July 20, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 31 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 - 19 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…)