import from china to usa

Import from China to USA: The Comprehensive Guide in 2021

Before, Amazon sellers use to import from China to USA and make millions of dollars? Do you want to know why? In this guide, I’ll walk you through the secrets of finding your own products and getting them to Amazon’s FBA warehouses – all without getting ripped off on Alibaba.

This guide will provide you with all the information you need to start importing from China. Everything from finding the perfect product, negotiating with suppliers, to figuring out the best way to ship your items.

Topics Covered

  1. Why Import from China to USA?
  2. What Do You Need to Import?
  3. How to Find Home Run Products to Import and Sell on Amazon
  4. Beyond Alibaba – How to Find Great Suppliers
  5. How to Get Rock Bottom Prices & Low MOQs
  6. Don’t Get Scammed – How to Ensure You Receive High-Quality Products
  7. How to Ship Your Products from China Easily, Cheaply, and Quickly

Why Import from China to USA?

If you plan to run your own e-commerce business, then you need to import from China to be successful. The reselling model where you buy and resell other people’s products is more or less dead. Here are some other reasons to import from China to usa:

  • Higher-profit margins means you can make a lot of money
  • It’s easy to import into America (even for non-Americans)
  • Developing real, tangible products and selling them is exciting
  • No need to travel to China to find products
  • But if you do travel to China it’s fun and adventurous

Is it Too Late to Import and Sell on Amazon?

The short answer is no.

In 2017, I created a new brand that has almost reached a million dollars in revenue in less than a year. Amazon continues to grow at over 15% per year and the demand for new products continues to grow.

To sell on Amazon today and be successful, but you need to somehow (even in a very small way) make a better product. Importing undifferentiated similar products no longer works.

I will cover product development below.

What You Need to Get Started Importing

The most important thing you need to import from China to usa is money to buy inventory. Generally, I recommend having at least $500 to buy inventory and ideally $2000-5000.

What you need

  • $2000-5000 for purchasing products
  • An Amazon.com Sellers Central account

What you don’t need

  • To be physically present in America or have an American EIN, SSN, or Business
  • Have any Chinese language knowledge

Nice to have as you grow

  • A customs broker
  • A Third-Party Logistics company (3PL)
  • A Freight Forwarder
  • An Inspection company in China

You will also need an Amazon Seller Central account if you plan to sell on Amazon. This will cost you $39.99 a month.

You do not need a U.S. business.

The United States makes it very easy for both Americans and non-Americans to import products and sell them. If the goods are worth more than $2,500, you need a personal SSIN, your business EIN, or for non-U.S. persons, you can apply for what they call a non-resident import number. However, for goods under $800, you don’t need any of these.

Needless to say, you do not need any Chinese language knowledge as well. Almost all Chinese suppliers who export have English language websites and sales catalogs and at least a couple of staff members with reasonable English.

How to Find Home Run Products to Import and Sell on Amazon

The big question you are all probably asking right now is: How do I find a good product to import from China to usa?

When you import from China to usa, you are basically looking for a private label product. This means you are using an existing product, putting your brand on it, and possibly making some slight product improvements.

When I’m looking for products to import I’m looking for three basic things:

  • Little or no “optimized competition” on Amazon
  • Products that can be profitable to sell
  • Products that I can easily improve 

 

Good and Bad Products to Import from China

China is the world’s factory, but there are some products that are good for small importers and others that are bad. Identifying good and bad products basically involves understanding two key differences between China and the West.

  • China is a developing country and its quality standards are different from those in the West.
  • China has different norms when it comes to intellectual property.

Chinese factories make a lot of crappy products, but they also make a lot of great products. One way to avoid poor quality products is to import simple products. Examples include products such as pillows, foot mats and furniture. More complex products are more likely to have quality problems.

Conversely, the more complex the product, the greater the likelihood of producing a poor quality product. The most obvious example of this is electronics.

You should also avoid importing any inherently dangerous products. The importer (that’s you) is responsible for any personal or property damage your product may cause. Products to avoid include any electrical equipment, baby products, digestible products, etc.

Good products to import from China

  • Simple
  • Labor-intensive
  • No patents or other IP

Bad products to import from China

  • Complex
  • Electronics and/or electricals
  • Inherently dangerous products
  • Products with a patent and other IP

Alibaba & Beyond: How to Find Great Suppliers in China

China is a very safe country (ranked 32nd safest country in the world). It has a strong legal system and there are very few instances of being scammed.

Your main concern is to make sure the product is of good quality. Chinese factories won’t steal your money, but they may send you poor quality products.

The most popular place to find suppliers is.

The most common places to find suppliers are Alibaba and Aliexpress, and we have an excellent guide on using Alibaba.

With Alibaba, you are usually buying from a factory or at least a very professional trading company with a relatively high minimum order quantity (MOQ). With Alibaba, you usually buy from a reseller, where you can buy one or two items at a time, but at a much higher price.

My preferred method of finding suppliers (so far) is by visiting trade shows. The best suppliers usually don’t advertise on Alibaba, but do attend trade shows. Canton Fair is the largest trade show in China and is great, but going to industry-specific trade shows is even better.

Sourcing companies are great for finding hard-to-find products, but are usually reserved for higher order volumes.

Using Import Records to Find and Vet Suppliers and Snoop Competitors

One of the best things an importer can do is to use import records to help them find products to import and vet suppliers.

Jungle Scout allows you to see the real export history of nearly any Chinese Supplier.

As mentioned, in America, import and export records are public information, however, the government does not catalog or give easy access to this information. However, there are tools that do allow you to easily search this information, the most popular and cheapest being Jungle Scout (others include Import Genius and Panjiva).

These tools allow you to:

  • Find out what Chinese supplier a competitor is using (great for finding products)
  • See how much a supplier exports
  • Find out what suppliers export specific products

Trading Companies vs Factories – Which is Best for You?

factory pros and cons

In China, there are two basic types of suppliers: factories and trading companies.

Factories manufacture products. Trading companies do not manufacture products but source lots of different products from different factories.

In general factories have lower prices than Trading Companies but higher minimum order quantities and less product selection.

Often the supplier will say in their company name manufacturer or trading company so they are quite easy to distinguish. If in doubt, ask your supplier what type they are.

Neither trading companies nor factories are inherently bad or good. Trading companies (normally) have lower MOQs and better quality controls. Factories (normally) have lower prices.

Ordering Samples and Making Your First Order

Once you find a great product to import, order a sample of that product from the supplier. Your supplier will likely charge you a sample fee as well as the cost of air shipping that product to you (which can be anywhere from $50+)

Once you’ve reviewed the quality of the sample, you can proceed to place a larger order. I normally suggest making your first order size as low as possible (the supplier’s minimum order quantity)You want to gradually build up the order size with your supplier over the course of two or three orders.

When you place your order, submit an actual Purchase Order (aka an invoice) that consists of the following things:

  • Order quantity
  • Price
  • Shipping terms, i.e FOB, CFR, EXW (More on this later)
  • Date the order will be completed

How to Negotiate Rock Bottom Prices and Low MOQs

The first thing you must do before trying to negotiate any pricing is to get multiple quotes, ideally from three or more suppliers. This will tell you what the normal cost of your desired products is.

Order several samples and try selling them on Amazon before committing to a larger order.

In China, there is a golden rule: quality is directly related to price. Abnormally low priced items normally mean low quality. Another reason for a low price can be:

  • The quality is significantly lower than others
  • Different shipping terms (i.e. EXW instead of FOB)
  • Significantly higher minimum order quantity (MOQ)

Once you determine what a normal cost is for your items you can try to negotiate pricing. However, prices in China are becoming more and more fixed and negotiation is becoming more difficult. A 5-10% discount off of quoted prices is normally significant.

Where you can negotiate is minimum order quantities (MOQ). Often you can negotiate the suppliers quoted MOQ down by 50% or more.

Payment Terms and Making Payments

When you are arranging payment terms with your supplier, the most common terms you will come across will be 30/70. That means you pay 30% when the order is placed and 70% upon completion. Never accept an order requiring a 100% deposit unless the order is small (less than $2000).

Payment is almost always made by wire transfer or sometimes referred to as TT (telegraphic transfer). Payment by credit card or PayPal is generally not accepted for orders larger than $5000 or so.

Payment is almost always in US dollars. The Chinese Renminbi is pegged to the U.S. dollar so there’ll never be any currency fluctuations unless the Chinese government decides to appreciate or depreciate their currency.

If your source of revenue is not in US dollars then you’ll be subject to currency fluctuations between your home currency and the US Dollar. If you’re transferring currency often, I suggest using an exchange service like Transfer Wise that will have significantly better exchange rates than most banks.

How to Ensure You Receive High-Quality Products

Your biggest concerns when importing from China will be to ensure that you’re getting quality products.

Quality standards are the biggest difference between Chinese manufacturing and Western manufacturing. Western countries (re: Amazon buyers) have much higher quality standards than in China.

If you do not define what exactly a Western quality product is, your supplier will send you Chinese quality products.

There are three things you need to do to ensure quality products:

  1. Define what a quality product looks like
  2. Inspect your shipments to ensure they meet the above definition
  3. Be continuously vigilant against quality fade

Define “Quality Product”: Define every important specification of your product. For example, if you’re importing bags, define the following:

  • Zipper type
  • Fabric type and weight
  • Button type
  • Critical Dimensions
  • Strap type and size

If you received a sample and the quality is good, ask your supplier what exact materials were used for various components to prevent them from substituting for inferior materials later. Include these specifications in your Purchase Order.

Inspect your Shipments: A third-party inspection costs about $300 and a company like AsiaInspection will send a person out to your factory, for an entire day, to inspect your products. There’s no reason not to do it.

Avoid Quality Fade: If you are not vigilant, the quality of your products will fade over time. You will not all of a sudden receive products that are awful. Instead, over time quality will start to be skimped here and there until at one point you receive awful products.

Show your supplier that quality is important to you. Inform your supplier of every defect you receive on an order and ensure they fix it on the next order.

Shipping and Logistics

In my own personal experience and after helping other first-time importers, having your goods shipped to you and receiving them is one of the most stressful and most challenging aspects of importing.

Three Ways to Ship Your Products: Air Courier, Air Freight, and Sea Freight

There are three ways to ship your items from China: air courier, air freight, and sea freight.

Air courier is simple for most people to understand. UPS, FedEx, and DHL are air courier services.

This is what they call a door-to-door service. Your supplier ships your products and they arrive wherever you want them to arrive, i.e. your home or Amazon warehouse.

The courier also has customs brokerage service so you don’t need to worry about getting a customs broker.

Air Freight and Sea Freight differ vastly from air courier (FYI there is no such thing as sea courier). These services are arranged through a freight forwarder and typically are quoted from China to some airport or sea port, i.e. to the sea port of Long Beach (near Los Angeles) or Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

You will either have to arrange to have your goods picked up or ask your freight forwarder to arrange to have them shipped to your final destination (which will involve a significant surcharge). They will not provide customs brokerage (at least not for free).

Air Courier

  • 150 lbs or less
  • $10/kg+
  • 2-5 Days

Normally quoted door to door. No custom broker needed (although courier will charge you if shipment is over $800).

Air Freight

  • 200-500 lbs
  • $5-7/kg
  • 2-10 Days + 1-5 Days for Custom clearance

Make sure shipment terms are FOB. Quoted port to port (not door to door). Expect $200-300 in documentation fees + $150-200 customs brokerage fees.

Sea Freight

  • 500+ lbs
  • < $1/kg
  • 14-35 Days + 1-5 Days for Custom clearance

Make sure shipment terms are FOB. Quoted port to port (not door to door). Expect $200-300 in documentation fees + $150-200 customs brokerage fees.

Air freight and sea freight are quite a bit more complicated than air courier the first time around. They are also much cheaper. Air freight is about half the cost of air courier and sea freight is about 10% the cost of air courier.

Sea freight is always quoted by volume whereas air shipments are quoted by weight, but a good rule of thumb is that sea freight works out to less than $1 per kg.

Shipment Terms

In international trade, there is something referred to as Incoterms. Popular incoterms include FOB and EXW.

With FOB shipping terms, your supplier will pay for all the costs (including overland transportation in China) to get your shipment to the port and export fees. With EXW, you will pay for all of this. There is no difference in complexity but EXW will always cost you more than FOB (normally $300-500+ more).

The easiest thing to do is to always ask your supplier to quote you FOB terms.

Customs, Tariffs, and the Magic $800 De Minimis Value

In America, orders under $800 do not have any duties applied to them. This is called the de minimis value. Orders above this amount will be charged applicable duties.

Under $800

  • No duties
  • No formal entry required
  • No customs bond
  • No customs broker needed

$800-$2500

  • Has duties
  • No formal entry required
  • No customs bond
  • No customs broker needed

$2500 +

  • Has duties
  • Requires formal entry
  • Has customs bond
  • Customs broker generally needed

For orders under $2500, you will not need what they call a formal entry to import the goods into the United States. This means your shipping company will clear customs for you but they may charge you a fee for this.

For orders above $2500, you will need to file a formal entry and get a customs broker. We recommend PCBUSA.com. Fees vary but normally are $100-300 depending on the order size.

Once your goods are shipped and have arrived in your country, they need to clear customs into your country. If you shipped via air courier (UPS, DHL, etc.) then the shipping company will do this for you and give you a bill for it. All other shipments need a customs broker.

Getting Your Goods from China to Amazon FBA

Shipping goods from China to Amazon is relatively straight forward. However, a few things you need to be aware of:

  • Ensure your products are labeled correctly, including UPCs/FNSKUs and Carton Labels
  • Ensure all duties are paid before being delivered to Amazon
  • Be aware of multiple warehouses

You must make sure your items are labeled correctly before being delivered to Amazon. Ask your supplier to do this for you.

Also, you must ensure all duties are paid before arriving at Amazon. If your order is below $800 this should not be an issue. If your order is above $800 then ensure your shipment is shipped DDP (Duty Delivered Paid).

Also, Amazon may request your products to be shipped to multiple warehouses. This can complicate shipping.

Conclusion

We are the best pillow manufacturer in China to help importers import from China to usa with the most competitive price, 40% of our clients are Amazon sellers. So if you want to imports from China start the Amazon store, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Do you have any questions about sourcing products, importing, or shipping your products? Feel free to comment below.

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