June 3, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 82 Comments

How to DEAL with Alibaba suppliers?

contact-chinese-suppliersSo you have researched countless niches, searched through months of eBay data on Terapeak and filtered down your choices to a few potential products… and it’s now time to head to Alibaba and find some suppliers!

BUT, maybe you’re a new business, just starting out on eBay, and this is your first time importing?

You don’t have any experience dealing with wholesalers in the UK, never mind factories and suppliers in China… Plus this is your first order as a sole trader, so will suppliers even speak to you!? Do you meet their MOQs?

If any of these worries sound familiar to you, then you are not alone! I receive many emails every week from entrepreneurs just like this, who have done most of the hard work, but get stuck when it’s time to actually contact suppliers and put their order together!

And that’s what today’s article is all about.

I want to help you, by giving some tips on how to contact suppliers on Alibaba and how to properly present you and your business. More than that, I’ll also give you some templates that you can adapt and use yourself, to make this process as easy as possible.

But let me first start off by saying that really, there is nothing to be scared of. Suppliers in China are, generally speaking, much easier to deal with than wholesalers and distributors in the UK. As long as you are respectful, sound fairly serious (you don’t want to come across as a complete newbie/amateur!), and meet their requirements – then you have nothing to worry about.

It’s not like with some branded items here, where distributors will only deal with bricks and mortar sellers, who have been in business for decades – not at all! Chinese suppliers are generally very fair and keen for your business, as long as you present yourself well.

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

Initial Contact

The first stage when contacting new suppliers on Alibaba is of course the initial contact/message. I personally usually prefer to use Alibaba’s live chat for this, simply because it’s easier to speak to many suppliers quickly and you don’t have to wait for a reply.

When using Live Chat on Alibaba, try doing it early in the mornings (6AM-8AM, GMT) while it’s still business hours in China. This increases your chances of seeing most sales reps online. Of course, many companies on Alibaba have live support working 24/7, to cover Worldwide time zones but I have found that in early mornings there are higher chances of getting someone to talk to you.

Some of my students prefer to simply send an email to multiple suppliers, as that way you will receive replies back to your email and though it takes a bit longer, it is easier to keep track of everything.

(more…)

May 11, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 2 Comments

Behind scenes VIDEOS from Chinese FACTORIES!

chinese-factories-videosFollowing up on last week’s article on how to do proper, 3rd party inspection on suppliers in China, today I want to share with you 4 videos that cover in detail how Chinese factories work, how quality control works and many other aspects of business.

These videos are about 4 different electronic cigarette factories but they’re highly valuable no matter what products you sell as main principles will stay same in all factories based in China.

By watching these videos you’ll better understand and “read” your inspection reports, particularly quality control procedures, general manufacturing, packaging procedures.

Special THANKS goes to PBusardo & Dimitri for making these videos available to all of us!

Enjoy!

(more…)

May 5, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 76 Comments

Trip to China: £3000 vs Factory Inspection: £70

china-factory-inspectionSo you have found that perfect supplier in China, using Alibaba or any other sourcing platform, you’ve made sure the company isn’t a scam, and everything went through fine with your sample order…

But now it’s time for you to send your first real order.

Be it for £1k, £3k, £10k or more – there’s a worry inside you that stops you from making that payment. You simply fear getting scammed, especially if it’s your first importing deal or first time ordering from that particular supplier.

So what can you do? How do you keep your chances of getting scammed to an absolute minimum? I have already talked about safe payment methods on my blog, and that is one incredibly important aspect, but there’s also one more thing you can do to fully verify the supplier that you’re dealing with. And that is – doing a factory audit/inspection using a 3rd party inspection service.

How does it work? It’s a pretty straightforward process – you hire an inspector who goes to the supplier and does an independent review on the company in question. This means checking the company’s registration documents, bank account information, office, manufacturing, warehouse facilities and many more things!

In essence it’s almost like you’re visiting the supplier yourself, just without the huge costs associated with a trip to China! I have been using such inspections for many years now and they’re really valuable when assessing new suppliers to deal with as well as checking the product quality while still in the pre-shipment stage.

Today we’re going to cover how this all works in detail so that you can use this as a guide in the future, when conducting your own supplier inspections.

1. First things first – letting your supplier know about the up-coming inspection.

You don’t want to hire an inspector to visit a supplier you haven’t been in contact with! They may simply refuse entry or won’t cooperate at all.

Of course normally you will already be in communication with the supplier as you contacted them to get more info about products (prices, MOQs etc.) and placed a sample order. So they already know who you are.

When you’re ready to do the inspection, simply let your supplier know that you would like to check their company using a 3rd party inspection service. In most cases, genuine suppliers won’t have any problems with this and accept it as standard procedure.

If your supplier refuses an inspection for any weird reason, for me personally, that would ring alarm bells and it usually means something is wrong. Either they’re not what they say they are or they’re hiding something from you… whatever the reason – if this scenario occurs, I would seriously reconsider using that supplier for a full order. The only valid excuse to not do an inspection would be if they’re on holiday or attending a trade show; any other stories I simply wouldn’t believe. (more…)

February 23, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 18 Comments

How to Import & Sell BATTERIES on eBay!

batteries-on-ebayAs many of you will already know, in 2013 new regulations were introduced to control international air shipments of batteries and as of January 2015, these regulations were tightened by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and some further rules were brought into place under the Dangerous Goods Regulations.

And these rules aren’t just applicable to stand-alone batteries, but also to the lithium ion batteries commonly used in mobile phones, cameras, computers and other such electronics.

So if you deal with these products or have any plans to deal with these products, you need to be aware of all the rules and regulations in regards to shipping these batteries, both internationally and domestically.

Why Are These Regulations Even Being Introduced?

Firstly I want to very quickly go over why these rules are being brought into place at all and the reason for it is actually very simple – though most people are unaware of the fact, lithium ion batteries are actually very dangerous and are prone to shorting, overheating and catching fire.

Therefore, it is incredibly important that they are sealed and transported in the correct way.

I won’t go into all the explanations and reasoning behind this, as it’s not really necessary for us to understand/know about that, but of course if you are interested in reading more about this, there are countless news stories that you can find online that delve into it further.

But for our purposes, let’s see how these rules and regulations affect the import of batteries.

Importing Batteries Into the UK

Importing batteries from China to the UK is very difficult (and expensive) with all the new regulations in place. Depending on who you’re using for the shipment (courier vs air freight vs sea freight) and the specifics of what you’re importing, you may even have to agree a specific contract if your shipment is classified as containing “dangerous goods”.

As I said, this depends a lot on the specifics of exactly what you’re importing and if the batteries are already contained in equipment (this is considered safer and the rules are slightly more lenient). (more…)

January 26, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 76 Comments

BRAND NEW – Alibaba.com Trade Assurance!

alibaba-new-trade-assuranceToday I want to talk to you about a NEW FEATURE that has been introduced by Alibaba.com that you may not be aware of.

And it’s actually something that I am very excited about!

It’s called Trade Assurance and it’s a terrific new service that basically protects your order from a supplier up to a certain amount (which is based on their selling history).

trade-assuranceHow Does it Work?

The process itself is actually very simple and easy.

You search for a supplier as normal, but now there is a new filter – Trade Assurance, which has been added to Gold Supplier, Onsite Check and Assessed Supplier:

alibaba-trade-assuranceSo if you select this filter, you will only get results from suppliers who have agreed to trade under the Trade Assurance program.

Under the company’s name and contact details link, there will be a small Trade Assurance icon, and if you hover over that you can find out the exact amount that this company is covered up to.

Now this is where I thought there would be a problem, as I imagined Alibaba being very cautious here and only putting minimal amounts for each supplier, but I have actually been pleasantly surprised! The vast majority of suppliers that I’ve checked have at least $3,000-$4,000+ and many have $15,000-$20,000 and above which is more than enough for most first time importers! (more…)

January 14, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 350 Comments

Top 10 Scams on Alibaba.com!

top-10-alibaba-scamsEvery second email I receive from my blog readers is about Alibaba scams! It is that serious, yes. I already debunked the myth that Alibaba itself is a scam in my Alibaba Scams EXPOSED article BUT today I want to talk specifically about the most common scammer tricks and schemes you can run into when searching for a supplier on Alibaba.com.

Remember, these don’t apply solely to Alibaba but to all popular B2B platforms that involve a large number of wholesale suppliers from China. But as Alibaba is the most popular platform, I will use examples from there.

So let’s get started!

alibaba-scam-1
Alibaba SCAM Nr.1 – Sending FAKE branded goods!

This is without a doubt the most popular scam taking place on Alibaba! The saddest thing is that most people who get fake goods from a Chinese supplier don’t even realise it until eBay takes down their listing a while later.

How does this scam work?

Basically the supplier will sell you branded goods which are just copies of real products. This usually involves products like:

  • Clothing (designer clothing)
  • Footwear (especially Nike products, Timberland)
  • Electronics (mobile phone replicas, specialised electronics like Shure microphones)
  • Disney character items (bedding sets, mugs, kid’s clothing, toys)
  • Mobile phone cases with Apple, Samsung logos
  • Sports jerseys with team logos (Manchester United, Arsenal, NBA/NHL teams etc.)
  • DVDs, Software, Blu-rays, Fitness training programs (P90X etc.)
  • Cosmetics, fragrances (Max factor, MAC, Dior etc.)
  • And many others!

This can basically be ANY product with a well known Western brand name/logo/registered trademark on it.

How to avoid this scam?

SIMPLE – DO NOT BUY ANY BRANDED GOODS from Alibaba suppliers! ANY Chinese supplier for that matter!

What is a branded product? It’s a product with a well known name on it, like:

  • Apple
  • Nike
  • Sony
  • Pioneer
  • Gucci
  • Etc.

This also includes ANY kind of band, movie character or kids’ character like:

  • Batman
  • Spiderman
  • Frozen
  • Hulk
  • One Direction
  • U2
  • Etc.

All these are also classed as branded goods as to manufacture such goods, you have to buy a LICENCE from the Intellectual Property (IP) holder and pay royalty fees. Chinese manufacturers selling such products on Alibaba HAVEN’T paid licensing fees and simply use any popular images they can find and put them on these products. These are not genuine, licensed items and you can get into serious trouble selling them online. (more…)

September 1, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 396 Comments

EORI Number – Your Questions ANSWERED!

eori-numberEvery day I receive countless questions about shipping and customs, and I’ve noticed a lot of these questions refer specifically to the EORI scheme… so I’ve decided to create an article on that specifically – to clarify all the confusion once and for all.

Let’s get to it!

The Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) scheme was introduced on 1st July 2009 (replacing the Trader Unique Reference Number system previously used in the UK) and it’s basically a method for tracking imports and exports within the EU.

An EORI number is assigned to an individual legal identity (i.e. sole trader, partnership, company or individual) by your local member state (so if you’re in the UK – by HMRC) and that EORI number is then used to identify you and your shipments across all EU countries.

And really it’s as simple as that – it is just a number given to importers and exporters throughout Europe that can be easily and consistently identified by customs.

Another top tip to helping keep the costs of your imports down is to research alternative money transfer providers that provide better exchange rates.

Companies that specialise in international money transfers could save you a substantial amount of money if you’re looking to make frequent transfers to your Chinese suppliers.

FCA and FinCEN regulated, TransferWise are ​up to eight times cheaper than banks​ when it comes to making international payments. They always convert money at the mid-market exchange rate – ie. the rate you see on Google is the rate you’ll receive. The only fee you’ll pay is a small, upfront fee on the value of the transfer. You can also ​make global USD payments to your Chinese supplier​ and with their fixed fee of $2 + small % cost of currency conversion, their rates are very competitive.

Setting up the payment is simple as well. You sign up for a free account, set up your transfer by entering your supplier’s bank account information and state what currency you’d like to pay them in and then fund your transfer. Options include bank transfer and debit/ credit card. Your supplier won’t need to do anything. For them, it’s just like receiving cash into their bank account.

With over 3 million customers and co-founded by the first employee of Skype, you can be assured that your money is sent securely. However, just like with a normal wire transfer, your money is not protected if your supplier turns out to be fraudulent so it’s best used when you’re paying a supplier you trust.

You can find out more about TransferWise in my post ​here.​

Do I Need An EORI Number?

Although the official explanations are slightly more complicated, to keep things simple and easy to understand – if you are involved with imports OR exports to or from the EU, then you do need an EORI number, as without it you won’t be able to complete the Entry Summary Declaration or Exit Summary Declaration.

How Do I Get An EORI Number?

To get an EORI number, you simply fill in the application form and send it to HMRC.

Which form you need to complete depends on whether or not you’re VAT registered –

  • And if you are not VAT registered, then you need form C220A, which can be downloaded here.

And just to make it clear as there seems to be a lot of confusion about thisyou don’t have to be a company to get an EORI number and can get one in the exact same way as an individual or sole trader. (more…)

August 25, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 18 Comments

What is Alibaba Wholesale Checkout?

alibaba-wholesale-checkoutPretty much everyone who imports from China (or anyone who is interested in importing) already knows about Alibaba.com – the world’s largest B2B online marketplace.

And then there is also the ‘retail’ version of Alibaba – AliExpress.com

AliExpress is meant for small, private orders (though I often also use it to buy samples to test a product before contacting the supplier for a wholesale deal) so you get very low MOQs and escrow protected payments, but of course the trade-off is higher prices.

But there is now a third option, something in the middle – suited to small/medium-sized businesses who might not have the buying power for true bulk deals on Alibaba.com but still want to order products at wholesale pricing. And this option is called Alibaba Wholesale Checkout.

But how does Alibaba Wholesale Checkout differ to the normal, main site? After all, if Alibaba.com caters to bulk orders and AliExpress.com to small orders, then what’s the point of Alibaba Wholesale?

Well basically, as I’ve explained – it’s the middle-ground between the two.

You won’t get MOQs of 1 as on AliExpress but you also won’t get MOQs of 100s as on Alibaba. Of course the pricing on each site will follow the MOQ, in inverse – so:

  • AliExpress – Low MOQ / High Prices
  • Alibaba Wholesale – Medium MOQ / Medium Prices
  • Alibaba – High MOQ / Low Prices

And as well as that, there are some other important differences:

Alibaba Wholesale Checkout is more comparable to a traditional online site like eBay or Amazon where there are product listings, with all the information given (like price, MOQ, shipping details etc.) and you can make a purchase then and there WITHOUT having to contact the supplier.

And the purchase is done ‘on-site’ – so you simply pay for your order under Alibaba’s Escrow system and it’s protected until you confirm you’ve received your order and everything is fine.

So while on Alibaba the normal chain of events would be something like this: (more…)

August 4, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 603 Comments

Import Duty & VAT Threshold on Imported Goods

import-vat-tresholdToday’s article is about something quite simple, but still hugely important – import duty and VAT on goods bought from outside the EU.

I receive countless emails every week from people asking me about import taxes; how much they are, when do they apply, how to calculate them etc.

And although once you start importing it becomes second nature and incredibly simple, it is something that can be off-putting initially and as a result; some people continue ordering from local wholesalers at much higher prices than they could get importing directly from places like China or the US.

So today I’m going to go over import taxes and give you a guide to use when importing goods to the UK from outside the EU.

First things first; what taxes do you have to pay on imported goods?

In general, you need to pay VAT (Value Added Tax) and import duty.

VAT is a set amount (currently 20%) whereas import duty varies depending on the type of product, with many being duty-free.

Import duty is calculated as a percentage of the customs value of the goods you are importing, which means:

  • The price paid for the goods.
  • The shipping cost.
  • The insurance cost.

As mentioned above, the duty rate depends on the product type and many are actually duty free. I won’t list them all here but some popular duty free products include:

  • Books
  • Computer Software
  • Desktop PCs
  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Mobile Phones
  • Video Game Consoles

So as you can see, a number of products actually have a ‘nil’ rate of duty, even when imported from outside the EU. (more…)

May 29, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 14 Comments

World’s Best Wholesale Directories – REVEALED!

best-wholesale-directoriesAs members of my Easy Auction Business video course will know, I think wholesale directories are one of the best ways to find new suppliers, particularly if you are not yet ready to place large import orders from China and are looking for UK, EU or US based wholesale companies.

So in this guide I’ll go over the easiest ways to find directories and of course; reveal the best wholesale directories, which you can start using straight away.

UK Directories

Starting off with UK wholesale directories:

TheWholesaler.co.uk

the-wholesaler-ukHaving been online for more than 14 years now, The Wholesaler UK is the largest UK based wholesale directory. It is completely free to use and contains suppliers in a number of categories, ranging from aromatherapy products to kitchenware to umbrellas… pretty much every niche is covered here!

All suppliers are listed by category and sub-category and their website is very easy to navigate and use so you won’t need to spend hours upon hours going through jumbled lists of suppliers with no order.

And for all of you looking to sell licensed products (Disney etc.) on eBay, which you cannot do legally by importing from China (as I’ve explained many times in various Q&As as well as in this blog post here), check out the dedicated Licensed Products category where you can find legitimate wholesalers selling such items.

All companies featured on TheWholesaler.co.uk are UK based (or at least have a representative and hold their stock in the UK), supply the independent retail trade, and provide verifiable contact details.

eSources.co.uk

esourceseSources is the UK’s fastest growing wholesale trade directory and they now have a huge amount of listed suppliers. As well as UK wholesalers, they also list dropshippers and international suppliers.

eSources’ website is also a bit more in-depth than others, with more search options as well as more specific sub-categories which is definitely needed due to the number of suppliers.

The regular trade buyers account is free and this allows you to contact wholesale suppliers and even list buying requests. There is also a Premium Buyer Membership option which gives you access to additional ‘exclusive’ wholesale sources and websites. This premium membership costs £20 for 1 month but can be as little as £5 a month if taking the annual plan.

eSources also has some worthwhile additional resources, such as a list of UK Auction Houses (nearly 800 at the time of writing!) plus a calendar of UK trade fairs and exhibitions, and lastly, they also have a large number of Trade Articles covering various topics which you should check out. (more…)