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: The Competition From China  ( 4609 )
Mojo
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« : August 23, 2010, 06:09:40 PM »

I was just in the shop sewing up some tire covers for my boat. Florida will eat up tires in two seasons if they are left in the sun so I wanted to use up some left over material and make the covers myself.

But it got me thinking about last winter when I had a customer come to me and ask if I would make him a set of tire covers for his motorhome. He has been a good customer and like with everyone I deal with I try and remain as ethical as possible. I simply told him I could but the costs would be much higher then if he ordered the cheap Chinese covers online.

Lets face facts here. There is no way most of us could make a set of tire covers for what they sell them for at WalMart or on E-Bay and I told him so. He thanked me and a week later ordered more solar screens for his coach. :) I just have a real problem taking work under those circumstances and I am sure as heck not going to give away my services.

I was wondering, has anyone else walked away from a potential deal and told a customer to buy the Chinese item online ?

Obviously we can make a lot of these products much better with higher quality materials ( and I tell my customers this ), but on small items such as this, customers seem to focus on price.

What are your thoughts and experiences ?

Chris
Mojo
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« #1 : August 23, 2010, 06:12:05 PM »

I forgot to add that it isn't just tire covers from China that I am talking about.

It is also motorcycle covers, grill coverts, bicycle covers, tractor covers, car covers, etc.

We can all make covers that will outlast the cheap Chinese covers 5 to 1 but customers seemed to be focused on price.

Chris
Gregg @ Keystone Sewing
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« #2 : August 23, 2010, 07:54:51 PM »

VERY interesting subject.  Not every situation is the same, just as not every customer is the same.  In your case, thankfully, things worked out in your favor.

The first 'lesson' that came to mind was one my parents taught me.  Long time back, my Dad had a customer come into our store.  He said that he wanted to buy a particular brand machine, Durkopp Alder.  My Dad said that he felt that Japanese machines were a better value for the money.  

So what happened?

The man wound up buying a Durkopp Adler; from someone else!  It's not that he couldn't buy it from my folks, he just didn't want to after his experience with my Dad.  And, the fact is, that's what he wanted, and that's what he got.

That's why, when someone comes to me and says I would like product X, the next question I have is "How many would you like?"

Now, I am not one to be short on opinions, and I will offer one up to the very best of my ability, but only when I am asked.  I have learned that some people really don't care for my opinion on certain subjects, even if it involves my life's work!  

Getting back to the original story, although it's correct and just (I would have done the same thing) to present other options, I also would have informed the customer that I would be happy to do this job for him.  Why?  Because maybe he wants a special material.  Maybe he wants a custom install.  Maybe he just doesn't want something made in China.  Not the first nor the last.  

 
« : August 23, 2010, 08:05:15 PM Gregg @ Keystone Sewing »
baileyuph
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« #3 : August 23, 2010, 08:03:06 PM »

Chris,

By now, a lot of people have discovered that China is cheaper.

This happened two days ago:

Customer came in and specified a grill cover, then he said he didn't want any more of those made in China because he bought one which lasted two months in the hot sun. 

Need I go on?

He took it back to Walmart to complain, "Your problem"!

Some of my customers know what comes from China or where ever better than I do. 

 ;)

Doyle
JuneC
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« #4 : August 23, 2010, 08:16:14 PM »

And I've quoted more than a few people $160 for a custom canvas grill cover and told them they're $40 at Home Depot (made in China).  A few have bought from me, most go to HD (or WalMart or wherever).

June

"Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people."

     W. C. Fields
Mojo
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« #5 : August 23, 2010, 08:36:15 PM »

Greg:

I wasn't very specific on this incident but the customer I knew was a cheap ass. When you get someone like that they shop on price only. :)

When a customer comes to me and asks me to make a cover of some sort I can pretty much feel him / her out on what they are looking for. If they have already bought one and it got ruined in quick order or fell apart then many times they are looking for quality the second time around.

If they ask " can you make me a cheap cover " then I know their entire focus is on price. At that point I will steer them towards the internet, Walmart or Lowes or whomever. I am not going to try and compete with Chinese goods on price points. Quality, yes. We can all make covers that will blow the Chinese products out of the water. But the customer has to be willing to pay for that quality.

I am typically honest and tell my customers I can make it but its going to cost a lot more. But I will inform them also that it will last 5 times longer. :)

Covers are a big deal in Florida. The salt air and the UV rays kills things down here so everyone likes things covered. The only problem is that the intense UV rays down here will eat up a lot of the materials in very short order.

The problem I believe right now is that with the economy being bad, people are really watching what they spend and this creates a situation where they become price conscious.

Chris
Gregg @ Keystone Sewing
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« #6 : August 23, 2010, 08:49:40 PM »

Greg:

I wasn't very specific on this incident but the customer I knew was a cheap ass. When you get someone like that they shop on price only. :)

When a customer comes to me and asks me to make a cover of some sort I can pretty much feel him / her out on what they are looking for. If they have already bought one and it got ruined in quick order or fell apart then many times they are looking for quality the second time around.

If they ask " can you make me a cheap cover " then I know their entire focus is on price. At that point I will steer them towards the internet, Walmart or Lowes or whomever. I am not going to try and compete with Chinese goods on price points. Quality, yes. We can all make covers that will blow the Chinese products out of the water. But the customer has to be willing to pay for that quality.

I am typically honest and tell my customers I can make it but its going to cost a lot more. But I will inform them also that it will last 5 times longer. :)

Covers are a big deal in Florida. The salt air and the UV rays kills things down here so everyone likes things covered. The only problem is that the intense UV rays down here will eat up a lot of the materials in very short order.

The problem I believe right now is that with the economy being bad, people are really watching what they spend and this creates a situation where they become price conscious.

Chris



True, true.  All good points.
Mojo
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« #7 : August 23, 2010, 08:55:47 PM »

Hell Greg. I am a perfect example of the China syndrome.

My first machine was a POS chinese made cheap, low dollar machine. I bought it based on price ( not knowing any better ).

My second machine I spent a great deal more for and quality drove my decision.

You live and learn. :)

Chris
Jim101
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« #8 : August 23, 2010, 09:17:45 PM »

Interesting topic. 

I've found that a lot people have had just about enough of the crap we've been getting from China for several years.  People here are more focused on "buying local" even if it costs a little bit more. 

We make a fair amount of covers, tarps, and such and people really like the materials that we use.  The 18 or 22 oz. poly/vinyl tarps are really heavy and last a hell of along time. 

The blue tarps, among many other colors, that you can buy at Walmart, HD, Lowes barely make it through the first wind storm and many of them will blow away or rip to shreds in no time at all.

A good quality product will speak for itself and I get a fair amount of referrals from people who are happy with their covers.

Jim
jeepdoc
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« #9 : August 23, 2010, 09:28:28 PM »

Being I do this as a hobby and do very few jobs a month but Ive quoted friends on doing some run about seats and just the cost of the materials are more than the cheap china junk is which lead me to take short cuts on seats keeping the cost down like not replacing tired foam I vow not to do that any more it takes longer to mess around with wrinkles and bad fitting covers. One guy had the nerve to call me to look at his cheap seats after the base snapped kinda hard to fix thin weak plastic------Consumers are looking for the cheap not quality

Then we wonder WHY the economy stinks stop importing china JUNK

Sorry just venting this subject bothers me even affects my full time job fixing cars with cheap China Junk parts seems thats all you can buy anymore
west coast
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« #10 : August 23, 2010, 09:42:35 PM »

I don`t even sell memory foam anymore because costco sells it for less than I can buy it for in bulk. Just wait till the Chinese have this all nailed down then the subsities will come off over there and the prices will rise but us in North America who have lost all the ability to make anything will not be able to react because all our manufacturing has gone over there. Communist or not they ain`t going to work for ten cents an hour forever. We are so stupid it infuriates me.
SHHR
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« #11 : August 24, 2010, 06:50:04 AM »

I just did some seats in a bass boat last week and the owner asked about doing a small bimini to keep the sun off of his head. He said he priced one (universal) For i think $150.00 and went on to say If I could be in that range of under $200 I could do it for him.

 I sent him on and said he better buy that one if it's the price he's after and that I'll be here next year to at the least replace the fabric if not the whole frame.
Kyle
gene
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« #12 : August 24, 2010, 07:12:52 AM »

I do not compete with China. Or with Walmart. Or with anyone who does volume work. I can't.

I'm a custom job shop. I do one's and two's. I do not have the capitalization,  manufacturing efficiencies, and cheap labor needed to compete on a global scale.

My focus is on 'quality and service'. Not 'cheap'. I cannot compete on 'cheap'.

I have learned to accept the fact that many people want 'quality and service' for 'cheap'. This is OK with me - this is the way it is. It is also OK with me that they will not get it from me.

Wouldn't it be great to buy a BMW at a Hyundai price?

I have a friend who owns a butcher shop. He owns his own cows so he can control their feed and medicines, etc. Without exception, every piece of meat he sells you can buy the same thing a lot cheaper at the grocery store. Without exception, every piece of meat he sells tastes better than anything you can buy at the grocery store. He does not put prices on the meat in his display cases. He sells 'quality'. Not 'cheap'. His business continues to grow. He said it took him many years to accept that fact that not everyone wants to pay his prices for his meat.

My concern is that China will start picking up peoples' furniture, cars, RV's, and boats, then shipping it to China, reupholstering it there, then shipping it back to the customer here in the USA, for less money than what we would need to charge just to break even. This would be a bummer!

Gene

QUALITY DOES NOT COST, IT PAYS!
Gregg @ Keystone Sewing
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« #13 : August 24, 2010, 08:42:11 AM »

Communist or not they ain`t going to work for ten cents an hour forever. We are so stupid it infuriates me.

No doubt.  A lot is going on with this within China, it's just on well publicized. 
Mojo
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« #14 : August 24, 2010, 09:02:58 AM »

I just did some seats in a bass boat last week and the owner asked about doing a small bimini to keep the sun off of his head. He said he priced one (universal) For i think $150.00 and went on to say If I could be in that range of under $200 I could do it for him.

 I sent him on and said he better buy that one if it's the price he's after and that I'll be here next year to at the least replace the fabric if not the whole frame.
Kyle

Kyle:

This is kinda what I am getting at. It is highly unfair for a customer to shop price and do comparisons between Chinese made garbage and your product. But they do it and this is where I do the same thing you do. I send them elsewhere.

I gave a lot of my work away in the beginning when I first started but wont anymore.

Customers just do not have a clue sometimes. They just cannot grasp the reason why we charge more for the same exact thing that Chinese makers throw together and sell.

Chris
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