-labeled products or manufacturing partners, be aware that apparel is a labor-intensive industry. Therefore, importing from overseas sellers usually offers a pricing advantage in most situations. However, it’s important to note that in some cases, as the volume of your bulk production increases, you should consider the hidden costs associated with import taxes and shipping. These expenses can sometimes make importing more expensive than sourcing from domestic U.S. factories.

Intro to apparel platforms

Firstly let’s create tags for each categories.

  • [E] End-to-End Digital Solutions
  • [D] Dropshipping Websites
  • [W] White-Labelled Product Wholesale Providers
  • [M] Manufacturing Partners

It’s important to note that the absence of a specific tag for a platform does not imply that such a business is not present; rather, it indicates that the platform’s core business focuses more prominently on other categories. Here is the list of platforms:

[D, M, W]

  1. Alibaba: The world’s largest global trade platform, offering a vast array of products from suppliers and manufacturers for customization and white labeling.
Photo by Zonghe Ma on Unsplash

[M, W]

  1. globalsources.com: A leading B2B platform that specializes in connecting buyers worldwide with suppliers in China for a range of customized and white-labeled products.
  2. Made in China: Focuses on providing access to Chinese manufacturers for businesses looking to source customized and white-labeled products efficiently.
  3. 1688.com: A Chinese local market version of Alibaba, catering primarily to domestic businesses looking for manufacturers and bulk suppliers.
  4. Tradekey.com: Connects businesses with global manufacturers and suppliers for customized and white-labeled products.
  5. IndiaMART: India’s largest online B2B marketplace, providing access to suppliers and manufacturers for customized and bulk purchase needs.
  6. EC21: A popular global B2B marketplace for finding a broad range of products from manufacturers around the world.
  7. eWorldTrade: A rapidly growing international trade platform that connects buyers and suppliers for extensive customization and bulk purchasing.

[D, W]

  1. DHGate: Offers an extensive range of products in a dropshipping format, making it ideal for small to medium-sized businesses looking to minimize upfront inventory costs.
  2. FashionGo: An online wholesale marketplace that offers fashion retailers and brands the ability to quickly source and sell fashion goods.
  3. lashowroom.com: An online marketplace catering to fashion buyers and brands, offering a comprehensive selection of ready-to-ship apparel and accessories.
  4. fashiontiy.com: Targets small and medium-sized businesses with a focus on dropshipping and wholesale purchasing of fashion and accessories.
  5. Doba.com: A dropshipping platform that offers a diverse inventory management system to streamline the supply chain for e-commerce businesses.
  6. SaleHoo: Provides a directory of wholesale suppliers and dropshippers, making it easier for e-commerce stores to find reliable partners.
  7. Trendsi: A fashion-focused dropshipping and white-labeling platform that provides stylish apparel and accessories directly to consumers on behalf of sellers.

[E, W]

  1. JOOR: A premier online marketplace that connects fashion brands with retailers, offering a seamless digital experience from sourcing to sales.
  2. Candid: Specializes in connecting apparel brands with retailers, facilitating efficient sourcing and distribution.

I also recommend Apparelsearch.com: This industry-focused search engine facilitates connections between businesses and apparel manufacturers, suppliers, while providing essential fashion industry information.

Platform Traffic Analysis

2024 Mar. B2B Apparel Sourcing Platform Visits

Given that most platforms generate revenue through subscriptions from sellers, it is reasonable to assume that the number of website visits is proportional to their market share among buyers. However, their market share among sellers can vary significantly due to pricing differences. For instance, Alibaba’s standard plan for sellers can reach up to $21,999 per year, whereas IndiaMART charges only ₹28,000 (approximately $100) per year.

Key Observation: Alibaba.com dominates over half the traffic among the top platforms, underscoring its vast influence in the global market. Notably, the majority of the leading apparel sourcing platforms are based in Asia, highlighting the region’s central role in the apparel industry. Trendsi, despite its smaller size, shows potential for rapid growth, indicating an increasing interest in niche markets.

Further Insights: Major platforms like Alibaba, Made in China, and DHGate are showing positive growth trends, reinforcing their strong positions in the market. In contrast, some platforms like Thomasnet.com and EC21 have seen a decline in traffic, suggesting a shift in market dynamics.

Highlights and Notable Aspects of Key B2B E-Commerce Platforms

1. Alibaba/1688.com

  • Extensive User Reviews and Supplier Base: Alibaba distinguishes itself with over 13,000 reviews on Sitejabber, demonstrating widespread use and trust among global buyers. It claims to host a vast network of 3 million suppliers, although the actual figures present some ambiguity. Alibaba’s official website lists 200,000 suppliers as of 2023, suggesting these are the active participants. In contrast, smaller platforms like EC21 report millions of suppliers, indicating that Alibaba’s 3 million from Sitejabber might include registered suppliers who are not necessarily active.
  • Buyer-Friendly Features: Alibaba is renowned for its buyer-centric approach, particularly through its Trade Assurance program. This program holds payments until buyers confirm satisfaction with their products, providing a layer of security and confidence for buyers while navigating global trade.
  • Comprehensive Services for Large-Scale Buyers: Alibaba supports a range of specialized services including RFQ (Request for Quotation), product inspections, and access to trade show information, catering extensively to the needs of large-scale buyers and enterprises.
  • Logistics and Shipping: Alibaba primarily partners with UPS to offer reliable shipping options, though it has faced criticism for issues related to fulfilling promises, highlighting a potential area for improvement in customer satisfaction.

2. DHGate

  • Lower MOQ and Dropshipping: DHGate stands out for its lower minimum order quantities and robust dropshipping support, making it particularly attractive for smaller businesses and startups. This flexibility allows newer entrants in the e-commerce space to experiment with smaller batches and diverse products without heavy upfront investments.
  • Dynamic Customer Support: Users report high satisfaction with DHGate’s responsive customer support, which is critical for resolving the inevitable issues that arise in international trade.

3. Global Sources

  • Focus on Quality and Trade Shows: It experiences lower traffic compared to Alibaba but is noted for its high-quality reviews and more discerning buyer base, typically comprising medium-sized businesses. These buyers often have well-established websites and contact information, indicating a more serious level of engagement. Negotiations on Global Sources tend to be lengthy, ranging from 3–4 months and sometimes extending up to a year. However, once a partnership is established, it rarely changes, reflecting strong business loyalty. The platform’s membership fee is notably steep, exceeding 100,000 yuan (approximately $14,000) annually. This fee is not listed publicly, requiring potential members to negotiate directly with their sales team.

4. Made-in-China

  • The data indicates that Europe is the top buyer on the Made-in-China platform, accounting for 25.8% of its user base. This is notable as it’s one of the few platforms where European buyers lead, likely due to their search for cost-effective manufacturing options that meet stringent EU standards. North America follows closely, underscoring strong trans-Pacific trade ties.

5. Thomasnet.com

  • Business Model and Pricing: Thomasnet offers free listing opportunities for suppliers but charges for a subscription to get verified, which effectively pays for increased traffic and visibility through video ads. The subscription cost ranges from $0 to $475.
  • Market Niche and Supplier Base: Specializing in industrial products, Thomasnet.com has a relatively limited number of apparel suppliers, totaling 743. This reflects the platform’s focus and the U.S. labor market’s structure, which does not support low MOQs.
  • U.S.-Based Suppliers: A key advantage is that all suppliers are U.S. natives, mitigating risks associated with cross-border taxes. However, the limited range of apparel and products available suggests a niche market focus.

6. Tradekey.com

  • Supplier and Buyer Base: Tradekey boasts a large network with 400K suppliers and 500K buyers, offering low MOQs similar to DHgate.
  • Pricing and Market Focus: Subscription fees range from $549 to $650, with additional tiers for enhanced features like Silverkey at $519 and Goldkey at $3000.
  • User Experience and Market Orientation: The platform is heavily U.S.-focused with 24% of visits from the U.S. Despite a superior search engine compared to Alibaba, Tradekey suffers from user experience issues due to pervasive pop-up windows.

7. IndiaMART

  • Affordability and Market Position: As India’s largest B2B wholesale market, IndiaMART offers subscriptions at a cost-effective $100 per year.
  • Revenue and Platform Efficiency: The platform generates around $40 million in annual recurring revenue.
  • Search Functionality: IndiaMART is noted for its decent search engine capabilities, facilitating efficient navigation and product discovery for a vast range of industries.

8. EC21

  • Buyer and Seller Distribution: EC21 features a diverse international presence, with seller membership predominantly from China (36%), the USA (24%), and India (16%). The buyer database showcases significant diversity with Asia leading at 31%, followed closely by North America and the EU.
  • Strategic Focus: Unlike many other platforms, EC21 does not support RFQs, which minimizes direct pricing competition and emphasizes the importance of rankings in supplier visibility. This strategy is complemented by optimization for major search engines like Google and Yahoo.


Choosing the right platform depends heavily on understanding your business’s specific needs, market position, and growth aspirations. Each platform offers distinct advantages and may suit different types of businesses based on their operational scale and market strategy. Whether you are a small startup testing the fashion waters or a well-established enterprise looking to optimize your supply chain, there is a platform tailored to your needs. Prioritize platforms that align with your logistical requirements, budget constraints, and quality standards to ensure successful sourcing and scaling in the competitive apparel market.