customs

How to import to the US for international sellers – ship to Amazon directly

Two of the questions I receive the most is: “Can I sell on Amazon US as an international seller” and “Can I send my order directly from the factory directly to Amazon?

Yes you can!

This prompted me to do a write up on the topic and without further ado, here’s a quick guide for you that hopefully answers your questions:
You basically have four options:

  1. Using a customs broker acting as the ultimate consignee (No EIN needed)
  2. Using a courier service like DHL/UPS/FedEx etc. (Amazon’s EIN recommended)
  3. Using a prepping and forwarding company that acts as the ultimate consignee (NO EIN needed)
  4. Using a forwarding company/customs broker when delivery by regular Air or Sea shipment (not by courier) and acting as the Importer of record and ultimate consignee yourself (Amazon’s EIN needed)

In all cases I still recommend you to get your own US Tax Payer Number or also commonly referred as EIN.

Simply follow this link for information and call the number mentioned under “Apply by Telephone – International Applicants”. It’s a very simple and straightforward process that takes about 10-15 minutes.

https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/How-to-Apply-for-an-EIN

Some important reminders:

1) Not all customs brokers can act as the ultimate consignee. The ones that do usually offer services on top to act as your ultimate consignee:

2) Very Important: Never put Amazon as Importer of Record on any document. In case you send goods directly to Amazon only use them as the ultimate consignee but never as the Importer of Record otherwise they will definitely reject your shipment.

3) One thing that is super important if you decide to send products from China to Amazon without any stop in between (Prepping, Labelling or Quality Control company in the US):

HAVE AN INSPECTION. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an inspection before sending anything to Amazon directly.

I know that many buyers have an inspection in the US. But what if the goods are defect to such an extent that you can’t rework them in the US? Are you going to send them back to China? Unlikely.

Save yourself this step and have the inspection in China with a reputable Inspection company like http://www.asiainspection.com

If there’s anything wrong during the inspections you can still have them re-worked in the factory directly.
On top of that you protect your initial deposit to the factory by having an inspection.

4) Also make sure you comply with Amazon’s packaging and labeling requirements (weights, labeling & carton measurements). Amazon’s fulfillment centers prefer palletised shipments but you do have an option to send the shipment un-palletised. There will be an option in Seller Central when you create your shipment that allows you to choose the option of un-palletised shipments.

 

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5) Do as much labelling and prepping in the factory as possible!

Your factory can take care of all the labels and prepping needed for Amazon, you simply need to give them clear instructions when you place your order.

 

6) Think hard about “inventory placement” that lets you ship from China to one Amazon warehouse only.

This costs 0.3$ on top of the product cost but it might be worth it considering that you only have to invoice once. On top of that shipping companies charge extra for each set of documents on various levels and it is complicated to instruct your supplier to ship to 2-3 different warehouses. Think about all the labelling and coordination that has to be done with the supplier. However if you ship to multiple Amazon warehouses, have each order palletised for each warehouse while in China, so that you’re not using U.S. labor to de-consolidate a shipment and re-palletise goods.  You’ll also have to book the ground shipments after your ocean shipment has arrived, which adds complexity to the process

Lets look at each option in detail:

1) Using a customs broker acting as the ultimate consignee

There are several companies in the US that can act as your customs broker and ultimate consignee. If they offer to be a ultimate consignee they usually add a few services on top that they are looking to sell to you such as:

  • Clearing customs
  • Receiving cartons (LCL, LTL or UPS/DHL etc.)
  • Apply shipping labels
  • Ship to Amazon
  • etc.

This can add up in costs on top of your product but they’ll make sure that items are properly packed, labelled and cleared by customs as an ultimate consignee.

I’ve been contacted by http://www.westernoverseas.com a Third-Party Logistics (3PL)/Prepping/Customs Brokerage company based in the US and they had such a detailed process lay down in PDF that I decided to post them (with permission). Credit of the following content goes to Westernoverseas however please note the entire process is the same for other 3PL companies as well.

Why do I need a Customs Broker?

If your shipment is arriving by Regular Air Cargo (not by DHL, UPS, or FEDEX) or Ocean cargo, you will need a Customs Broker to clear the shipment on your behalf. All shipments must be cleared through Customs. Certain commodities are also subject to the regulations of other government agencies such as FDA, USDA, DOT and EPA. Please check with your Customs Broker for import requirements. Please do not ship without doing your research!

What type of Services does Western Overseas offer?

  • International Freight Forwarding (Shipping) – by Air and Sea
  • Customs Brokerage
  • Domestic Delivery from port to final US destination
  • Amazon FBA prepping
  • Warehousing

Should I use Ocean or Air Shipping?

Your decision should be based on how quickly you need your shipment and how much you’re willing to pay.

  • Ocean shipments are less expensive but take longer to arrive. The costs are generally 1/2 – 1/3 the costs to ship by air. You should figure approximately 3 – 4 weeks’ lead time.
  • Air shipments are more expensive but are faster to arrive. You should figure approximately 3 – 5 days’ lead time.

If I choose Western Overseas as a Customs Broker, how do I open an account? Is there a fee?

There are several forms that you must complete to set up an account. Please contact us at Ecommerce@westernoverseas.com. We do not charge a fee. However, we may charge for a consultation fee if extensive research on your product is necessary.

What is an EIN Number? Do I need one?

As a foreign importer, you do not need an EIN number for Customs Import purposes. You may need one as a seller on Amazon for State Tax purposes. Please check with Amazon and/or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You will be assigned an Importer Number by customs which will be used in lieu of an EIN Number for the purpose of the Customs declaration. You can be an importer without an EIN#. Customs will assign to you an Importer Number.

But you still need a Customs Broker and an Ultimate Consignee with an EIN#. If you use our FBA Prep Services, we will act as your Ultimate Consignee.
If you are U.S. based and are intending to import under a Corporation, then your EIN number will serve as your Importer Number. If you are U.S. based and are intending to import as a Sole Proprietor (e.g. John Doe dba ABC Importers), then your Social Security Number will be your Importer Number. If you are U.S. based and are intending to import as an Individual (e.g. John Allen Doe), then your Social Security Number will be your Importer Number.

What is a Customs Bond and what is the cost?

Customs requires that a bond be posted with every ISF and Customs Entry to ensure that all duties, taxes and fees owed to the federal government will be paid. An Annual Continuous Bond can be purchased for $500 (through Western Overseas) and it will cover both your ISF filings and Customs Entries. Having a Continuous Bond also reduces our ISF filing fee by $25. If you choose not to purchase a Continuous Bond, you have the option of purchasing Single Entry Bonds for ISF filings and Customs entries. This can become quite costly especially if your shipment value is high or is subject to other government regulations such as FDA. Furthermore, the bonding companies only allow a maximum of “5” Single Entry Bonds for ISF before the importer is required to purchase a Continuous Bond. You would be saving money in the long run. However, if you are planning to import only once, then a Single Entry Bond might be for you. Single Entry Bonds are subject to a $25 Bond Processing Fee. Our Bond costs are below:

  • ISF Bond: $75
  • Customs Single Entry Bond: $6.50 per $1000 of the shipment’s declared value + duties/taxes (minimum charge of $65). For OGA (other government agency – i.e. FDA, USDA) regulated commodities, the rate is $6.50 per $3000 of the shipment’s declared value + duties/taxes.
  • Customs Annual Bond: $500

What happens after I place an order with my supplier?

The process will depend on the terms of sale between you and your supplier. But the following steps are what typically occur for Regular Air and Ocean shipments. The below excludes shipments sent by Air Express Courier.

  • Production begins (seller might send you a sample for approval)
  • Determine if you will be using the services of an inspection intermediary service such as FBA Inspection, Earth Class Mail or Western Overseas.
  • Seller arranges the International Freight Forwarding if his cost includes this (CIF terms); if his cost does not include this, then you are responsible for arranging and paying for the freight.
  • Your supplier may have a couple of shipping companies to refer you to or you can obtain a quote from Western Overseas. If the latter, seller will provide you with the cargo details which you will pass onto the forwarder giving you the quote. You will also want to include the U.S. destination address – whether it’s Amazon FBA or the Intermediary Inspection service of your choice.
  • Hire a Customs Broker if separate from the Freight Forwarder.
  • Get ISF details to Customs Broker (ocean shipments only)
  • Shipment departs
  • Send copies of all shipping documents to Customs Broker
  • Shipment arrives
  • Customs clears
  • Our invoice is paid
  • Shipment is delivered or dispatched

It is your responsibility as an Amazon Seller and Importer to know Amazon’s FBA requirements.

What is Importer Security Filing (ISF)?

There are 10 key elements about a shipment that must be transmitted to Customs at least 24 hours prior to the vessel’s departure from origin through Importer Security Filing (ISF). This filing provides information to Customs regarding the impending import shipment. Your Customs Broker is the most ideal party to handle this transaction. If the filing is late, misfiled or not filed at all, then the importer will be penalized a minimum of $5,000 (max $10,000). Customs requires that all ocean import shipments have an ISF filing whether or not it is late. Otherwise, your shipment will not clear Customs. A late filing or non-filing of ISF also guarantees that Customs will examine your shipment.

What is a Harmonized Tariff Code (HTS)?

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) is the mechanism by which international tariffs are standardized. If you ship items overseas, you are required to classify them according to the harmonized system. Each country has its own Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS).

The description and coding system of global tariffs is an internationally standardized system of names and numbers for classifying products. The first 6 digits of any HTS Code is (in theory) the same for any country. Beyond the six-digit level, individual countries sometimes have different rules for classification. Importers and Exporters the world over must classify all goods moved across international borders using the Harmonized System of the country of import. Every item you sell must be assigned an HTS Code according to the Customs tariff schedule of the country from which you are selling. Each HTS Code has an applicable duty rate. HTS Codes are sometimes referred to as HS Codes and Tariff Codes.

What is the time length for my shipment to be cleared by Customs?

We must allow Customs at least 48-72 hours to clear a shipment, although it could be less.

Why did Customs put a hold on my shipment? I have never had a problem with my DHL/UPS/FEDEX shipment before.

Please bear in mind that Air Express Shipments are treated differently by Customs. They simply move too many parcels on a daily basis for Customs to be able to monitor each one. And because Customs allows Air Express Couriers to clear an entire manifest under their own name and bond, it’s possible that your previous shipment may have just flown under the radar.

With regular Air and Ocean cargo, there is always the possibility of a Customs Exam which may cause a 3- 5 days delay in release. Any exam related charges will be the responsibility of the Importer of Record. Customs exams are generally random unless they have had a recurring problem with the manufacturer, the importer, and/or the commodity. That said, please ensure your product and its labeling comply with Customs laws prior to shipping.
What information do I need to provide Western Overseas to obtain a quote?

For a Customs Brokerage Quote:

  • A full description of the item(s) you are intending to import – i.e. General Description/Name of Product, Function, Material/Composition, Declared Value, Unit Value, & Country of Origin.

For a Freight/Shipping Quote:

  • Terms of Sale (i.e. FOB or Ex-Works)
  • Address of your Supplier
  • Port of Loading
  • Number of cartons
  • Dimensions of each carton
  • Weight of each carton
  • First U.S. Delivery address

For Amazon FBA Prepping Services Quote:

  • Total Number of Cartons and Units
  • A detailed scope of the services you require – i.e. Check for product and package damage, Apply FNSKU labels, Bundle, Insert Cards, etc.

What other fees should I expect?

If you using the International Freight Forwarding Services of another company, then you can expect charges due to their U.S. agent. Your shipment will not be released from custody until those charges are paid. Western Overseas can pay those charges on your behalf for a fee of 1.5% and include them on our final invoice. Other fees may include Customs Exam and related costs and Storage/Demurrage Fees.

Who should be listed as the Notify Party, Consignee, Ship To?
If we (Westernoverseas) are hired as your Customs Broker, we should always be listed as the Notify Party.

Western Overseas Corporation
510 Myrtle Ave. Ste 208
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Tel: (650) 952 – 2955
Email: Ecommerce@westernoverseas.com

If you are a U.S. based importer, the Consignee’s name and address will be your information. The Ship-to party will depend on who will be receiving your shipment immediately upon release from Customs.
If you are a foreign importer, the Consignee and Ship-to parties will depend on who will be receiving your shipment immediately upon release from Customs.

My supplier is asking for Shipping Marks. What are Shipping Marks?

Shipping Marks are printed on the outside of each Master Carton of your shipment. They should contain the information that will identify your cartons from cargo belonging to others. The suggested marks would be:

  • Your Company Name
  • Carton Count – e.g. Carton 1 of 10, Carton 2 of 10, etc.
  • General Description of item
  • Country of Origin
  • Any special handling instructions – e.g. This side up, Handle with Care, Fragile, etc.

What shipping documents do I need to provide to Western Overseas (or other 3PL)?

  • ISF Details (for Ocean shipments only; we must receive this at least 72 hours prior to the vessel’s departure from origin)
  • Ocean Bill of Lading or Air Waybill
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Packing List
  • The above documents are obtained from your supplier. If you use our Int’l Freight Forwarding services, then our overseas agent will supply us with the ISF details and the Ocean Bill of Lading.

When do I pay Western Overseas ((or other 3PL) and what type of payment is accepted?

Payment for an Annual Customs Bond will be due upon receipt. Payment for Customs Brokerage services including duties/taxes, delivery, freight, etc. will not be due until your shipment has cleared from Customs and is ready to be delivered or dispatched.

We accept the following payments:

  • Credit Card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express)*
  • Wire Transfer**
  • PayPal*

*subject to a processing fee

**full invoice amount is due without any deduction of your bank’s wiring fee
June 2015

—End of content from Westernoverseas—

 

 

If you are interested in their fees and other services here’s the contact information:

Susan Park
Business Development Specialist
Western Overseas Corporation
11605 Pike St.
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Tel: (562) 985-0616 x5069
Direct: (714) 243-5069
Fax: (562) 364-7798
Email: Susanp@westernoverseas.com
Website: www.westernoverseas.com

2) Using a courier service like DHL, UPS, FedEx etc. (EIN recommended)

 

Air Express Courier shipments sent via DHL, FEDEX, or UPS are different. Customs has special regulations for them where they are allowed to clear entire mass quantities of shipments under their own name and Customs bond. They simply move too many parcels for Customs to be able to clear every single one. Therefore, they are authorized to clear shipments that are on one cargo manifest of low-risk up to values of their own discretion. They also won’t ask you to apply for a customs bond or filling an ISF. They provide a one-stop solution and are therefore more expensive than forwarding or logistics companies/customs brokers.

You simply be the Importer of Record with your foreign address or you can subscribe to services like http://www.usamail1.com/ to get an US address (not obligatory) and apply for an EIN here (obligatory if you want to be the ultimate consignee): https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/How-to-Apply-for-an-EIN

 

3) Using a prepping and forwarding company that acts as the ultimate consignee (NO EIN needed)

 

There are several services around that receive your goods (where you act as the Importer of Record) after cleared by customs. For example if you send in your order by courier (DHL etc.) and then want them prepped, labeled etc. you can use prepping companies that can also act as your ultimate consignee. These guys are similar like the first example but usually don’t clear customs for you. You can act as the Importer of Record with a foreign address and will be assigned an Importer Number by customs. Once the prepping, labeling etc. is done these service provides will send in the order for you to Amazon.

4) Using a forwarding company/customs broker and acting as the Importer of Record yourself (Amazon’s EIN needed)

 

If you send items by Air or Sea the regular way (meaning no courier like DHL, UPS etc.) you will need a forwarding or also referred to as Third party logistics company (3PL) that can act as both the forwarder as well as the customs broker HOWEVER not as the ultimate consignee.

In this case you will be the Importer of Record and Amazon will be the Ultimate consignee. You don’t need an address or bank account in the US but you will need an EIN number of the ultimate consignee or Importer of Record. You can contact Amazon for this information but your Customs Broker should be able to obtain this information for you.

I also heard that sometimes Amazon refuses your goods if you don’t provide your own EIN but I haven’t found anything to the contrary.

You simply be the Importer of Record with your foreign address or you can subscribe to services like http://www.usamail1.com/ to get an US address (not obligatory) and apply for an EIN here (obligatory if you want to be the ultimate consignee): https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/How-to-Apply-for-an-EIN

 

 

There’s one more option. If you know someone in the US who is willing to receive your order as the Importer of Record providing his EIN number you can go that way too. But I recommend you pay all fees upfront so your friend/acquaintance doesn’t have to bear them.

Miscellaneous:

I do recommend you to apply for an EIN for general tax reasons and to comply with IRS regulations. Amazon can track your sales tax back with you and your country of origin.

If you want to learn more about the process and import from China professionally please check out our ImportDojo Masterclass here:
http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

I will be adding over 20 hours of new material to the class in February 2016 increasing the price in the process, so act soon.

Hope this helps and if you found this article helpful please share below trough social media :)
All the best and happy sourcing,
Manuel

fcc-logo

A beginners guide to importing electronics from China

I have recently been asked a few times to write about regulations for electronics and why I chose electronics. I choose electronics for myself because I’ve been in this category for nearly 17 years so I feel confident importing/exporting them.

I wanted to give you an basic overview what you need to pay attention to.

 

Many “gurus’ will tell you to shy away from electronics because of the regulations, high returns and what to do with defective items. While I do agree that a beginner should stay away from electronics I do encourage you to import electronics at one point because the margins are higher than your standard household product.

 

Especially if you have it OEM manufactured products (your own design/software/application). However manufacturing an electronic OEM item requires profound technical knowledge (or at least a knowledgable factory and engineers) and financial pre-investment in most cases.

 

Most suppliers won’t offer free services to help develop the product unless you commit with a certain order quantity, have yearly agreements or previous (mostly large) business with the factory.

 

Why is it so difficult to find manufacturers who comply with regulations already?
Most suppliers that develop a new product do not invest in the certifications in the beginning because they don’t know yet if the product actually sells so why invest in certifications that can run into thousands of dollars?

 

Try to work and find suppliers who mainly work with larger European and US customers or retailers that did the work for you already. Because when retailers look for electronics they will absolutely make sure that they comply with the law.
You will want to buy from factories that are either compliant already or are willing to work together with you to get the product compliant.

 

Dismiss suppliers who aren’t interested in making the product compliant if the response is something like: “all the other buyers also don’t need it”. Ideally you can convince the supplier to invest his money into certifications and making the product compliant for different markets and regulations because it also benefits him. The more clients he can sell his products to (because they are certified) the better for him too.

Lets take a look at general regulations first.

EUROPE

 

Europe is generally stricter than the US and has a couple more regulations that are to be met if you wish to import legally to Europe.

CE

CE
The CE marking is a mandatory conformity marking if you want to import into Europe. It basically confirms that your product is manufactured according to certain European standards. It covers most standards and this is the absolute minimum you need to have when importing to Europe, no matter which product actually. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CE_marking
Required by law: YES

GS

tuv_gs_130587
GS or “Gepruefte Sicherheit” is a quality seal issued by a third party laboratory and mostly recommended if sold as a retailer or to retailers. It is voluntary and NOT required by law but it has been an established trust and quality seal commonly known by consumers, especially in Germany. The requirements to get a GS certificate is higher than the one for CE. GS is not available or doesn’t make sense on several products such as battery operated items. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gepr%C3%BCfte_Sicherheit
Required by law: NO, voluntary and used as a seal of quality for consumers. 

R&TTE

better_quality_ce_mark_with_alert
This directive covers any radio-transmitting device and is usually already covered within a GS or CE certification.
http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/electrical-engineering/rtte-directive/index_en.htm
Required by law: YES, any of the following products need to comply: WiFi, Bluetooth products and Radio-Emitting devices (Smartphones, tablets, smart devices)

LVD

The Low Voltage Directive does not supply any specific technical standards that must be met, instead relying on IEC technical standards to guide designers to produce safe products. Products that conform to the general principles of the Low Voltage Directive and the relevant particular safety standards are marked with the CE marking to indicate compliance and acceptance throughout the EU.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_Voltage_Directive
Required by law: YES applicable to products or electrical equipment with a voltage at input or output terminals between 50 and 1000 volts for alternating current (AC) or between 75 and 1500 volts for direct current(DC)

EMC

EMC-TUVdotCOM-Mark_TextwithImageflexible
EMC or “Electro Magnetic Compatibility” regulates that the products may not interfere with other electronics products. Meaning that components of a product need to be manufactured according to several CE or GS standards to comply. If your product has a GS certificate EMC will usually be tested. Some CE certification and test reports include EMC testing. Make sure to check this in the report. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_compatibility
Required by law: YES but different nations can require compliance with different standards. In European law, manufacturers of electronic devices are advised to run EMC tests in order to comply with compulsory CE-labeling. EU directive 2004/108/EC (previously 89/336/EEC) on EMC defines the rules for the distribution of electric devices within the European Union.

ROHS Directive

RoHS.svg
RoHS or the “Restriction of Hazardous Substances” regulates the allowed content of 6 substances within the product. These are: Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Chromium, PBB & PBDE. It is closely linked with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) 2002/96/EC which sets collection, recycling and recovery targets for electrical goods and is part of a legislative initiative to solve the problem of huge amounts of toxic e-waste. Most suppliers have at least a report for the incoming raw-materials that they later use for the final product. So while they do not have a RoHS certificate for the entire product they may have the material tested which is generally accepted by authorities.
Required by law: YES, however raw material report as opposed to full report is widely accepted. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restriction_of_Hazardous_Substances_Directive

REACH Directive

images
Most suppliers have never heard of REACH altough it has been around since 2007. It is essentially the upgrade to RoHS but regulates more chemicals and substances. It has different phases that regulate the chemicals used in manufacturing and once in full force all importers need to comply (within the European Union). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Registration,_Evaluation,_Authorisation_and_Restriction_of_Chemicals
Required by law: YES

WEEE Directive

WEEE_logo
The Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment Directive is mandatory to be fullfilled by the manufacturer. The marking needs to be on the sales packaging or product.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_Electrical_and_Electronic_Equipment_Directive
Required by law: YES but different nations can require compliance with different standards.

Sub – Regulations & Directives:

Each of the above have several sub-regulations that have to be met. But generally if you buy a certian product from a supplier and it is say for example CE or FCC certified it should have automatically been certified by the sub-regulation.

 

UNITED STATES

 

The US generally has “loose” regulations compared to the authorities in Europe. Having said that I do recommend that you comply to all regulations as you don’t want to import a product that can cause fire or other hazards. “Loose regulations” also doesn’t mean that they are actually loose because you still are required to comply but again, Europe is stricter when it comes to enforcing and checking at customs or at retailers. A FCC certification is usually obtainable for a couple hundred $ while a GS certificate can go into the thousands. Of course there are products that are highly technical and or pose a risk or hazard and are difficult to certify by FCC for example.

FCC

fcc-logo
The FCC basically regulates anything that is electronic including WiFi, Bluetooth, Radio transmission etc. You will want any device that you import that is electrical and remitting radio waves (in any way) certified by the FCC.
There are two regulations within FCC for both Intentional & Un-Intentional radiators. Intentional radiators for example are: Bluetooth speakers, WiFi devices, radios or smartphones. Unintentional radiators are: Headphones, Earphones, power packs, PCB’s etc.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCC_Declaration_of_Conformity
Required by law: YES

UL

ul-logo
UL is a certification company that certifies your product according to several different standards. Say if you have a FCC certification you may still need to certify by UL, especially if you are a retailer. It’s a seal of quality that consumers appreciate on certain products https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UL_(safety_organization)
Required by law: NO/Voluntary and used as a seal of quality for consumers.

RoHS

RoHS is also recognised in the US and widley available at suppliers. RoHS self declarations are generally accepted by authorities.
Required by law: NO

Further information you should be aware of

Full certification:

Having a full certification on a product is the best and safest way to go. What does that actually mean? Lets look at an example: You want to import a hair trimmer/clipper. The hair clipper itself runs on a integrated rechargeable battery. The battery is charged via a universal external charger/adpater with a plug. In 90% of the cases the supplier will only have a FCC/GS/CE certificate for the charger/adapter. Why?

 

Because the adapter can be certified with GS/FCC/CE easily and can be used on hundreds of different products that need a universal charger. So it makes sense for the manufacturer to certify the charger because he can sell it with different products and only needs to certify the adapter  once. He can also sell his charger to other suppliers who are in need of universal chargers only for their products. While the hair trimmer is a sperate unit in itself and may not sell well. So why would the factory pay a lot of money to certify an entire product if they may not sell it.

 

If possible find a manufacturer who has a fully certified product. Those are likely suppliers who work with large western retailers. Having said that if say the charger has a full certification like GS/CE or FCC and the hair trimmer itself only has CE it is also acceptable to authorities. If you want to make sure that you comply or satisfy authorities you may ask the supplier to issue a Letter of Guarantee that the entire product has been manufacturerd according to standard or regulation “X”. But satisfying authorities should not be your eventual goal. Your evenutal goal should be to import a safe and reliable product that lasts and delivers good reviews or sales.

 

A full certification is quite expensive and therfore not often found. Yet some markets like Germay demand full certification especially from retailers. If you are an online seller and your exposure to the authorities is minimal you could start by meeting only minimum requirements (CE, FCC for example).

Labelling & Marking

The following markings must be on the final packaging or box in which the product is sold to the customer where applicable:

WEEE, FCC, CE, GS, Made in China, Recycle symbol 

I say applicable because as mentioned not every product needs to comply with above regulations.
You will also want to put all labels and markings of the product on the Instruction Manual. Electronic products usually have instruction manuals so you’ll want to show in there what your product complies with.

You are actually required by law to mark all regulations met, either on the box of the product or inside the instruction manual (if there is no space on the sales packaging).

Returns and damaged products

Unfortunately returns of electrical products can be as high as 20% in some cases. That could be due to poor manufacturing, faulty components that didn’t get checked properly, the client mishandling (or misunderstanding) the product and several other reasons. It comes with the territory when selling electronics and the only thing you can do as a seller is to take care of the manufacturing side and handle returns from customers with proper manner. Don’t try to argue with customers and simply refund or exchange the product for a new one.

 

However you should collect all data collected from returns and defects and claim the lost profit/money from your supplier when or if you re-order. Make sure to communicate the issues to the factory and have them deduct the total amount lost from the next invoice. Send all material that you can gather from your customers to the supplier to have a strong case against the supplier. If you aren’t going to re-order (maybe because of the issues) try to get the defect/returned units replaced by him or even better a cash payment in the amount of your loss. The latter may be more difficult as suppliers will want to have you re-order before they give out any money for returns.

Self-declarations

In some cases it doesn’t make sense to certify a product because your quantities are low or the product is so cheap that the certification cost don’t justify certifying it. In that case you may ask the supplier to issue a self-declaration which is in some cases accepted by authorities. Please note that you cannot issue a self-declaration, it has to be done by the manufacturer.

 

You would at least need to be compliant with basic requirements like raw material being certified or tested and according to regulations. However most countries in Europe only allow CE or RohS self-declarations for several items, mainly low voltage or battery powered products. Check with your supplier what he can offer you.

Lets take a look at a few examples

Please note that the following are recommendations and there may be additional requirements for each country depending on your sales channel.
I know for a fact that many importers ignore these regulations, hoping not to get caught.
I am not telling you what you should or shouldn’t do but many countries have lax enforcements so importers simply ignore it. I personally like to have everything in order and proper certification to avoid any problems in the future.
It’s best to check with a third-party inspection company but this should get you started when sourcing for electronics:

Bluetooth Speaker (Low Voltage product)
EU: CE, REACH, ROHS, LVD, R&TTE & GS on the adpater recommended if product comes with a external charger (they usually come with USB charging cables)
US: FCC, UL recommended if you are a retailer
Not to forget that you need to pay BIG (Bluetooth Interest Group) a fee of 8000US$ (4000$ if you are a member) if you are planning on private labelling your product. Prior to February 2014 private labelers were able to register their private label under the manufacturers Bluetooth chip license but BIG changed that and made it not possible anymore. I know that there are many small time buyers who don’t care and risk it because its still a grey area but basically they are illegally branding Bluetooth products.

Solar powered garden lamp (Low Voltage product)
This is a very simple product but highly competitive. The good news is that they are battery operated and low voltage powered.
EU: CE self declaration, RoHs self-declaration
US: FCC self declaration

Vaccuum cleaner (High Voltage product)
EU: CE, GS recommended, RoHS, REACH, EMC
US: FCC, UL recommended

Wired-Headset (Non-Bluetooth, no direct Voltage)
EU: CE, RoHS self declaration
US: FCC self declaration

Miscelaneous:

Many small importers in Europe or the US illegally import products hoping not to get caught (or not knowing there are regulations to be met). Basically playing with fire just to save a couple hundred dollars on certifications and compliant products.
Also paying for a certification report doesn’t mean your supplier can comply with the regulation. Before you place an order with the factory make sure to ask him that the material and components will actually pass a FCC or CE testing for example, otherwise you waste money on a certification and the product may not even pass the requirements.

 

One thing that I recommend beginners with electronics is to have the certifications from the supplier verified by a third-party. If you work with a third party inspection company like Asiainspection, TUV, SGS or others they are usually open to check certificates for you. That is if you already do business with them otherwise they charge a small fee. You can simply ask your contact at the third-party inspection company to look over the documents that the supplier sent you.

 

Do not engage with a supplier or product that cannot comply to regulations otherwise your products might be seized by customs or even have to be withdrawn from the market if an authority finds out you do not comply with regulations.

 

If a supplier tells you he doesn’t have the necessary certification and “its ok his other customers also don’t need it” stay away or be prepared to invest a couple hundred US$ for a certification (FCC or CE usually goes from 400-600US$).

 

Yes, it is sometimes a grey area, especially in the US if you ship things by Air directly to Amazon for example that you do not get caught, but I do not recommend going this way.

 

If a supplier doesn’t have a certificate or is unwilling to invest in it move on to the next supplier. However if you are willing to invest yourself in the certification (make sure to ask the supplier if the product can pass first) I would recommend to do so. Furthermore if you invest into a certificate you will be the holder of the certificate and the supplier is not allowed to sell the product with certification to anyone else but you. This applies to all certifications.

Inspections

I can’t stress enough how important inspections are, especially with electronics. You will want your goods to be inspected to avoid a high rate of returns,defects or not compliant manufactured products. Pre-Shipment inspections can save you a lot of troubles and are well worth the investment. The inspectors will not only test the product but they will also make sure that all is compliant with laws and regulations.

Product Liability Insurance

I also recommend once you import electronics in larger quantities that you contact your local insurance company and have a product liability insurance on your products. This is to protect yourself from any unforseeable issues.
Even you may have manufactured a product to the best of your knowledge something can go wrong or someone mishandled the product but you may not proof it. For example a few years ago I worked for this large German retailer and we had a fan heater manufactured to all possible standards and regulations.

 

One day a customer hired a lawyer and sent a letter to the retailer explaining his house has burnt down because of the fan heater he bought from them and he is looking for compensation and a full law suit. Since the fan heater was manufactured in China and sourced trough the buying office I worked for I was put in charge of the situation. When I heard of the problem the first step was obviously to speak to the supplier, check the certificates and look at the Inspection. All was in order, the said unit was manufactured at the highest standards and we suspected that the customer covered the fan heater with a towel and thats why the unit started burning.

 

However we couldn’t proof that and the client won the lawsuit. The retailer had coverage from his product liability insurance and at least the financial damage was settled. The bigger damage was obviously the public problem they had but at least the financial issue was off the table.

Summary

So what do you actually need for sure? Thats difficult to say as it depends on the product and ideally you will want the supplier to provide you all of the above. But realistically that never happens. In most cases suppliers do not even have CE certification which is actually easily obtainable. I can only recommend to have a supplier who has the minimum requirements such as FCC and CE certification.

 

RoHS is also easily obtainable these days and if a supplier doesn’t even have a self-declaration or certification for incoming raw materials look elsewhere. Unfortunately each product has different regulations however above general guidelines give you an idea what to look for. Also there is no website that tells you exactly what you need for which market (Business Idea??? :) ) and all is done trough research or ideally you speak with your third-party inspection company. In most cases they will charge you for giving out this information but if you work with them for a while already they might do you a favour and give you the information for free.

If you are interested in starting with electronics but not sure where to start simply message me or comment on this post and I will try to help wherever I can.

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

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News and trends from the exhibitions in Asia (October 2015)

It’s been a while since my last post and it’s time to give you guys an update. 

October is the busiest time of the year for me. In October there are usually somewhere between 10-15 exhibitions that I need to attend or that my buyers attend. 

This month I had a total of 26 buyers from 14 countries visiting me and the exhibitions. Here are some of the major exhibitions that were going on in and around Hong Kong: 

  • Global Sources Electronics (11-14th of October) 
  • Global Sources Consumer Electronics (18-21st of October) 
  • Global Sources Gifts and Premium (18-21st of October) 
  • Global Sources Fashion, Accessories & Textiles (27-30th of October)
  • HKTDC Electronics Fair (13-16th of October) 
  • HKTDC Lighting Fair (27-30th of October) 
  • Megashow Toys, Kitchen & Dining  Phase 1 (20-23rd of October) 
  • Megashow Gifts, Houseware &  Premium Phase 2 (27-29th of October) 
  • Canton Fair Phase 1 (15-19th of October) 
  • Canton Fair Phase 2 (23-27th of October) 
  • Canton Fair Phase 3 (31 Oct – 4th of November) 

These were some of the exhibitions that I usually attend but there are a couple more. Feel free to check out schedules for next year here: 

http://m.cantonfair.org.cn/m/en/index.aspx

http://www.globalsources.com/TRADESHOW/TRADESHOW.HTM?source=GSOLHP_TopNav_TS

http://www.mega-show.com/

http://www.hktdc.com/en-buyer/

The biggest of them all is obviously the Canton Fair in Guangzhou spanning over 3 1/2 weeks and 3 phases attracting over 200,000 buyers within this time frame. For me these exhibitions are essential in finding new suppliers and products and meeting up with clients and buyers. It is also a great time to network with fellow Amazon sellers and importers. 

I was lucky to meet with a fellow ImportDojo member, a couple Million$ Amazon sellers (Will Tjernlund & Reed Thompson) as well as attending a meet-up organised by Junglescout’s creator Greg Mercer in Guangzhou.

Without further ado, here are some highlights and moments from my last 4 weeks:

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Beautiful day in Hong Kong, heading to the Gloabl Sources Electronics at the Asia World Expo. 

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Making my way to the expo hall at the Asia World Expo building at the Airport. GlobalSources offers a free Airport Express train ticket to and from the city (12$ value) on each day you attend so make sure to get your free ticket at the entrance of the Airport express.  

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Two different expos were held that day. Gifts & Home / Mobile Electronics.  Notice the “Free sourcing service for buyers”? If you feel lost and need a little help with finding products drop in and ask for help. 

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Making my way to the mobile electronics hall. All I see are smartphones and smartwatches in the first few booths. 

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Tablets and smartphones everywhere. 

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Smartwatches. Not sure these still sell well. I have first seen them in 2013 and sales has significantly decreased I reckon. My suppliers have sent updated offers for these watches every three weeks. From the highest price in 2013 of approx .49$, they now cost somewhere between 11$ – 15$. 

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These “hooverboards” were the most seen product at any exhibition. It seemed that every supplier offered them even if they sold completely unrelated products in their booth. My advice, stay away. Many of them have issues with the batteries and lifetime after a few weeks. 


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IP cameras & smartwatches again. Every booth had them. 

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Remember this Kickstarter that raised over 800,000US$? This is the supplier and they offered me a price 72-80$ depending on the quantity (Kickstarter price was 85-119$). The MOQ (1000) was pretty high but they are trying to find distributors for exclusive deals. I am pretty sure that they will soon be copied by suppliers who can offer half the price. The helmet itself is pretty cool, you can listen to music, flash left/right on the helmet and a lot more all via remote control/bluetooth and an app. 


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Built in speakers in the helmet. 

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Different functions displayed. 

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Remote control mounted on the bike. 

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IP cameras again.

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Remember I mentioned in April that I only saw one supplier for Virtual Reality headset and you should watch out for this category? I saw at least 10 suppliers this time and this category is getting really big. 

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Here we go again, “Hooverboards”.

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Drones were still a big topic but only the professional suppliers have survived. 

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Remember the Indiegogo crowdfunding project for levitating bluetooth speakers? This is a poor copy. 

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Lucky to meet up with Reed Thompson & Will Tjernlund, the Multi Million Dollar FBA sellers. I had to listen to what they were up to that same night over a beer. 

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There were all kind of “segways and hooverboards” and they even had a “little park” to try them out. 

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I then went to the Gifts part and I found these neat Gentlemens sets. 

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Considering to private label this item. Thoughts?

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A bit of walking around in Central Hong Kong. 

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I was invited to a wedding which was pretty cool because it was hosted on one of Hong Kong’s famous Star Ferries that cruises trough Hong Kong harbour.

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It was time to head to China for the Canton Fair Phase 2 and I booked myself into the Landmark Canton. Prices are reasonable (120$/night) but the hotel has degraded over the years. 

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There are several ways to go the to the Canton Fair from HK, I prefer the trough train from HK to Guangzhou for around 30$. 

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Be sure to check if your hotel has free shuttle busses from the hotel to the exhibition grounds. I didn’t use them as I was a little late and would have to wait. These buses are usually in front of the hotel and they run every 30 mins or so (free of charge). 

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Arriving at the Canton Fair Phase 2. This phase featured several categories: Kitchen & Tableware, Gardening, Pet products, Food, Furnitures, Ceramics, Gifts & Premium, Decorative items, Toys, Personal Care, Toiletries, Household items and more. 

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Making my way into the first hall (furnitures) 

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In the back of the halls the booth’s get smaller and usually host small factories BUT they often have better prices than the big name companies. Make sure to ask around for prices. 

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Toiletries bags disguised as small suitcases as you would get them on some airlines in business class. Neat idea as a gift. 

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Car charging pods for smartphones and tablets. 

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Your car audio system doesn’t have Bluetooth? Never-mind, get these 12V cigarette plug bluetooth speakers. 

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Tablet and smartphone charging station.

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Home automation was a big thing again and many suppliers had well working systems this time including a ready to download application. 

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Seen these on your friends smartphone? Starting from 1.5$. 

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These were not new but are a great gift idea. Watch out for suppliers that have at least FDA certification (as in this case) 

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Decorative items at extremely low prices. 

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A variety of pet items at this supplier. A great category for starters. 

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Travel cases and gift boxes with very nice designs. 

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Tumblers and PET bottles. 

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Christmas/Festivity lighting and Halloween products. 

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Jewellery 

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Handicraft items

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A view at the halls. 

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The view from hall C to hall A. Hall A was built in 2005 and there are now 3 halls with the same size. They are all full with exhibitiors.

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Storage containers

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A view towards the city from the exhibition grounds. The pollution is clearly visible. 

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Time for Chinese seafood dinner 

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I teamed up with fellow ImportDojo member Omar on the second day of the exhibition. 

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Registering the Canton Fair badge for Omar. A pretty fast and simple process if you pre-register online. Be reminded to keep the badge. It is valid for all future Canton Fair shows. 

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Interesting travel pillow that keeps your neck straight when you sleep.

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This BBQ apron had all sorts of pockets and even a beer opener included. 

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“Dog-clothes”

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Pottery and garden fountains

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Artificial plants and garden decoration

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Omar keen on trying the “hooverboard” that was again at nearly every  booth here. 

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Tumblers and bottles

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When sourcing household & kitchen products look out for suppliers that have proper certification (FDA, CE or others) 

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Interesting coffee maker. Nothing new but a very nice design in copper. 

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Another Chinese dinner in Guangzhou with fellow German Amazon sellers. 

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I needed a day off after all the hectic weeks and decided to go for a stream hike in the jungles of Hong Kong. 

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Can you believe this is in Hong Kong?


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I couldn’t make it to the lighting fair in Hong Kong but a friend took a few impressions

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Contemporary lighting

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Modern lighting

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Time to head to the Canton Fair Phase 3. This phase hosts the following products: Sports and casual wear, mens & women’s clothing, kids wear, underwear, office supplies, sports/travel and recreation products, shoes, bags, health products, home textiles and much more. 

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Amazing Junglescout meetup in Guangzhou with fellow FBA/Amazon sellers!

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Ready for Phase 3, I opted for uncomfortable leather shoes as usual :)

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No matter which hall, nearly every booth had function/active wear in the trendiest designs. MOQ’s ranged from 300-3000 pieces. 

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Swimwear

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Kids, diving and bicycle gear

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These knitting shoes look very familiar (ahem Nike?) 

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Gym time anyone? 

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The sports/travel & recreation products hall was the most interesting in my point of view. 

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 Foosball kickers

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Titanium camping gear

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This e-bike was not comfortable to sit on

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Blow-up whirlpool

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A view of the city

There were a lot more pictures and expos that I went to but it would be too much to post here.

If you are selling or planning on selling on Amazon within the next year I highly recommend that you make your way to China. ImportDojo offers you training and expertise preparing you for these exhibitions here: http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

Also feel free to join Importdojo’s Facebook group and keep updated for next year’s exhibitions and meet ups. I am organising a buying trip in 3 groups during April 2016 with a maximum of 4 people per group and if you are interested to learn more feel free to message me.

I hope you got a bit of insight into the exhibitions in and around Hong Kong and I look forward to your comments :)

Happy sourcing everyone!

Manuel

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The Cantonfair – All you need to know about the biggest expo in Asia

The Cantonfair is coming up and I thought I’d give you guys an insight on the exhibition, how you can prepare, what you can find there and who it isn’t for.

I first went to the Canton Fair in 2005 and things have certainly changed since then. There were literally not many places to eat, find an ATM or book hotels around the area.
China and the Cantonfair have seen the potential and improved the general experience a great deal since then. I can only imagine how it was 20 years ago.

Some general information first:

The Canton Fair is the holy grail of exhibitions. This event is so large that it is held twice a year and each time runs over a span of 3 weeks in three different phases. Each phase comes with different product categories.
As of 2014 there were over 22,000 exhibitors. This exhibition is a must for me and it should be for you too. You will find a lot of suppliers, big brands, small factories, or the product you have been looking for for so long.
Plan at least 2, or better 3, days for your product category/phase. Sign up once and get a badge that will be valid forever.

Insider tip: Don’t throw away your badge. You can use it for your next visit without paying 100 Yuan for a replacement card.

How to register?

Most exhibitions require you to pre-register if you want to get in for free. Registration on-site is also possible but usually there will be a fee of 10-20USD. You will need to provide a name card for your registration.
When you pre-register online, just fill in your company’s details and print out the confirmation. Bring that confirmation and you will be handed a badge for entry.
The Canton Fair has the same procedure, however you can keep your badge for years to come. If you lose your badge you will have to pay a fee of 200RMB for re-issuance.
There is a first time registration fee of 100RMB. If you have a supplier who can invite you, you don’t need to pay any fees. Also remember to bring along a passport photograph for the application (required).
You can register here, among many other useful tools for the Canton Fair:
http://invitation.cantonfair.org.cn/Home/Index
Remember to keep the badge for the Canton Fair, as it is valid for years to come.

Know your goals

Remember you don’t have all day. I usually try to finish an exhibition within 1 day (except the Canton Fair). But this is also because I know how to spot the good from the bad ones and know which questions to ask. As a first timer I recommend you take some more time but don’t try to spend more than 20 minutes per booth with each supplier.
If you spot some item that really catches your attention and you would like to discuss further steps with the supplier right away, take your time. It is likely you will have 2-3 meetings that can take an hour.

Price preparation

You will likely be looking for a category of a product so you should prepare yourself with some basic prices that you have received from suppliers beforehand. Knowing your prices is essential before going to an exhibition.
If you are looking at new products and are not aware of prices try my “rule of thumb” calculation of 30%, adding this to your margin and calculating your selling price. You will quickly figure out if the price the supplier gave you at the booth is realistic or not.

Prioritizing

The Cantonfair is enormous in size. Grab a map at the entrance or the information counter of the exhibition and take a moment to study the areas of interest. You can also look online prior to going to the exhibitions at which hall or category is where to save some time.
Once it is clear where your suppliers are situated, start there. Go through each hall in an organized way and prioritize the halls by importance.
Once you completed all the halls you wanted to see you could go to the halls that were initially of the least interest to your business. You may find some ideas on other products in less interesting halls too.

Hotels during the exhibition:

Many hotels will provide a free shuttle bus to exhibitions. Check with the hotel staff to see if this service is provided.
Book hotels now if you haven’t booked them yet! Hotels during exhibitions can get very expensive. The sooner you book the better.
I usually won’t stay too far from the exhibition area, as I don’t want to waste time. Unfortunately that carries a price tag.
If your budget doesn’t allow this, find a hotel near a subway station (MTR).
Whatever you do, don’t take a taxi TO and FROM the exhibition. Take the subway or free shuttle buses provided by your hotel. At the Canton Fair, for example, it is impossible to get taxis at night. You can take a taxi in the morning TO the fair; that should be ok.

First things first. Here is what I bring to exhibitions:

• Name/Business cards (an absolute MUST)
• Trolley to carry all the catalogues that I collect
• My own (printed) company presentation
• Notebook & pens
• Passport photo (some exhibitions such as the Canton fair require a passport photo)
• Comfortable shoes (you will be walking all day)

At the exhibition:

Once you are at the exhibition, get a map; you should be able to get them anywhere at information counters.
Walk the aisles until you find something that interest you is definitely an approach but I prefer to prepare a little and do some research on my main interests.
You will want to work with manufacturers only at the exhibition and not with representatives. There are hundreds of representatives at the fair ground offering translation services, negotiation, insight etc. Do not go with them! They usually charge very high fees and aren’t totally honest with you. They are probably also no experts in every product category and that might end up in a disaster.
Never place orders right away. You should negotiate prices, ask questions and maybe show more than interest and tell the supplier that you may want to order when you are back. But don’t tell them to enthusiastically that you want to order right away. Why?

  • The prices you get at the fairs are usually not the best prices. Negotiate when you are back home.
  • You will want to clarify your terms first via email/phone calls before you place an order. Have him sign a purchase order agreement.
  • You will want to compare prices of more than one supplier for the same product

To determine if the person you are speaking to is a manufacturer or representative make sure to ask a lot of questions:

How to act and ask questions at exhibitions

I usually prepare a little speech before I go to the exhibition. It depends on my project or product that I am looking for but I like to introduce myself a little bit and give the supplier a professional image of me.
He is likely more interested in giving me answers, good prices or proper email feedback after the exhibition. Here is how it could look:

Hi, I am Manuel and I am the Managing Director of Mandarin-Gear Limited in Hong Kong.
I manage/own a sourcing and buying office for many large retailers worldwide.
My customers are looking for product “X” and I am interested in discussing more details or receiving a quotation based on my customer’s requirements.

Then I ask my questions and once I am satisfied I will ask him to provide me a quote based on my requirements. I will hand him my business card and I will MAKE SURE that he wrote down everything we discussed.

Could you please send me a quote of this item (from his booth) based on “X” quantity, including certification “XY”?

I will also take his name card and catalogue to study later.
Here are some questions that I ask the suppliers. You can adapt these to your product or requirements as necessary. You can also make yourself a checklist with these questions and print it out for each supplier meeting you have.
Obviously you can also memorize these questions and make notes on your notepad.
Clip the supplier’s name card to your notebook and write down answers to these questions:
• When was his factory established?
This is important as to figure out if he has been doing business for a long time or if he is newly established. If the factory is brand new I will be wary of dealing with them, while if they are older than 5 years I will probably go ahead with further questions.
• What is the total count of staff, workers, engineers and managers?
A well-organized factory has at least 200 employees. That could be 160 workers, 30 sales staff, 10 engineers and 10 managers.
• What certifications can he provide for product “X”?
Know the certifications that you need for your product. If a supplier has no idea about FCC, CE, RoHS, ERP, GS or other certifications of a chemical or other nature, you can probably leave the booth right away. If he is aware of the certifications and requirements but hasn’t applied them to all his products it’s not an eliminating criteria, but make sure to ask if he is willing to apply for the certifications after order-placement.
• Who are his main customers?
Do you know the customers he is talking about? Do they have a certain reputation in your country that would make you feel comfortable working with him? If he is working with customers that you know, it should be a good sign of his competence.

• Mention a few of your competitors or bigger clients
Drop a few names of the bigger competitors or clients of yours. If he knows them it’s a good sign. If not, it is very unlikely that they are doing overseas business and perhaps aren’t even interested in your business, knowing that your requirements are too high or “too much work” for him.
• What is his main market?
If he operates already within or near your country it is also likely that he can fulfill your requirements. It’s usually a good sign if he works for countries like the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, Canada and other first world countries. It means that his factory is able to pass audits, tests and certifications needed for these countries.

• What is the factory quality management standard?
Remember that good factories are also easy to spot if they have a certain quality management System (QMS) such as ISO 9001, BSCI and so on.
• What is the MOQ?
Can he actually provide the low or high MOQ that you need? Is he willing to produce a first order based on a very small quantity or does he have the capacity for large volumes?
• What is the rough price of this item based on X quantity?
Most suppliers will give you a very rough figure for the product they are exhibiting. These can be vague as often these are “blank” prices that do not include any certification, licenses, etc. But it is necessary to ask for prices (and write them down in your notebook) for your follow up. You can also use my “rule of thumb” to add on 20-30% on top of the supplier’s price to calculate if the price is competitive.
• What certification is included in his price?
Does the product currently fulfill your minimum requirements for certifications or standards? If not, is he willing to apply for certifications after order placement? Is he aware of the different certifications that you need or do you get the feeling he doesn’t know what you are talking about?
• Ask if he can provide samples after the exhibition
If you would like to have a sample after you come back home ask him if he is willing to send samples. Most likely he will agree but make sure you remind him once you are back home to send you the sample. Some suppliers will actually sell or give you a sample right on the booth if you ask for it. It is actually not allowed but if there is a sample I would need right away because it’s that good and I want to show it to customers back home, I will ask anyway.
• Ask for payment terms
Are his payment terms a K.O. criteria? Make sure he agrees to your payment terms and doesn’t insist on 100% payment upfront.
• Ask for his top-selling items and who his customers are
Sometimes you may not have time to look at all products so you might miss the best selling items. Ask him either to show you his best selling items or send you a quote later for his top-sellers. Make a note that you are expecting his prices and offers later.
If I get the feeling after 1 or 2 questions that a supplier has no idea what I am talking or asking about, I politely end the conversation and leave the booth. There is no use in screening a supplier with all questions when I already know he is not interested or can’t fulfill my requirements.
After all, I need to scan the entire exhibition and I can’t waste my time with suppliers that are ignorant or need a basic education on my market’s/customer’s requirements. You will develop a gut feeling pretty soon if it is worth it to speak to a supplier longer or if you should leave the booth right away.

Hall arrangement:

Once you arrive you need to pass trough the registration area which is pointed out through signs. Don’t forget to pre-register trough the link I gave you and bring 2 passport photos. At the registration area you will have to line up for “pre-registered buyers”. You will be guided trough the process by the staff there and then get your entry badge. You can then move to the main halls.
There are 3 main areas on each phase:
http://www.cantonfair.org.cn/hall/en/index.aspx?start=bn
Once you choose your phase you can hover over the hall and see what products you will find in these halls. Within the 3 main areas (A,B,C) you have numbered halls as for example 6.1. (ceramics). Within this hall you have over 200 suppliers!

Depending on your priority products I recommend you start with the most important halls first.
During the registration you will also get a printed guide with all hall details that helps you to navigate. But you can already write down the main halls now when you look at the link above.

At the Entrance of each hall:

Look at the main halls you want to see and prepare to walk them trough in order. It is your first time to visit the fair so I am guessing you have no appointments with suppliers. Therefore I recommend you just start walking until you see something of interest. That could either be a product that you have on your agenda or an item that really pops out.

In the halls/at the booth:

Suppliers will either be eager to give out brochures of their products or you simply walk into the booth of this supplier if there is anything of interest for you. Unlike in the US or at European exhibitions, the suppliers are very open and welcoming in receiving you in their booths. No appointments are required. Just walk in and introduce yourself and what you do or what you are looking for. You don’t need to hand out any business cards at this point since you don’t want to be spammed later from suppliers that do not interest you anyway.
If you see anything of interest within the booth point to these products and start asking the questions I mentioned above:

If you are happy with the discussed (make sure they also take notes) hand over your business card and tell them to email you all the details. Nice touch with the “thank you in Chinese” on the back by the way
Take a catalogue or a brochure from the supplier as well, have him staple his business card on it and note down what is important to you. Try to get catalogues from each supplier that you visit. They will be happy to give you a catalogue in exchange of your business card.
You will quickly see which booths you should walk in. The goal is to find manufactures or good trading companies.
For example avoid booths that have only a few products in the shelves (A) or booths that have too many different kind of product categories (B). Go for booths that have maybe 3-4 product categories but seem to be specialised on each category (C).

 

A: Few products only indicate a small trading company with high margins and no real expertise and little value
B: Say you see a booth that has all these products inside: towels, pet supplies, electronics, ceramics etc. It’s a clear sign that this supplier trades everything and anything. They may have expertise in certain areas but their prices are high.
C: A booth that has 3-4 product categories. For example a booth that has: bathroom accessories, shower cabinets & faucets. They all relate to each other and thats a good sign for a real manufacturer. Try to focus on these.

Miscellaneous:

Food: There are a few western restaurants and coffee shops on every corner
Money: There are a lot of ATM’s everywhere in case you need to withdraw money.
Printing services: Printers and business centres everywhere available.
WiFI: Is available for free. Just ask for the log-in at the info centres.
Hotels & ticketing: Travel agents are available on several main levels to book flights, train tickets or hotels
Bus: There are buses leaving to major hotels during peak hours (9am 5pm) for free. Major hotels also arrange buses TO the exhibition. Check with your hotel.
Taxis: Taxis are a nightmare to get. You can take a taxi to the exhibition in the morning from your hotel but in the late afternoon you can sometimes wait up to 2 hours to get a taxi. There are illegal taxis everywhere but they charge 10 times the price. I recommend to take the hotel bus or the Subway.
Subways: There are 2 subway stations at the exhibition grounds. One at the beginning & one at the end. I usually take the Subway as it is the most convenient way to get back to the hotel. When booking your hotel see to book one close by a subway station.
I hope this gave you a bit of an overview and I wish you all the success at your trip during the Cantonfair :)
Happy sourcing guys!

GlobalSources

Global Sources – The oldest (and most professional) supplier directory in China

So I previously posted about Alibaba hacks and how to navigate on there. 

I thought I’ll give you guys also an overview of Global Sources which from my point of view is more professional and has stricter guidelines when it comes to verifying suppliers. 

 

They also have a ton of valuable resources and information on their website. Check out the video and let me know if you have any questions. Enjoy :) 

paypal

PayPal payments & general payment terms

Quite often I get asked what the reasons could be that his supplier doesn’t accept PayPal? Well it’s not because he wants to rip you off and wants to avoid PayPal’s buyer protection.

No, it’s because PayPal payment is not really a widely accepted payment term within the industry plus the fee’s are really high, especially on the sellers side.

Many factory’s won’t accept PayPal payments mostly because of the fee’s and because it is difficult to withdraw money in China from PayPal.

I often hear on forums or podcasts how they stress to NOT place orders unless the supplier accepts PayPal because of the buyer protection. That information is partly misleading you and I want to explain why.

Yes, it does protect the buyer in a certain way but most factories that work with the retail or eCommerce business work with wire transfers and do not accept PayPal.

A sample payment or the occasional purchase on Aliexpress with small quantities (20-50 pieces) is the exception of course. It’s fast, convenient and protects the buyer in case the sample or small order doesn’t arrive.

Having said all that of course you can try to get the supplier to accept PayPal but do not dismiss a supplier because he doesn’t agree to PayPal payments.

One reason why most suppliers also do not accept PayPal payments is because of the high fees for the seller.
Most buyers don’t even know there are so many fees and they think the seller is trying to scam them when they ask for additional fees on top.

Here is a recent example of a PayPal transaction I have received from a buyer. Being a manufacturer and supplier myself I accept PayPal for some of my orders because I know it is convenient for the buyer but if the amount gets large I don’t.

In this particular case the order amount is 500US$, PayPal deducts 4.4% immediately because most people choose “ I am paying for goods & services” which is technically correct but that means the seller has to bear all the fees.

PP

That brings us to 477.7USD. Then it gets interesting. PayPal does not allow the user to deposit these 477.7USD to the users USD account even if he has a USD account.

For example, I have 2 bank accounts in Hong Kong and both of them have USD deposit accounts. However PayPal doesn’t transfer the 477.7US$ to my bank account.

No, they force me to use their internal exchange rate to exchange into Hong Kong Dollars, even I tell them that I have a USD account (same thing happens in China with Chinese Yuan or RMB).

The official exchange rate as of today is 7.75HKD to the USD. PayPal’s exchange rate is 7.5HKD to the USD. Meaning I lose another 15.38$ in exchange fees for a total of 37.68US$ in fees (8%).

So essentially I get 462US$ paid to my bank account which is not fair for me as the supplier either. Thats why when someone insists on PayPal payment I usually add 8% to the total amount and so do all the other suppliers.

Now imagine the amounts get to 2000$ or above. The fees on 2000$ with PayPal would be 160US$ while a simple bank wire transfer would cost 15$. Wouldn’t you like to save that kind of money? You could have an inspection from one of the cheaper services available on Alibaba for the amount you are saving on fees.

The most common payment term accepted is T/T payment or wire transfers and thats why suppliers are most likely telling you that this is the only form of payment they accept.

This is not a red flag for you, it’s actually a sign they are serious and not a mom & pop shop who accept PayPal. All the retailers worldwide work with this payment term.

Now lets take a look at some of the other payment terms available and if you can protect yourself with each payment term somehow. They are mentioned in my book but I will go into more detail here:

There are several common methods of payment, and each have their pros and cons for both the buyer and the seller.
The longer you work with a supplier the easier it will be to deal with payments. In the beginnings you will most likely (and should) work with a 30% deposit or down payment on your order.

The rest is paid after or immediately before shipment. If you have an established business relationship you could ask that the next order should be paid 100% on delivery (T/T). The supplier can always say no, but if he agrees this gives you financial liquidity.

Many retailers actually work on a T/T basis 60-90 days AFTER shipment, allowing them to sell goods already while they haven’t even paid for them yet. That is the ideal situation for you as a buyer but not many suppliers will agree to this term.

Let’s take a look at the most common payment options and the associated risk level to you as the buyer:

1. TT (Telegraphic Bank Transfer or wire transfer)
Risk Level For Buyer: Medium Risk
With a bank transfer, the supplier will receive payment before production starts. Very important: if you agree to this payment, NEVER pay more than 30% upfront. 70% will be paid upon inspection and shipment release. This payment method bears a medium level of risk to the buyer and generally is not recommended when dealing with a completely unknown supplier. There is little that can be done to get your money back if something goes wrong.

You can request a re-call of the funds trough your bank but the other side still has to sign and agree the re-call when they are notified of it.

However you can protect at least the initial 30% of the money (deposit) by having an inspection and releasing the rest of the money ONLY after the order is to your satisfaction (passed shipment inspection).

If you can’t afford or do not want to have an inspection (for example because the total order value is so low it wouldn’t be economical) then I recommend to have the supplier self-inspect and send you an internal inspection report.

This report should include pictures during and after production of the product, packaging,labels, cartons etc. that shows your order is made according to your requirements.

Usually every supplier will agree to give you an internal inspection report. If not, thats a red flag. So it is important you clarify this part BEFORE placing the the order and sending money.

2. Letter of Credit (L/C)
Risk Level For Buyer: Very Safe
A letter of credit is very safe for both parties. However a letter of credit is rather complicated to issue through a bank, costs quite a lot of money, and is generally only recommended for larger purchases ($50,000 and above).

What essentially happens is that your bank issues a letter of credit to the suppliers bank and the supplier has proof that you have enough financial capital to pay him eventually. Once the order is produced the supplier will send the requested shipment documents to his bank and his bank in turn will send all the documents to your bank upon which your bank releases the cash to the suppliers bank. The good thing for you as a buyer here is that you can at any point decline to release the money if your order was not produced according to your requirements (remember to have an inspection) and you can ask the supplier to re-work the order if there was any problem. Otherwise he won’t get his money.

L/C payments are widely accepted especially for very large purchases because the supplier can get a large credit from his bank to purchase raw material to get production going. The downside is that L/C’s usually have fees of 500US$ or more.

3. Western Union
Risk Level For Buyer: Very Risky
Western Union from my point of view should ONLY be used when dealing with people you know very well. There is no guarantee if something goes wrong.

Anyone can go and pick up the money you send to this certain person. There is no insurance, your money can be gone and there is nothing you can do.

4. PayPal
Risk Level For Buyer: Fairly Safe
PayPal is a popular payment method for buyers as it presents a much lower risk, ease of use, and generally pretty good buyer protection. Although it’s a popular option with buyers, it’s less popular with suppliers due to difficulties in withdrawing money, high tax rates, and potential charge backs from less than honest buyers. PayPal is widely accepted on eCommerce sites like Aliexpress, DHgate.com or for sample payments. Other than that, the above applies.

5. Escrow
Risk Level For Buyer: Very Safe
When using an escrow service, the buyer’s money is held by a third party and is only paid to the supplier after the buyer confirms satisfactory delivery of their order.

Escrow is a fairly safe payment method for buying and selling online because it protects both the buyer and supplier.
You can read about common payment methods on Alibaba on the Alibaba Safe Buying page. Escrow fees range from 4-11% so this can be rather expensive for both parties.

http://www.alibaba.com/help/safety_security/class/buying/pay_ship/002.html

Generally, when you are just starting out and ordering small quantities like 20-50 pieces, you’ll probably want to look for or negotiate with suppliers to either accept PayPal or some type of escrow service to give you the highest level of protection.
When you have an established relationship with a supplier you should aim at T/T or L/C payment possibly with terms that benefit you e.g. T/T or L/C 60 days after shipment as mentioned above.

Bank account information
Pay attention to the bank details the supplier gives you. Does the name or the address of the beneficiary match up with the suppliers’s name? At least partly? If not be very careful.

Perhaps your contact is even asking you to wire money to his “boss” or his “personal account” because of internal finance issues? DO NOT believe that for a moment.

If the information doesn’t match up ask why and if there is no good explanation, walk away and look for a new supplier.

Happy sourcing guys!

FotorCreated

Chinese Sellers on Amazon? Don’t worry (for now)

So I am pretty sure everyone read the news that Amazon is helping Chinese factories to get their brands listed on Amazon. It’s actually old news as the Amazon team has been on the grounds in China for a few years now.
Everyone is worried now which is understandable. One thing they definitely have advantage in is the price, but let me explain why that doesn’t matter.
Let me take off some of your worries right now and explain why this will not impact your Amazon business in a short time period and how you can prepare to be ahead of the Chinese sellers.

Minimum Order Quantities (MOQ’s)
Most factories have high MOQ’s and thats often because they need to purchase a certain amount of raw material from their sub-supplier. To do so they need orders. Bringing me to the next and most important topic, taking risks.

Taking Risks
Many factories won’t take the risk of producing for their own stock and try to sell it trough some sort of sales-channel. They do in some cases, but these items are mostly found on Chinese websites and Aliexpress or DHGate.com
When they sell on these sites, the packaging you get is probably in Chinese, as is the instruction manual.
A factory does not produce on their own risk and try to sell it somewhere. They always need a customer behind an order. Be it a large retailer, a small time buyer from the Philippines or the occasional Amazon buyer.
They don’t have stock of the necessary raw material or packaging because the longer they store it, it will get smudged, dirty and might not be possible to sell it anymore. I know this because I have been to 100’s of factories in my time in China here.
When you go to a factory you won’t find their own packaging or raw material on stock. They ALWAYS purchase the material once they have an order incoming.

It’s just not economical for the factory to purchase raw material on their own behalf. Margins are so low these days, they need to maintain cash flow for their customers. Sometimes they have some stock but that’s probably from a over-production or from a client who didn’t take the entire quantity. Sure some factories have good cash flow, design & marketing departments and they will sell on Amazon. Those are the ones that you can see now already. But they do not posses the knowledge on how to SUCCESSFULLY sell on Amazon (yet). I don’t know anyone in China who has taken a course on Amazon selling or listening to podcasts on how to be successful on Amazon. And most factories in China just won’t take the risk of investing money into their own product to sell it online overseas.

It is not within the Chinese culture that you take a risk for something that you don’t know is going to pay off. Chinese won’t create a listing on AMZ without knowing that their product will sell.
They always go after the sure thing (there are exceptions of course).

Quality standards
When a factory develops a new item and they get their first order for it it is likely a “naked” item with no standard whatsoever. The factory needs to rely on each customer’s input on what the customers needs in terms of quality.
A small importer in Thailand has completely different quality requirements than a large German retailer. The importer in Thailand may require nothing, while the retailer in Germany has all sorts of requirements that involves large investments on the suppliers side. Who do you think the supplier will rather want to work with? Exacly, the Thai importer. Because his quality requirements are low and not much effort is needed to sell the product. So many factories do not have the necessary quality standard on new products. Amazon is heavily investigating into products that do not meet current American quality standards and if your product does not comply it gets removed. There are of course established factories who have meet all necessary quality standards but they are likely comfortable selling to their existing customers.

Certification & Requirements
I often hear from suppliers when I ask for a certification of a certain product: “you don’t need that, other customers don’t ask and we don’t have it”.
Well excuse me but I will decide what my market and selling channel needs in terms of quality & certification. Amazon is cracking down on many sellers who don’t have proper certification for their product or in most cases they won’t even allow sellers to list products without certain certifications or test reports. After all Amazon cannot afford to be sued by a customer who for example bought a plastic product that comes in touch with the skin and now the clients has a rash because the plastic is made out of waste material and has high toxins and chemicals in it.

Innovative and trendy
I have yet to walk into a showroom of a factory and see something new apart from the occasional exception at an established factory with retailers or customers in the West. That is after living and working here for over 10 years. There are of course suppliers that develop their own products but in many cases they miss the product to market fit. They always rely on the input of a customer on how a design of a product or the functionality has to be. I read a report a few weeks ago that quoted Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina:

“I have been doing business in China for decades, and I will tell you that yeah, the Chinese can take a test, but what they can’t do is innovate,” she said. “They are not terribly imaginative. They’re not entrepreneurial, they don’t innovate, that is why they are stealing our intellectual property.”She added teaching innovation, risk-taking, and imagination “are things that are distinctly American and we can’t lose them.”

The quote caused some outrage around China but the majority of Chinese people actually agreed with Carly Florina and posted on Chinese forums like Weibo (largest forum in China). Saying they need to be more innovative and take more risks sometimes. They weren’t offended and I think she didn’t want to offend them, but she did point out the weakness where they have to improve. And that cements my earlier statement “ taking risks” is simply not in their nature.

Customer Service
I doubt that Chinese sellers can manage the customer service from China. They would need to hire perfect English speakers and dispatch them completely to their Amazon business.
I can tell you that if I ask my suppliers to do so they will probably ignore me. It is considered an investment “not worth it”. At least as of today.

Marketing Strategies
It is very unlikely that a factory knows much about launching and promoting a product trough blogs, landing pages, Facebook promotions (Facebook is banned in China), review groups and so on that many of you have paid good $ amounts to learn.
But these are the channels that a new product needs when it launches or when it needs to grow. Otherwise your product just drowns amongst the competition and never lifts off to be in the top sellers.

Price Point
Yes, they do have advantage over the price. But that is not the key issue when you sell on Amazon. When a supplier quotes you a price of 5$ his own profit will probably be less than a $. And that doesn’t really give him an edge, because YOU (the experienced AMZ seller) has years of experience, PPC knowledge, Facebook followers, mailing lists, existing products with reviews & social proof etc. that the customer is willing to pay for when making a buying decision.

Legal Issues & Company Setup
It is not very easy to set up a company in the States for a Chinese company. To be really successful on Amazon you need a private label, have a trademark registered and a company set up.
Not many sellers from overseas will go trough this process.

Facebook pages
Facebook is banned in China. Sure they can get a VPN connection and go on Facebook but who are they going to promote to?
Build a Facebook audience with zero friends and followers? That is going to take a long time. Are they going to post on Facebook groups like The Amazing Seller or ImporDojo to post their products?
No. The last time a chinese seller promoted his product in my group I banned him. Not because his product wasn’t interesting or I don’t allow it but the way he did was pure spamming. Joined the group, no interaction at all, no feedback to other group members, simply wanting to promote his product to the group members without providing any real value to the group. So you can take one of the most important promotional tools for your new product (Facebook) already out of the equation.

Branding & Packaging
When I set up my own company (www.mandarin-gear.com) in late 2013 I had one goal. Affordable products at a great quality with excellent packaging.
What Chinese lack at this moment is an eye for design and western preferences when it comes to packaging. They also do not have properly translated instruction manuals on their own.
Sometimes they use their customers proof-read instruction manual when they sell to other customers but for new items they don’t have anything. Imagine what Amazon customers think when they open the box and can’t understand half of what’s written in there? How do you think that will affect the review? That’s why, whenever you buy a product in China always try to have a proper instruction manual. Check out my other post on this: http://importdojo.com/private-labels-packaging-differences/

English language barrier
Have you ever been on a Chinese website with English version? Yes? So you have seen the horrible grammar mistakes. This won’t change when Chinese sellers list on Amazon. Yes, they can now list their products trough a Chinese Seller Central account and it’s all in Chinese but that doesn’t change the fact that you need proper keywords and wording with excellent grammar when you want to list & sell your product successfully.
Suppliers simply wont be investing their money into proper English translation because they don’t believe in going the extra mile without knowing they will make a profit; so their listings will look horrible.
Would you buy a product when you don’t understand half of the text or description?

But they already sell successfully on Ebay and provide free shipping?
Yes, the Chinese sellers have taken on Ebay a few years ago and some are very successful. But only successful in terms of their sales and because the Chinese Government heavily subsizdes freight costs from China (China Mail).
I would say 20-30% of the items sold on Ebay from Chinese sellers are returned or the customers are unhappy with their purchase because of the quality of the product.

You can’t refund the item to the seller, you won’t send the item back to China, will you?
And even if you can, are you going to leave a positive review?
Amazon doesn’t work like that and everyone has to pay the local shpping costs in the US. So while the Chinese seller can send in his product at a cheap rate he still has to pay the local freight costs. And what stops you from getting good shipping rates from China? Most suppliers will offer you the same rates they get when sending goods overseas.
Also you can’t just list everything you want (there are restricted categories and legal compliances to be met) and whenever there are returns the clients will leave a negative review.

Amazon won’t hesitate to ban the sellers account immediately if the return rates are as high as 20-30%. Amazon has a strict policy when it comes to customers satisfaction and the way I see it not many Chinese factories can comply with their “basic” product on Amazon without having input from overseas buyers on how to improve the product.

Now having said all that, there are suppliers out there who already sell on Amazon and there will very likely be more in the near future who are capable of all the above especially with the help that Amazon is doing in China now.

But those are are only a few and “we” all have a headstart, the understanding of the marketing, promotional strategy and how the Amazon machine works best.

Eventually Chinese factories will figure all these things out but I am giving this at least 5 years. Essentially what is happening now (or has been happening in the last 2 years) is that a retail giant (Amazon) is trying to teach an entire army of manufacturers why they should sell on Amazon. This is a tremendous project and will take some time. In 5 years, survival of the fittest will have set in so now is the time to step up your game and be among those survivors. One of the most important tasks ahead of you now is to master the import trade so you can compete not only in marketing & sales on Amazon but also price wise.

So here are some important steps for you to remember:

  • Improve your product quality based on reviews
  • Pay a little more for better quality and regulations-compliant products
  • Develop your own products and packagings and make them exclusive for you on Amazon
  • Build or grow your brand with cross product selling and larger assortments
  • Build or grow your audience (Facebook, mailing lists etc.) and be ahead of the Chinese competition
  • Build relationships with suppliers for the long term and become one of their largest customers so that they don’t have to sell on Amazon themselves

And most importantly: Learn the import/export trade from the inside out
What else can you do? Step up your import knowledge and learn the entire import/export business from the inside out so that you not only have advantage over the Amazon marketing & sales process but also know as much about importing/exporting as the Chinese do.
Check out ImportDojo’s Masterclass, teaching you the in’s and out’s of sourcing from China here:
http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

Happy sourcing :)

finde-das-amazon-produkt-890x395_c

How to find the “perfect product”

This is a guest post by one of ImportDojo Master Class members’ (Thomas Albiez) and his partner (Gil Francis Lang)

I have been working with Thomas from the beginning of his FBA venture and he just listed his first product boasting incredible numbers in the first few days. He has started his own blog focusing on FBA for the German speaking market and has been documenting his journey along the way (www.privatelabeljourney.de).

The blog is in German, so if you are German speaking or if you use Google translate plug-ins you can get the site translated. I definitely recommend you to check it out. He was kind enough to translate one of his latest blog posts about “finding the perfect product” into English for you guys. So without further ado here is his guest post:

About the Author: We (Gil and Thomas) are active entrepreneurs in the German speaking FBA market. We run a Mastermind Group as well as a Blog (PrivateLabelJourney.de), a Faceboook Group and a Youtube Channel. If you speak any German or like Google translated content, please feel free to check us out.

Our background to start things off:

We started with the good old dream of living a financially free live and being our own boss, whenever and wherever! Through a lot of trial & error and with plenty of help from amazing people we discovered how to quickly build highly profitable brands on Amazon. Everything we teach, comes from two guys that were starting the same way that you did as entrepreneurs with a dream! 

Proven methods to quickly find the perfect product to improve upon, to bundle or to just market better.
Especially in the early stages of creating a successful AMZ business, we get asked the same question a lot: „How do I find the perfect product to source from overseas.“

People are looking for guidelines and specific help on finding their first product. They are typically not sure what to look for or they simply cannot decide what product might work for them.

Next to the knitty gritty knowhow that people naturally lack in the beginning… there often is that missing spark, that will lead to things starting to roll.

How to create that spark is what we are going to discuss in the upcoming blogpost. So sit tight!

Start with this!

“The be aware of products around you method”

It’s all about awareness. If sourcing & AMZ is always in the back of your mind, every little thing you see or do might remind you of a product that you could create and source… to solve a problem or meet a need in the market.

Try to take a pen and paper with you for several days. Write down, what you have bought, what you saw others buying and every little thing that comes to mind during that period of time. Golden moments are when you think “hmm this would be much better if…”

You can check your notes later and compare with products that are sold on Amazon.

“The Junglescout method”

I am sure you are familiar with Junglescout.

If not, here is what it does: Junglescout it is a Google Chrome extension that will pull out data from Amazon listings that you are currently on.

This amazing piece of software will then enrich this data with revenue information. Basically telling you, how much people are selling for a certain list of products. Also it will tell you how hard competition might be.

We use Junglescout a lot just to brainstorm for new ideas.

Because here and there, if you search for a „keyword“ there is no single type of product that will show in results but rather a list of products that will solve your problem. Say you search for „car wash“, amazon results will show wax but also sponges, sprays and similar products used to wash cars.

With Junglescout we can compare revenue data real fast to find possible products to source.

“The list method“

There are several people that provide extensive list of scraped bestseller data for different categories. It is basically the same as on profitspotlight.com or the tool AMZ Nuggets

What you do here is search for products with less than „300“ reviews, costing between $12 and $35 and are sold a lot (US Market).

The results will give you a good idea of what types of products might work very well.
We are not saying you should source all of those products, but it will be a good starting point to look for more products.

The same thing applies to these large excel sheets a few people are selling. Just choose lightweight products in a good price range that sell a lot and you are ready to find your next best product.

“The supplier search method”

A method that we use extensively. If you find a good supplier and are very happy about how everything is going you should not forget to ask them what else they are selling. Also ask them what is selling really well to your market. Have them send you a catalogue or an offer sheet with their 15 best selling products.

Often,a supplier will sell 20 to a 100 products pretty well and since you have other items from him/her, it might fit with your other products. So just go ahead and ask :-) .

“The Spy on Sellers Account method”

Thats probably a common method most of you already use.

Oftentimes when we find a very promising product, it tells us the seller did something right. Might be he did other good products as well and since many sellers use their account to sell all sorts of products, it can be quite the treasure cove!

Be aware that some seller only sell garbage, you don’t want to spy on them… Use Junglescout to confirm profitable products they are selling.

“The review group method”

This method is a little more advanced.

It uses a reversed engineering approach to find new awesome product ideas. On different platforms such as tomoson.com or all those facebook-review groups where a lot of private label sellers are putting up their review deals.

So these products are FBA products from sellers that were researching and some of them might be exactly the necessary push you needed to get your brain juices flowing!

Look at these products that people are offering on these platforms and get inspired but don´t just copy stuff, think about what you can improve or change on those existing items, think about your target group…what will they appreciate?

“The get lost on Amazon method”

A lot of great ideas start to develop the old-school way!

Looking around on AMZ, browsing from category to category and from one product to another. (Careful you can spend hours doing this….without even noticing)

Dive in deep and just let yourself flow…get lost…get crazy :-)

You will soon realize that there are endless possibilities to sell successfully on Amazon. You will find products you have never heard of and discover items that you thought no one would buy. Use Junglescount on the items that you think might have potential.

“The PPC Research Method”

If you already have a product on Amazon, I am sure you are running PPC Ads. If not, you definitely should!

I suggest you take an approach and use a lot of keywords to test the waters. And by a lot we usually mean 500 to 2000. To get those keywords use Google Keyword Planner, AMZShark and SeCockpit.

While you improve your campaign and constantly delete underperforming keywords, you see what kind of keywords stick and drive sales to your listing. Those keywords might also be some related product name, not even a direct keyword for your product…

And that´s exactly where you can get ideas of products to source!

“The sponsored products method”

Don’t forget to take a close look at sponsored products while you browse for some keywords.

If you are getting lost deep in Amazons listings, you will constantly see somehow relevant sponsored products.

They are there for a reason. They get advertised because they are selling well!! So you can find a very good product just looking ad sponsored ads.

Why should you search for new products on a regular basis?
After launching your first product you should keep on searching for new great stuff! Why is that you ask?

Per our understanding, there are mainly two methods to successfully run an FBA business these days.

1. You either have a few products in more competitive markets and put a ton of cash and energy into improving and promoting those products.
2. You have a series (lets say 10 or 20) of products in a less volume less competitive niche. While you have very little competition, you might still make 1k per month profit off of each product. So it is really not that irrelevant.

If you are just starting as a side business, the second method is the way to go!
In regards to your private label… you just don’t have enough knowledge, money and feedback to really play with the big boys but you should create it none the less and grow it along the way as private labelling is the only real profitable way to go.

The perfect product

Enough with all those methods, what should your first product be? Are there important criteria?

Everyone is looking for the perfect product BUT not everyone knows what the perfect product should be!

Common doubts about a product are:

• There might be too many sellers already
• Competition is large
• The product is seasonal
• The product cost is too high to start
• You have a rough time finding a good supplier
• The packaging might be difficult

The list goes on and on.

BUT at one point you have to pull the trigger.

Just realise that the sooner you start the better. You will learn a ton and improve over time. You most likely won’t make a killing with your first product, but you will get there step by step!

There is no “100% perfect product”… that we promise.

But that shouldn‘t stop you from taking action and getting things going with sourcing from overseas. If you have done your homework, it is time to start now!

Launch and learn. Everything is progress.

sellerdojo

Podcast Interview with SellerDojo

I recently got interviewed by SellerDojo and I wanted to let you guys listen in on the (49mins) episode.

SellerDojo are the guys behind AMZshark and they have just started this podcast. I was honoured to be the first one they interview for their podcast. Here is the link to the podcast directly:

http://sellerdojo.libsyn.com/interviewing-manuel-from-importdojo-on-sourcing-products-from-china

If you don’t have time to listen all the way through, just browse the show outline below to find which spot to listen.

Begin Show Notes: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In this episode the SellerDojo meets ImportDojo and we have a party talking about ninja tips for sourcing from China. Manuel, the ImportDojo Sensei, has been living and working in China for over 10 years, with 17 years in the sourcing business. He has his own brand, sells to retailers, is a supplier, and does FBA on Amazon. Enjoy this episode as we talk about everything from Alibaba tricks, demystifying electronics, and the Canton Fair.

Show Outline:

Opening & Manuel Introduction, his history in working with suppliers for Austria’s largest retailers. And his internship in the Hong Kong sourcing office.

  • 3:35 – What did you learn and what sparked your interest to get into your own Amazon and sourcing business?
  • 4:35 – About Manuel’s brand, Mandarin Gear and also Import Dojo.
  • 8:05 – What advice do you wish someone had told you when you first began sourcing from China?
  • 10:20 – What types of products do you source? Because I know many people avoid things like electronics or moving parts, but I see that you don’t shy away from them? Why is that?
  • 13:25 – Manuals ninja rule of thumb: nothing lower than 30% margin (after fees etc)
  • 14:00 – What category would you go into if you were just beginning?
  • 14:30 – What sourcing sites do you recommend for importing from China?
  • 18:15 – What is Global Sources and how is it different?
  • 20:05 – Tips for paying suppliers in China. Small orders and big orders etc. Paypal, trade assurance, and inspections.
  • 22:25 – Sourcing certain product categories based on their location and Province in China. How to use Alibaba’s search filters to determine and find the right suppliers in the right location.
  • 24:30 – The 3 reasons it’s important to find a supplier in the correct Province.
  • 25:45 – What are the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made in sourcing and selling?
  • 27:30 – How should buyers navigate the many parts of the long negotiation? What about large sample fees? Or transaction fees?
  • 28:45 – How to get a refund / reimbursement on sample costs from your supplier.
  • 29:15 – Why there are sometimes large transaction fees, especially with PayPal.
  • 30:30 – How to ask your supplier to refund sample fees once you place a larger order.
  • 31:20 – When first vetting suppliers, what essential questions do you ask every time? And which ones are deal breakers?
  • 33:45 – Once you’re happy with your samples, then let’s talk about customs, freight forwarding, how to get your inventory, do you send to yourself, or to FBA? What’s the process?
  • 35:00 – Manuel’s rule of thumb for calculating landing price to FBA warehouse. Tips for shipping directly to FBA.
  • 37:30 – Pretend you are starting over tomorrow. What niches do you think look most promising? What do you wish you were in now?
  • 38:50 – The niche Manuel thinks is really promising in the future.
  • 40:45 – All about China’s giant expos, Canton fair, and other niche fairs in order to find trends and new products.
  • 43:20 – What’s an interesting trend that you’ve noticed from within the supplier industry in China that most people outside don’t know about?
  • 46:40 – What’s one weird lifestyle habit / skill you’ve gained which you think helps you as an entrepreneur?

Hope you enjoy this podcast and would love to hear your feedback in the comment section below.

Please share on social media if you have the chance :)

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

CE Steele pl v

Private labels & packaging differences

Private labels & packaging differences

 

Introduction

The obvious and most profitable way to create sales is a private label with a nice packaging.

In German we say “Eine gute Verpackung ist die halbe Miete” which literally translated means “ A nice packaging is half the rent” or in other words with a nice packaging you “win half the battle”.

Meaning that a nice packaging will convince your customers to buy your product by 50% already. That saying even goes when you are selling online and your customers won’t even see your packaging.

BUT say you sell online and your customer receives your item and he sees the nice packaging he sure will give a better review just because the packaging is nice already.

Note: Even if you sell online, you should put a picture (high resolution) or even a 3D-rendering picture amongst your product listing so that customers can see your packaging.

It is even easier if you sell offline (in retail stores). Just think about it, how often have you made a decision buying a product because the packaging was nice.

Look at Apple’s packaging.

Nice and clean, no fancy colors, UV coating (the logo and product), clear and to the point descriptions with high resolution photos. They got me, I buy their products also based on their packaging.

Now lets look at the different options in packaging’s.

 

Differences in Packaging

 

You basically have 3 options:

– Private label packaging (color box or white box with private label sticker)

– No name packaging

– White box

 

Private label packaging:

Read more