Jeffrey Hochman, owner of GW Trading Co., a St. Louis-based clothing-recycling business, is feeling squeezed. With a strong dollar and growing international competition, it's hard to sell overseas, which is where Hochman sells most of his clothing. So he's cutting costs by teaming up with his competitors to buy materials. This spring the vendor who sells him steel strapping -- used to wrap bales of clothing -- agreed to give a discount to him and to a new customer that he would bring in. So he called up a competitor and persuaded him to change vendors. Hochman reduced his costs for strapping by 19%, or about $1,100 an order. In these uncertain economic times, he says, "if you're able to put together enough buying power, you're able to negotiate really well with your suppliers."
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