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8

#7 – Amazon Sourcing from China 2/4

Episode #7  is the 2nd of 3 episodes addressing Sourcing Products, i.e., finding suppliers and ordering and receiving products.

It is also part 5 of the 10-part “Amazing FBA Startup System” series of podcasts.

The steps in this episode are in part reiterating previous steps but in more detail. 

The first thing to do once you’ve found up to 20 suppliers is to create an email template, then copy and  paste and send it to each supplier (obviously changing the supplier contact name!). 

Try to do it in one -two work sessions if possible – it’s much more efficient. 

EMAIL TEMPLATE

Dear Supplier Name,

I am the Buying Manager for Mike’s Cookware Ltd. We sell Cookware products, mostly online on Amazon in the USA. Here is our company website www.mikescookware. com if you wish to find out more.

We are looking to add Silicone Spatulas to our product line and your product Model SS2 might be perfect for us. Please can you answer the following questions about your product?

  1. Can we private label (OEM?)

2. What is the cost of a sample?

3. How long does it take to receive samples?

4. Do you accept paypal for samples?

5. Do you accept paypal for orders?

6. Do you use DHL, Fedex or UPS for delivery?

7. If so, What is the cost DAP/door-to-door with DHL, Fedex or UPS to [Warehouse address] in USA for 200 pieces? for 500 pieces?

8. How many days between your receiving the deposit payment and you finishing manufacturing? [manufacturing lead time]

9. How many days between shipping product from your factory and receiving product in USA? [shipping time]

We have contacted several potential suppliers and will choose 3 suppliers to get samples  by X date [in about a week].

I would be grateful for your quick reply.

Thank you very much in advance for your help. 

Best wishes,

Michael Bloggs,

Buying Manager, Mike’s Cookware Ltd.,

Registered Company: 12345678

33 Any Road, Anytown, POSTCODE, United Kingdom

Tel: 0208 1234 567

  www.MikesCookware.com

 Email Language/Approach:

Do not come across as brand new to business! Use phrases like “we are looking to add this product line” and “our company”. Don’t say “I’m thinking of” nor “new to business” nor “new to Amazon”. 

Use simple language but don’t use slang. Keep sentences short (I struggle with this! Edit your message after you draft it). 

Format properly with Capitals, check spelling, neat layout (come across as professional – even if your supplier doesn’t do any of these things.) Remember that email is easier to read with plenty of white space compared to printed letters. 

Address supplier contact by name if you have one

Say you are the Buying Manager or Purchasing Agent or Procurement Agent for “Your Business” Ltd. Even if you don’t yet have a limited company, give your business a name.  

Ask  questions with numbering

Sign off with as many company/business credentials as possible, including registered company number (if you have registered a company yet), website address, dedicated tel. no. etc.

Size matters! It’s all about appearing bigger and more established than you are yet!

Setting up a receiving/inspection warehouse in the USA:

FBA Inspection – based near Los Angeles in California

Earth Class Mail (ECM) – based very near Portland, Oregon

International Payments for samples

Paypal – the simplest, quickest way of making international payments. It also gives you buyer protection. Not all suppliers will accept this because of the cost to them (ca. 4% of sum received) but it is worth offering to pay half of this cost or even all of it.

Otherwise, use your bank and do a “Wire Transfer”= T/T – Telegraphic Transfer. 

Yes, there is small potential for fraud but when dealing with a small amount like $30-80 USD, I wouldn’t worry about it – keep the process moving above all. You can’t control delays due to samples being manufactured or their freight, nor due to actual products being made or shipped, so don’t add any other delays!

Details on payments and fraud prevention for actual orders are here in Episode #8.

Designers/Photographers 

Until you have your sample, you can’t actually get photos done yet, but you can start the process of looking for and negotiating with a suitable photographer.

My Photographer: Brian Cottam of Brian Cottam Photography. He has done product photography for various UK companies that household names. Mid priced so not the cheapest, but the shots are of very high quality. High quality photos are seriously important for Amazon listings. He has an excellent eye and takes great care over the details.  Also fast and very friendly.

Equally, you can’t design packaging until you have decided on your supplier and got the packaging details from them.

However, you can a. choose a designer

b. get a professional logo made. This can immediately be used on your business’s website to give a more professional look.

Also, the logo will be ready to send to your supplier to print onto your product when you are at that stage.

Ask your designer to give you two forms of logo: one ready to screen print onto products and the other web-optimised. Also, ask for black on white and vice versa. If you’re using colour, you may want to also ask for black and white versions.

My Designer: Amanda Reid of Clear Moon Studios – UK based designer with a very good eye and very broad experience, including having lived in the USA She has done design work (using templates from  Chinese manufacturers)for me and several friends with Amazon businesses so she knows the routine. Very friendly and efficient.

She also does website design. I haven’t used her services for this yet but I’m planning to upgrade our company website soon and she will be my first port of call.

Other websites for design and photography

www.fiverr.com – probably the cheapest and easiest.

www.99designs.com – probably offers more choice and better end quality. You basically run a mini “Design competition”. A favourite of some internet business gurus like Tim Ferriss, so not to be sniffed at.

48hourslogo.com – specifically for logo creation, again, probably the cheapest and easiest.

Confession – I haven’t used any of the above for design or photography as I have my own trusted people. But I do know people who have had good results with all of the sites listed.

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4

#6 Amazon Sourcing from China 1/4

This Episode, #6, is the 1st of 3 parts dealing specifically with sourcing, i.e., finding suppliers, negotiating, getting samples, and getting product manufactured and sent to Amazon USA.

It is also part 4 of 10 of the “Amazing FBA Startup System” series.

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Resources mentioned

Supplier sites

Sourcing from Chinaalibaba.com. This is where nearly all  private labellers shop.

What filters to use on Suppliers on Alibaba:

Gold Supplier – Supplier pays $2500 odd to list on Alibaba.com. Not in itself a great safety check, but check how long supplier has been listed. The longer, the better.

Assessed Supplier – Which I called “Verified Supplier” in the Podcast. Here is Alibaba’s explanation. Basically, a 3rd party inspection company has been in to check their claims are true and that it looks like a legitimate business. Of course, this being China, we can’t be absolutely certain of the integrity the 3rd party, but it’s another level of check.

Onsite Check – on a laptop/desktop, this only seems to show in the sidebar on the Alibaba site. This means they physically check the factory, which is obviously a lot better than just checking the paperwork.

Certificates – again, in the sidebar. For certain products, you’ll need certification for the product. E.g. 1, silicone spatula touches food so it will need FDA (Food & Drug Administration) approval in USA.
E.g. 2, electric lamp as an electrical item will possibly need certification (More in episode #8  how to find out what certification is needed).

 


ALTERNATIVES TO ALIBABA.COM

HKTDC.com (Hong Kong Trade Development Corporation). These companies are more likely to be Hong Kong based, which has a stricter regulatory environment, a legacy of its days as part of the British Empire. You’ll find slightly higher prices, somewhat less choice but hopefully more consistent quality and business practices

Recommended by a friend of mine who is chief Procurement Officer for Europe for a huge company, so worth taking seriously if you’re concerned about supplier reliability/product quality/potential fraud. I found my supplier of my first product here.

To filter out riskier suppliers, use these filters:

Company Verified – (Checkbox just below the search bar)

All the major company information has been checked by Dun & Bradstreet, a very established (nearly 200 years old!) and respected auditing company based in the USA.   About as safe as it gets in China/Asia generally.

Certificates Verified (Checkbox just below the search bar)

Quality Compliance  (Checkbox just below the search bar for some searches) – a check that the supplier at least on paper has

Information on how to deal with Chinese Suppliers

China Importal – This company will try to sell you into a quick pricey service where they will find and assess suppliers for you. I don’t recommend that, but their blog (linked above) and their free email series are useful guides.

Proven China Sourcing (eBook) by Walter Hay & Jim Cockrum. This site is a sales page for “Proven China Sourcing”. It costs $97 USD. I bought it and I must say it is no B.S. precise information. But there is a lot to absorb and implement so I only recommend it if you are going to have time to do things thoroughly. If you try to implement everything in this eBook, and can only work it very part-time, you will possibly delay things by months – more or less the trap I fell into.

Glossary of Technical Terms

MOQ – Minimum Order Quantity – the lowest number of units that a supplier is prepared to produce in one order.

Pieces- this is simply the Chinese preferred word for “Units”, i.e., the number of “copies” of a given product line to be produced.  Abbreviated to “pcs”.

Private Label Product – A product produced by a manufacturer who will put your logo on the product and/or your design on the packaging. The same as “White Label Product”.

This is the essence of the business model that I use and that for example Amazing Selling Machine promotes. That’s because it is technically a “new” product so you can use a new UPC (product code) on Amazon and have a unique product so nobody else can compete for the “Buy Box” (more on this in future episodes). Also you are building your brand every time you sell a unit.

OEM –In normal usage with Chinese suppliers, it means the same as “Private Labelled”, ie with your own logo and/or packaging design.

In theory, OEM stands for “Original Equipment Manufacturer”. Also in theory, it refers to your own design being produced by a factory. Technically the alternative term for Private Labelling should be “ODM” but I’ve yet to find a Chinese supplier who uses that term.

FREIGHT INCOTERMS

Freight is dealt with in more detail in Episode #9, but I thought it worth putting this in here as you’ll need to understand what prices you’re being quoted during the phase of looking for suppliers and negotiating.

“Incoterms” are internationally agreed freight terms. Chinese Suppliers are familiar with some of these, although as ever, they tend to use them in their own way.

There are 11 incoterms, each with a unique 3-letter abbreviation. The most important thing each does is: to define precisely when the responsibility for the shipment passes from the Seller to the Buyer. You can further split that into Risks, Responsibility and Costs but I don’t believe you should overthink this at this stage of knowledge!

Here’s a chart showing the detail. The good news is that there are only 3 incoterms you’ll probably need to discuss or understand:

EXW – “Ex Works” – this is the price straight from the Factory Gates. I would never advise you buying on these terms because it means you would have to engage a Freight Forwarder to get the product through all the hoops (clear Chinese customs, get put on board plane, get freight plane over to USA, clear USA customs, etc. etc). But as it involves basically no Freight, it means you have a like-for-like comparison for price between different suppliers if you want to be extra thorough.

FOB – “Free on Board” – The Seller will pay for Land transport to the port, export customs, and loading on board the ship. This technically can only be used with Sea Freight but the Chinese use it all the time for sea or air freight.

This is a very common way of quoting price but I still think this leaves way too much for you to organise (international freight, clearing US customs, unloading in US Port,  organising freight within the USA to your warehouse etc.)

DAP – “Delivered At Place” – sometimes (incorrectly) called “DDU” – Delivered Duty Unpaid (I am guilty of using this term too, possibly influenced by one of my suppliers!).

This means the supplier undertakes to do everything necessary to deliver your products from their factory door directly to your warehouse, EXCEPT for clearing U.S. customs and paying U.S. import duty.

This is the method I have used so far with both of my current suppliers and all my imports (6 to date). I like it because it takes care of most of the issues, but it still can leave you holding the baby with the U.S. customs.

If you use this method, you will almost certainly get a better freight rate than if you asked for it yourself. That’s because your supplier ships probably 100X more volume per month than you are importing. However, you can check this by opening an account yourself with DHL or whoever they use for freight, and getting a quote for air freight to your warehouse address.

DHL/Fedex or UPS only, folks!

It’s really important if you use this method to only work with a supplier who will work with one of the standard courier companies: DHL, Fedex or UPS. That’s because of customs clearance in the USA. If you set up your own (company’s) account with DHL, they can pay for duty and customs charges upfront and will invoice you or charge you directly for it. This means you don’t need a customs broker to clear U.S. customs.

If you allow your supplier to use any courier company that uses a normal airline, you will  need to use a customs broker, meaning more costs and more complications for you. SPELL OUT to them that they are not to do this! Guess how I learnt about this!

DDP- “Delivered Duty Paid” – This is the De luxe and simplest of all Freight terms – your supplier will pay for and be responsible for everything from their factory gates up to your warehouse gates. I haven’t yet found a supplier who is willing to supply on this basis, but if you can find one, I totally recommend this unless the price is outrageous. It means that you effectively don’t have to think about the Freight part of your supply chain and avoid any potential complications with the U.S. Customs.

Checking Customs quotes

To check the price is reasonable,  get a  quote, then go and check all the customs costs. Even if it ends up being somewhat more, I’d still be inclined to take it, just to simplify my first purchase.

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INSPECTION IN CHINA

Again we get into this more in Episode #8, but it is important to try your best to get independent (3rd party) inspection and testing of your goods in China before they get shipped if you possibly can.

Since one of the keys to quality inspection is the integrity of the inspection person or company, it’s by far the best to get a recommendation via trusted friends or colleagues. This is when being a member of a community of fellow Amazon Sellers is most useful. Also look among your friends with corporate jobs – you may well find someone who deals with international buying, in which case, they’re very likely to deal with China frequently, since China exports pretty much every type of product in huge quantities. If you’re using a freight forwarder or Customs Broker (about which more in Episode #8), ask them if they have such contacts – that’s how I first found my first inspector in China.

However, if you don’t yet have such contacts , Alibaba.com has now started offering a service to find you a quality inspection company – click here to use this service.

I have yet to use these but am considering doing so for a new shipment. I’ll keep you posted as to how it works.

I’ve paid about $80 a day to an individual.

Bearing in mind that a day was enough to inspect and test 80/500 units and thus pass Quality Control for 500 units, that’s a cost of  16 cents or 10 pence per unit for QC – totally and utterly worth it for a crucial part of the supply chain.

The only company I’ve foundvia Alibaba.com  potentially suitable for my next shipment (that covers my type of product and in the right location) , charges $198 USD a day for full inspection.

You’ll need to have your chosen supplier’s  factory location to find inspectors of course – at least, the City and Province.

If you don’t have products tested in China, then at the very least get them tested in the USA when they land. You will pay a lot more for it and it gives you less control over your supplier. But at least it minimises the number of defective units going to Amazon.

That is the absolute must in this business to prevent a. Your account with Amazon being put into bad standing (remember, they want under 1% defect rate), b. lots of 1-2 star reviews and reputation damage.

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Amazing FBA”.

This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right on your iDevice.

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For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.

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