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UK Sportswear samples and production - Pitfalls start-ups make

Updated: Mar 20

We receive at least 3-4 calls a month from entrepreneurs wanting to start up a sportswear brand that have invested heavily in samples, tech packs and patterns and received samples and tech packs that are next to useless and a bulk price that is totally unrealistic.


There are a couple of UK sample houses that offer clients the chance to produce samples, patterns and even production. To a start-up, this sounds ideal as you think you have found a UK source with low volume, however this “Ideal” soon turns into a nightmare.


We have picked up 4 clients in the last 6 months that have all trod this path and all share an almost identical story, a story we are sharing to hopefully make any new start-ups that are researching how to start a sportswear brand become aware of the pitfalls.


So, the companies are UK based and offer patterns, tech packs, samples and bulk production. This sounds great, however what you will receive isn’t.


Firstly, the companies both request HUGE fees to produce the patterns and samples. These HUGE fees are in the £,000 and they won’t commit to a final bulk production price or even offer an estimate until they have made the patterns and samples.


So, the entrepreneurs pay the fee (one client paid over £5,000 for 1 product) and wait months to receive a sample. The patterns are available at this stage and a simple tech pack is also created. They then receive a quote for bulk, and this is the crazy part. The quotes they receive are usually twice the retail price the client wanted to sell the product for, even though they had expressed that they wanted to sell the goods for this price when they discussed the brief.


An example of one of our client’s experiences.


So, the client wanted to produce a ladies legging with a specific feature they had invested for a particular use. Nothing too complicated or complex to make, but it has a definite USP which is all positive as this has a niche in the market and hopefully gets some traction because of it.

The client expressed they wanted the RRP to be around £70 - £75 as this was a good commercial price for this type of product.

2 months later, the sample arrived along with an incredibly simple tech with size measurements for some basic measurements. The bulk manufacturing price was also quotes and this was £160 per pair……. Yes £160 per pair, over twice the RRP price the client wanted to sell these for.

The sample was horrendous too. The stitching quality was appalling and cracked when you put the leggings on, eventually leading to holes appearing in the seams. There was no branding and the colour was what was available from their stock fabrics.


Obviously, the client couldn’t go any further with the supplier as the quality and bulk price was totally unworkable.


We are now working with this client and the sample from our factory cost £60 + courier fee £35. The stitching quality is perfect and in line with a premium brand and the bulk production price is £23 landed using a high quality, squat proof lycra.


We did however have to start again and create a new CAD design and tech pack and we ended up re-engineering the USP feature to make this less bulky and cleaner in appearance.


Note there are 2 companies that are very similar in their approach and both seem to be as bad as each other. They are overcharging for sample development and inflating the bulk price and only offer this bulk price AFTER they have spent thousands on a sample that is useless.


Our advice to anyone wanting to start-up a sportswear brand is to get some idea of bulk price before you invest in samples and patterns. We also HIGHLY recommend that the samples and patterns should be produced by the factory who will produce your bulk production. Never get these produced elsewhere as 99% of the time, these will need to be created again due to poor samples and patterns. If the factory won’t give you an estimate cost that is workable for you before you commit, walk away… No runaway.


We wrote this blog to highlight a potential pitfall start-ups seem to end up in and have spent thousands of pounds and time that could have been spent developing samples at a fraction of the cost, in a professional factory that produce commercial produce for leading brands.


While we help pick up the pieces and get these start-ups back on track, It breaks our hearts to hear their stories and money wasted and hopefully this blog finds its way into the hands of new entrepreneurs before they fall for the story of good quality UK production at commercial rates.