Case Study – How I went from zero to 7,000US$ in 10 days in one of the most competitive Amazon niches

Hey guys, 

Here is an update on the case study. If you followed along in my webinar (Webinar) you know which product I am talking about. 

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Before I get into the results I wanted to share a few photos with you of the exhibitions here in Hong Kong last week and meeting up with a lot of fellow Amazon sellers and ImportDojo members. 

I also had the opportunity to speak at the 3-day Global Sources Sourcing Summit event as the opening speaker where I met a lot of fellow Amazon sellers. The atmosphere and networking there was simply amazing.:

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Dinner with a fellow German/Europe seller 

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Heading for dinner with a couple of ImportDojo members and my business partner

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Waiting to speak at the Global Sources Sourcing Summit 

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Talking with a attendee of the Sourcing event

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Trying not to be too nervous during my speech :)

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Walking the Global Sources Consumer Electronics show with sellers

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Arriving in Shenzhen with ImportDojo members to visit a factory

Without further ado onto the case study

Ok so first things first. I would have never thought that this product is so competitive. 

When I looked into it in November 2015 the competition seemed big but manageable and with a superior product I thought it wouldn’t be so difficult. 

Well I can tell you it was quite difficult to get the product on the map. Having said that I am quite happy with my initial launch results. 

I have now sold over 200 units and a sales turnover of nearly 7000$ within the first week of the launch

And the best thing, I am now number 7 on the best seller list and on page 1 for my main keyword. 

Here’s how I did it: 

When I started this project there were about 30 something sellers with similar items and I already knew it will be quite competitive but I was in for some real tough competition. 

I am not going to lie, this was a though one. 

When I launched there were about 120+ sellers of similar items and my main key word was VERY VERY competitive (over 3 Million searches per month) and I would need a huge launch to kick it off. 

After my initial boost with my email list, bloggers and Facebook group I realised I needed help to push it. 

Here are some of the numbers: 

Start of the project: 17th of November 2015 (Chinese New Year added nearly two months to my production) 

End of the project (launch): 12th of April

Length of the project: ~5 months. It can be done in less time (2-3months) especially if you don’t forget to place orders before the Chinese New Year :) 

Total order value of product: 4500$ (1000 pieces at 4.5$) 

Total cost of inspection, photography, layout and packaging: 949$

Total cost of shipping: 2650$ (~900KG by Air – thats 2.94$ / per kilogram) 

Total cost: 8099$

I figure if you are on a smaller budget you can do 500 pieces, cheaper photos and white box instead of color box (ike mine) and you can halve the costs of my 8000$. 

BUT to really maximise your profits I suggest a starting budget of minimum 5000$ per item. It is possible with less but a lot harder. 

Alright, numbers, milestones, strategies, giveaways and results after 10 days of launching in order of action taken:

Friends and Family: 95% of coupons used

11 sales at 98% off. Helped definitely to put me on the map and ranks of Amazon. 

Facebook groups: 

3 sales at 49% off. Not much but can’t complain either. None of my Facebook groups are Coffee target groups. 

Blogger list: 

About 23 sales (with 20% off) resulting in a profit of 180$. Deducting the advertisement fee for both bloggers @50$ each leaves me with a profit of 80$. Not bad BUT the sales of the product and climbing the ranks trough these sales is MUCH MUCH more important to me at this stage. PLUS my product is embedded on the Blogger’s pages permanently so I am expecting more sales and traffic to come to my listing “for free” from here on. 

My email list: 

8 sales. Not great but my email list are mostly NON Amazon buyers and retail customers mostly. But either way, I just needed to send out 1 email that took me 10 minutes to write and I got 8 sales from that. 

Twitter:

0 sales (980 followers) I guess you really need to have targeted followers. 

Instagram: 

1 sales (150 followers) I guess you really need to have targeted followers here as well. Most of my Instagram followers are friends or family and I only have personal photos on there usually. Create a new account that targets your product category. 

Reviewkick: 

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My product got buried quite quickly in the “new products” section but you can boost your item to the top every 3 days or so. So far everyone who took the coupon has bought AND left a review. So thats a 100% conversion on reviews. 

It also boosted my ranking but difficult to say by how much. I guess you can leave your product on there forever and boost it once in a while to keep your BSR at a good level. Anyway, its free so I recommend you to try it definitely.  

Spikelisting: 

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Spikelisting’s boost took about 90% of coupons. Difficult to track the reviews but I would say 85% of those left a review so far. Spikelisting helped me from #56,000 to #16000 in Kitchen and Dining. You might think thats a huge boost but it isn’t so difficult to climb from 56,000-16,000 as opposed to from 16,000-10,000 for example. It’s much more difficult the better the BSR and you need to make serious sales to get into the Top 1000 within Kitchen and Dining. Either way give them a try if you need a initial or during sales boost. Their boost definitely helped me and if I were already on page 2 at this stage this would probably help to put me on page 1. 

I needed one more push. 

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Zonblast’s result took me by surprise. 98% conversion of coupons and the boost put me on page 1 within 7 days and my BSR from #16,000 to #1320 in Kitchen and Dining. Yes thats right, my product climbed to rank #1320 within a week in one of the biggest categories on Amazon and hovered there for a few days. I’ve never had any climb that fast on previous launches and THAT immensely helped on getting organic sales. 

Zonblast also used a “heat seeker” URL with my main keyword that pushed my listing to page 1. Contrary to many other review sites, boosts and pages that help you climb the ranks, Zonblast boost your product over the course of 5-7 days which essentially helps more than just a 1 time boost or give away (in my opinion anyway). Zonblast put me on page 1 within 7 days and my BSR from #16,000 to #1320 in Kitchen and Dining. Zonblast’s COO Anthony Lee (who I had the pleasure meeting in person last week here in Hong Kong) was a huge help. He provided keyword research, analytics and was always there when I had questions. 

Conclusion of tools and services to boost your product:

  1. Friends and Family are important for intial boosts. 
  2. Reach out to bloggers and advertisement services. 
  3. Build your Amazon customer email list asap. 
  4. Grow your social media (FB, Twitter, Instagram etc.) from the beginning and target specific interest groups from the beginning (relating to your product). 
  5. Use tools and services to help you. 

What service worked best for me and what is my personal favourite: 

Zonblast is the No.1 tool/service on the market 

Why and when you should use them:

A: launching in a very competitive niche (your product should be superior if you launch in a competitive niche)

B: pushing your product on page 1 in a matter of a week to 10 days (no guarantee there but it worked in my case) 

C: trying many different things to get to page 1 but you just don’t get there.

NOTE: 

I will give AMZtracker a try next week to boost and see how far this product can climb. I’ve been excited giving them a try but I haven’t gotten around it this week. 

Also I wanted to wait and see what the others can do so that I have a clearer picture of what AMZtracker can do for me. I am super excited to try them next week and push my product even further in the rankings. 

Will give you an update asap. 

Some more numbers: 

Reviews so far: 

38 – 5*-reviews 

1 – 4* review (customer received a broken handle but I immediately sent him a replacement without blaming transport or anything so he left me a “stellar 4* review) 

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Ranking:

Top so far: 1320 in Kitchen and Dining

Currently: 5400 in Kitchen and Dining

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Category: 

Top so far: #7 in french presses

Currently: #25 in french presses

Sales: 

Total Sales so far: 6548$

Toal Units so far: 219 pieces

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AND Currently averaging 8-12 ALL ORGANIC sales per day 

Next steps:

Activating PPC:  Start with a automatic campaign and check the report after one week. Use the most searched and effective keywords in your automatic campaign and set up a manual campaign with these keywords.  

Conclusion:

Remember, before you get to this stage you need a superior product and the prerequisite is that you have a great supplier, excellent quality, the right strategy and take your time with the process. Key is to take action but don’t forget important steps when dealing with the supplier such as exclusivity agreements, purchase order contracts, background check and lots more.  

Check out my webinar where I walk you trough my process on how to get a superior and safe product from China. 

I am quite happy with the results of the case study and I could have climbed trough various strategies slowly but above services definitely helped getting the product on the map fast and hence resulting in great organic sales after week 1.  

Matter of fact at this velocity of sales I need to re-order within the next 2-3 weeks. 

Now imagine your product is in a less competitive niche what’s actually possible on Amazon FBA. Take action now :) 

If you are interested in the entire case study looking over my shoulders with each step I took in every detail feel free to check out my course. I have detailed and documented every little thing from the beginning to the end in over 50 video tutorials. 

From the research phase to finding a supplier, evaluating them, placing the order, booking inspections, margin calculations, exclusivity agreements (so you guys don’t try to copy my product :) ) and arranging straight to Amazon shipments until the launch of my product. I am taking out all the fear and worry in the process and show you how it works. 

The point I want to get you to and with this case study is that you can see a complete product launch that starts from finding the right product, the right supplier and shipping it to Amazon, promoting and selling it.

Best thing about this, I’m using my own money and will try a lot of different things so you can see what works and what doesn’t and learn all this without running your own trial and error experiments.

If you don’t sell yet simply watch and see and all your worries and anxiety of placing your first order will be gone because you already know everything step by step.

Apply these methods to your own product idea and become a professional Amazon seller and importer. 

Whats more? This case study is on top of the already existing 50+ video tutorials, templates, private Facebook community and 2 hours of one on one coaching with me personally. 

Check it out here: https://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

How to properly place an order with factories in China

So while I am waiting for my newest item to be in stock I thought I’d lay out a very important part of the order process to a Chinese factory to you.
(I you haven’t followed my case study check out my last webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tO5y-EHEwM)

So why is it so important to lay out terms and sign contracts with your supplier? Quite simple actually. You want to have safety nets and agreements in place if something goes wrong.
And trust me there can always be something that can go wrong. It could be a failed inspection, it could be that the item produced is severly damaged during transport, it could be that the material used is completely different from what you wanted and so much more.

You might ask yourself for what kind of order value should I have agreements in place? Because maybe you only have an order value of 1000US$, do I still need all this?
Yes! At least you should have agreements in place that bind the supplier to pay for a re-inspection. However to be honest not many suppliers sign agreements or terms if your order is very small.
But you should at least give it a try.

Just recently I heard from a student of mine that the inspection was fail and 25% of the products had faults, were damaged or not properly manufactured.
In this case the supplier wanted to ship out what was OK and wanted to re-work the other 25% later and ship it later. He even didn’t agree on paying for a re-inspection but simply said “ don’t worry, it will be ok”.
Well I wouldn’t worry if the original 100% would have been a pass results but how does he even have the nerve to tell me not to worry and blindy trust him when 25% of the order is screwed up? Not only did the customer have to pay for re-inspection (the supplier wouldn’t budge) but he had higher shipping costs because he now had 2 shipments!

You need to have agreements in pace that state clearly how each situation is to be resolved – to your benefit.

Sometimes it might be a minor issue such as that he forgot to put the labels on the carton. In that case it doesn’t make sense to send an entire re-inspection but you could rather have him issue you an LG (Letter of guarantee) stating that all items have been re-worked and if you find that what was promised was not kept he has to pay for any costs. E.g. he promises that he will label all cartons and then send it out and once you got the order you find out he hasn’t done it. You could charge him the label costs (as agreed on the LG).

So how do you make sure that your supplier follows each of the steps you want him to do? You clearly state things in your order email and in your purchase contracts and agreements.
Due to popular demand and because I was asked for it many times here is an example-email of how I place an order to the supplier (bear in mind to fill in the details of your own product here – please see my comments in red):

Hi xxxx,

As discussed I would like to place a trial order of xxxx pieces of product X to you.
If my calculations are correct I will re-order 2,000 pieces every 2-3 months.

Details as discussed and herewith laid down:

– Product requirement for particular item (FDA approved)
– accessory for this particular item (FDA approved)
– 1 accessory (in acrylic)
– Material; Stainless Steel and Copper
– extra screw on the handle in copper plating as discussed (little detail that you agreed on could be here)
– Color box packaging. To be provided by me in a short time. (You dont need to have the packaging design ready when placing the order. If you have a white box then there is no need anyway)
– Insert card to be provided by me in a short time.

Price: In order to support this first order and in view of all future potential business that we discussed please confirm price of xxx as agreed on during our last phone call. Again please confirm and I will make payment right away. (It is dificult for the supplier to say no here. You are ready to place the order and he smells the money :)

Sample costs: Please deduct the sample cost of Sample Invoice No.12345 of 150$. This was agreed on when I sent you the sample order on xxx.2016.

Please send PI based on above details with your bank acccount details so that I can make 30% T/T deposit to you.

1) I am also looking at an exclusivity deal. Since this model is more or less OEM in nature (modification and custom packaging). I would like you to sign the attached Exclusivity Agreement.
It means that anyone wanting the exact same specifications and is selling on Amazon United States is not allowed to buy from you.
You can still sell this model to other Amazon countries and customers but not with the same specifications like mine. (custom made file that he has to sign)

2) Please sign attached Purchase Order (a custom made file with all details again in a Word document.)

3) Please sign attached Purchase Order contract (a custom made document he needs to sign in Word file)

4) Please advise shipment date. Again, please check if you can ship out before xxxx.2015. I could send you the giftbox and all other order details within Monday next week so you would still have 30 days for production.

5) PLEASE ADD “FRAGILE-HANDLE WITH CARE” STICKERS TO ALL EXPORT CARTONS (my product had glas in it so I wanted this warning on the shipping/export carton)

6) Please advise inspection date (when 70% is finished). Inspection to be conducted trough: Asiainspection (I will pay for the inspection). If there is a fail inspection you have to re-work the goods and pay for re-inspection (this is also mentioned in the Purchase Order contract)

Please provide address, contact details and telephone number and contact person in both English and Chinese for the Inspection company.
I will also need these details so that I can give you the shipment labels from Amazon Seller Central with the actual factory who delivers.

7) Shipment to be conducted trough:
Please contact my freight forwarder to arrange pick up of both AIR and SEA shipment
John Doe
Made up name logistics (SHENZHEN)
TEL:+86-12345678
Fax:+86-12345678
E-MAIL: john doe@madeupnamelogistics.com

8) 100% shipment by AIR to following address. Please add the address in the commercial invoice and packing list.
FBA: Mandarin-Gear Limited
Amazon.com.dedc LLC
560 Merrimac Ave
Middletown, DE 19709
United States

The following is for the documents:

Importer of Record:
Mandarin-Gear Ltd.
xxxxx adress, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 12345678
mail: xxx
EIN: 123455678

Ultimate Consignee:
FBA: Mandarin-Gear Limited
Amazon.com
4255 Anson Blvd
Whitestown, IN 46075
United States

Notify Party for customs:
Mandarin-Gear Ltd.
xxxxx adress, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 12345678
mail: xxx
EIN: 123455678

9) Labels for for export carton as attached.

10) Please send full certificate of FDA and Borosilicate glass for this item.

11) Please find attached logo to be printed by Silk-Screen on the item. Logo to be put at the bottom of the product.

12) If there is a polybag included it needs to have the attached suffocation warning printed on the polybag.

13) Products need to be packed very very well especially around the glass as you know the glass can easily break.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

I am looking forward to building a long term business-relationship!
All the best,
Manuel

So you see there is quite a few things you have to consider when placing an order. Usually I sit 2-3 hours when writing the order email and terms up to each supplier. Since I want to take my time and think of everything that I want the supplier to do. Make sure you attach all files and documents you want him to sign.

Since I am a supplier and manufacturer myself I am sometimes surprised at how I receive orders from customers.
Sometimes I get an email just stating the order quantity, delivery place and not much else. If anything goes wrong I could blame the buyer “well you haven’t specified anything” and there is nothing he can do.
Obviously I am not that kind of supplier but many Chinese suppliers work that way… You as the customer have the right to demand certain terms and if the supplier doesn’t agree to them well then you should move on.

I hope the above gives you a bit of an idea on what you can and should do when placing an order.

If you like this post please share on social media
All the best and happy sourcing,
Manuel

https://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

Ps.: I am expecting my newest product to be in stock in the coming days and will update you soon in form of another webinar, so stay tuned

Best Packaging Practice – How to create a great private label packaging!

Hey guys,

I recently asked in ImportDojo’s Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1585493201714528/) what topics you would like me to cover on my next blog post and I listened.

So here goes, below is an overview on how you can improve your packaging and beat the competition.
Before you read on, I previously posted on packagings in general and you may want to read this post too here: https://importdojo.com/private-labels-packaging-differences/

But today I want to look into six different topics when it comes to packaging:

1) Why is a good packaging necessary
2) What differences are there in materials and what is the ideal material?
3) Simple things that greatly improve your packaging
4) Why is it so difficult to get a manufacturer print low quantites of packagings?
5) Great packaging examples (low and high cost)
6) Conclusion and where should I start?

1) Why is a good packaging necessary?

  • A great packaging adds value to the product. Think of Apple’s packaging. Have you ever bought a product from Apple and holding the packaging in hand thinking: “that’s a nice packaging, it adds value to the product and is therefore one of the reasons I bought this product”?When I bought my first iPhone I actually kept the packaging until today (that was 2012). I even still keep the packaging of my Macbook Air because if I ever want to sell it the packaging adds value and I can get a higher price.
  • There is a saying in German (my native language) in the retail industry. “Eine gute Verpackung ist die halbe Miete” which litearlly means, “a good packaging is half the rent” or if you have a good packaging its “half the battle”.
    No matter if you are selling online or physically at a store the packaging is the first thing your customers sees when he is exposed to your product.
    It certainly applies more to retail than when selling online because the potential customer can see the packaging. The first thing a potential customers sees online are the pictures in your listing but a good packaging still applies, I ll get to that in a little bit.
  • Protection. You will want your product to be packed well. Your product goes trough six different logistics cycles before it reaches the customer:
  1. Packed in mass-production
  2. Picked up by the logistics company sent by Air or Sea
  3. Received in the US and unloaded from the ship or plane
  4. Transported to Amazon
  5. Ordered by customer, picked and packed by Amazon
  6. picked up carrier (UPS etc.) and delivered to you

Imagine this being your shipment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJdZgQwRMBk
Now don’t worry, that usually never happens, I guess he had a bad day 🙂

However there’s a lot of people and hands handling your product and you’ll certainly want your box to arrive in perfect condition when the customer receives it.

How often have you read on Amazon reviews “product received damaged”. Thats one bad review you can avoid.

2) What differences are there in materials and what is the ideal material?

It is quite simple actually, I give my suppliers usually the requirement to pack products directly in a b-flute (e-flute is acceptable for light and simple products) and the gift boxes must be packed in a minimum c-flute cardboard.
A double wall (C&B flute) would be preferred but c-flute is accepted.

Here are the standard cardboards available:

A) Coroplast
B) Chip Board
C) e-Flute
D) b-Flute
E) c-Flute (standard)
F) Double Wall (c&b Flute)
G) Triple Wall

Rating:

Cardboard boxes (Corrugated Fiberboard) are rated by an industry standard known as the ECT (Edge Crush Test).
This indicates the pounds per square inch the board standing on edge can withstand.
A standard moving box (c-flute) has a rating of 32 pounds per square inch before crushing, therefore would have a 32 ECT rating.

Ratings You Can Choose Or Indicate To Your Supplier: 

  • No Test – really light
  • 26 ECT – light
  • 32 ECT – standard
  • 44 ECT – Strong
  • Double Wall
  • Triple Wall

Still not sure what you should use and what applies to the weight of your cartons? See below illustration referencing the carton strength to the total weight of each carton:

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3) Simple things that improve your packaging

  • UV coating. I use UV coating for most of my packagings. It gives the logo or text you want UV-coated a nice 3D effect and feels great when having it in hand

  • Fun facts. I add “Nutrition facts” onto my packaging even they aren’t of any food nature. I sure add all technical description in there but I will also add a few “fun facts” making my product “hip”.

  • Don’t overconfuse with a lot of text and keep things simple. Rather use pictograms as per below examples. Instead of boring wording I use pictograms that describe functions of the product.

4) Why is it so difficult to get a manufacturer print low quantities of packagings?

Printing a packaging (color box) requires to create a so called printing film for the printing factory. Do not be confused, your supplier outsources this job to a separate printing factory.
I have yet to come across a supplier who also prints his packaging. That means that your supplier has no control over the minimum amount of pieces needed to be printed. This amount is determined from the printing factory.

Some printing factories offer from 500-800 pieces while some printing factories require at least a 1000 pieces per item/color. It is often useless to argue with your supplier to find another printing factory because they have running contracts with those printing factories that guarantee them consistent quality and low prices. So he won’t jeopardise his relationship because I the new buyer need 300 pieces of a color box.

However there are some printing factories who specialise in helping small time buyers to print lower quantities. Costs will be higher though. Have a look at my other post where I explain costs in detail:
https://importdojo.com/private-labels-packaging-differences/

5) Great packaging examples:

  • I recently travelled to Vietnam. Vietnam is known for its food and vietnamese coffee. I am avid coffee lover and I definitely wanted to bring back a coffee from Vietnam. So I went to a couple of stores and looked for coffee. I got myself a pack of Kopi Luwak coffee. If you don’t know Kopi Luwak check out Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak its quite special 🙂 But thats not the point of the story, while browsing for coffee one product and packaging really caught my eyes. It’s a tea packed in bamboo packaging. Vietnam is also known for its bamboo products. While I don’t really drink tea I bought the product even I didn’t really need it. Why? Because the packaging sold me the tea. Have a look at the packaging picture:

 

I really like the use of Bamboo here, not your every day packaging. This option is certainly more expensive but it sold me!

 

  • Simple packagings that are great and cheap. When you have a product that doesn’t need a fancy packaging because it is an every day use item you can save a lot of money and still have a decent packaging. This is also extremely helpful if your suppliers gives you a high order quantity for packagings.  I recently ordered a product from Amazon (as the Merchant) and when I received the packaging I was quite surprised at the simplicity but effectiveness of the packaging. No fancy packaging needed because it was just an iPhone charging cable.

This packaging is a simple but padded envelope and great for cables, rubber, plastic items and things that won’t easily break.

  • There is a campaign running right now from Lays Thailand (potato chips). The campaign says, post a picture of yourself on Instagram, tag the company and the product and maybe win xxxxx$. Not only do they have a great packaging but the customers are doing all their marketing for them. Have a look so you’ll see what I mean.

 

That Lays marketing campaign is brilliant. Engage with your customers on your packaging. Add a insert card or a link to your website and create a challenge, maybe even similar to above and you’ll get “free” exposure to your product and brand.

Try to think outside the box and think of little things that can improve your packaging but have a big marketing effect.

If you are looking for more ideas, simply Google “Great packaging ideas” and browse trough the various search results. Find something you like? Speak to your supplier and see if he is willing to help on your packaging idea.

6) Conclusion and where do I start?

So where do you start? I would say that your packaging should :

A: reflect the product inside
B: something that the product is affiliated with – a brand or a quality seal

Examples:

Reflecting the product inside:
1) Cigars are often packed in wooden boxes because they resemble a humidor.
2) Great example of Nike’s Air products. The product is actually packed in a bag of Air.

 

Something that the product is affiliated with or a quality/brand seal:
B: Swiss products usually have the white cross in the red circle (the country’s flag) on products because the Swiss are proud of their country and quality of their products. I have often seen cosmetics in department stores that have the Swiss flag on them with some wording like “Swiss formula” or “Swiss made”. It creates trust in the potential customer because people know or think that Swiss products must be good. Check out below examples:

 

Doesn’t that beer look yummy? Don’t you want to buy it just because of the packaging and trust in Swiss quality already?

Don’t you feel confident already brushing your teeth with Swiss made toothpaste? 

 

Ok, lets wrap it up. I am not saying that you should apply all these things on your very first packaging. Because a few of the above examples can become quite costly, especially if you have low quantities.
Try to start with a simple white box, put your logo & labels/barcodes on it and when you are ready to place larger orders improve your packaging by applying some of the techniques and suggestions above.

Now you may ask yourself why is it important to have a nice packaging for an online or fulfillment business? After all the customers doesn’t see the packaging when ordering online?
Well for all of the above reasons and your customer will greatly appreciate to get the product in a well packaged box plus it will increase the chance of getting a great review. You may also want to think ling term that your brand eventually becomes recognised and you want to deal with retailers or supermarkets to have your products also offline!

I hope this gives you an overview and I look forward to your comments. Please like and share if you found the post helpful 🙂
All the best and happy sourcing,
Manuel

Ps.: I’ve got some exciting news in the coming weeks that will make Private Labelling and importing from China easy, so stay tuned.

https://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

US Import Duties & Taxes – How much and when do I have to pay for import tax?

So you are wondering how much tax and import rates you have to pay on your product? You keep hearing that anything below “2500$” doesn’t get taxed? Lets look at import duty rates & taxes for the US in detail.

What we are talking about today is the:

1) Informal Entry

An informal entry is the entry of goods valued under 2500US$ and does not need to be cleared by a customs bond as it is designated for mostly personal importations. The amount used to be 1000$ before 2013 but the threshold has been increased to 2500$ since then.

2) Formal Entry

A formal entry is the entry of goods valued over 2500US$ and needs to be cleared by a customs bond. This type of entry is used for commercial importations only (e.g. re-selling goods on Amazon).

3) Lowering product costs to avoid taxation & rates

 

I’ll explain each entry in a little while. The word in the community is that anything below 2500$ doesn’t get taxed and no rates apply. Wrong.

First of all any amount is technically taxable if the product is intended to be re-sold but the US customs and border protection calls the entry with a value under 2500$ an informal entry. An informal entry are “goods for personal consumption or enjoyment”.

Now in most cases customs turns a blind eye and won’t tax or slap rates on your products imported under 2500$. That is if the actual declared product value makes sense. What does that mean? Lets look at two example:

1) Informal Entry

My actual product costs 4$ and I order 500 pieces. The total order is therefore valued at 2000US$. This is called an informal entry.

Now I technically have to pay taxes and duties because I am importing as an individiual or entity with the intent to re-sell these goods.

But customs doesn’t know that and since there is a threshold of 2500$ anyway they often don’t impose any tax or duties.

But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t liable to pay them. Because if you import 500 pieces of a private labeled product it is very likely that customs knows that you have the intention of re-selling the goods.

However, as I mentioned US customs turn a blind eye in many cases and release your goods without having to pay any taxes and duties (just don’t count on it and calculate duties and taxes anyway when calculating your profit margin)

This happens especially if you use couriers like DHL, UPS etc. because they have a special clearance lane and customs often “wave these goods trough”.

Also (see my last post on this here under point 2): https://importdojo.com/how-to-import-to-the-us-for-international-sellers-ship-to-amazon-directly/

If you were to ship by a freight forwarder (Sea or regular Air freight), the forwarder has to file for a Informal Entry and you will likely be taxed according the customs tariff number.

 

2) Formal Entry

My actual product costs 6US$ per piece to manufacture and I order 500 pieces.

I declare 3000US$ Total Order value on my Invoice which means I (my forwarder/carrier) have to file for a formal entry. I get taxed at the import rates and duties as filed under the official US Harmonized Tariff Schedule” https://hts.usitc.gov/

It’s not easy to navigate around that site and often you need to look for a long time to find the correct tariff number. If you aren’t sure you can also go to: www.dutycalculator.com and look for your tariff number there.

However there are only 3 free “look-ups” and then you’ll have to pay.

Let’s say for example my product is the famous “Garlic Press”. I do the research and find out that the garlic press has a import rate of 3%. Therefore the taxable amount and import rate is 90$ (3% of 3000$).

There will be merchandising processing fees that are usually a couple of dollar. In total I won’t be paying more than roughly 100-120$ for import rates and duties.

I am happy to pay that amount and import my product in a fair and square manner.

 

3) Lowering the product value on the Invoice:

Now a lot of sellers/buyers manipulate their product price on the invoice to avoid any taxation because they have heard of the “2500$ rule” but they aren’t aware of the actual regulation (informal/formal).

They do that because they have heard from other people in Facebook groups that they do that as well. Or their supplier told them that they will lower the invoice to help them save costs…. Please don’t!

Say for example they manipulate that 6$ product to a price of 4$ instead to stay below the 2500$ threshold. In most cases customs will not check and therefore you can import your products “if you’re lucky” at a zero percent tax rate which is an informal entry.

While I don’t encourage you to do so this procedure is very common and customs is aware of it. I guess the US supports their economy and has better things to worry about.

However If you greatly underprice your item you can get in trouble. Say for example that the supplier puts 1$ (or even less) on the Invoice to make the total amount out to 500$ (for 500 garlic presses).

How will you explain that your 500 pieces of private label garlic presses are for personal consumption? How will you explain that a product that sells for 15-20$ is being imported by you for 1$ a piece? You can’t and you will likely be taxed the full amount as well as a fine for deceiving customs.

Those fines can be in the excess of thousands of US$, depending on the product and the circumstances of the case.

Also bear in mind that the assesment of the total product value is the option and at the opinion of the customs officer on duty.

They aren’t stupid and if a product obviously has a higher value than you have declared they will definitely slap you with the full import rate and/or a possible fine.

In order to avoid any mix up with the correct customs tariff number I recommend you to tell your supplier to mention the correct number. If you aren’t sure which one is the correct number look on https://hts.usitc.gov/ or www.dutycalculator.com

If you still can’t find it then you can also call the phone number on the customs tariff website and they will give you this information for free.

So I’d recommend you to declare the real value and if you really must to save a few $… lower the price to a reasonable price. (E.g. 5.5$ instead of 6$).

I personally declare the real value because it’s simply not worth to falsify a customs invoice to save 90$ of taxes (in above example).

Important: Samples are a different scenario. You actually should declare your samples at a low or NO VALUE at all because they are simply for your evalutation and order decision. You will most likely also not re-sell that sample.

Therefore you can declare samples at a nominal value (1$) and mention on the sample Invoice: “Samples Of No Commercial Value”. Your supplier can put this on the sample invoice for you. See an example below:

 

How do I declare informal or formal and how do I properly file this with customs?

You don’t have to worry, your logistics company will declare that for your. This could be a freight forwarder or a courier like DHL.

In any event, the forwarder/courier knows the amount of total product value and will know how to declare for you.

1) Informal Entry

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/215/~/filing-an-informal-entry-(for-goods-valued-at-less-than-$2500)

2) Formal Entry

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/214/related/1/session/L2F2LzEvdGltZS8xNDUyMzk4NDUxL3NpZC9zTU50bzhHbQ%3D%3D

3) Merchandising Processing Fee

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/334/related/1/session/L2F2LzEvdGltZS8xNDUyMzk4NDUxL3NpZC9zTU50bzhHbQ%3D%3D

 

IMPORTANT: There are exceptions to the 2500$ rule! One exception to the “valued under $2,500 rule” includes textiles. For this type of trade-sensitive merchandise, a lower value of $250 applies. A variation, or subcategory, of informal entry is known as “Section 321” which allows the duty-free entry of merchandise valued at $200 or less – as long as it is imported by one person on one day

I hope this helps and shines some light onto the subject 🙂

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

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.

 

 

 

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:
https://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

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


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

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

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 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 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


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


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


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 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 learning more about certification and other product categories head on over to my Certification course here: https://importdojo.com/import-dojo-certification/

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

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: https://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

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!

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 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.

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!

ImportDojo

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