China sourcing agent

12 Common Mistakes of Importing from China

During the daily practice of importing from China, I've learned 12 common mistakes from various clients I dealt with. Here are the details:

1. Looking for the lowest price

If you purchase something below market price, you are taking very high risks. Either quality will not be up to your standard, or you are about to get scammed.

2. Letting the supplier ship without checking product quality

Once a production batch is on a boat, it’s too late. Verify quality yourself, or pay for quality inspection services. And do it systematically, at least for the first 5 shipments (after that, you can do random skip-lot QC).

3. Failing to realize that pre-production samples are selling tools

Many buyers who are surprised that samples are not representative of bulk production. But getting an order and a cash deposit is one thing, and manufacturing the goods is another thing! Your job is to check whether production is up to the pre-production sample.

4. Displaying obvious distrust towards one’s suppliers

One of my clients does this. Her suppliers hate her, and they often get into arguments. You need your suppliers (1) to have a good image of you, and (2) to know that you care about them. If not, nobody will look after your production in the factory.

5. Not keeping two weeks of padding in the shipment schedule

There will be delays, with a certainty comprised between 30% and 90%. So plan for it. Bonus: even worse than failing to plan for delays, is pushing the factory to reduce production time.

6. Paying everything in full while one still needs leverage

Some purchasers get a really good feeling about a supplier, and agree to wire 100% of the order amount in advance. Then the manufacturer has no incentive to hurry up or to produce up to the standard. If quality issues are uncovered (and that’s only if they allow for an inspection), the factory might refuse to rework the goods.

7. Accepting to be left in the dark regarding your own supply chain

Do not rely on a middleman, upon which your whole company’s success rests. Qualify the factory, if possible get to know/approve the sub-suppliers. You will make it up many times in the long run. It is so basic, but so many people get this wrong.

8. Forgetting to describe an essential product attribute, or even the entire packaging

If you don’t specify your expectations in detail, a factory technician will take the decision for you, based (most probably) on cost savings. And you will not even be able to protest when you notice it.

9. Hoping that an unsatisfactory manufacturer will get better over time

Per my experiences, it is a bad idea to give a second order to a factory that just produced substandard quality. Rather than rolling the dice (when the odds are 90% against you), nurture a backup manufacturer.

10. Not registering one’s trademark when buying from China

Do you want a competitor to force your manufacturer to stop production? Do you want a supplier to sell your goods on the local market? If not, pls register your IP.

11. Not having a contract

A contract that can be enforced locally is important. There are various strategies to adopt in “non-cooperative” situations, and you can adopt them. For example: “take little steps” (issue small orders at beginning), “verify constantly” (quality inspections) and “use a third-party” (for example, to use a verified sourcing company to monitor your suppliers).

12. Trying to manufacture small quantities in China

It will usually push you in the arms of small trading firms that deal with small workshops. The result in 90% of cases: quality disasters and/or long delays. But there is a solution, if you can purchase non-customized items: produce them in coordination with a non-competing importer. Hard to pull off, I admit, but worth giving a shot!