Buying from Wholesalers in China: 5 Things Importers Must Know

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Buying customized goods from manufacturers can be a hassle. It takes months to even get a sample, and you need to buy hundreds of units per product design, or even color.

Long lead times and high MOQs are a major barrier of entry for cash strapped startups, looking to import from China.

So why not just skip the factory and go to a Wholesaler instead? For starters, there no MOQ to worry about. Pick and mix whatever products you want. And you don’t even need to wait for six months to see them.

It sounds fantastic.

But things are not always what they seem. In fact, buying Wholesale goods from China may not even be an option for your business. If you are based in the US or Europe – you can be quite sure that it’s not.

Keep reading, and learn whether or not ‘buying Wholesale from China’ is on the table for your business.

1. Looking for a Wholesaler? Go to Yiwu.

Wholesalers can be found all over China. However, if you are looking for one geared towards export markets, there is only one place to go – Yiwu.

Yiwu is an old trading city, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. The city is home to thousands of big and small trading companies and wholesalers.

As it is established as a cluster for export oriented wholesalers, you will find that the ‘infrastructure’ is far more developed, when it comes to finding local agents, quality control companies and export agencies – all of which are needed to buy, inspect and ship products from the wholesaler, to your warehouse.

But, if you keep reading, you will find out why ‘buying wholesale’ may not even be on the table.

China wholesale market

2. Wholesalers sometimes offer lower MOQs than manufacturers

There are a few reasons why buyers are interested in buying wholesale goods, rather than buying private label or customized products.

First, a wholesale product can be checked on site. It’s sort of like driving down to your Wal-Mart or IKEA. No need to vet suppliers, develop samples and pay a large deposit – before you even see the products.

In addition, wholesalers can offer lower Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs), as compared to manufacturers.

Many Wholesalers even allow their buyers to order just a few pieces, per product. Compared to a manufacturer MOQ of 300 to 500 pcs per product – or even color – buying Wholesale is simply more viable for small businesses.

Well, at least in theory.

3. Many wholesalers lack export licenses

I’ve explained why Wholesalers appeal to certain buyers. Now, I will explain why everything may not be as great as it seems.

First, many Wholesalers lack export licenses. As such, they cannot directly export, or even sell, their goods to foreign buyers.

The simple reason is that most traders are entirely aimed towards the domestic market in China. They simply don’t have any overseas customers, and have therefore never had the need to obtain an export license.

Luckily, there are (legal) ways to export goods, even without an export license – but many sellers may see it as too much of a hassle.

4. Wholesale products are not compliant with US, EU and other overseas product regulations

Products made for the domestic market in China, are not manufactured in compliance with overseas, for example EU and US, product regulations.

Depending on the product, these regulations may cover the following:

a. Chemical and heavy metal restrictions

b. Safety standards

c. Technical standards

China has its own set of product regulations, which do not necessarily correspond with those in other countries.

In most cases, they are very different.

Say that you want to import electronics sold on Taobao.com. Well, it will not be made in compliance with US or EU regulations.

The same thing goes for toys, kitchen utensils and many other ‘sensitive products’.

As such, buying Wholesale goods is simply not an option. At least not if you are based in a developed market, and intend to buy a product in any of the following categories:

  • Toys & Children’s Products
  • Electronics
  • Machinery
  • Kitchen utensils and other food contact materials
  • Watches and jewelry
huaqiangbei

Huaqiangbei in Shenzhen is the worlds largest electronics wholesale market

5. ‘Made for China’ products are not compliant with foreign labelling requirements

For example, apparel sold in the United States must be labeled with the textile fiber composition, include a set of ASTM care labels, and include a country of origin mark (i.e., Made in China).

And, it must be in English.

Apparel made for the domestic market in China, which is what you often find in wholesale markets, are not made to comply with foreign product labeling requirements.

And why should they?

Almost every product category is covered by some sort of labeling requirement. This is also true for many developing markets in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Just one more reason for why ‘wholesale’ may be a no go for your business.

6. You cannot brand or customize a ‘Wholesale product’

In a market that existed a long, long time ago, far, far away, you could actually get away with selling generic ‘no name’ goods from China, and actually make a decent profit.

Those days are over.

Today, the money is in branding your product. Just look at the Watch company Daniel Wellington, and other successful eCommerce companies, that seemingly came out of nowhere in the last few years.

They all have one thing in common. Branding.

At best, Wholesale goods can serve as complementary – but you will have a hard time building a sustainable business on it.

air cargo

Questions and Answers

Below I answer some common questions about buying from Wholesalers in China, and other countries in Asia.

What’s the difference between a Wholesaler and a Trading Company?

A Trading Company acts as an intermediary between the manufacturer, and the buyer. However, the Trading Company does not keep products in stock. Instead, they simply forward orders from buyers, and take a commission for doing so.

A Wholesaler keeps ready made products in their warehouse, that can be shipped the next day. Notice that many self proclaimed wholesalers are actually trading companies.

Where can we find Chinese wholesalers on the internet?

You can find wholesalers in the traditional export supplier directories, like Alibaba.com and Globalsources.com.

However, you will find a much larger selection on Chinese websites, such as Taobao.com.

Another option is to visit a trade fair in Hong Kong or Mainland China, such as the Canton fair.

Do Chinese wholesalers have export licenses?

Some wholesalers in China, especially in Yiwu and Shenzhen, are focused on exports rather than domestic sales. This group tend to either have their own export license, work with an export agent or use Alibaba OneTouch, to ship goods overseas.

That said, the vast majority of wholesale companies in China are exclusively focused on the domestic market. This applies to both Taobao stores, and traditional wholelsale stores.

Are there any wholesale markets outside of Yiwu?

Yes, there are wholesale markets all over China. Primarily in China’s largest cities, such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Is it possible to re-label ‘wholesale products’ to ensure that we comply with local labeling requirements?

Technically, it is possible to re-label an off-shelf product. However, few Wholesalers are interested in sending goods back to the factory for branding.

Even if they accept labeling, this comes with a higher MOQ, which defeats the purpose of even buying from a wholesaler to begin with.

Can we buy wholesale products at trade fairs in China?

No, trade fairs don’t serve as markets. Instead, they serve as a platform for suppliers to showcase products and capabilities for potential buyers.

At best, you will get to see product samples and catalogs. You will not be able to make purchases at the trade fair.

Is it necessary to do a quality control on wholesale products?

Yes. The risk of quality issues and defects is certainly not lower when buying ‘wholesale products’ from China, as compared to goods that are made according to the buyer’s specification.

Do we need to ensure compliance with safety standards when importing wholesale products?

Yes, wholesale products don’t get a free pass when it comes to product safety. The only difference is that the authorities may, at least in same cases, accept test reports and other compliance documents held by the supplier, rather than the Importer.

However, as mentioned, wholesale products are generally made for the Chinese market – not for export to the United States, Europe or Australia. As such, Chinese wholesalers rarely (if ever) have test reports or compliance documents valid overseas.

In practice, buying wholesale products is often not even an option for most Importers based in the US, EU or other developed markets.

Do you want to launch your own private label or custom designed product?

It can be hard to go from a design drawing to finished product. To help you manage the entire process – from creating a specification, to sampling and quality control – we created a Starter Package:

a. Private Label & OEM Product Manufacturer Lists

b. Product Specification Templates

c. Product Label Samples

d. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process

In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.

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    52 Responses to “Buying from Wholesalers in China: 5 Things Importers Must Know”

    1. Zuzana April 14, 2014 at 8:07 am #

      Hello,

      next month (May) I am going to Yiwu to find reliable suppliers for my new business. I am fairly new to importing from China and although I am trying to find as much information as possible and prepare myself for the visit, I still don’t feel very confident about it. Hiring an agent seems like a good option for the beginning. Could you please recommend me someone? Or where can I find one and be sure that the person is really reliable? What should I look for?

      Thank you very much, I love your site.

      Zuzana

      • Fredrik Grönkvist April 14, 2014 at 10:25 am #

        Zuzana,

        Before I can offer any advice I need to know which products you plan to import, and to which country. These two factors have a major impact on the potential risk.

        • Steven September 15, 2016 at 8:15 pm #

          Hi, I can you email me please I need some advice on the toys that I’m importing from China to uk.
          Regards
          Steven

          • ChinaImportal September 19, 2016 at 3:41 am #

            Hi Steven,

            Please use the contact form to get in touch with us

        • Mathew November 16, 2017 at 9:11 pm #

          I want to import human hair weavons,with my own branded name on it,or become a major distributor to any manufacturing company that produces hair

    2. Noah July 10, 2014 at 8:18 am #

      Hello,

      I am importing Fragile Dinner sets, coffee cups from China. The factory recommended to me a freight company transport is by Air and they are charging USD.6.1 PER kg. Total weight for these products is 510KG.

      I did a background research other Air Freight company charged usd.9 per KG. I found another freight company and they are charging USD.4.5 Per KG.

      The third Freight company is much better in price but my problem is that I am not sure how reliable they are and if at all this company exists.

      Is there a place or know how one can check reliability of a freight company.

      I am importing to Nairobi, Kenya.

      Please advise.

      Kind Regards,
      Noah

      • Fredrik Grönkvist July 10, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

        Hello Noah,

        These prices are indeed very different. Honestly I have no clue about air freight costs specifically to Kenya. However, prices are based on Incoterms, so please verify which Incoterm the freigth cost is based on.

        No such database exist, as far as I am aware.

      • james November 19, 2014 at 6:32 am #

        Hi Noar,
        Am looking for dinner sets in Nairobi to start a business.

        Please contact me on 0724475346

    3. Boris August 1, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      How about bringing Chinese speakign person with you as a backup to ensure your agent and wholesaler don’t “conspire”?

      • Fredrik Grönkvist August 4, 2014 at 4:11 am #

        Hi Boris,

        Yes, that’s also what many importers do. However, what really matters is that you make the wholesaler understand that you intend to check up on the quality later on.

      • arafat March 9, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

        I agree with you.

    4. stephanie March 9, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

      Hi,
      I am new to the business world and plan on starting a business selling virgen remy hair. I would like to do business with a manufacturer in china but I dont know of any trusted ones. I do know there are many comapnies to scam people and I dont want to take a chance at spending alot of money thinking Im going to get the products I have brought but in reality I get scammed. I was looking into… Xuchang Vision Hair but still not too sure. Can you give any feed back for this issue?

    5. Joseph July 6, 2015 at 7:03 am #

      Hai,
      I am Joseph from India. I am looking for Pressure cooker(India model) in China. Next month end (August) I am going to Yiwu to find reliable suppliers to buy Pressure cooker. I am fairly new to importing from China and although I am trying to find as much information as possible and prepare myself for the visit, I still don’t feel very confident about it. Hiring an agent seems like a good option for the beginning. Could you please recommend me someone? Or where can I find one and be sure that the person is really reliable? What should I look for?

    6. Bokastier January 7, 2016 at 4:52 am #

      this all not true…

      • Fredrik Grönkvist January 7, 2016 at 5:27 am #

        Hi,

        Please develop further. We are interested in hearing your viewpoints.

    7. Lou January 15, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

      Hello
      I’m in France and looking for a wholesaler of women accessorizes and clothes.
      Someone can help me please ?
      Thanks
      Lou

    8. Joe Sandassie January 26, 2016 at 11:48 pm #

      I am planning to start importing power tools from China eg. circular saws, jack hammers, angle grinders, impact drills etc. Is it better to go to a manufacturer and what location can I go to find same.
      Thanks
      Joe

    9. Morris September 1, 2016 at 4:12 am #

      Clothing for men.. Im starting An online business, found many products that i love thus far on Alibaba but i need to know what i can trust as far as suppliers go.. Before i invest the money. And how often i can recieve shipments etc.. In your experience and professional opinion.. Should i import from China or another country.. I’m in America

      • Bianca September 26, 2017 at 10:58 pm #

        I’m wondering the same about men/woman clothing… ? I didn’t see a reply

    10. Rebecca November 1, 2016 at 3:26 am #

      Hello my name is Rebecca from Canada Ontario. I am looking to start a small business for wedding gowns and special occasions wear for men, children and ladies. I don’t have any information on how to go about importing from China and that’s why I am writing to you guys for some help and recommendations!!. Please help me out!

    11. Elizabeth November 21, 2016 at 6:39 am #

      Hello I don’t own a business but I want to buy 500 blankets for homeless people and to donate in animal shelters can I just buy it or do I need a permit a license or something can I get in trouble with customs if I just buy it or what do I need to do please help I really want to do this this year

    12. Nick Campos December 6, 2016 at 5:26 am #

      Hi, my Name is Nick I am from the US I’m a business owner providing services to elementary schools.
      One of the items I provide are Student Planners (agendas) , and stainless steel travel mugs! I really need help in trying to buy large quantities and import these items from China!
      If you could please help me and lead me in the right direction !

    13. bumper729 January 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

      Shopping in China market it is great until you meet the Artist or run out of Luck.
      You can get a product not as described, damaged in mail, fake product, and to get the money back, you have to return it on your expense before getting a refund or another one.
      But shipping back from USA to China it is very expensive for a private party, and at the end you will pay much more than if you buy it from ebay or amazon.
      While ebay and amazon provide a return label that means seller covers the return fees, the Aliexpress, gearbest, lightinthbox, dhgate say, “We do not provide a Return Label for returns”. Finally if you do not pay with a strong Credit Card, if something goes wrong, chances to get your item or a refund are “NONE”.
      Even if you are Using a Strong Credit card chances to get your item or a refund are slim or none because:
      Chinese sellers try to buy time, with empty promises, eluding you to pass 60 days for a credit card dispute.
      Even you open a credit card dispute in time, you the buyer have to stay in the driver’s seat. In one case a Chinese seller company charged my credit card pretending of selling me a product that they didn’t have and do not have today because they ran Out of Sock.
      8 days after I put my order I was getting the ORDER STATUS: “Processing (Your order ships soon. Thank you so much for your patience.).
      After I confronted them, and asked them for a specific and honest answer their reply was:
      “As there maybe delay between the real stock and website updates. I have checked with our warehouse it is back-ordered now.”
      They gave me two options: Wait indefinitely till the new supply arrives, or you get your amount as a credit.
      IN the fact “This was a “Timely Delivery Order” as a birthday Gift because I had chosen the Shipping method, with estimated shipping time 7 – 12 business days.
      I opened a dispute with my Visa Credit Card and requested a Full Refund in my Credit Card. They were so good to Fool and Trap my credit card bank, convincing them that the only option was to CANCEL MY ORDER. Now I had to fight my Credit Card to convince them that:
      First the seller took my money from my credit card pretending selling me an Item that they didn’t have then and do not have now.
      Second the order never was processed; there is no order and what they pretend it is a GHOST ORDER.
      Third for any cancellation, 24 hours after the order is processed, they refund only 50 % of the value.
      It took me a lot of efforts to convince my Credit Card Bank and force the seller for a refund. Creating a Folder, and preparing all the evidences by coping the sellers web site pages with Print Screen and pasting in Photoshop, and writing a total 10 pages document it took me some time. My time is money, and getting the refund it cost me 5 times more than the value of the merchandise that I never RECEIVED.

    14. Kris January 22, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

      Hello
      We need to import world known brand of supermarket
      Products from china.

    15. James February 25, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

      Hello I am in kenya looking to import tshits for campaigns any suggestions also wanted printing work.

    16. Phindile March 14, 2017 at 10:41 am #

      Hi , my name is phindile from South AFRICA Am looking to start a business selling coffee mugs and dinner set am looking for a trusted wholesale company that I can work with.

    17. Vero March 16, 2017 at 1:51 am #

      Hai I’m from malaysia, I am looking for a manufacturer for high end fashion and big plus size dresses . Can you help me find some manufactors or trusred website to get in contact with?

      Much appreciated

    18. Ali March 19, 2017 at 9:51 pm #

      Hi I plan on going to China in hopes of finding a clothing wholesaler, do you have any recommendations or advice I live in the US and plan on shipping back to the US if the quality of the wholesaler products are up too par?

    19. Esther April 17, 2017 at 7:38 am #

      Hello

      I want to import suits for men, shoes and shirts from China that are high class. Kindly get back to me as soon as possible for guidance. Will visit China in May.

      Esther

    20. Fredia Webster May 5, 2017 at 4:44 am #

      Hi,

      I am in the United States and I am looking for a wholesaler in China. Can you advise me where is the best wholesaler or trading company.

      Thank you,

    21. Sylvia July 20, 2017 at 12:27 am #

      Hello am looking for a plce to buy wholesale ladies underwear and men underwear and also shirt and polo lacost

      • ChinaImportal July 23, 2017 at 9:46 am #

        Hi Sylvia,

        You cannot buy authentic brand name goods from wholesalers in China.. Lacoste and other brands are more expensive in China than in the West

    22. Tsepang July 22, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

      Hi

      I am from South Africa and I am looking into opening up a business selling beauty products such as hair fiber as well as make up tools. Which manufacturer/wholesaler do you suggest I liaise with?

      Thank you
      Tsepang

    23. Tom Mogaka July 22, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

      Hi, I could like to buy electronics items more so smart phones from a reliable whole saler in China. I am a starter, how can you advise me? Do you have one in mind who can assist?
      Thanks
      Tom

    24. sepiso samalumo September 26, 2017 at 10:41 am #

      Please guide me, I wish to start a business of importing flat shoes. A reliable wholesaler with a minimum of 30 pairs. Costs for duty and all

    25. Renata October 8, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

      HI Noah

      I am going to the Canton Fair this April to find manufacturers of architectural cut stone, for window and door surrounds, fireplaces, floor tile, custom wrought iron and some miscellaneous home goods. I would like to locate a Agency that can assist me in locating the sources and help with quality control during the manufacturing process. I plan on buying a couple of containers. Can you recommend a agency?

      Thank You
      Renata

    26. Nancy November 6, 2017 at 3:49 am #

      There are a few lapses on buying wholesales items in the Chinese market so be sure to know wholesalers and if possible make them send samples of the products for checking purposes and positively create the business with quality. Else opt to a UK jewellery wholesaler and find the right stuff there. No worries! its items are of quality and sellable.

      • Fredrik Gronkvist November 12, 2017 at 11:54 am #

        Yes, it’s safer to buy from a UK wholesaler. However, the selection is more limited in general, and not as many customization options.

    27. nazy November 24, 2017 at 2:46 pm #

      hi I have started an online clothing boutique please can you give me a reliable wholesale supplier that delivers in 7-10 days in need of womans clothing, mens clothing shoes bags and kids clothing
      Thanks in advance

    28. Gabril November 29, 2017 at 10:54 am #

      Hello I am locking to open online shop whit phones accesories can you please recommend me a supplier which have really good quality products. Thanks

    29. Roger Sanchez January 9, 2018 at 6:00 am #

      Fredrik, im glad you touched on the compliance issues that you may face when importing from China. Many years ago I imported a container load of mobile phones only to find out they were not compliant with CE standards leading to a huge loss and a hard lesson learned.

      • Fredrik Gronkvist January 14, 2018 at 11:39 am #

        Hi Roger,

        Thanks for sharing your story! I hope we can prevent others from making the same mistake.

    30. Krish January 17, 2018 at 6:29 am #

      I need to find wholesale supplier market for clothing ,shoes , and bags which are A CLASS GRADE for less perice. At the moment im buying online. But most of them are vary bad in quality. And also the problem is now I imoprt to a china wearhouse and they ship by air cargo. They also do charge for that. Can you help me with finding A class grade supplier s and a better war of air cargo shipping company for a lower price. Im importanting to UAE.

    31. OfferAny February 25, 2018 at 1:20 pm #

      Please guide me, I wish to start a business of importing cell phone cables. A reliable wholesaler with a minimum of 3500 pieces. Costs for duty and all…

    32. Ronson Lazarus April 7, 2018 at 7:37 am #

      Hi…I’m planning to visit China for looking at starting with something related to school kids specifically for pre school. And my second option will be clothing for kids and women clothing which will be really good in quality and low on pricing so my ROI can be beneficial…

    33. ann July 3, 2018 at 9:44 pm #

      Hello…I am interested in starting a business in artificial flowers, saddles racks, Styrofoam, ribbon, easels, lanterns, Styrofoam vases, all small flowers to make wreaths…Other words selling here in the United States, floral supplies. Thanks on where to buy, and information on how to get started.

      • Ivan Malloci July 4, 2018 at 6:35 am #

        Hello Ann, I suggest you to have a look at our Starter Package: Apparel & Textiles, which also includes a list of manufacturers handpicked for your specific product: https://www.chinaimportal.com/accessories

    34. Poland apparel importers August 29, 2018 at 8:23 am #

      Buying the customized goods can become a difficulty as china is said to be biggest exporter so in buying the products at smaller quantity can be hassle free so instead of buying from the local markets can be beneficial for running the small business.

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