by Zhu Jing
Talk of sourcing suppliers or products in China usually brings to mind first and foremost Guangzhou and Shenzhen. And for importers who do not have a lot of experience trading in China, it is likely they have never even heard of the town of Yiwu, home to what has been dubbed the “world’s largest wholesale center” and our company.
A Google search about Yiwu yields few results. Among them is a BBC report called Yiwu: The Chinese City Where Christmas is Made and Sold, which provides some interesting facts about the city.
Some articles, on the other hand, are misleading because they provide inaccurate information. These articles were written by foreigners who know very little or nothing about Yiwu, concluding only that Yiwu products are of poor quality.
In this article, you will get correct information about Yiwu from several different aspects. If you want to learn about Yiwu, plan to visit the city for business or want to learn more about trading in China in general, then you will find this article quite practical.
1. The world’s largest wholesale market
The Yiwu International Trade Market is the largest wholesale market in the world, running 7km long and housing a wide array of products, including hardware and jewelry. More than 500,000 foreign buyers come to the Yiwu market every year for business, while the city is home to mover 14,000 expatriates from more than 100 different countries.
The Yiwu market has over 70,000 booths. Each booth focuses on a certain product, making the market more like a huge trade fair rather than a retail shopping mall. Unlike other fairs, though, the Yiwu market is open all-year round except during the Spring Festival.
2. Are all booths in the market operated by manufacturers?
Most booths in the market are owned by individual businesses. Others are owned bv trading companies sourcing from a lot of factories. If you do not want to buy in large quantities, you may get better pricing deals from such trading companies rather than buying from a factory.
Some booths are owned by factories based in Yiwu and nearby cities, while some are located in Fujian, Guangdong or other provinces. These plants have between 10 and 1,000 employees.
If you are a first-time Yiwu visitor or do not have much importing information and experience, distinguishing if a supplier is an individual business, small workshop or large factory will be challenging. Most booths will claim to be manufacturers but do not trust them.
3. What will you find in the Yiwu market?
Many say that one can find practically anything he needs in the Yiwu market. This, however, is not true. Small daily-use products such as toys and Christmas decorations are most common in the market. Yiwu is not the smart choice if you want to source fashion textiles, foodstuff and machinery. These can be sourced from Guangzhou or other Chinese cities with relevant industrial clusters.
4. Are Yiwu products really of poor quality?
Some articles on the Internet claim Yiwu products are of poor quality and therefore cannot be exported to the US. This is not true because of the two reasons:
A. The term “Yiwu product” does not necessarily mean the product is actually made in Yiwu. As I wrote earlier, China has many industrial areas or clusters that specialize in a particular product. Many items in the Yiwu market are made in these hubs and then sent to Yiwu to be sold.
For example, there are suppliers of Christmas decorations, a Yiwu speciality, from Shenzhen and other areas in the market. Be warned. Some of these non-Yiwu suppliers might claim their products are made in the city or their products are better than those actually made in Yiwu.
B. The US is one of Yiwu’s top 3 importing countries and many high-quality products are shipped from China to the US every year. Yiwu also has some budget products targeted at developing countries, but it is simply not true to say that all Yiwu products are of poor quality.
5. Does the Yiwu market suit only small businesses?
Many articles say the Yiwu market is suitable only to small businesses, and Shenzhen and other major China cities are better for big orders.
But the truth is, you won’t find a market with an MOQ higher than that of Yiwu’s. For those who want import one item from $1,000 worth to two or three containers, Yiwu is the best place to source from. It is quite difficult to persuade a booth to sell one or two cartons of just one model as this is significantly lower than the MOQ.
Usually, a product needs a lead time. Some booths in the market, however, do have spot goods that can be purchased in small quantities. But there are two conditions you should consider before buying spot goods:
A. Spot goods cannot be changed. All colors, logos, styles and packaging are the same as the samples you see in the booth. If you want customized products, you have to buy in large quantities.
B. Spot good designs are not the latest, so they do not make ideal fashion products.
6. How does Yiwu differ from Ningbo, Shenzhen and Guangzhou?
Ningbo, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are all big coastal cities in China, and their ports give them an exporting advantage. This is the reason why most large international companies set up their procurement or branch office there. The cities also host various professional trading companies that offer a range of services.
In contrast, Yiwu does not have its own port, relying instead on the Ningbo port, which is 20km away.
Yiwu’s wholesale market, however, enables the city to gather an expansive product range in a single location. Ningbo does not have such a market and its only advantage is its port. Shenzhen has a market but only for electronic devices. Guangzhou is a popular center for jewelry, clothing and other related items but the manufacturing hubs are located in different areas within the city, making one-stop sourcing difficult. We can even say that it is only during the Canton Fair when China suppliers gather in one location.