Let’s talk about product sourcing. As many of you know, I have always advocated importing from China when sourcing products for your private-label Amazon UK FBA business. The reason for that is obvious: 90%+ of consumer goods are currently manufactured in China, so to get the lowest price possible, you’ve got to go directly to the source. It makes sense, right?
But there is a group of people who are somewhat nervous about the idea of importing from China and the process involved. I will try to debunk the myths associated with this later on in this post, but it is what it is. Some people simply don’t want to import from China because, to them, it seems like “too much” to handle.
In fact, I regularly receive emails and messages from people who ask me about the alternatives to importing from China.
Specifically, they want to know if it is possible to source goods from the UK or Europe to sell on Amazon?
The short answer is YES, it is possible. The long answer is more complicated, and I will try to explain the process in more detail in this article.
Please stick with me all the way to the end of this article. You must read it from A to Z, as taking some parts out of context may leave you confused about how UK/EU-based manufacturers can be a part of your Amazon FBA business.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Why buying from WHOLESALERS
will NEVER make you RICH!
First of all, if your idea is to buy goods from local (UK/EU) wholesalers in small quantities to resell on Amazon using FBA, forget about it. It simply won’t work. You won’t be able to get prices low enough to be competitive.
A wholesaler is just a middleman between the manufacturer and retailer (you). Sometimes, there’s even a second middleman involved (distributor), which lowers the margins for everyone even more. This was the distribution model used for consumer packaged goods over the last one hundred years, and it worked just fine because there was no internet. The situation has now changed radically.
With the rise of online shopping, companies have quickly realised that there is no need for the middleman (wholesaler) anymore as we can now source and sell products directly to customers. It all started with platforms like eBay and Amazon, where Chinese manufacturers started to sell products directly to customers. Then, average people started doing it, too, by buying goods in bulk from manufacturers in China and reselling them online.
The whole direct-to-consumer (DTC) concept has now taken a completely different turn! There are multiple billion-dollar companies that have been created based on this model, including large, well-known brands that are simply avoiding other distribution channels, choosing instead to sell directly to the consumer via their online stores and Amazon.
With the rise of influencer culture, which allows people to accumulate massive online followings, this trend will only continue. If you ask me, in the future, this will be the way new brands will be launched. Not by shovelling millions of pounds into TV ads and programming people to pick up the item in their local store. No, it will all be direct-to-consumer sales and advertising using only digital channels.
Yes, you might call Amazon a middleman, too, as they do take a cut of your earnings. But in the grand scheme of things, Amazon fees are actually very low for the traffic they bring to your business. So, it’s more like you’re paying Amazon for the opportunity to be seen by millions of buyers, just like you often have to buy your space in large national chain stores just to get your product on their shelves.
Anyways, my point is that the WHOLESALE business model is dying because it’s simply not competitive anymore. Sure, there will always be a need for it—for example, to supply small corner shops as they will never be able to buy in bulk directly from manufacturers. Or, another example is car garages or parts stores as their inventory SKUs are in the thousands! Again, unless it’s a super-large international brand, they will have to rely on wholesalers to source parts.
So, yes, it will work for offline businesses, for a while at least, but only until manufacturers get on the online bandwagon and figure out how to sell directly to those businesses. If they can organise the shipping and distribution, which already happens in many industries, then it’s just a matter of time until automation and effective distribution models completely destroy wholesalers.
To sum it up, if you plan on selling on Amazon, forget about wholesalers. You simply won’t be able to compete with the prices! Imagine you’re getting into a niche where there are already twenty sellers. All twenty of them are buying products directly from manufacturers in China for £5 and selling them for £15. Then you come along and source the product from a local wholesaler for £10. There’s no way you can make this model profitable. After Amazon fees alone, you will likely be out of pocket, never mind making a profit.
The ONLY time wholesalers can be used on Amazon is when:
- You sell in a very specific, small niche with little to no competition. If no one is selling the product on Amazon AND there’s a demand for it, you can most likely get away with sourcing from wholesalers and selling the item at a higher price. But just so you know, it will still be a ticking time bomb. At any time, someone could spot that opportunity, start buying directly from the manufacturer and outcompete you in a second.
- You sell in a niche where there are thousands of SKUs, like in the car parts industry that I already mentioned. There’s no way you could afford to source so many different items directly from manufacturers. But even in niches like these, I would recommend that you pick a few items with decent sales volume and source those items directly from manufacturers. This way, you will at least be able to compete on price, as everyone else will be paying premium prices sourcing from local wholesalers.
There’s another good argument for the use of wholesalers, though, and it’s not about Amazon. If you have your own eCommerce store and are driving traffic to it, making good sales, etc., then wholesalers can be a great way to EXPAND your inventory and offer more products to your customers! It could be that you have sourced your main products from manufacturers, but there are accessories you can source from wholesalers to offer as upsells to increase your average sale.
For example, you have created a new type of brush set for artists who use oil paints. You source this item directly from the manufacturer in China, but you know that your customers would also want to buy other painting-related accessories from you or the paint itself.
You don’t have the capital or you don’t want to import paint from manufacturers in large quantities, so you use a wholesaler. Your margins on paint sales won’t be as high as with the brush set, but there’s also no risk on your part, no large investments in inventory, etc.
This is the exact model I used in my own businesses, for example, when I had a brand/business in the nail care industry. We did source many products directly from manufacturers in China, as well as some from wholesalers in China. Then, others were sourced from wholesalers in the EU. It was a mix based on the product’s popularity, MOQs and my cashflow situation.
In the US, where drop shipping is much more popular, the same principle can be applied, just with drop shippers. It won’t be that effective in the UK/EU as we simply don’t have that many drop shippers to begin with. Of course, you can always ask your wholesaler if they would be willing to dropship, but the answer will very rarely be positive. It’s just not the model these companies are used to.
So, buying from wholesalers to sell on Amazon is out of the question, unless you’re dealing with large product catalogues. And even in that case, you won’t be able to use FBA anyways because the storage fees and inventory performance index will kill your business in no time.
I didn’t even mention the whole branding part! Basically, when you source from a wholesaler, you’re buying a branded or unbranded item that you will resell that way, without adding your own brand, logo, custom packaging, etc. This business model is weak by default as you’re basically competing on price alone—but you can’t even do that! Your sourcing price will simply be too high to compete with others who are importing directly from China-based manufacturers.
All in all, the sooner you forget about the wholesale model, the better. It’s not 2005 anymore; things have changed, and they will never go back.
But is there an alternative? Is there a way to source goods within the UK or Europe and still make a profit on Amazon using the FBA model? Yes, there is! And it’s basically the same concept we use with suppliers in China. You have to source directly from the manufacturers. The only difference is that the manufacturer will be located in the UK or EU.
How to find GOOD manufacturers
in the UK/EU for your
Amazon FBA business!
Even though the vast majority of products are being manufactured in China, there are still manufacturers creating great products in the UK, EU, US and other Western countries. So, there’s a chance that you can work with a local supplier and avoid the whole importing from China aspect altogether.
And it’s not like the prices will be that much higher compared to Chinese manufacturers. Obviously, this will depend on the niche and products, but I have had situations where it was actually CHEAPER to source goods from the EU than from China. This can be especially true when you want to order relatively small quantities of bulk items and can’t afford to import a whole container load from China.
Shipping bulk items from China in small quantities can be VERY expensive, and you will often pay more for shipping than for the product itself.
And there are other benefits, too, like:
- Quick delivery times
- Smaller minimum order quantities (usually)
- EU certificates in place
- You often get higher quality goods and, generally, a better standard of quality control
- Easy to verify suppliers (you can even travel inexpensively to the supplier)
- Safe payment methods
With all that aside, the KEY to success with this is to find a manufacturer that can offer you a competitive price, because there’s no point in sticking with a UK/EU company if you have to pay DOUBLE the price that a Chinese competitor can offer.
Also, don’t expect that local manufacturers won’t look for high-volume deals—they will! You will not be buying from a wholesaler, so remember that. Be ready to place large orders to get the best price possible.
Where to find such suppliers/manufacturers
in the UK & Europe?
The process will pretty much depend on the industry/niche you’re working in, but personally, I always start with an extensive Google search.
Unfortunately, Google often doesn’t do a very good job of finding such manufacturers. This is partially because their websites are not properly SEO optimised, so they can’t be easily found by Google. What I do is start searching for various keywords, like:
- Product name + manufacturer + UK or Europe
- Product name + supplier + UK or Europe
- Product name + wholesale + UK or Europe
Yes, I also use the keyword “wholesale” because, as I said, manufacturer’s websites are hard to find and the more keywords you use, the higher your chances of getting different/unique search results.
I also like to add the country to my search string, like this:
- Product name + country + wholesale
- Product name + country + manufacturer
- Product name + country + distributor
So, for example, if I’m searching for a manufacturer of leather boots, I would do a search for:
- Leather boots Poland wholesale
- Leather boots Italy manufacturer
- Leather boots France distributor
Usually, you will be able to find at least a few companies by following this search strategy. Again, this is a highly industry-specific thing, as some products are simply not manufactured locally anymore.
The next thing I do is look for industry-related trade shows. This is actually my FAVOURITE way to find UK/EU-based manufacturers, as in most cases, you simply won’t find their websites using a Google search.
I have talked about trade shows on my blog before. Ideally, I recommend you attend such trade shows in person as that’s the simplest and fastest way to find manufacturers in your niche.
But sometimes it’s just not possible. It could be that the next show is months away or that you don’t have enough money to travel. Or perhaps you’re doing research and looking for indicative prices to decide if the products have potential in the first place.
What’s the solution? Check out the website of the actual trade show! In 99% of cases, these websites will have ALL of the exhibitors listed, often with their contact details and website links!
Once you have their contact details, you can simply email these companies and inquire about their products, prices, MOQs and everything else—just like we do when importing from China.
These are the two methods that I personally use all the time—and they work! When I find a good trade show in an industry that I’m interested in, I simply attend it in person. Then, over one or two days, I can meet all the major players in that industry, make contacts, find out about the latest developments, etc.
Plus, you get the chance to build those personal contacts, which can be SUPER IMPORTANT if you’re a newbie starting out on Amazon. When you meet a supplier in person, they understand that you’re serious about this because you have invested your time and money to attend the trade show.
That’s a very different approach and impression than some pre-written email you send out to twenty cold contacts! I have even gotten INSTANT price reductions purely because I went to a trade show and spoke with company representatives in person. That’s how powerful it can be.
Obviously, currently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, most trade shows are cancelled for now, but many trade show websites will have lists of exhibitors from the previous year, so you can at least check that out and see if you can find any companies you could possibly work with. Hopefully, things will get back to normal soon and you will be able to use this strategy to its full potential.
So, yes, as simple as they may sound, Google search and trade shows are the most effective ways to find manufacturers in the UK and Europe. Don’t waste your money on wholesale lists or directories! You can find them on your own.
What Amazon FBA products
can you SOURCE
in the UK or Europe?
The whole strategy I have described in this post will only work if there are actual manufacturers for the goods you’re looking for located in the UK or Europe. The UK is actually the worst place to look for anything as there are only a handful of industries this strategy can be applied to—like food supplements, for example. You won’t be looking for manufacturers of plastic kid’s toys in the UK as they simply don’t exist.
But it’s not like all plastic goods are out of the question. At one time, I was involved in a plastic container business for the DIY market, and I was dealing with very good manufacturers in Italy. Poland also has lots of manufacturers that work with plastic goods. For example, for my food supplements brand, I buy my packaging materials from a manufacturer in Poland. Their prices are actually on par with Chinese companies and shipping is so much cheaper, especially when you buy full pallet loads.
Poland, specifically, is a great place to start your research as they’re very strong in many industries, including furniture, plastics, cosmetics and other sectors. Furniture manufacturing is a massive industry in Eastern Europe. There are tons of companies that manufacture furniture or furniture parts for IKEA, and they’re purely contract manufacturers. They can manufacture whatever you want and will put your brand on it.
But sometimes, you will find good manufacturers in countries you least expect to. If we go back to my nail supplies business, I was dealing with a chemical/liquid manufacturer in GERMANY! Their product was very high quality and their prices were on par with Chinese suppliers. PLUS, there was the added benefit that they had all the required EU certificates (legit ones!) in place.
For my collagen powder business, I work with a manufacturer in France. They’re one of the world’s leading companies in this space, and even though I could source the product slightly cheaper from China, I would never do that with a product like this.
One of my Amazon Sharks students is sourcing cosmetics from Sweden. Then, there’s a business I consult for that is working with a manufacturer of LED devices in Italy.
So, the examples are there, and I personally use this business model all the time! It won’t work for every industry and every product, but if you’re nervous about importing from China, maybe you should build your business in a niche that is suited to this sourcing model instead? Just a thought.
With that being said, I do believe that it’s totally WRONG to start your business and product sourcing process with the supplier location in mind. You shouldn’t do that.
If you find a great product with good potential, you should source it from wherever you can get it made cheapest, be that China, Poland, India or anywhere else.
The lower the sourcing price, the higher your margin will be, which will greatly help you to build a long-term, sustainable Amazon FBA business. If you put the work in and find a suitable manufacturer, your competition won’t be able to compete with you just on price alone. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the brand you have built and everything else.
Are you afraid of importing goods from China? Don’t be! It’s really not that difficult or as risky as you may think. Nowadays, there are so many ways to verify suppliers, use safe payment methods, do inspections, or have a freight forwarder to handle all the shipping process requirements, customs clearance, etc. In fact, there has never been a better time to import from China than right now.
All the scams you hear about online? In reality, 99% of those cases involve sourcing branded goods, which is a big NO-NO! I’m talking about PlayStations, iPhones, Nike products and items like that. Obviously, those are all scams—you should NOT try to source branded goods from China! Most of the comments I’ve received on my Alibaba Scam article are from people who have tried buying branded goods like these.
If you stick with non-branded, everyday items, pick a reputable supplier, and do the verification and inspections, then the chances of you getting scammed are extremely low. Extremely low.
Your biggest issue will be the product quality and quality inspection in general. You have to be careful with this. Do not blindly choose the cheapest supplier and materials. You must do a proper pre-shipment inspection to minimise the chances of receiving a high number of defective items. Of course, there is always a small risk that things will go wrong, just like in any other business.
I like that quality control is much better in the UK/EU-based manufacturing plants and that communication is also easier. But again, if you can’t find a local supplier at a decent price, you shouldn’t let the idea go simply because of that. You fight, you find suppliers in China, you test them, you do inspections and you get your goods delivered.
If you haven’t imported anything from China yet, start by reading my articles and guides here. This way, you can learn all you need to know before you even contact your first supplier in China. And remember: the first time you do anything new is always the scariest. Once you get the hang of it, you will wonder why you were so reluctant to import from China for so long!
Hope this helps! If you have any further questions about finding manufacturers in the UK or Europe, or if you are looking for general business advice, feel free to leave your comments below the post. I will personally get back to you within 24 hours, Monday to Friday.
Lastly, if you’re new to the whole Amazon FBA game and looking for some step-by-step guidance, check out my Amazon Sharks video course. This is the BEST Amazon FBA training program you will find, and it also comes with personal, unlimited support from me.