Import from China: Where to Start?
Attend Trade Shows Like Canton Fair:
Trade shows like Canton Fair are good opportunities to have an idea about China suppliers.
Canton Fair is held twice a year. Once in spring and once in autumn. A lot of suppliers / manufactures also chose this time to show their new products of the year. So this time is really good to have an overall look at China suppliers for your products.
Some disadvantages of Canton Fair:
#1 You have to be there at the fair time. So, you can imagine everyone will be going there. Hotels and flights will all be very expensive.
#2 For manufacturers, the quantity are usually pretty big. For start-ups, minimum order quantity maybe a big thing to consider before ordering. No one wants their cash sit with stock.
#3 You will need to find an agent or forwarder who can do consolidation for you. Based on the fact that many of the suppliers at Canton Fair are from all parts of China, this makes the consolidation and planning pretty hard. It will not be easy to meet a certain time point. If you can ship full containers from each supplier. This will not be a problem at all. But for beginners, this most not likely to happen.
Visit Wholesale Markets Like Yiwu Market:
Yiwu market is basically opening all year round. You can come whenever is good for you. It's easier for you to schedule.
The extremely wide variety of Yiwu market also enables you complete your line easily. The smaller minimum order quantities in Yiwu market are also very attractive to beginners.
For shipping and other issues, Yiwu agent service offered by hundreds of Yiwu export service companies can help you iron them flat easily.
Nothing is perfect. Yiwu market also has the following disadvantages:
#1 A large part of the suppliers on Yiwu market are distributors. (Not sure if Canton Fair is of the same thing. But it's believed that Canton Fair has more big manufactures.)So their design and manufacturing ability are not strong. For simple buy and sell, it's no problem. But if you want to have your own products designed and manufactured, this put them in a difficult situation.
#2 Yiwu market is full of small factories and distributors. This fact also makes Yiwu market overall quality can not compete with strong manufacturers in Canton Fair. Yiwu market is still mostly of "OK quality", not "high quality".
#3 Most suppliers on Yiwu market can not export directly, or not willing to consolidate products from other suppliers. Buyers have to use an agent. Agent needs commission. This also adds up the final cost. (Yiwu market price itself is still very competitive)
Oder Directly Online:
Online wholesale or retail sites now makes buying from China very easy.
www.dhgate.com and www.aliexpress.com now are online wholesale markets. Many of the vendors there also are also retailing. So there will be no more quantity barrier. These sites also provide payment services, so payment is not a problem either.
www.lightinthebox.com is retailing lots of China products.
Some disadvantage of ordering online:
#1 It's a pity that there are still very limited areas these sites can cover. Mostly small, light and expensive items. Because most of items on these sites will be shipping to you by couriers.
#2 The products information can be offered online is always limited. There is still no way you can FEEL the quality of online displayed items by zooming pictures.
#3 Price on these sites will always be a problem if your volume reaches a certain extent. At the same time, suppling ability will be another problem as time goes by.
Let's take an example:
*If you're baby-size importers/ buyers, you can start from wholesale or even retail sites over Internet.
*If you're teenager-size importers/buyers, you can coming to wholesale markets like Yiwu market.
*If you're adult-size importers/buyers, you can go to trade shows like Canton Fair.
Hope this helps you with a better idea :)