5 Mistakes New Importers Make When Importing Products from China

Discover the 5 mistakes new importers make when they are importing products from China.

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First mistake importers make when importing products from China: Assuming that shipping by sea will be the cheapest option

A lot of new importers think they will save money if they ship by sea rather than air. On the surface it seems cheaper as importers usually pay around 60 cents/KG when shipping via sea, compared to the $7/KG when shipping by air courier.

Unfortunately what they don’t realize is that the reason it’s that cheap is because when shipping via sea, you ship via container, and you need to rent an entire container. They are very large and require you to be shipping hundreds of KGs to be making it worth your time.

If you are an Amazon private label seller, you are unlikely to have enough stock being shipped to fill a container by at least 60-70% so it will be cheaper to ship by air.

When shipping by air, you have two options:

1) Air freight
2) Air courier

Air courier is when you have your items shipped door-to-door. It is the easiest but the most expensive per KG (although in smaller quantities it is cheaper).

Air freight is when you have your items flown from one airport to the other. You will need to organize other additional services:

* Having the items delivered to the airport
* A customs broker
* Having the items delivered from the airport to the final location.

There are a lot of fixed fees with this which means it becomes cheaper to use air freight with larger quantities. To figure out which option will be cheaper for you, I recommend using Freightos.

Second mistake importers make when importing products from China: Not using the Metric system

In China, they use the Metric system and not the Imperial system. So be sure to use KGs instead of lbs and CM instead of inches. It’s important to remember that when working with Chinese suppliers that they expect you to work on their terms and their timeframes.

It can be frustrating, but it’s worth it for the cheap Chinese products you import!

Third mistake importers make when importing products from China: Using Less than Container Load for shipping

When shipping by sea, you have two options:

1) FCL which stands for Full Container Load
2) LCL which stands for Less than Container Load

Inexperienced importers fall for the trap of shipping with LCL because they see that the price are extremely cheap. What they don’t realize is that these LCL companies have special deals with the ports to charge you extremely high Destination Service Charges. The LCL companies then make their money in the form of a “rebate” which is essentially commissions/kickbacks.

Destination Service Charges are usually priced per-container and cost between $500-$1000 per container for ports in the USA. But when shipping by LCL you end up paying a high fee per cubic meters. It means that you often end up paying a fee comparable to shipping an entire container.

Don’t fall for this trap: If you can’t break even with FCL, then ship by air.

Fourth mistake importers make when importing products from China: not calculating the correct duties you will need to pay

When you import products from China, you will need to pay duties at the border. If you don’t calculate the correct rate you can get a shock if it comes back as more than you expected.

Duties can be a bit complicated to work out because there are a lot of variables. For example, if you imported woolen jackets, you need to consider which country the wool came from, as some countries (like Israel) have duty-free agreements over wool, which would reduce the duties you had to pay. On the other hand if synthetic fibres were used instead of pure wool, then your duty rates would be higher since there are higher duties applied to synthetic fibres within the USA.

To figure out what your duty rate is, find out what the HTS (Harmonized Tax System) code is for your item. To find this, ask your Chinese supplier as they will most likely know. You can then go through the HTS manual and find what the duty rate is for the HTS code of your products.

Fifth mistake importers make when importing products from China: being afraid to make mistakes

And finally – don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Through making mistakes you learn how to overcome them the next time and make even more money. Mistakes are apart of entrepreneurship. Learn from others – and learn from your own as well!

38 thoughts on “5 Mistakes New Importers Make When Importing Products from China”

  1. Your videos are always fantastic. The information and the way you explain it are so clear for me to understand. Enjoyed it a lot. Waiting for the next one. Thank you.

  2. Great information. I just received my first order from India and it went really well. About rule #5, I had paralysis by analysis, eventually, you have to just do it.
    Thanks to your videos, I used Alibaba and found a manufacturer with a gold star. Anything I didn’t know he did. Also, it wouldn’t have gone as smoothly if I hadn’t watched your video on doing business in India. Invaluable information. Thank You

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    3. @On the Planet of Culture with Shanna May its been 2 years since you posted this comment dear I am currently in your position how is your ecom business doing?

  3. Just wanted to say thanks for another great video! I’ve been watching your video’s for quite some time now and I have really learned a lot! Keep making awesome videos! Your knowledge is very much appreciated! Thanks, Nate

  4. iLoveLeatherNYC

    I’ve watched a few of your videos. You have a cute, quirky personality and make the information interesting to listen to (your content is well thought out) Definitely appreciate the bite size pieces.

  5. Sarah you a re a great instructor! You give a lot of information for all of us not just beginners like myself. Thank you I will keep coming back to your videos for help.

  6. I’m from New Zealand, thank you for this video. I’m just wondering, is it worth trying to order samples from a company then buy bulk? Do their ratings mean anything?

  7. Thank you for the video. It was a source of great information. I just wanted to clarify, if you ship via air courier (DHL, FedEx, UPS) don’t they take care of all the import taxes (customs, duty, etc) and bill you after? Or is there another fee we have to pay with obtaining the HTS code from our supplier in order to clear our products from customs?

  8. Nice job there! You’ve greatly improved my knowledge. I’ve been thinking shipping by sea recently but now i know better.

  9. Thank you for this video!! Shipping is honestly the most intimidating process for me compared to everything else. Are the suppliers generally knowledgeable about all of the customs and shipping fees and include along with the order price during finalization?

  10. When a random 14 minute YouTube video teaches you more about business than several classes at university…

    1. University is not about teaching you much of anything.
      University is a for-profit CORPORATION selling old paradigms and allowing you to work in a particular field of employment under license controlled by the Government.
      UNIVERSITIES ARE MASONIC INSTITUTIONS where one pays for and earns Degrees – When you study enough literature on any subject, you will know as much if not more than you will ever learn in any University, and learn from anyone who is willing to teach you what you do not know yet.
      As Bill Gates once stated; Surround yourself with people who know more than you know, and let them teach you.
      … That is the most difficult thing for average people to accept as it makes them feel inadequate and exposes their weakness.
      The converse is true for entrepreneurs as it only strengthens them as they learn from their errors.

    2. These things are supposed to be generic and are learnt when you are in practical life. Ofc theory is all BS !!

    3. The biggest problem with university knowledge is that it is general and there’s no time to get into specific information for every industry. Had you heard stuff like this, you would have likely ignored it, forgotten it, and dismissed it because you had no intention of being an importer. Yeah, we were all young and ignorant, and certain of our life’s trajectory. Times change, conditions change, and so do we all. But granted, few business professors have ever been in business, so can’t speak to relevant practical experience. Hence the concept of ivory tower educators.

  11. Thank you so much for such an important information you shared .i really appreciate it . Very useful and to the point information. Good luck

  12. I don’t understand why people are moaning about camera being close or accents etc when you are giving valuable information. I agree sometimes info isn’t 100% correct but with everything do your own research if you are that worried!

    Thanks for this video. It’s been quite helpful.

    1. Yeah, I agree. Put up or shut up or ship out. Stop moaning, I love this girl, she is really good at delivering information, but she has an accent, why? Because she is from New Zealand. to her, we have an accent. Just listen up and if you don’t like her accent use subtitles.

  13. Silver Fox Gold Coin

    Absolutely great info on less than container load rebates/ kickbacks/ getting screwed. Thank you. You are wonderful. Keep up your good work.

  14. Sara! Thank you! You’re amazing. I learn so much of your videos here on youtube. I’m only few steps of launching my first store. Thank you very much one more time.

    Every person who is here and complaining about content you’re publishing here for FREE (!), should just go and leave you alone. I’m very grateful to you. Thank you, Sara and all of your team!

  15. I just want to say thank you so much.. you were the first person to even mention air carrier vs air freight. This cleared up so many questions I had! You are a beast!

  16. EDC NZ Quick Reviews

    Wow Sarah, as a fellow Kiwi, this makes me proud!! Well done, keep up the great work. Subscribed! ❤️

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