April 7, 2017 by Andrew Minalto - 0 Comments

Fire Safety Regulations When Importing Fabrics, 
Furniture and Other Products from China!

Hello & Welcome!

It’s Friday today and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for this week’s Reader’s Question post!

Today I’ll be answering an email sent in to me by Steven, who is looking to start an importing business, but needs some help. And that’s exactly what I’m here for – so let’s get to it!

Hi Andrew,

I don’t want to bother you with a lengthy email as I’m sure you’re incredibly busy but I wanted to ask just one question about something that I just cannot find the answer to…

I’m starting to import homeware goods like throws, rugs, furniture etc. and I’m concerned with laws governing the import of fabrics. I’ve heard there are laws stating textile goods have to comply with standards i.e. fire retardant materials etc. but I’m struggling to find any info on it and don’t want to get the goods to customs and be told I can’t have them or be told that I’m not able to sell them on my site. Have you had any experience in this kind of work Andrew and can you shed any light?

I also wanted to say a quick thank you for all of your business related help, out of all of the blogs, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels out there, I find your content has explained queries the most clearly and to the point. Coming from a haulage background into this world has seemed daunting for me if I’m honest but I’m gonna give it my best shot!

If you get a moment to reply to my email, that would be brilliant!

Thanks again mate!

Thanks for your email & question Steven. And thank you for your kind words – I obviously put a lot of time and effort into this blog but it’s all worth it if I can help people achieve their dreams and create their own online business, so I’m very happy to hear that it’s been helping you.

Moving on to your question and yes – you’re 100% right, there are laws in place regarding the fire safety of furniture and related goods that you, as an importer and seller of such goods, have to comply with.

Specifically, it is The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 that you have to comply with.

These Regulations are UK Law “designed to ensure that upholstery components and composites used for furniture supplied in the UK meet specified resistance levels and are suitably labelled” and they’re enforced by the Trading Standards Department.

These regulations were created because the number of fire-related deaths in the home had increased to more than 700 a year in the 1980s and it’s estimated to have saved nearly a thousand lives so please take this seriously! Failure to comply with these regulations is an offence under UK Law and pleading ignorance “is not accepted as a defence.” (more…)

March 29, 2017 by Andrew Minalto - 69 Comments

How to Use Alibaba Trade Assurance to Protect Yourself from Scams!

Hello and welcome back!

Today’s post is all about Alibaba Trade Assurance – a service from Alibaba that offers “full payment protection for your online orders”.

So without any further ado, let’s get to it!

First things first – what is Alibaba Trade Assurance?

Well it’s a service run by Alibaba that’s “designed to help create trust between buyers and suppliers.” Trade Assurance covers eligible orders on Alibaba.com with full payment protection if either:

  • The quality of your products do not conform to the agreed standards;


  • The supplier fails to ship your products on the agreed shipment date.

Sounds good, right? But, how much does Alibaba Trade Assurance cost to use?

It’s 100% FREE – and by free, I actually mean free – for both buyers and sellers, so it doesn’t add any cost to your order at all even though it’s basically an insurance in case anything goes wrong.

However, Trade Assurance doesn’t cover all orders on Alibaba – as it’s only eligible for suppliers who have signed up to the service and promise to abide by the Trade Assurance rules.

You can easily see which suppliers/products are covered by Trade Assurance by looking out for the Trade Assurance logo when searching for products and suppliers on Alibaba.

In this example search (and no, I don’t suggest you actually start selling iPhone cases!) you can see that while the first listing isn’t covered by Trade Assurance, the second one is:

When you hover over the Trade Assurance logo, you’ll be able to see another very important piece of information – the coverage amount for that supplier:

This is also known as the supplier’s Trade Assurance limit and this amount is set by Alibaba, not the supplier! It’s based on the supplier’s qualification status and also their historical sales volume, so the higher this amount the better really. (more…)

February 8, 2017 by Andrew Minalto - 4 Comments

Importing, Exporting, TT, WU, MOQ, FCL, LCL ALL EXPLAINED!

Welcome Back!

Last week we covered General Business terminology and today it’s time for Importing & Shipping!

If you’re new to my blog, this is a 4 part post series in which I’ll cover the most important terms used in the online business world. Each week I cover a specific topic – last week it was General Business terminology, today it’s Importing & Shipping and in up-coming weeks I will also cover eBay & Amazon, as well as eCommerce.

Without further ado – let’s get started!

Importing – when you buy goods and ship them from another country. Quite often we don’t the use word Importing when buying goods from another European Union country because when you buy from another EU country, there is no customs procedure and we don’t have to pay VAT/import duty. But in general, when you buy from a supplier located in another country, this is called Importing.

Exporting – when you sell goods and ship them to another country. Just like with Importing, when you sell to another EU country, we usually don’t use the word Exporting as there will be no customs procedure in place due to the Free Goods Movement Act all EU countries have accepted.

Shipping – simply means sending goods from one place to another. There are various shipping methods available which we’ll cover later on in this post.

Stock – term used to describe products/items for sale.

B2B – Business to Business. This term is used to describe a transaction between two businesses. Many suppliers will state on their websites that they deal with B2B customers ONLY. This means that they won’t sell directly to end customers, in quantities of just 1 unit.

B2C – Business to Consumer. When a company sells directly to Consumers. Basically any business selling online to retail customers follows a B2C business model. This term is not as widely used as B2B as if it’s a normal online store, it’s obvious that it’s B2C. However, B2B businesses on the other hand are usually clearly “labelled” so that consumers who are looking to buy just 1 item know that this is not the place to look.

MOQ – Minimum Order Quantity. This is a very important term you use when communicating with suppliers. It states how many units you need to buy from a supplier to even get a deal. Sometimes you can negotiate MOQs, as covered in my post here.

There can be product MOQs as well as order MOQs. Product MOQ means how many units of that particular product you need to buy and order MOQ means the total order quantity you need to reach to be able to buy goods from that supplier. (more…)

February 3, 2017 by Andrew Minalto - 22 Comments

Importing Cosmetics from China is NOT as Easy As It Seems!

Welcome back!

I recently received an email from a blog reader, Arron, who’s looking to invest his £5,000 starting budget into creating a new brand of male cosmetics.

Is that a feasible budget or do you need more money? Or is the cosmetics niche simply too difficult, with too many rules and regulations?

That’s what we’re going to find out in today’s post!

To start, he’s the email I received:

Hi Andrew,

I have become interested in creating a brand around male cosmetics and wanted a bit of advice.

I am looking at importing products from China however, I am aware that the UK/EU have a number of requirements/restrictions in place.

Have you ever worked within the sector before? Do you have any advice on best practice i.e. ensuring the supplier has all the certificates, and that they’re real!

As my buying power is rather small. £5,000 should I look at something “less risky”?


Hi Arron,

In terms of legal requirements and responsibilities, you’ve chosen one of the hardest niches possible – cosmetics.

Anyone selling cosmetic products in the UK has to comply with EU wide safety regulations – this includes manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, and retailers (whether you’re a large limited company or a small sole trader). However, if you yourself manufacture the product or you’re the first person to import them from outside the EU, then you’re deemed to be a responsible person under UK law and greater requirements and responsibilities apply to you.

The EU Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 of the European Parliament is enforced in the UK by the Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulations 2013 which came into force in July 2013.

The main legal requirements as set out by the Regulations, are that:

  • It is a criminal offence to supply cosmetic products that may cause damage to human health when applied under normal or under reasonably foreseeable means of use.
  • The use of certain substances in cosmetic products is prohibited.
  • The use of certain substances in cosmetic products is restricted.
  • Cosmetic products must comply with detailed labelling requirements.
  • Certain information and records must be maintained by the “responsible person” and available for inspection.

But before we go into these rules in more detail, I want to quickly cover what qualifies as a cosmetic product, as that’s obviously very important. And there is a specific definition as set out by the EC Regulation, so you can’t just say it’s not a cosmetic product and by-pass all the requirements! (more…)

August 11, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 3 Comments

Product Sourcing on Alibaba.com – Buying Requests vs Searching Manually?


A little while ago I took a look at one of Alibaba’s new tools – the AliSource Tool. You can check out my full review of that here: Alibaba’s AliSource Tool – Does it Work?, but basically it’s a tool that allows you to automatically post a buying request for any item you find on Alibaba, AliExpress, Amazon, or eBay.

And in my review I spoke a little bit about how I personally don’t use buying requests and instead prefer to search for suppliers for a product manually.

There are a number of reasons for this, such as:

  • It allows me to apply my filters when looking at potential suppliers;
  • I can do some preliminary supplier verification;
  • I can ask specific questions;
  • Quality over quantity – this is really the main reason! I prefer to select and talk to a view different companies so I can get a proper feel for them, makes notes etc. rather than just being contacted by countless companies that I know nothing about.

BUT, this is all personal preference, it’s how I prefer to source products and find suppliers but for some people the ease of posting a buying request may be more beneficial.

So today I want to do a little test – I’m going to put buying requests up against manual searching and see which comes out on top!

How this works is very simple:

  1. I’ll select a product.
  2. I’ll post a buying request for that product using the AliSource Tool.
  3. I’ll manually search on Alibaba.com for suppliers myself (but in order to simplify the process, the only filter I’m going to apply is that they have to be a Gold supplier).
  4. I’ll compare the results (pricing and MOQ), in order to see if there is any real difference between the two sourcing techniques or if it really is just a matter of personal preference.

Alright, it’s time to get to it then!

Just as a reminder, I select products on a fairly random basis for these tests, it’s not based on profitability or anything like that!

Product No.1

Okay, for our first product I’ve chosen a 2L waterproof bag which I came across on AliExpress:


While on the product page, I simply click the AliSource Tool bookmark button and this buying request opens and the information is automatically pre-filled for me: (more…)

July 20, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 67 Comments

Shipment Arrived WITHOUT Customs Clearance! What to do?!


I regularly receive emails & blog comments from people who have imported something from China – shipments that should have been declared through customs so that import duty and VAT are paid – but they arrive without any such charges.

This usually happens because Chinese suppliers UNDER-DECLARE the value of the goods sent to you. E.g. you bought something for £200 but the supplier marks the package as a GIFT and puts $20 as the value, which by law means there are no taxes to be paid.

For personal use this doesn’t create much problems BUT if you’re a business owner or sole trader, this is a big issue as you can’t properly book the transaction as you haven’t paid any taxes. And even if you do, if you get an audit from HMRC they will quickly find out that you haven’t paid taxes on these purchases which could lead to penalties.

If your goods are delivered via sea freight or air freight, then there usually won’t be any problems as the shipping company will by default process your shipment through customs.

Problems usually occur with courier companies and Royal Mail (airmail deliveries).

First, I will give some advice on what to do to PREVENT situations like these from happening:

1) Always, always ask your supplier to attach the REAL invoice with the REAL value listed on the outside of the package and to fill in any attached customs forms properly. In many cases this will help but it’s still quite common for Chinese suppliers to under-declare your shipment, even if you’ve asked them not to.

2) If your goods are being sent via courier (DHL, FedEx, UPS etc.) then once it’s been dispatched and you have the tracking information to hand, you should call the courier and inform them that this shipment requires customs clearance. They’ll usually give you the contact details for their customs department, who you can send the invoice and proof of payment to. This way, once the shipment arrives in the UK they’re already prepared and ready to do the proper customs clearance.

Now, let’s cover situations when you receive your goods without paying any taxes: (more…)

June 29, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 0 Comments

Alibaba’s AliSource Tool – Does it WORK?


I recently came across a new development by Alibaba – called the AliSource Tool, which is basically a toolbar install that allows you to source products from across the web in one simple click!

But what exactly do they mean by “source products”? Well really to submit a buying request for that product on Alibaba itself, which then allows suppliers to contact you with quotations.

Now, long time blog readers will know that I’m not actually a huge fan of submitting buying requests on Alibaba! Of course the premise behind it is that it’s amazingly fast and will save you a lot of time, however I still prefer to contact suppliers one by one.

As that way I specifically choose which companies I talk to (I can apply all my filters and also do some preliminary supplier verification at that point), whereas when you submit buying requests, the companies are contacting you.

Also, my final reason is that I feel a lot of not so serious buyers submit buying requests and the suppliers probably know this – meaning the calibre of companies is maybe not quite up to par.

However, this is all a personal preference and many people do use buying requests with great success.

And using it in conjunction with the AliSource Tool provides a big benefit – it allows people to source products that they can’t necessarily find on Alibaba itself!

Say I’m browsing Amazon or eBay or even AliExpress and see a product I’m interested in; so I head to Alibaba and search for it as best I can, using the information/title of the listing I found. (more…)

June 14, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 21 Comments

Courier VS Air Freight VS Sea Freight!


Shipping from China – it’s one of the topics that I receive the most questions about, which is really not surprising – after all how do you know what shipping terms to use (EXW, FOB, CNF etc.) or what shipping method (courier, air freight, sea freight) or even which company to go with!

It’s not an exaggeration to say that shipping from China can be very daunting and it’s enough by itself to put off a would-be importer.

However as always I am here to help and I’ve answered most of these shipping questions already in dedicated posts on this blog, which you can find here: How to Import Products From China & CNF, CIF and FOB Explained.

So what is today’s post all about? Well I decided to put together a real life example order and then approach a few different companies for shipping quotes – that way we can put my advice to the test and see what the results are for real!

Without any further ado, let’s get to it!

“The Order”

For this test I created an actual order of 50 pieces of a particular product, packaged into cartons of 5 pieces, with each carton weighing 18 kgs and having a total volume of 0.1 m3.

That meant for our order of 50 pcs that we have a total weight of 180 kilos and a total volume of 1 m3 – which is a fairly standard mid-sized order. I didn’t want to make it so small that courier is the only option but I also didn’t want to make it a full container load as then that would give an unfair advantage to the freight forwarders. Overall I think this order size is a good balance between the two.

And now for the results: (more…)

May 6, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 14 Comments

How to Reduce the Minimum Order Quantity on Alibaba by 50% and MORE!


As we all know, Alibaba.com is a B2B marketplace which invariably means high Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs). So what if your budget is strictly limited but you still want to deal with suppliers on Alibaba – what’s the best way to negotiate LOWER MOQs when dealing with large companies on Alibaba?

This is exactly what Russell asked about in his email:

Hi Andrew,

Firstly I want to say thank you for this wonderful resource you’ve created. I’ve always been interested in creating an eBay business and thanks to your blog finally took action earlier this year buying and selling used items on eBay.

I’ve done pretty well from this and have built up a decent fund to buy goods in wholesale, which is what I’m really interested in. But I don’t think my starting budget is quite good enough to buy from China, judging by some of the MOQs I’ve come across in my searches on Alibaba.

Forgive me if this is a stupid question but is there any way I can bypass these minimum order quantities?? Of course I can continue flipping used goods if need be, but I am really keen to get started with a proper business now that I have some decent eBay experience.

I look forward to hearing from you.


First off, you have to understand that not all companies listed on Alibaba are equal. In general, there are two large groups of suppliers:

  • Manufacturers
  • Trading companies

Manufacturers – self-explanatory really – these companies manufacture the products in-house and will usually have very high minimum order quantities. And for a good reason, as manufacturers on Alibaba will very rarely hold any stock – they manufacture it for each order.

Many customers want to put their logo (OEM) on products and the packaging so it makes no sense for manufacturers to hold stock. Each batch of products is made to order and they obviously won’t “run” the factory, arrange assembly lines etc., to make just 10 products. Keep this in mind when you negotiate with true manufacturers as there will be a minimum order level that they simply won’t go beyond. (more…)

March 9, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 0 Comments

REVERSE Sourcing – From Product TO Supplier!

reverse-product-sourcingOne thing that I’ve covered in great detail on this blog is how to find good suppliers for the niche you want to sell in, but what if you want to find the supplier/manufacturer of a very specific product?

The idea for this blog post actually came to me from a question that was sent in by one of my EAB customers, who had found a terrific product for sale at a local market and wanted to source it to sell on eBay.

After a few minutes of searching he had found the “same” product and then purchased a sample order. But when it arrived it was nothing like the original product he’d found – the finish was significantly worse, the colouring was slightly off, and even the materials used were of a lower quality… clearly the two seemingly identical products weren’t manufactured by the same company/factory.

So the subject of today’s post is – how to find the exact supplier of a particular product that someone else is selling?

This could be an item you’ve seen on:

  • eBay
  • Amazon
  • In a local B&M
  • At a market
  • Etc.

Well the first thing I’d suggest is GOOGLE! But you really need to do some extensive searching, using a variety of search combinations. Here’s a good starting list for you to use:

  • manufacturer + product
  • manufacturer + brand name of product
  • supplier + product
  • supplier + brand name of product
  • wholesale + product
  • wholesale + brand name of product
  • Alibaba + product
  • Alibaba + brand name of product
  • bulk + product
  • bulk + brand name of product
  • And so on…

Although I usually find Google’s search algorithm to be more reliable, you should also replicate your searches directly on Alibaba, Global Sources, Made-in-China etc.

If you’re lucky, you’ll come across the supplier in this first step. BUT there is one crucial step after that – confirming it is the correct supplier (which is what my EAB customer didn’t do). But more on that a bit later. (more…)