Ask The Expert: Importing from China - ENDED
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United Kingdom United Kingdom
andy.greenplanetgolfballs
Kudos: 73
Joined: May 13, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
15 Jul 2014
In the past I have successfully imported Portable Air Conditioning from China. It was relatively easy because we were buying container loads and the Chinese preferred to sell in these volumes.
I have now set up a small business selling recycled Golf Balls and I find that I am too small to buy a container of Product but the balls are too heavy to be able to ship a small consignment via the Courier system.
Any Thoughts?
China China
wenshidi
Kudos: 20
Joined: Aug 30, 2004
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
15 Jul 2014
Dear Tim,
Are there also opportunities for importing foreign products into China and selling them on sites like Taobao. If so, which items would you recommend?

If a young man decides to go east to China looking for opportunities, what would you recommend as the best start up business for just 1000 dollars?

What are you favourite Chinese project/freelancing websites for finding local talent.

Can you recommend any reliable, reasonably priced 3D scanners and 3D scanners in Shenzhen?

Thanks in advance
Shenzen China Australia
Tim298
Kudos: 446
Joined: Jun 26, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
15 Jul 2014
Hi AndyGreenplanet

andy.greenplanetgolfballs wrote:

In the past I have successfully imported Portable Air Conditioning from China. It was relatively easy because we were buying container loads and the Chinese preferred to sell in these volumes.
I have now set up a small business selling recycled Golf Balls and I find that I am too small to buy a container of Product but the balls are too heavy to be able to ship a small consignment via the Courier system.
Any Thoughts?
Its great doing the containers as pricing always seems so good. Interesting business you are doing now - very cool.
So your price you can pay will depend on the sale price that can be achieved, and volume that people buy these in (groupings)
Your options may include
- setting up a drop ship arrangement from China so the stock is held there and sent out to your customers on order - the weights of this would need to be kept under 2kg to make it viable and it will depend on how many units make up 2kg - you would likely need a good discount postal line with tracking as well.
- express shipping in by air smaller consignments, but it sounds like you have looked at this - exploring agents that have shipping discounts would be something to consider if you have not been down this route to see if you can remove some of the shipping cost to increase your margin or make it viable.

With the right partner it could work, but the key is in the weights and the groupings that consumers buy in, like are they buying 3 balls or 12, or 50? is it under 2kg, where you can look at drop ship postal options or over this where your only option would be to look at a shipping partner that can get a hefty discount on the express shipments with UPS, DHL, TNT etc etc...

I have found some products dont fit the models I work with like express shipping and drop shipping. I think for you it would be about identifying the grouping (which I am sure you have) then finding the right partners to handle the shipping side to ensure that the groupings can be sent at a relatively good price.
Shenzen China Australia
Tim298
Kudos: 446
Joined: Jun 26, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
15 Jul 2014
Hi Wenshidi

wenshidi wrote:

Dear Tim,
Are there also opportunities for importing foreign products into China and selling them on sites like Taobao. If so, which items would you recommend?
Sure there are these opportunities and there are companies that can assist with this, I think this is something that takes time to understand the market, I think every supplier of milk powder in NZ is dreaming of ways to do this and finding ways to do this now.

For certain product categories such as food and the like there are long processes, finding a good buyer in China, working through the pricing to meet market needs, the approvals - customs AQIS etc etc... so for these sort of items its very much a long term game still.

For consumer items the trend seems to be for high end brand products, cost price is high and getting the licenses to sell without breaching established sales channels may be tough.

I would recommend, spending time in China, getting to know the market, segment it in way that makes sense to you, whats happening in one city may not be so in another, meet lots of people and ask lots of questions - do a lot of research and do something that you are passionate about, not simply that you think can earn a buck there.

wenshidi wrote:

If a young man decides to go east to China looking for opportunities, what would you recommend as the best start up business for just 1000 dollars?
I think one area that people like to consider is taking their experience from their homeland and using this knowledge to build bridges for business or development between their home and China, using what they know. I think this is a good idea, I also think its very hard to make money and a very long term project.

Immediately, now, I would consider what products are most readily available on the market with very low costs, or working with drop ship partners, set up a website in my home country and use existing stock in China to sell through, you will need good shipping though. Online retail in its essence is low cost, but to be successful this myth is revealed, its a long term, full investment, competitive space with many hurdles, but in terms of a quick thing to do, i think its possible if done right with the right partners.

1000 usd is a very low investment to begin anything to be honest, but, its exciting and fun and as long as that is part of what you are investing in, the adventure of it - I always say go for it.

wenshidi wrote:

What are you favourite Chinese project/freelancing websites for finding local talent.
I do not use any, since we are based in Shenzen, there are many workers here with good skills that move around companies quite a lot, almost like the online sales industry in Australia, if you have the skills, there is a job with one of the larger companies, and many based there. For me it has been via word of mouth, and meeting people friends of people and old colleagues from my sourcing days.

wenshidi wrote:

Can you recommend any reliable, reasonably priced 3D scanners and 3D scanners in Shenzhen?
Unfortunately no, I really don't recommend specific suppliers - and on this forum Im really just here to advise not sell things etc - the reason I don't usually do this is they may have been great for me, but not knowing anything about someone's business model etc, its really tough to make recommendations that are of any use to either side. Sounds like a cool product and should be reasonably niche as well so finding a reliable partner for this should not be too tough. Best of Luck

Thanks
UK United Kingdom
Nick_Retail
Kudos: 26
Joined: Jul 16, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
16 Jul 2014
Hi Tim, Thank You for answering our questions.
I would be very greatful if you could take the time to answer the following.

#1) Regarding Importing items to UK which require safety certificates, e.g. electrical items or baby products.
-Is it an easy process to import these types of items in terms of: meeting regulations, quality checks to meet regulations, time taken, etc?
-In general, would you say that meeting regulations, doing quality checks, etc. noticeably increases the cost price of the goods?

#2) For quality control, how do I find out a factories brand name clients or vice-versa? E.g. If I wanted good quality clothes manufactured I would like to use the same factories that already manufacture clothes for well known brand names.

#3) Branding the product with your own brand. Can the Chinese manufacturer do this to a professional, high standard or is it best to use an agent/broker/trade company to do this for you in China or should I be branding it in the UK?

Thank you for your help.
Shenzen China Australia
Tim298
Kudos: 446
Joined: Jun 26, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
16 Jul 2014
Hi Nick Retail (no problem, Im happy to share what knowledge I have that may be relevant

Nick_Retail wrote:

#1) Regarding Importing items to UK which require safety certificates, e.g. electrical items or baby products.
-Is it an easy process to import these types of items in terms of: meeting regulations, quality checks to meet regulations, time taken, etc?
The simple answer to this is no - these regulations for baby and electrical safety in UK (similar to AUS and NZ) are difficult. They should be, and they are. Some suppliers will say the certs are met and have the markings to show this... every individual importers choice on whether to rely on these, often they can provide reports and certificates to prove this, in that case I think its ok, as long as you satisfy yourself and perhaps someone experienced in this that all is well. Big suppliers are usually all good for UK and USA, but not so much for AU and NZ.

My advice is to seperate the two processes, purchasing and regulations/certs
If you get a sample sent to a testing facility you find then you can get these tests and reports done really well and to standard to ensure the product meets - then every now and again do some batch testing. If you have a good relationship your supplier may be able to support you, it costs me less than 1000usd each time for some fairly thorough and specific testing for electrical items.

Nick_Retail wrote:

-In general, would you say that meeting regulations, doing quality checks, etc. noticeably increases the cost price of the goods?
Not significantly, the supplier may say the cost is high, but find out what the cost is, and it may not be too bad from your perspective, depends on the margin you are operating with already. It may increase your cost a little, if you are ordering 1000 units or more, it will be negligible, and you should have a foot up on many others that do not do the tests and achieve the reports.

Nick_Retail wrote:

#2) For quality control, how do I find out a factories brand name clients or vice-versa? E.g. If I wanted good quality clothes manufactured I would like to use the same factories that already manufacture clothes for well known brand names.
For this one, I would say go there - its fun, and garment factories always say who they manufacture for - but then you have to see the production to make sure this is true. H&M advertise their supplier list online - easy to find. Most of the brand manufacturers have huge orders, so the MOQs in the factories also tend to be large - Ive been working on a small MOQ process with a factory in Guangzhou - of course cost will be higher, but allow smaller manufacturers and label owners to do short runs etc... just working through this now - the point is there is real value in going and seeing whether that approach which one would assume is the best approach, fits best with your numbers and what you are doing - on Alibaba at the moment there is a big online sourcing event for garments going on - you can use Alisource pro to post a request that meets your needs (such as seeking manufacturer of brands and MOQ requirements...) and see what comes back

Nick_Retail wrote:

#3) Branding the product with your own brand. Can the Chinese manufacturer do this to a professional, high standard or is it best to use an agent/broker/trade company to do this for you in China or should I be branding it in the UK?
Branding, - the practical side of it can certainly be done in China. I have experience in this - the advice here is to be patient, give the time it needs to be done. You want to see what they have as the standard packaging and look at using something similar, or simple within that basic idea.
Get the sample done, photos sent to you, review it. Waffled too much, continued in the next post...
Shenzen China Australia
Tim298
Kudos: 446
Joined: Jun 26, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
16 Jul 2014
Continuing the branding question from Nick Retail

Make sure that you spend time to make the instructions really clear - we have had someone do a sample of the packaging that they want in their country.

SO you can make the sample of it and send this to use in China.
Or you can have the whole thing worked up in China.

The cost of the packaging and branding is usually driven from the MOQ they have to get made - so if its a cardboard printed box, they will need to buy X amount to get a tailored one done, this price will be given to you, if you only buy 100 but their cost is for the full 1000, then there is a problem, you would want to buy the full 1000 and use for future orders, not pay for the 1000 cost but only get 100

Its another one of those things that can be done fairly easily in reality, but it really needs the input of time and patience on top of a good existing relationship. I believe its easier than it seems.

Oh - also, make sure the exact wording is used - if you type something and this description is sent to another print house, they may unwittingly make changes in their system, so its crucial to sample, and check the sample really closely.

Some can come out looking really great though, it makes a huge difference if you are working with basic market based products.
United Kingdom United Kingdom
philip315
Kudos: 18
Joined: Jul 16, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
16 Jul 2014
Hi Tim

I am interested in importing from china & possibly having some products branded, both the item & packaging. I don't have the budget to fly out there myself at the moment - feel like I would need a man on the ground.

* Is that something you can help with?

* At what volume/value does it become worth while to import from China? i am thinking clothing, underwear and jewellery.

* I have heard some horror stories about sizing & consistent quality - Is this a reality, if so how do i monitor this?

* I am considering Lazer printed jewellery - Is China a good place to start?

* Any & all advice welcome.

Many thanks - Phil
Shenzen China Australia
Tim298
Kudos: 446
Joined: Jun 26, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
17 Jul 2014
Hi Philip, thanks for the questions

philip wrote:

I am interested in importing from china & possibly having some products branded, both the item & packaging. I don't have the budget to fly out there myself at the moment - feel like I would need a man on the ground.
- This is something that a lot of factories and trading companies do offer - depending on the product type and volume you order, but the order requirement in general is not as high as you think to have this done. It would definitely help to have someone on the ground - but in many cases - early on - your sales person in the factory you order from can be like this for you and take care of all things required for the branding - they will call it OEM - again, its different for different product categories.
- If you only do packaging branding its easier, but thats a choice to make as you move forward.
- There is a cost to having people on the ground, my suggestion would be to build up your profile before getting into anything too rigorous and using the factory and trading company services to achieve your requirements in the first instance.

philip wrote:

Is that something you can help with?
Sorry not something I can do - but there are many that can, searching on various China Business forums and search engines, or finding the companies that you are interested in working with from China will definitely lead you in the right direction.

philip wrote:

At what volume/value does it become worth while to import from China? i am thinking clothing, underwear and jewellery.
This is a big question, it depends on your business plan, your reason fr doing this, there is value from item 1 - but value is derived from purchaser interest, so ensuring that you meet consumer demands, all regulations and have a strong sales channel are key. I have a lot of products I thought would be so great sitting in my warehouse that I am finding ways to sell, my perceived value in these was high, the reality is that I will hopefully break even on them.
If you are starting out you should consider testing the market with some things before you do any bulk purchasing - make sure that the product itself is of interest in the sales channel you will use.

philip wrote:

I have heard some horror stories about sizing & consistent quality - Is this a reality, if so how do i monitor this?
For sure this is a reality. In my experience this is something that occurs between orders, and especially when you are working with a factory that has much larger clients - in all countries, the bigger clients get priority and smaller orders are not as carefully provided. There are expensive ways to monitor this (QC control etc) but the best way is to be vigilant and clear from the start, make agreements about the aspects that are most important, dont try to be "liked" aim to be "respected" - use clear guides and make information really easy to understand, ask yourself "If English was my second language, could I understand these instructions in the detail that I am hoping my partners will?"

philip wrote:

I am considering Lazer printed jewellery - Is China a good place to start?
This is something I dont have any experience with but a quick search on Alibaba shows there are plenty of suppliers. I have also asked my friend that does this, and if/when they reply Ill post to you.

philip wrote:

Any & all advice welcome.
The best advice I have is to take your time, find the right area, focus in an area if you are starting, if you have experience, then dont listen to me - Know the sales channel and buy for that, for the consumers, and if you find some success, focus on going there to meet the people you need for a long term thing. It can be successful without ever going there, but its fun to go.
Herts, England United Kingdom
Andy
Kudos: 11,631
Joined: Jan 1, 2001
Importing from China Q&A - JUST ONE DAY LEFT!
17 Jul 2014
Hi everyone, there's around 24 hours left in this Q&A so just enough time to ask a few final questions.

Already asked a question? If you are happy with the answer received please post a comment or hit the blue "Like" button to show your appreciation. Or post a follow-up question if there's more you want to know.

I'll close the discussion at 12 noon on Friday (GMT), so if you are in the USA you really need to post any final questions today (Thursday). In Australia, China etc. you'll get most of Friday to post. But wherever you are please try to post as soon as you can so Tim can answer during his normal working day!

Just hit the blue Add Post button anywhere on the page to post your question.

If you're not already a member, it only takes a few seconds to join us, and you can post as soon as you verify your email address.

So let's get some final questions in and see some more of Tim's great answers!
Andy Geldman, Web Retailer
Please follow on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+
UK United Kingdom
Nick_Retail
Kudos: 26
Joined: Jul 16, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
18 Jul 2014
Thanks for your reply, you're awesome!

#4) Could you give the advantage and disadvantages of buying and importing: factory direct, using a trading company or using an agent/broker?

#5) If I send a non-copyrighted item to china, can they copy the item and manufacture it under my own brand?
-Is it best to use a manufacturer to do this or go through a trading company/agent/broker who can "understand and dissect the item" and find the best manufacturer to produce it.

#6) How do I know if a Chinese companies certificates are real? E.g. If a Chinese company says they have certificates to prove their products meet UK safety regulations, or if a company says they have some other certificates, how do I know they're not fakes?

#7) Tim, In your reply to @ Dekero08 (top of page 2) you said "but often in China you can find shipping partners that get such high shipping discounts that even when they add their profit in you end up getting a better price than doing it yourself." Can you tell me more about Chinese shipping partners? Could you recommend some or is finding a shipping partner a service your company fulfils.

Thanks again for your answers!
Shenzen China Australia
Tim298
Kudos: 446
Joined: Jun 26, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
18 Jul 2014
Great questions Nick Retail thanks (I may enter into two post category again with this one...

Nick_Retail wrote:

#4) Could you give the advantage and disadvantages of buying and importing: factory direct, using a trading company or using an agent/broker?
Factory - core advantage is price (no middle people = best price) Core disadvantage is Minimum Order, the MOQ is driven by the raw material purchasing - the more they have to buy, the more they need to sell to offset this cost. Best fit is doing tailored items in large quantities.
Trading Company - Core advantage is flexibility on order quantity and connections - more product choices, lower quantity orders, often they have good shipping accounts. Disadvantage is you pay a little more, and they may run out of stock of an item over time.
Agent/Broker - advantages are similar to trading companies - the disadvantage is there are many, and you need to find a good from the not so good. Their experience and knowledge tends to be industry or geographical area specific.

Nick_Retail wrote:

#5) If I send a non-copyrighted item to china, can they copy the item and manufacture it under my own brand?
Yeah for sure, as long as you can meet the MOQs which for items from scratch tend to be higher, unless the product is already made in China and available in the market, then its easier.

Nick_Retail wrote:

Is it best to use a manufacturer to do this or go through a trading company/agent/broker who can "understand and dissect the item" and find the best manufacturer to produce it.
This would depend on the product and your order capacity, an agent may be able to negotiate the quantity down, with the price going up. Most factories are ok with the branding aspect, to be honest it comes to a case by case basis. I would start with a similar item available on the market and brand this, then your quantity will be lower, you can get your branding done whether through the factory or the trading company.

Nick_Retail wrote:

#6) How do I know if a Chinese companies certificates are real? E.g. If a Chinese company says they have certificates to prove their products meet UK safety regulations, or if a company says they have some other certificates, how do I know they're not fakes?
You can get them sent to you and have someone assess them, I am not sure who can do this in UK - the only way to be 100% certain is have your own testing partner do these tests. I have found in most cases now the factories are open with me about it, if you ask them directly, let them know that if they are not correct reports it just means you need to get yours done, not that you will walk away from the table, it may help ascertain the truth, but I dont find the blatant lies to be as prevalent as some report them to be.

Next post for last question and answer
Shenzen China Australia
Tim298
Kudos: 446
Joined: Jun 26, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
18 Jul 2014

Nick_Retail wrote:

#7) Tim, In your reply to @ Dekero08 (top of page 2) you said "but often in China you can find shipping partners that get such high shipping discounts that even when they add their profit in you end up getting a better price than doing it yourself." Can you tell me more about Chinese shipping partners? Could you recommend some or is finding a shipping partner a service your company fulfils.
I think sometimes people think of a factory in China as being able to do everything, and then get annoyed if their smaller orders get handled by middle people, assuming this means they pay more.. when the situation is a little more complex - China is like anywhere else in many ways - there are companies that are better at doing various things - it is a SYSTEM or CHAIN that any person importing from China needs, not just a factory - I look at it like a virtual line - find the factory, assess the factory, agree on terms, work out shipping, consider testing reports, consider customs and tax, assess sales channel - in all steps (and I have missed a few) there are various expertise required - creating the supply chain takes time and understanding.

When it comes to shipping a product a factory may offer a solution, a trading company may too.

For the sales model that I operate I needed to find the BEST solution, the BEST solutions for shipping come from those who ship volume, if you ship volume, you get good discounts, so who ships the most in China using the methods I want to use was my naive starting point. There are shipping accounts and trading accounts for shipping that offer large discounts, accessing them is not simple, the shipping cost whether it is postal for drop ship or express for small bulk volumes is a major part of the purchase. Once you work out your basic cost you would get from the shipping company, you can then approach some agents and seek their quote to compare and see the value, their quote will include their fee.

I cant recommend any, I know thats not majorly useful, but the landscape has changed since I was doing shipping via agents, now my company has its own shipping accounts and lines - but we are not able to use these for other companies as they are not accounts we can use in trade. My advice would be to follow the process, get your direct quotes from your initial shipping solution provider (whether this is you or the factory etc etc) - then compare - consider the local on land costs too, try to find an agent/port close to the area you are ordering from. Always be aware of the issues with shipping batteries, powders and liquids that come up from time to time and are enforced sporadically.
arizona United States
firebird
Kudos: 24
Joined: Jul 18, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
18 Jul 2014
I have a followup question about shipping.
Wondering if you could explain to me the difference between a "trading company" and a "shipping forwarder" and an agency etc.
We need to get products shipped from China to US and the manufacturer works with a company for shipping, but the prices are high and even they recommend that we find our own shipper... and I honestly have no idea where to even start to look for a shipping company.
What would be some examples of Google searches to do to find the right shipping company to work with... or the right shipping forwarder etc.
Any help or insight you could provide would be wonderful. Thanks!
Shenzen China Australia
Tim298
Kudos: 446
Joined: Jun 26, 2014
Re: Ask The Expert: Importing from China
18 Jul 2014
Hi Firebrid, thanks for the question -

firebird wrote:

Wondering if you could explain to me the difference between a "trading company" and a "shipping forwarder" and an agency etc.
Trading company is a company in China that buys various amounts of a range of products, allowing them to trade these as held stocks, rather than as items to make (as from a factory) a trading company may have good shipping accounts and be able to handle other areas of business with you, provided you bring them business too.
A shipping agent specifically focusses on shipping, you might buy from one factory or seller and have it shipped or handled by the shipping agent from the point of purchase. They sometimes also have product connections, but essentially the core business is the shipping.

Sometimes your trading company or factory may have its own relationship with a shipping company/agent if that makes sense for them.

firebird wrote:

We need to get products shipped from China to US and the manufacturer works with a company for shipping, but the prices are high and even they recommend that we find our own shipper... and I honestly have no idea where to even start to look for a shipping company.
You can search Alibaba for some, create an account and post a request as well. Its surprising that the factory does not have any recommendations themselves. Have a look at companies offering drop shipping, small volume shipping from China, depending on your business and model there are some that may be able to assist. The one you are looking for will depend on the volume as well - differences between drop shipping postal, express shipping (DHL, Fedex etc) or LCL, FCL containers.

firebird wrote:

What would be some examples of Google searches to do to find the right shipping company to work with... or the right shipping forwarder etc.
I would search "China - low volume shipping" "China Logistics" "shipping from China" brings up a few and try these within Alibaba as well.

firebird wrote:

Any help or insight you could provide would be wonderful. Thanks!
Whats been really important to me is learning as much as I am able to every chance I get about logistics from China - sourcing is not difficult, finding good partners is not difficult (with time and effort) but the other pieces of the puzzle, which for me fall under logistics (basically, after I buy the item where do I put it and which methods do I use to move it to various locations of sale) are extremely complex and represent a number of relationships and connections - its the supply chain for your business.

I think often we try to avoid many hands in the business we do, but sometimes in China I find that connecting the pieces that are required for a secure supply chain require a few sets of hands, and that is something I find different to the ways of doing business in my native country of New Zealand.

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