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Importing from Vietnamese suppliers has become a serious alternative to China. In recent months, we’ve seen a significant number of clients source products from Vietnamese suppliers.
So significant, in fact, that I am writing this post from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
In this article, I what I’ve learned through customers, and on the ground here in Vietnam, about finding qualified factories in Vietnam, what kind of products you can find and whether they offer lower prices.
In addition, I will also share what every importer should know about MOQ requirements, business visas, shipping options and trade shows in Vietnam.
How to find Vietnam suppliers online using Alibaba
There are multiple supplier directories in Vietnam. Yet, Alibaba.com is the largest online supplier directory for those looking for Vietnam based factories.
Alibaba.com has a dedicated section for Vietnamese suppliers, and they are becoming increasingly prominent when searching for many product types.
Alibaba.com allows users to filter suppliers based on country. Thus, you can decide to limit your sourcing to Vietnamese suppliers only.
Alibaba.com also verifies all Gold Suppliers, including those based in Vietnam. Thus, they provide one of the few reliable sources of supplier data in the country, including the following:
- Company name
- Registered address
- Legal form
- Registration No.
- Issuing Authority
- Date of issue
- Applicant name
- Applicant job title
Globalsources.com also have Vietnamese suppliers listed in their directory. However, the number of suppliers is far lower than on Alibaba.
Some of them also attend the Globalsources trade shows in Hong Kong.
Despite having relatively few suppliers from the country, Globalsources.com does actually provide more data on Vietnamese suppliers than anyone else does:
- Registered Address
- Incorporation date
- Legal form
- Registration No.
- Authorized Capital
- Paid-Up Capital
- Legal Representative
- Import & Export License Status
- Business Scope
The business scope, legal representative and registered capital (i.e., paid up capital) is very important to know, when selecting a supplier.
Then there are the local supplier directories. I have never used these myself, but they could perhaps be of interest:
I still feel that Vietnamese suppliers have some catching up to do when it comes to making themselves accessible online.
What kind of products can I import from Vietnam?
Vietnam’s manufacturing base is not as large as that of China. However, it’s possibly a strong second in the world, when it comes to OEM production.
If you are importing products in one of the following product categories, then Vietnam might be a good manufacturing destination:
- Home textiles
- Luggage & Bags
- Packaging & Printing
- Promotional Products & Gifts
- Food & Agricultural Products
- PVC Plastic
- HDPE & LDPE Plastic
- Wood Products
- Hair Extensions
There are also suppliers in many other categories, including watches, jewelry and accessories.
The high tech industries still have some way to go before they can match Guangdong province (which also has a long way to go before reaching the same level as advanced countries) – electronics is now one of the biggest exports of Vietnam.
So far, the bulk Vietnam’s technology exports, such as phone and tablet parts, are on behalf of multinationals.
However, as the supply chain develops, we will likely see more OEM electronics manufacturers in the coming years in Vietnam.
Are Vietnamese factories cheaper than Chinese suppliers?
Generally, Vietnamese manufacturers and wholesalers offer lower prices than their Chinese competitors.
Labor costs are lower in Vietnam. The average factory worker only earns around US$250 per month – while a worker in Guangdong province can expect to earn at least US$500 to 600.
That said, wages in Vietnam are rapidly catching up. Further, worker salaries don’t have such a huge impact on the product price as you might think.
In many cases, wages make up less than 20% of the final unit price, when material costs are factored in.
Also keep in mind that many of the materials and components, especially molded plastic parts and electrical components, are imported from China to Vietnam.
Yet, Vietnamese suppliers are consistently cheaper than those in China, and that assumes the quality is comparable.
There is some to gain, but you’re probably not looking at savings beyond 15 to 20%.
Are Vietnamese suppliers easier to work with?
So far, my impression is that Vietnamese suppliers are a bit more forthcoming and clear, compared to those in China.
That being said, it’s not night or day.
China and Vietnam share history, and many cultural traits.
But at least they seem to be less intentionally vague, which is a big plus. And, their English proficiency is beyond that of most sales reps in China.
Still, Vietnamese suppliers suffer from the same delays and issues. Don’t expect to get everything delivered on time.
And, you must always be overly clear in your communication, and provide a bill of materials and design drawings that your supplier can understand.
How to manage quality control and lab testing in Vietnam
Most quality inspection companies, including our partner Sofeast in Shenzhen, have offices in Vietnam.
Many agencies use subcontract quality inspections to Vietnamese subcontractors. Thus, the average quality inspection fee is slightly higher than what you might be used to.
Expect to pay around $400 to $500 per inspection, compared to $300 in Mainland China.
I think this will go down to the level in the coming year or so.
When it comes to lab testing, all the major compliance companies are present.
SGS, Bureau Veritas, Intertek and TUV have offices all over the country, including Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hanoi, Can Tho and Hai Phong.
You can also instruct your Vietnamese supplier to send samples to compliance testing labs in Hong Kong, Europe or the US.
Ordering small volumes and MOQ requirements
Vietnamese manufacturers and trading companies are, in my experience, more willing to accept smaller orders than those in China.
However, don’t expect an MOQ of 40 or 50 pcs.
At best, factories in Vietnam offer an MOQ at 250 to 300 pcs – while a Chinese supplier might require 500 to 1000 pcs.
Primary industrial cities and clusters
In Asian countries, it tends to be the southern parts that dominate economically. Vietnam is not exception, as Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the nation’s economic center.
Most manufacturers, wholesalers and trading companies are also located in the south. In fact, many are even based in the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.
There are also industrial areas in north. Especially in, and around, the capital Hanoi and the port city of Hai Phong.
Click on the map below to get a better understanding of the geography in Vietnam
Port facilities, sea freight and air freight
As mentioned, Vietnam’s economic center is in the southern parts, making up 70% of all exports. Saigon New Port is naturally the largest container terminal in the country.
That said, there are suppliers all over Vietnam, from north to south.
If you start importing goods from Vietnam, it’s likely that your cargo will pass through one of the following ports:
- Hai Phong Port (North)
- Da Nang (Central)
- Saigon New Port (South)
- Cai Mep International Terminal (South)
Most air freight cargo pass through Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, and Tan Son Nhat International Airport, in Ho Chi Minh City.
All major freight forwarders and air couriers, such as DHL and Fedex, are present in Vietnam.
Further, there is no difference in terms of shipping and customs process, compared to other countries.
Do I need a visa to visit suppliers in Vietnam?
Most nationalities don’t need a visa to enter Vietnam. And, if you do, you can get a 2 weeks visa on arrival. No need to go through the hassle with invitation letters and hotel bookings, before you even know if you’re granted a visa.
If you plan to visit suppliers on a regular basis, or stay in the country for several weeks or even months, you can also apply for a business visa.
Business visas can be issued in one of the main airports, in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, for 3, 6 or 12 months.
You will need an invitation letter to get a business visa, but it can be issued by your Vietnamese supplier, with relative ease.
This makes it a lot easier for importers to visit suppliers and check up on orders.
Trade Shows in Vietnam 2018
As mentioned, Vietnamese manufacturers and wholesalers are not as keen on using online supplier directories are their competitors in Mainland China.
If you’re serious about sourcing products in Vietnam, you might want to attend one of the following trade shows:
Textiles & Accessories
- Vietnam textile & garment expo
- Vietnam International Maternity, Baby & Kid Fair
- Vietnam International Jewelry Exhibition Fair
Furniture & Home
- VIFA Expo
- NEPCON Vietnam
- The Solar Show Vietnam
- Wire & Cable Vietnam
- Complast Vietnam
Vietnam has definitely arrived as a serious alternative to China, for sourcing products. Here, you will find a wide range of products, in everything from packaging and promotional products – to textiles and OEM electronics.
The production base is not as big as China, but it’s rapidly expanding.
In addition, the country is easier to access than Mainland China, as no visas are required. Or, at the very least, they can be obtained on arrival.
Last, but not least, Vietnamese suppliers tend to offer both lower prices and lower MOQs.
What’s not to like?
Well, China is still the only option for many product categories, and that will remain the case for many years to come.
Further, Vietnamese suppliers are not as easy to find online, as many still rely on trade shows to find overseas customers.
How we can help you import products from Vietnam
For us, everything started in Mainland China. But, it’s not where we will end.
Our Starter Package includes tutorial, task lists and document templates that you can use when importing products from Vietnam.
We can also assist you with sourcing qualified suppliers in Vietnam, book quality inspections and lab testing.