China has, in recent years, gained prominence as a manufacturing center to the world. Their ability to produce a wide scope of goods at competitive price points has made them a global go-to source for importers. Even small, home-based online sellers are profitably sourcing from China suppliers. Several recent developments, working in conjunction, have made China sourcing a simpler, more straightforward process than it’s ever been before:
• Many trade barriers have been removed, and China has joined the World Trade Organization.
• Both travel to and shipping from China are now faster, cheaper, and more dependable than ever.
• Simple, safe payment methods are increasingly in place. The number of China manufacturers who are implementing merchant accounts and online payment solutions, like PayPal, is growing rapidly.
• Rising competition among China manufacturers is forcing factories to bring products up to western standards.
• Many Chinese businesspeople speak and understand English, making the language barrier less of an issue.
According to George Bailey, Sales Manager for Chinavasion.com, these combined circumstances create an enormous opportunity for Internet retailers. Advises Bailey, “The key is finding reliable suppliers for your own e-business. It’s critical that you’re dealing with legitimate companies, so you don’t get burned.”
Finding REAL Manufacturers
Multiple resources are available to help you locate genuine China suppliers: trade magazines, international trade fairs, and Business-to-Business (B2B) websites. Because many B2B sites allow anyone to advertise there, you need to ensure you’re only sourcing from companies that have been validated by the portal service. These vetted suppliers usually have an identifying mark or seal of authentication.
While there are many excellent China vendors that will deliver quality goods, there are also many scammers, advertising popular branded merchandise (Sony products, Apple iPods, etc). Even though these goods may be manufactured in China, their distribution is tightly controlled by their parent companies in the U.S. Any overseas supplier claiming they can provide you with these brand-name products is either selling defective or gray-market goods. The former, you can’t resell; the latter won’t make it past Customs – and may cause you legal troubles, as well.
The Wholesale Alternative
Another option for newcomers is to start with an import wholesaler, like Chinavasion.com or GlobalSourcesDirect.com, which allows you to purchase goods in small, affordable quantities. In some cases, you may even have products drop shipped directly to your customers, just as you would with a domestic wholesaler.
Although your wholesale prices will be higher than your factory-direct prices, that additional expense is off-set by a number of factors:
• You’re not responsible for import taxes.
• You’re not the party legally responsible for guaranteeing your goods meet Customs regulations, so you’re taking considerably less risk.
• The wholesaler is handling quality control, so you don’t have to worry about products not being up-to-par. And in the unlikely event that you’re unhappy with a product’s quality, you have a much better chance of working out a return agreement than you would working directly with a foreign manufacturer.
To determine the best source of imports for your eBiz, you need to evaluate what level your business is at, and what kind of responsibility you’re prepared to take on.
Room for More
The opportunities in China are massive: whether you’re a new or experienced importer, it’s a good time to take advantage of the great benefits sourcing from China offers. Encourages Bailey, “Online sellers have barely begun to tap into the products that are available. There’s room for a huge explosion of start-ups and one-man businesses to make a major dent in their markets – just because they’ve found the sources to make it work.”