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Don't buy from China if you fit this description

by Mike Bellamy

Buying direct from China is not for everybody. This Q&A helps manage expectations.

If you fit the description of this buyer, you shouldn’t buy in China now!

Portia in South Africa writes in with the following question:

Hi Mike,

I am new in to buying goods/importing from China. I would like to visit China in May for a view of products that I will like to sell and buy some items just to test the market. I would also like to buy stock of some initial products and carry them back with me. Which city or town has the most popular commercial industrial place in China? My product interest at the moment are electronics such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc.

Initial Response:

To help me answer your questions, please give me some feedback on the following:

  1. Chinese brand, your brand or famous international brand? Famous international brand
  2. How many units for the test order and for full order in future? 50 for now and 200 in future
  3. Do you need a warranty? Yes
  4. Where are you based and what is the destination market of the goods? Based in South Africa and destination is also South Africa

Formal Feedback:

Based on your case, I would not advise you buy from China at this time for the following reasons:

At that volume, you are buying an international brand at the retail level in China. The price for these products at retail level will be lower in places like HK or USA than in China.

You would also have problems with warranty issues because how are you going to enforce a claim with a small retailer in China when you are based in Africa? (it’s possible, but the cost of enforcing the contract will eat into your margins because the volume is so small.)

Even if the order is small, you still need to do the QC. That will add costs.

Here are some links to give more details.

Genuine products from China?

Beware of Brand Name Scam from China

Purchasing Brand Name Electronics

I Want Famous Brand Products Under My Name

Blacklisted Supplier #4. Involving Apple and other famous brand products

I wish I could tell you better news, but it’s important that you manage your expectations. If you need some more proof of what goes wrong in these cases, please check out www.SupplierBlacklist.com.  Additionally, this video series may be of interest: Small Order Strategies Part 1 of 5

Feedback from Portia

Thanks a lot Mike for the in-depth information, it really helped me avoid some major pitfalls and financial loss. I’ll buy from a China importer here in S. Africa for the time being and when I have the scale and budget, I will go China direct in future.

Wishing you successful China sourcing!


Question answered by Mike Bellamy, an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center. Mike is also the author of "The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing" and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions.

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