Tips Sourcing from China
If you’re already manufacturing beauty and skin care products, you probably know much of the packaging comes from overseas. Selecting packaging is hard enough and you want your packaging to be perfect to match your brand. We’ve put some tips together if you choose to head down that route.
1. Watch that Size
The size of your packaging can dictate where you’re buying packaging components from. Everything shipped overseas will be coming in a box or container. If your brand is using large packaging such as a shampoo bottle, these cannot be stacked within each other and you basically ship very expensive air to you. There can only be so many boxes fit in an ocean container headed to the US so the larger your product packaging, the less packaging you receive and the cost of shipping the container is flat.
If your brand utilizes larger packaging, often some domestic sources are just as competitive surprisingly. There are many of these suppliers on ThomasNet. If you need a resource, contact us and we’d be glad to help.
Alibaba is one of the main sourcing websites known in the US for finding everything from toys to machinery in China. The platform is developing at an alarming speed and it’s becoming easier to use as we speak. There are other sourcing sites such as GlobalSources.com and Made-In-China.com that are decent as well. First time users may be a little nervous sending over a pretty good chunk of change to someone they’ve never met overseas so we’ve put together a few recommendations.
Check Credibility – Speaking for Alibaba, there are a few things you can see that will help you determine a factory’s credibility. Alibaba will disclose how many years the supplier has been on the platform (i.e. First Year denoted on the listing). This will tell you how long they’ve been on the platform. “Gold Supplier”. This is a premium membership for a factory that requires a visit from a 3rd party to verify the factory actually exists and is legally registered in the region. Factories must pay $10,000USD annually to have this listing so it does help filter a little. Be aware that neither of these statuses tell anything about the actual quality of the products produced.
Use Credit Card/PayPal – While Alibaba has their own customer service, PayPal and your credit card are based in the US. They have protection against fraud with sourcing. PayPal has a 10-day response time after a dispute is submitted for missing or lost shipments. If the factory does not respond, you will get your money back which is often the case. Credit cards by far have the quickest response disputes. Pay with credit card and most likely you will receive a credit within a day or two. It is possible to use a credit card through PayPal as well for additional protection. PayPal transactions do take a percentage from the payment to the factory and most of the time the factories will pass that on to you, but this is a form of insurance.
3. When in Rome Communication
Sourcing isn’t like buying something off the shelf. Often times you need to go back and forth with colors, styles, and size. While Alibaba has a messaging platform, the standard of communicating is . If you don’t have it on your phone, get it. You can send pictures and discuss the details of your order. When it’s time to place the order, request to have the contract uploaded to Alibaba. Most of China uses WeChat from everything to messaging, paying for goods, and even social media. This is the standard in communicating.
4. Samples, Samples, Samples!
What’s the difference between buying a basket from the Dollar Store versus Pottery Barn or some other high-end store? Quality! If you are using a pump, airless jars, and other “technical” packaging this is an absolute must. You want to make sure the packaging selected works with your products and most important has the feel and performance of your brand.
Ask for Pre-Production Samples – The acronym for this is PPS. The factory can send a pre-production sample by air for you to review before they run the entire production run. This is especially important if you’ve specified a specific color or are having a label or screen print applied overseas. It may cost you between $30-80 to make this happen, but it’s safer than an entire run that looks horrible. While you are paying the factory for the order, the brand is yours and the hard work promoting quality products is more important to you than the factory.
Sourcing from China can be a little tricky and it is not advised to take shortcuts to beat lead times or replace inventory. By going through the correct processes, you can avoid headaches later down the road. There is always the potential for miscommunication by language barrier alone, but hopefully some of these tips will help.
We can help with sourcing if you are unsure or have problems. For much larger volumes, we can act as a broker to manage some of the risk. Some of our sourcing partners have offices in China as well as English speaking US residence fluent in Chinese to help hedge the risk. Contact us and we'd be glad to help