Importing products? You need to know this!

Where you’ll find the ‘factory of the world’ and how you can use it

How many times have you looked at the packaging on a product and discovered it was ‘made in China’?

Sometimes it does feel like absolutely everything is made there and whilst that is not quite true, China is a huge success story based on its ability to manufacture a huge array of products at great speed, in huge volumes and at lower costs. This is why China is often referred to as ‘the factory of the world’.

China is the UK’s second largest import partner, behind Germany, so it cannot be denied that the opportunities for businesses in the UK to import from China are on a grand scale.

The internet and email make connecting with anyone in any country a doddle and there are any number of websites online offering all manner of products manufactured in China, all ripe for importing with just the click of a button…

Sounds easy right? 

Well, yes it can be, but dealing with overseas suppliers requires you to understand the process and if you take the route of randomly choosing any product from any supplier then you could end up paying for counterfeit goods, or worst case scenario, receive absolutely nothing in return for your money at all.

As an online seller, researching, sourcing and importing products from China is a strategy that you most certainly should choose as your business grows and you learn how to negotiate and deal with suppliers but as you become more confident it’s important that you are ready and fully understand how the process works.

Product sourcing is something I do every day and so as you can imagine, I’ve had plenty of practice researching and sourcing products for my own business and of course members of my online membership site The Source Report.

So, with this in mind, I want to share with you some of the most important things you should understand when importing goods.

Your 7 ‘Importing Essentials’

Consider what to buy

Avoid buying brand name goods from China due to the high probability of the products being counterfeit goods. The manufacture of counterfeits in China is a huge problem backed up by the fact that around 70% of all counterfeit goods seized by customs originate from China.

Instead, look for products that are unbranded, small and light. You should choose products that are going to be cheap to ship not only into the UK but also cheap to ship to your customers. Stick with products wholesaling per unit at between $5 – $100 (around £3 – £60). The more expensive the item, the more expensive it will be to ship and quality control becomes more important and requires more checks – but you should use your own judgement on this and make sure you do your homework.

Research, research and research some more!

It’s important to check out any supplier or manufacturer that you’re tempted to do business with, no matter what country they are in, but this is even more vital when purchasing stock from overseas. Always make sure you know your overseas supplier is the real deal. You should check domain names, phone numbers, locations and dodgy looking email addresses – for example hotmail or gmail addresses for businesses. It’s helpful to run a Google search too to see whether you can uncover any information online, good or bad about the supplier. If you can’t find any information about a supplier, move on.

Be as specific as possible in your correspondence

You might think that an order of ‘brown handbags’ is clear enough but it’s really an ambiguous request. Are you after leather or an imitation leather? What sort of colour brown – tan, light brown, dark brown? What design of handbag? What size? What detailing? You get the picture. It’s much better to provide too much information rather than too little to ensure you end up with the correct product.

Sample the goods

Once you have completed your checks, please make sure you ask for a sample of the product. Any genuine supplier will not have a problem with sending you a sample. It won’t be free, you’ll have to pay for the product and the shipping, but it’s vital you don’t skip this stage of the process.

Keep your payment information to yourself

Use third party services such as PayPal or Escrow for transferring any funds to your supplier or alternatively use a Credit Card as you will have protection from your card issuer. These will offer you protection should there be a problem and are by far the safest ways to pay for your order.

Be aware of shipping timescales

If your goods are to be sent by China Post this is just like a normal postal service and your goods may take up to 6 weeks to arrive. This isn’t always the case and I have known goods to arrive in far less – often 10 days – however you can’t rely on this and should factor in a timescale of up to 6 weeks.

A quicker method is to use a courier such as DHL, UPS or TNT and you will find that your goods will arrive anytime between 3 to 5 business days so delivery times will be much faster – but you’ll have to pay more for it. You’ll also get tracking with a courier service so will know exactly where your goods are at any time. Using a ‘Freight Forwarder’ will ensure you get this part of the importing process right!

Factor in VAT and Duty payable.

When importing it’s highly likely that there will be extra costs to pay. Import duty can vary depending on the product you are importing as it is worked out on the value of the goods. Your courier, or freight forwarder, will contact you and you must pay these charges once your goods arrive in the UK before the delivery of your goods to your address.

My final piece of advice? Don’t be frightened!

The information I’ve provided here is to make sure you have a brief overview of the importing process, it’s not designed to scare you off by making you think that sourcing stock from overseas is difficult. Take your time and do your research and it can turn out to be the best strategy for your growing business.

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