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The Mill’s New Face: Sales Agents Step Up to Support Brands & Market Suppliers

If you’re involved in the textile industry, you’ve likely seen a radical shift in the role of sales agents recently. Due to the pandemic and its subsequent disruptions, sales agents have had to enhance their duties as the go-between for mills and brands. On top of selling fabric, they’re now placing even more emphasis on driving thought leadership and positioning themselves as textile strategists. This is especially true for Concept III, the worldwide source for sustainable fabric-based innovations.

Concept III has worked alongside some of the most revered mills for nearly 40 years. Largely because of Covid-based travel restrictions, apparel brands and manufacturers have been unable to meet with mills face-to-face, specifically those in China. This is why brands must increasingly rely on the expertise of established sales agents like Concept III who’ve long retained trust with textile mills and suppliers.

Trusted partnerships that anticipate brands’ needs

It’s no secret that Covid forced many factories across Asia to cut production. One well-known mill reduced production by as much as 50 percent and furloughed staff at the height of the pandemic, thus affecting output. If a factory has to reduce productivity, which has been common over the past two years, it introduces new stresses to supply chains.

However, since Concept III already has valuable relationships with the world’s leading mills, the team was able to anticipate apparel manufacturers’ demands and ensure brands continued to receive what they needed. “We’re always planning ahead to help brands stay ahead,” said Chris Parkes, president of Concept III.

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For instance, Concept III worked with its Taiwan-based partner Kingwhale to go “out on a limb” and hold nearly 4 million yards of greige fabric for customers during the pandemic. Despite slowdowns, this enabled brands to still have access to must-have materials. Parkes noted he was able to achieve this because he’s had a relationship with Kingwhale for nearly 30 years, humorously adding that the only person who knows more about Kingwhale is the company’s president.

Delivering more than just fabric to the brands

One facet contributing to Concept III’s success has been its focus on sustainability. Now more than ever, Parkes explained, brands are recognizing the need for consistency and are choosing partners that can reliably deliver on certification demands. This is even more critical as brands face increased accountability around sustainability due to their enhanced direct-to-consumer relationships.

“Our collaboration with mills is important because brands receive a second opinion,” said Parkes. “We’re like a barometer for our customers. We know what’s really happening in this industry at all times, so we have a responsibility to provide fact-based, actionable information that can still allow [brands] to evolve no matter what’s happening in the world.”

Concept III serves as a 24-hour resource for brands and manufacturers. As Parkes notes, he will gladly “call Asia at 3 a.m. so your staff doesn’t have to.” In short, the firm is filling the void left by the mills, as it can provide much-needed product, testing capabilities and critical data brands need to see, specifically when it comes to sustainability claims.

Bringing the mills to the brands

With travel bans in place—notably in China and Taiwan—and with Covid rates spiking unpredictably, product designers have been unable to travel abroad to meet with their suppliers. Concept III’s strategic locations across the U.S. and U.K. offer an added convenience when it comes to face-to-face meetings, as they can easily travel to meet product designers across North America and Europe.

Since representatives from Asian mills still cannot attend trade shows and conventions across North America and Europe, Concept III has also taken over the responsibilities the mills would otherwise have. Examples include designing, marketing and managing their booths as well as embracing sales duties once exclusively reserved for mill representatives. As travel restrictions to and from the Asia-Pacific region continue to exist, these particular sales capabilities are becoming more important in the relationship cycle.

“We’ve entered into a new age of uncertainty,” Parkes said. “It’s no longer just going to be Covid. It’s wars, rising oil prices, you name it. Quite simply, the comfort and predictability we once knew is gone, so we’ll continue to refine how we work with our partner mills to benefit them and apparel brands.”

To learn more about how Concept III can work with you, please reach out to