The Asia Business Media blog has a post up that nicely lays out the basics for those buying product from Asia. This list actually comes from Trapp Lewis, “formerly of both Global Sources and Alibaba.com, now running the Palmetto consultancy:”
Sourcing websites – Don’t forget that these are designed to provide marketing channels for suppliers/exporters and aggregate product/supplier content for buyers/importers online. Read the User Agreements closely as they clearly state that you are essentially using the site at your own risk. Never rely solely on any ratings systems provided by these sites. Always conduct your own due diligence.
Trade shows – The absolute best place to meet suppliers and learn more about the industry, manufacturing process, products, export issues, etc. The exhibitors can teach you many things and are willing to do so if they believe you are a serious buyer and potential customer. Like finding the right supplier, it is not easy selecting the right trade show to attend. Do your homework, ask other importers you know which shows they attend and also look for UFI approved events (www.UFI.org).
Quality Assurance – There are companies that specialize in factory audits and product testing – use their expertise. Bureau Veritas is a good place to start.
Shipment – Selection depends on the product and quantity. If by air, then speak to FEDEX, DHL, etc. to understand not only shipping costs but also import taxes. If by sea, look for a shipping company that can also help you manage the taxes. It’s also a good idea to speak to your local customs office.
Payment – Never send cash. Talk to your bank about Letters of Credit and Escrow. There are systems to protect your money so use them.
Patience – Take your time, look at alternatives and start small. If something looks too good to be true, it is.
Makes good sense.