Clothing is a niche that I receive a LOT of emails about, and it’s not hard to understand why – the margins are amazing!
It’s not uncommon to achieve 80%+ margins on clothing (selling your own brand of course – you won’t make anything near that re-selling designer brands!) which is something that most other industries can only dream of.
But really that 80% margin is only part of the story and when you delve deeper there are a lot of issues with selling clothing online, particularly designer brands.
I have actually covered this topic in the past, and outlined my reasons for staying away from this supposedly very lucrative niche. You can take a look at that post here if you missed it:
But despite my personal reservations, today’s post is all about importing clothing to the UK, and specifically, children’s clothing.
I recently received an email from a blog reader who had big problems with a fairly large order of children’s clothing and shoes from China, and he ended up losing a lot of money sending the whole shipment back, as it didn’t conform to the necessary standards and regulations.
So to try and help you avoid any costly mistakes like that in the future, I want to cover exactly what you need to do when importing children’s clothing the UK from China.
Let’s get to it!
The first things I want to cover apply to all clothing and footwear in general, as there are safety regulations that you need to meet in order to sell imported clothes in the UK.
This should really be obvious to everyone – after all, clothing is a product for which the materials and quality are extremely important. These are items that are worn in contact with the skin for hours at a time so it’s not just a simple matter of the product merely not working if it’s badly made – the consequences can be much more severe.
So if you sell imported clothes or footwear in the UK, you need to ensure that your products meet the relevant safety regulations and labelling requirements, which include:
- The Footwear (Indication of Composition) Labelling Regulations 1995
- The Textile Products (Indication of Fibre Content) Regulations 1986
- Correct use of the textile names as set out in EU directives
You can download Directive 2008/121/EC, which sets out the definitions and tables of textile fibres, from the Europa website.
This is all fairly obvious and straightforward stuff – the clothing you import for sale must be properly labelled, with accurate information on the materials used.
Contrary to what a lot of people say, there are no regulations on sizing so you could label a shirt “small” even if it was extra-large and that wouldn’t cause any problems at customs. Of course you wouldn’t want to do this as it would be an issue for your buyers. You should always try to stick to the designated European sizing standard, simply because it will result in less returns!
Further to these general regulations for clothing, which are mainly in regards to labelling, there are also some specific quality requirements for children’s clothing which you need to meet in order to sell to customers in the UK.
- The General Product Safety Regulations 2005
- The Children’s Clothing (Hood Cords) Regulations 1976
- The Nightwear (Safety) Regulations 1985
The reason for these additional requirements is purely down to the behaviour of the end user. It goes without saying that children will use their clothes in a different way to adults and are of course a lot less cautious of hazards.
You can actually buy a complete guide on the manufacture of children’s clothing, produced by the BSI (British Standards Institution). It is called BS 7907 and is the code of practice for the design and manufacture of children’s clothing to promote mechanical safety.
Take a look at this link for full details and to see whether it’s a worthwhile purchase for you as I can’t advise on that (just be aware that it’s not cheap!):
Although all these rules and regulations may seem slightly daunting if you’ve just started looking in to importing, they’re really not that bad and any decent clothing manufacturer will already be in compliance with all of them.
But of course they are an added concern, compared to dealing with other products, and you have to factor that in when deciding if this is a profitable niche to enter…
Unless you are ordering huge quantities and can afford to do in-depth inspections, of the factory itself initially as well as multiple quality checks throughout the manufacture, then I would probably recommend that you stay away from China for now.
What, Andrew suggesting to NOT order from China!? Don’t worry, I haven’t gone mad. This is just a niche that, for one, China isn’t the best option.
After all, it’s not enough that the supplier tells you they’ve got all the certificates and labelling requirements – you as the importer are 100% responsible for the products you sell, so the onus is on you to make sure everything is as it should be.
A safer and cheaper option would be to look towards some European manufacturers, as then they are the ones liable and you know they’ll actually have some experience dealing with European companies and legislation.
This may come as a big surprise to those of you in the UK, but there are still a lot of European countries who have a strong manufacturing industry, and for clothing in particular Turkey are a great option, as well as some Easter European countries (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia) and even Spain and Portugal!
Even if you are ordering in bulk/looking for cheaper prices, I’d probably suggest looking towards India and Bangladesh, as once again they should have more experience dealing with European companies.
While we’re on the subject of importing, now is a good time for me to point out that children’s clothing and footwear are generally eligible for a reduced rate of 0% VAT!
So if you are in this business, then you should definitely look in to getting registered for VAT. As I explained in a recent guide, you’re in the rare position that registering will actually make you MORE money, instead of less. You can take a look over that in full here:
And that pretty much brings us to the end of today’s post!
I hope you have found this short guide useful, and I hope even more that you take my advice of looking at European suppliers seriously, if this is a niche that you’re interested in.
Keeping on a similar topic, next Monday I will post a guide on importing children’s toys, so keep an eye out for that as well.