It used to be a simple business finding a supplier for your custom cycling or triathlon kit. You just had to find the manufacturer who made custom kit not too far away from you, give them a call and then send them a cheque. But now the choices are just endless, so where are all these suppliers coming from? Well there are essentially 4 business models selling kit to Northern Europe:
1. Domestic manufacturers – increasingly few and far between, because it is just so expensive to produce clothing in northern Europe these days.
2. Local distributors selling kit made in Southern Europe – this has become more popular in recent years, but it does have the problem that you effectively have to buy from an agent, so you don’t get to deal directly with the factory and of course the distributor takes their 30% cut, which gets stuck on top of the price of the kit.
3. Buy direct from the Far East – generally this business model uses local agents to sell, but not always. The major problem with this is that air freighting the kit is just so expensive and also if there are any problems with the final product it can be very difficult to put right, dealing with such far away countries.
4. Buy direct from Southern Europe – here you get the benefit of low prices, but of course you do not have a local distributor who you can go and speak to, which is important to some customers.
At Carvalho Custom we work on the 4th option of course and we have worked extremely hard to give prospective clients the confidence to buy from us, even though we do not have a representative based in their country. We have been exporting from Portugal for 7 years and over that period we have grown steadily to become the leading supplier of club triathlon kit to the UK and Irish combined markets and one of the top club cycling kit suppliers to these markets, so that gives us a good deal of credibility. We also make regular trips abroad to sponsor races and appear at trade shows and similar so that we get a chance to meet our customers and we send our free samples to anyone who is interested in seeing our kit (we only ask that they get returned within two weeks). Finally, as far as we know, we are the only supplier in our industry that offers a 2% discount for every day that we deliver late after our stated deadline and this can give our clients some confidence that we are a serious supplier who sticks to their promises.
We get asked regularly by sports companies in Northern Europe if they can become a distributor for us, but we know that if we did that, then we would have to increase our retail prices by 30% or so to allow the distributor to make some money – then we would be the same price as other premium custom kit suppliers, which is why we only sell direct from Portugal. (In fact we have also been contacted by several of our main competitors who currently make kit in Northern Europe, but know that it is no longer economically viable and want us to make their kit for them – we only produce kit with our branding however, so the answer is always no!).
At Carvalho Custom we have a simple business model – we believe that by being an honest and reliable supplier, who above all believes in the quality of the kit we produce rather than marketing or hype that we will continue to grow and serve our customers, wherever they may be in the world.