How to Become a Fabric Distributor

by Mercedes Valladares; Updated September 26, 2017

Becoming a fabric distributor can seem like a glamorous job and business. Being exposed to intricate fabrications, making all of your buying decisions, meeting with textile mills and traveling to different countries in search of cutting edge fabrics. However, the root of your fabric distribution business is your knowledge of fabric, having a keen eye to spot fabric trends, negotiating production cost and stocking your warehouse with the right quantity of fabric yardage. By implementing these key elements into your daily business operations you will be well on your way to becoming a successful fabric distributor.

Fabric Distributor:Running Your Business and Fabric Buying

Step 1

Set up meetings with your accountant, attorney and financial adviser to establish your business entity structure. It is best to have a business plan in place prior to these meetings. Key factors will be initial start-up purchasing cost, warehouse space and hiring staff.

Your initial capital investment will help you in your decision as to which business entity structure will suit your needs. For example, if you will be working with silent investment partners, a limited partnership (LP) was developed to limit their liability and not be involved in the daily business operations. Research the tax benefits and implications for each structure such as Incorporation, Limited Liability Company (LLC) and a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).

Step 2

Research and acquire warehouse space prior to purchasing your fabrics. You can opt to negotiate rental space by how much square footage you will need to to store your fabrics. For example, you can contact a local trim distributor and ask if they have available square footage for rent in their warehouse. There is no conflict of interest, and if their trims coordinate well with your fabric line, you can increase business by showcasing their merchandise with your sales presentation and retain a separate sales commission fee.

Consider insurance and warehouse location conditions. High quality fabrics require special storage conditions to prevent damage or discoloration.

Step 3

Stock your inventory. Purchasing fabric directly from textile mills will have minimum yardage requirements per fabric bolt and color. Determine if the mills will supply you with fabric sample cuts, if you will be distributing wholesale high-quantity yardage directly to apparel or home upholstery manufacturers, or if you will be selling directly to the public. Incorporate these factors into your business plan.

For instance, selling directly to apparel manufacturers will require you to deliver your goods in a specific time frame. Production runs are reliant upon delivery dates due to factory production schedules and this will affect your inventory levels.

Consider your import and domestic fabric purchase percentage. Factor in each country's delivery schedules and your delivery time frame. Your business will be reliant upon receiving your merchandise and clearing customs in a timely manner. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "...the textile industry has been able to automate much of its production to effectively compete with foreign countries." You can split your import and domestic purchases to cover any late deliveries and keep your customer orders intact.

Step 4

Know who is your target market. This will narrow the types of fabrications you will be purchasing and stocking. Part of your business will rely on your savvy eye in order to spot trends for key customers. Break down which industries your fabrics will cater to. For example, ready-to-wear requires denims, cotton, jersey and lycra spandex blends, as well as novelty fabrics. For the evening and bridal wear market, your concentration would be geared toward intricate laces, tulles, satins, georgettes, organzas and novelty beaded fabrications.

Step 5

Shop for fabric and color trends. Attend fabric and trend show exhibitions such as Premiere Vision. Travel to key city fabric districts for inspiration such as New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Milan and Tokyo.

Watch consumer sales trends. For example, denim has proven high sales volume. For a denim target market, investigate new denim weaves, washing technique finishes and treatments.

Offering trend information to your customers will set you apart from your competitors. Sharing your knowledge, delivering goods on time and offering competitive pricing will allow your business to flourish and acquire a strong industry reputation.

About the Author

Mercedes Valladares is the founder of M721Organics and has been an independent designer for over 15 years. Her work experience commenced during college with manufacturers based in New York and Hong Kong. Her education includes LIM College, International Fine Arts College and design certification from the Paris Fashion Institute. She produces eco-crafting videos and writes recycling articles online.