Finding the best value/quality items for your race.
Buying finisher t-shirts, race medals and other important supplies for your race are large parts of your expenditure, so you want to make sure you get it right and find the best value/quality items. But if you’re trying to get the best price, and minimise time and resources spent searching, you can’t usually ‘try before you buy’. This leaves you with the option of scouring the internet for the best deals. As a race director, there are several variables that will impact how you go around choosing and buying your supplies, including how many sign-ups you are predicting, what lead times suppliers have, your available budget and preference in materials. We have some advice about how to go around putting these orders in and what to consider.
It’s common for a lot of local suppliers to obtain their stock from China. Whether its medals, inflatable arches, t-shirts, etc., you can buy it directly from the manufacturer, or it can be resold to you at a mark-up by an intemediary to account for you taking less risk when you’re purchasing from them. So how should you decide on ordering your race supplies directly from manufacturers in China or not? Here are some pointers to give you the bigger picture:
These days, Alibaba, and its sister site, AliExpress, are the main go-to marketplaces for finding Chinese wholesalers and manufacturers for your race supplies. Alibaba is like a wholesalers’ Amazon for large quantity goods. You can contact manufacturers directly on the site.
An easy way to think of Alibaba is as a wholesalers’ Amazon. Businesses who want to source goods in large quantities can use Alibaba to contact manufacturers directly. AliExpress is more like actual Amazon, so normal retail terms where there are no minimum orders. This means the prices are slightly higher than for bulk buys
Both sites, who are part of the Alibaba Group, offer a number of buyer protection features, from payment security and shipping insurance to different levels of vendor vetting. As part of Alibaba’s efforts to provide buyer peace of mind and ensure supplier claims are genuine and accurate, the platform has been providing a number of verification services to buyers, performed by either Alibaba themselves or independent verification companies. You can access details of a supplier’s verification status through the supplier’s Home tab or by clicking any of the relevant verification icons on the supplier’s pages.
Verification checks include:
Vendors without any of the verifications above likely operate on Alibaba under a free membership, have registered as a supplier from outside mainland China or are new sellers on the platform.
If you have a choice – and you almost definitely will for most products – always go with verified suppliers who have been at least onsite-checked and have been trading on Alibaba for a number of years.
Most quality suppliers on Alibaba are also signed up for the platform’s Trade Assurance (TA) program. So, if a supplier you are considering contacting doesn’t and you have other options, move on.
Alibaba’s Trade Assurance provides protection to buyers, if any of two things happen:
Another good way to check the legitimacy of a manufacturer is to check their reviews, which are also available on Alibaba from others who have purchased from them and their star rating. This can help you get an idea of the quality and satisfaction that their products provide.
Similarly to Alibaba, you can find several foreign suppliers on here. You are however protected for your purchases by their inbuilt payment types paypal or amazon pay, should you need a refund for legitimate reasons.
Amazon has that wonderful feature we call Prime. This is absolutely great if its creeping towards the beginning of race week and you’re still missing a couple of things which could make a difference. Forgot to get some balloons for the water stations? Under ordered on cups and need to make an emergency order? Looking for some generic signage? Prime next day delivery to the rescue. These things might be cheaper on AliBaba, or if you email enough companies that come up on your search to get quotes. BUT amazon and Ebay can be great to provide a few key things:
If you’re low on time as a resource, sifting through Alibaba and sending emails to the sellers is probably not for you. They do tend to be quite speedy at replying, however it’s not going to beat ‘Buy now with 1 click’ arriving in ‘Prime’ time with Amazon. Ebay is very dependent on the individual sellers policies, however its very easy to see the details of delivery on their page and understand whether or not it’s for you. On most bulk buy occasions however, Alibaba tents to trump the other 2 e-commerce platforms. So make your choices wisely, but if you have time to compare logistics, price and reviews on the product across the platforms and a few other suppliers, we’re certain you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
The team at Eventrac are on hand to assist with all components of your event. From advice on promoting your event through low cost channels such as social media, to a guided tutorial on a specific feature of Eventrac. We are here to help.