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How to Import Goods from China in 9 Steps

How to import goods from China remains a complex task.The following guide breaks down this process into nine easily executable steps.

How To import goods from China in 9 Steps:

How to import goods from China step 1:

Choose a product to import: The first step to successful importing is selecting the right product. This is more challenging than simply choosing the cheapest or highest-priced item. Considerations when selecting a product include:

  • Choose a product you are passionate about, as enthusiasm is contagious and can make your marketing efforts more effective.
  • Consider shipping costs, as products that can be shipped in bulk may be more cost-effective.
  • Think about the uniqueness of the product to avoid the risk of others mass-producing similar items.

How to import goods from China step 2:

Compile a list of Chinese exporters or suppliers: Utilize online outsourcing directories or professional procurement companies to find suppliers. Some useful resources include:

  • Made-in-China.com: Provides a directory of Chinese suppliers with product catalogs, company information, contract details, and factory photos.
  • China Yellow Pages: A directory with product listings, manufacturers’ websites, and contact information.
  • China.cn: Offers a comprehensive outsourcing guide, trade resources, and contact information for each supplier.
  • Goodseller Trade: A professional procurement company providing various services.

How to import goods from China step 3:

Contact each supplier on your list: Once you have a list of exporters, narrow down your options by contacting each supplier. Request the following information:

  • Customer recommendations. A reputable supplier should be able to provide you with customer testimonials and recommendations. Once they provide them, verify their authenticity!
  • Business license information. You want to ensure that any company you do business with has a legitimate license and complies with all applicable trade regulations to avoid future legal issues affecting your business.
  • Production and personnel data. To confirm your understanding of the relationship between the exporter and manufacturer, such as whether they produce the products themselves, if not, whether they charge commissions to the manufacturer, or if they only work for you.
  • The name and address of the factory producing the product. If the exporter refuses to provide you with the name and address of the product’s manufacturer, they may not be a trustworthy supplier.
  • Information about the factory’s experience in producing products like yours. When choosing a supplier, cost is not the only consideration; quality is equally important, and the manufacturer’s experience can well indicate the quality of their work.
  • Product samples. Unless you are producing your own new product, the supplier should be able to provide you with samples of the product to better understand its quality and know in advance what you are paying for.

How to import goods from China step 4:

Negotiate with your preferred supplier: Negotiating with Chinese exporters requires understanding their business culture. Consider the following when negotiating:

  • Focus on building relationships. Chinese individuals do business not with companies, but with people. Each transaction establishes a new relationship with another party. Therefore, Chinese exporters are less likely to directly engage in a business deal with you until they have had a chance to get to know you.
  • Trust is built on moral influence rather than legal matters. Chinese executives tend to rely on a group’s moral responsibility rather than legal obligations. This doesn’t mean that signing a contract is an unwise business practice; rather, the desire to sign a contract should take a backseat to building a relationship of mutual trust, where both parties feel morally obligated to fulfill their responsibilities, even if a contract hasn’t been signed.
  • Be aware of hierarchical importance when addressing executives. Shaking hands with a lower-ranking executive or addressing a high-ranking executive by their first name too soon may disrupt personal relationships and affect the willingness of Chinese executives to negotiate with you. Pay close attention to how executives address each other and follow suit.

How to import goods from China step 5:

Connect with U.S. distributors: Contacting distributors for your product may be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, but you can increase the chances of success and save time by following a few simple steps.

  • Call each potential distributor, introduce yourself, and inquire about receiving information via email.
  • Send a short email introducing your company and products with professionally designed attachments.
  • Follow up with a phone call to arrange a meeting. During the meeting, market your product and sign up so you can start ordering.

How to import goods from China step 6:

Place your order: Each company has minimum order requirements and basic shipping terms. Common shipping terms used by Chinese exporters include:

  • Express Mail Service (EMS): A global shipping service in collaboration with the United States Postal Service (USPS).
  • DHL (Dunhao International): An international logistics company widely used by Chinese suppliers for shipping to the U.S.
  • Free On Board (FOB): A shipping term connecting the shipping rate to the loading port. In FOB terms, the seller covers the cost of transporting the goods to the designated port.

How to import goods from China step 7:

Obtain goods through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and pay taxes: Contact a nearby import port for convenience. Communicate with a CBP expert specializing in your product category for information on specific requirements, estimated tax rates, and assistance with customs documentation.

How to import goods from China step 8:

Arrange for delivery and transportation: Contact a commercial logistics company to arrange for unloading at the import port and transportation to your warehouse or local distributor. Use local directories or online phone books to find logistics companies.

How to import goods from China step 9:

Confirm completion of Importer Security Filing (ISF) by both you and the selling company: Ensure that both you and the company supplying your products complete the ISF at least 24 hours before shipment. Failure to do so may result in a $5,000 fine.

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Tips:

After reading the above how to import goods from China, you should have already learned some relevant expertise. Here are eight tips on how to import goods from China:

  • Be aware of import tariffs. Tariffs depend on the type of goods imported, the exporting country, and the destination. Confirm the correct customs code for your imported goods and clarify any ambiguous destinations.
  • Chinese exporters often hire export agents. Some agents also act as third-party suppliers rather than solely providing export services.
  • Chinese manufacturers usually require a 30-50% upfront payment before starting production.
  • Participating in trade shows provides an excellent opportunity to communicate face-to-face with suppliers.
  • Consider using secure payment methods through third-party services. These services ensure that funds are transferred to an independent third party, which releases the payment to the seller after fulfilling shipment and transportation obligations.
  • Accurately estimate unloading costs before placing an order. Unloading costs include costs after the goods leave the port, carrier transportation costs, import tariffs (if applicable), local transportation costs, and service provider costs (supervision, intermediaries, etc.). Consult an import management company to avoid unexpected high costs.
  • Neglecting regulations may result in costly consequences, such as unexpected and expensive tariffs and delayed customs clearance, leading to expensive storage fees at train stations or container yards.
  • In Chinese trade, letters of credit are widely used. Inquire at your bank about its form and payment.

Warnings:

For beginners, it is important to be aware of warnings on how to import goods from China.

  • Legitimate websites provide physical addresses and contact information. Be cautious if a website does not provide this information. Inquire about their contact details and consider visiting their office.
  • Wholesale distributors usually require a business license or sales tax number during initial contact. This is typically a requirement for legitimate wholesale businesses. U.S. dealers looking to buy from U.S. wholesalers will need a tax number. However, if you reside outside the U.S., you may not need a tax number.
  • Confirm you are dealing with professionals by attempting to speak directly with wholesalers. If a wholesaler sounds unprofessional, responds with simple “yes” or “hello” without mentioning their name or business, exercise caution.
  • If you are new to international trade, especially in a diverse country like China, consider using a letter of credit or third-party websites such as Alibaba or China Manufacturing. China frequently employs many trade intermediaries, and whether you are a new or existing customer, exercise caution when making prepayments. Consult an experienced lawyer to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  • You should pay attention to any entry requirements for the goods you are importing, including those from federal agencies other than the CBP. Consult with an experienced lawyer once, and you can gather all the necessary information to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  • Wholesalers may claim that they have no inventory on hand and request you to prepay. In response, request the supplier to provide photos of the inventory as proof and publicize this information. While this may not guarantee effectiveness, it’s worth a try.
  • Never prepay the entire amount upfront. If there are issues with the order, you may not be able to recover your payment.
  • Initially, wholesalers may claim to only accept secure forms of payment, such as credit cards, PayPal, etc. Later, they might insist on wire transfers or Western Union payments. Not all wholesalers using less secure payment methods are scammers, but some scammers do operate this way. Therefore, be particularly cautious when this occurs, especially if you are unfamiliar with the person.

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