Tips on getting cheaper prices from suppliers

Tips on getting cheaper prices from suppliers

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As graphic designers we are often asked to source and create artwork for promotional merchandise to be used as give aways at trade fairs and events. The internet is a god send for searching out potential suppliers but I’ve got some hints for you to get better prices than those advertised.


The first thing you need to do is to find the items you want to buy. You’ll have heard the phrase countless times before “Make sure you are comparing apples with apples”. Let’s say for instance you are sourcing pens for a client. There are countless types of pens on the market. Make sure that you are comparing the same pens with the same print specification. This is normally pretty easy and can be done either by name, item codes or images.


For comparison purposes always get at least three suppliers to quote. This doesn’t mean look at three suppliers websites and choose the cheapest. Find the contact number and pick up the phone.


This is the stage where you’ll be able to assess whether the person you are speaking to is the type of person you’d like to buy from. Start to build a relationship with the supplier and explain who you are and what you are requiring, more importantly this is the time to lay out the ground rules of what you expect.


In a friendly manner explain that you don’t like the idea of playing suppliers off against each other with the ‘we’ll beat any quote’ scenario. It just wastes valuable time and makes for hard feelings all round. i.e.: supplier 1 beats the quote from supplier 2 but then supplier 2 beats the quote from supplier 1 and it turns into a massive time wasting death spiral. I’ve been there dozens of times before and it’s not fun.


Emphasise that you expect the best price on the first quote, if they don’t win the job with the first quote they will not be asked to re-quote on the same job.


Once you have received all the quotes make sure that there is no additional costs attached to the order. With promotional gifts these tend to be ‘origination/setup’ and ‘Post and Packaging’. Some quotes may have these figures included in the unit price, others may tag them to the end of the quote. Make sure that you are comparing the true unit price direct to your door.


It’s an easy calculation. Add all the costs together to get the total. Divide the total by the amount of items.


For example I recently received 3 quotes for 1000 ballpoint pens for MediEnlist. These particular pens are called Curvy pens by some suppliers and called Shanghai Ballpens by others, but by comparing photographs and the colours available, judged the pens to be identical.


Quote 1:
Unit Price: £0.17
Carriage: £15.00
Origination: £35.00
Total Cost: £220.00
True Unit Cost: £0.22

Quote 2:
Unit Price: £0.19
Carriage: £20.00
Origination: £45.00
Total Cost: £255.00
True Unit Cost: £0.26

Quote 3:
Unit Price: £0.18
Carriage: £0.00
Origination: £30.00
Total Cost: £210.00
True Unit Cost: £0.21


As you can see Quote 1 is cheapest on unit price and looks better on paper until you add the additional costs, at that point it is Quote 3 that is the clear winner.


Also remember that these prices would have been far higher had I just bought directly from the suppliers website without firstly opening communications over the telephone. In fact one of those suppliers has the pens advertised on their site for £0.30 for the same quantity excluding origination and carriage!


Once you have worked out the winning quote send an email to those suppliers who didn’t win, explaining that unfortunately their quote was unsuccessful but you will keep them on record for any further jobs you may need in the future. At this point you will probably get a telephone call from the suppliers. DON’T WAVER, STICK TO YOUR RULE. It would be so easy to let them re-quote at this point but reiterate that your policy is one quote only as explained to them before the quoting process began. This is a long term game and is all about building up the relationship with your suppliers. The next time you ask them for a quote those prices will be just a little bit sweeter.