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Verified Suppliers Offer Safe Trade for Importing from China

2024-07-11
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Engaging in international trade with China offers substantial rewards due to its global manufacturing dominance. Establishing trustworthy supplier relationships is paramount for success. While many importers prefer direct dealings with factories, it is critical to verify suppliers' claims rigorously. This is especially true on platforms like Alibaba, where entities may misrepresent themselves as factories or, in some cases, operate fraudulently. Diligent verification is essential to mitigate risks and ensure reliable sourcing.

In this article, we will outline effective methods to accurately determine the identity and legitimacy of your suppliers, particularly when importing from China. Verifying suppliers is a critical risk-management step for importers, ensuring they select verified suppliers, who are capable and can meet quality and quantity requirements.

This proactive approach not only prevents the pitfalls of dealing with fraudulent or unreliable vendors but integrates supplier verification into the initial shortlisting process, enhancing overall sourcing efficiency and reliability.

If you are searching for potential Chinese suppliers, then asking the following questions yourself can guide you in your verification process:

- Are these suppliers real as they claim to be?

- Are they manufacturers or trading companies?

- Do they have enough experience and skills in producing the kind of products I need?

- Do they have sufficient production capacity for my order?

- Can they meet the quality and safety standards we need?

- Are they financially stable? 

- Is their communication satisfactory? 

Why is it important to verify your suppliers in China?

The risks of not verifying suppliers in China include potential fraud, quality inconsistencies, delivery delays, and logistical complications. Let's attempt to comprehend them thoroughly.

1. Quality Risks - Skipping supplier verification raises immediate concerns, especially regarding product quality. Failure to meet specified standards can result in costly issues such as returns, rework, or complete write-offs of unsellable goods.

2. Financial Risks - Engaging with unverified suppliers poses risks of financial losses through scams or frauds, resulting in payments for undelivered goods. Suppliers lacking financial stability may fail to fulfil contracts, disrupting financial planning and output expectations.

It underscores the importance of supplier verification in safeguarding against such risks in business transactions.

3. Operational Risks - Reliable supply chains are crucial for operational efficiency. Unverified suppliers may be the source of delays and interruptions because of incompetent management, insufficient capacity for production, or unstable supply chains. These problems can have a knock-on effect on a company's operations, affecting customer happiness, delivery delays, and capacity to meet demand from the market.

Benefits of qualifying your suppliers in China

The following are a few reasons why you need to deal only with verified suppliers in China.

1. Ensuring product quality and compliance with standards

Careful supplier certification and auditing guarantees that goods fulfil all requirements and standards, which is essential for both reputation and competitiveness. Frequent audits support consistency in safety standards, local and international regulatory compliance, and product quality, hence enhancing market confidence and operational excellence.

2. Building long-term relationships

Effective supplier vetting builds trust and reliability, laying a foundation for long-term relationships. This foster improved service terms, pricing, and priority treatment during peak periods, along with personalized interactions. Trust enhances communication and facilitates prompt issue resolution, enabling collaborative adaptation to evolving business challenges and environments.

3. Enhancing efficiency and predictability in supply chain

Verified suppliers contribute to consistent and reliable service, boosting supply chain efficiency. Predictability in supply enables effective inventory management, planning, and budgeting. When businesses trust suppliers to fulfil commitments, they optimize operations and resources, enhancing operational effectiveness and lowering overhead costs.

Let us walk through the process of verifying as well as shortlisting suppliers in China. Most companies who have succeeded in their businesses, have based on the following practices.

Manufacturer or trading company?

This is a critical concern as importers often prioritize manufacturers over trading companies. Trading companies purchase goods from manufacturers and resell them. Misrepresentation by a China supplier claiming to be a manufacturer when they are a trading company can lead to issues, especially for those needing precise, custom-made products.

How to differentiate between the two? The following steps will be essential to verify and shortlist suppliers in China.       

Step 1: Does the supplier exist?         

As an importer, while selecting your verified suppliers, the things that you must check are the following. You must seek the following details from your potential China supplier.   

a. Company Details

To start with, you must ask for the following details:

- Company name
- Fixed telephone numbers
- Official email address
- Factory address.

Begin by verifying details such as calling the official number and emailing the official address to confirm their existence and responsiveness, which will be elaborated on in subsequent sections of the article.

b. Bank account details

Request the supplier's bank account details: account number, beneficiary name, and bank location. Verify if the beneficiary’s name matches the supplier/company name. Note that many China suppliers operate with bank accounts in Hong Kong, implying dual considerations. This can be due to any of the following possibilities:

- The supplier may not be the manufacturer or

- The manufacturer is the supplier, but they have an account in Hong Kong since the financial transaction laws there are less stringent than in China.

Early verification of the supplier's bank information will help you prevent payment fraud later on.              

c. Website/online profiles/social media

In the digital age, a supplier's online presence is crucial. Verify contact details, review product catalogues, and read customer feedback on their website and social media profiles. Cross-reference information on popular B2B platforms like Alibaba to ensure consistency and reliability before engaging with China suppliers.

d. Customer reviews/buyer references

Request buyer references from your supplier, particularly from your market. Although Chinese suppliers may be reluctant, their willingness to provide references reflects positively on their credibility.

Step 2: Does the supplier have production capacity?

In Chinese culture, the reluctance to say no is often rooted in Miànzi, or saving face. Suppliers may accept orders beyond their capabilities to maintain face or secure business. Importers must thoroughly assess suppliers' production capacity, experience, and expertise to avoid issues stemming from cultural norms or eagerness to secure contracts. Check the following details thoroughly:

a. Year of establishment - Find out the duration of the supplier's operation. A supplier who has only been in operation for a year or two may not be someone you want to trust with your order.

b. Enquire their turnover - This provides you with a decent indication of the supplier's financial soundness. You don't want to work with a vendor whose company could fail at any time, after all.

c. Minimum order quantity - The majority of Chinese suppliers’ function based on a Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ), which denotes the minimum amount they are willing to create and sell for each order. This number is important since it indicates the supplier's capacity for producing the leather shoes, particularly when buying in bulk like 10,000 pairs.

Typically, manufacturers set higher MOQs than trading companies. A significantly reduced MOQ may suggest the supplier is a reseller rather than a manufacturer, highlighting distinctions in sourcing and production capabilities.

Step 3: Do a document check

The following are the documents that you must check:

a. Business licence

All registered businesses in China possess business licenses containing vital information, including their business scope. This scope describes the supplier’s activities and indicates whether they function as a manufacturer or reseller.

Terms like ‘production’ and ‘assembly’ signify manufacturing activities, whereas ‘wholesale’ and ‘distribution’ indicate trading operations. Additionally, the business scope outlines the range of products the supplier handles.

Manufacturers typically specialize in fewer products within a specific category, whereas resellers offer a broader array of diverse products. Each business license includes a QR code linked to a government website for verifying supplier details. Note that Chinese business licenses are in Mandarin, necessitating assistance for interpretation.

b. Certificates

Supplier credibility can be assessed through their certificates. An ISO 9001 certificate signifies compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements, verified through audits. Social compliance certificates ensure ethical workplaces, while environmental certificates indicate environmentally safe processes, both requiring professional audits. Buyers can verify these certificates through third-party audits or request copies from suppliers.

Certain products like IT equipment and medical devices require mandatory certifications like China Compulsory Certification (CCC), FDA certification for the US, and CE marking for the EU, ensuring compliance with safety standards and regulations.

c. Value-added tax (VAT)

To be qualified for government input VAT rebates, Chinese suppliers must submit a VAT invoice. The importer could request to obtain a copy of the supplier's VAT invoice in order to confirm that the supplier is a respectable business.                    

d. Product catalogue

Chinese factories focus on one or a small number of items. Expertise is important when creating highly precise, customized goods, just like experience is. The supplier is probably a trading company if their product catalogue features a large number of different products with little in common.

e. Means of payment and shipping

Letters of Credit are never accepted by cheater companies. It is always worth asking your supplier if they accept a Letter of Credit, even though this may not be your usual mode of payment.

Even if you raise the price by 5% to compensate the bank fees associated with opening an LC, the majority of fraudulent companies will still reject the idea. If this occurs, there is a good probability you are working with a fraud company who will vanish as soon as they get the 30% down payment.

Make sure the recipient's name matches the one on the business license. Payments sent to personal accounts or Western Union ought to be refused. The notion that a factory or even a trading company would want the payment to be made to their personal account rather than a company account raises red flags.

Step 4: Locate and audit

When you consider the country's structure of industrial clusters—cities and areas devoted to producing only a particular kind of good—the location of your China supplier may surprise you. Assume that you wish to purchase socks. The best location for your supplier is Zhuji, which is in the Zhejiang region and is renowned as China's "sock capital." The city not only boasts the best supply chain procedures for manufacturing and shipping your goods, but it is also the centre of the world's sock production. The supplier is probably a trading company if their address is in a remote area.

It is strongly advised that you physically see a supplier's plant when you are almost done shortlisting them. You have two options: either catch the next flight to China or, for a cost of course, hire a China sourcing agent or a third-party agency to handle the legwork on your behalf. Verifying a supplier in person is the most reliable method. It verifies the supplier's legitimacy, determines whether they are a manufacturer or reseller, and determines whether they have the know-how, resources, and capacity to complete your order.        

Characteristics of a supplier that intends to cheat

A supplier who plans to deceive is most likely to offer prices that are significantly lower than average. It is likely that you already have an average pricing after comparing costs from a number of suppliers in your industry. You should be suspicious if any supplier quotes you less than 20%–30% of this average.

Use the procedures we covered in this article to further the supplier's investigation. Respect your professionalism and bear in mind some of the most important characteristics of a reliable Chinese supplier. Certain vendors are aware of the protocols that novice importers adhere to. They use pre-established instruments and processes to take advantage of it for their own financial gain.

Conclusion

If you are conducting business with Chinese companies then it is quite important that you must deal only with verified suppliers. Visiting your Chinese supplier directly remains one of the most effective verification methods. For those starting small businesses or lacking a budget for a trip to China, hiring a reputable third-party inspection company is recommended.

They can conduct due diligence and pre-shipment inspections through approved agencies in China. This ensures thorough evaluation of supplier capabilities, product quality, and compliance with specifications before goods are shipped, mitigating risks associated with remote transactions and enhancing confidence in the sourcing process.

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