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Starting / Business startup

Importing from China – tips and advice on where to start?

Importing from China could save you thousands of dollars, but can also be daunting and risky. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

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China presents massive opportunities for your business, regardless of whether you’ve been established for a while or are in start-up mode.

But to be successful in your attempts to do business in China, you need to find the right supplier. This is extremely important considering there are potentially thousands of suppliers vying to make your product.

The main factors to consider when deciding who to deal with are the levels of risk you’re prepared to accept and the amount of time and cost involved.


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Using sourcing websites

Suppliers in China can be sourced directly through websites like madeinchina.com and alibaba.com.

Sourcing products yourself can save you money and give you total control over the process, but also brings with it higher risk than other alternatives, as most websites don’t have strong mechanisms for verifying suppliers.

"The main factors to consider when deciding who to deal with are the level of risk you’re prepared to accept and the amount of time and cost involved."

If you decide to go down this route, be aware that it can take a large amount of time, and if you’re unable to find a legitimate supplier it may actually cost you more money in the long-term.

Using an overseas trading company

Trading companies that act as a middleman on your behalf and source your products from China come with advantages and disadvantages.

For example, they’ll usually speak the language and understand Chinese business and culture, which helps with effective communication. They’ll have established relationships with certain factories too, so you may be able to order smaller quantities of stock.

On the other hand, many trading companies are paid commissions by suppliers, so the factories they recommend may not be the ones best suited to your needs. Furthermore, using a trading company inflates costs, as the trading company makes their margin on top of the factory price.

Attending trade fairs in China

Another means of finding suppliers is to attend trade fairs in China such as the Canton Fair.

Meeting suppliers face-to-face allows you to establish a relationship with them (a vital aspect of successful business dealings in Asia) and may help you determine the legitimacy of the business. You may be able to place your order on the spot, and might even be able to visit and inspect the factory.

However, attending trade fairs can be very costly and quite overwhelming. Without experience and understanding of the language and culture, there’s no guarantee you’ll find the right supplier.

Using an Australian professional sourcing company

One of the safest and best value-for-money options when importing from China is to use a professional sourcing company that’s based in Australia. Most are thoroughly experienced in international trade and many are passionate about growing your business and making it a success.

This approach is likely to have a higher cost than managing the process yourself, as some professional sourcing companies charge service fees and a percentage of your order value.  But as you’ll be dealing with an Australian-owned and operated business, with experienced teams on the ground in China and inherent cultural and linguistic knowledge, communication with Chinese suppliers will be simple and effective, giving your importing project an excellent chance of success.

Do your research

As you’ll have worked out from the issues raised above, although importing from China offers some huge opportunities, they do come with significant risk. It is vital to conduct the relevant research because choosing the incorrect option for your business could cost you both money and time.  When in doubt, consult others who’ve travelled this path before you, or seek professional advice.

Do you import products from China? Please share your experiences below.

Matthew Edwards

is an expert on importing from China and understanding how to do business with China. Along with his business partner Tim Davies, at Silk Road Consultants they strive to help small to medium businesses import from China successfully.

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