Importing Best Practices

RULE #1 Don’t look for the lowest possible price
Don’t be tempted! Significantly lower prices should raise a flag. NO such thing as the lowest price in China. Factories figure out how to reduce material quality to lower prices or to meet buyer targets. These factories are generally non-compliant for health and safety standards. Their low prices are high risk, low quality, and could potentially ruin reputations. Reliable suppliers charge accordingly and help grow your business.

RULE #2 Don’t be vague
Provide clear product specifications or await disaster. Lead, don’t follow. Poor specs allow vendors to ship products with variations. Your vendor will make production decisions based solely on their own cost savings. Specify safe materials, factory audit results and how your products should be produced. Your vendor must confirm every detail, including the packaging.

RULE #3 Don’t be mistrustful of your vendor
Start a trade relationship based on mutual trust and cooperation. If you don’t trust the vendor, find another. Distrust breeds low care factors, on both sides. Your production will not be adequately treated, and you won’t have anyone at the factory to help you when problems occur.

RULE #4 Prearrange cargo transport
Find a professional logistics resource for sea and express-air shipping. They can assist in helping you learn about specific costs, timelines and cross-border duty and tax protocols.

There are many factors associated with importing and shipping. Sea freight alone considers container fees, packaging, terminal handling, and brokerage fees. Your shipping company will help demystify the costs. Once you accept their quote, a good logistics provider will work directly with your supplier to move your freight. It is their responsibility to connect with your vendor, keep tabs on production-ready dates, and be sure that commercial documents are compliant.


1. Plan for delays
Quoted delivery dates are not accurate. Air and ocean departures schedules may not dovetail with your cargo. There are customs delays, inland transit delays and the list goes on. When it comes to sea freight, missing a vessel by one day means losing an entire week, with your order sitting in a container awaiting the next sailing.

Learn what can go wrong, be prepared and plan accordingly. As mentioned, inland freight adds days until your order reaches the seaport or airport. Your shipment also contends with the regulatory process of international and local customs forms and declarations. Paperwork itself will also take days to work its way through the system.

2. Choose a reliable logistic/freight company
Producing your order is just as complex as understanding and planning the logistics. Shipping costs include both direct and indirect costs for moving products from points of origin to their destination market. Professional shipping companies can assure smoother operations and managed costs. However, when things go wrong, you face rising costs and wastage. Importers will lose when their logistics is not well controlled.

3. Tracking cargo, preparing for delivery
International ocean shipping takes time. Shipments from China, by sea, take roughly 17 days on the water. You should add another two weeks of inland freight and paperwork to slow the process on each side of the ocean. On average, to reach the US or Canada, plan on 30 to 35-days for the goods to arrive. During transit, it is advisable to recheck commercial invoices, packing lists, import licenses, bills of lading, and other related documents before customs. When problems arise, you are responsible for troubleshooting. Knowing each step your shipments go through, when passing through customs, can help reduce or eliminate any delays.

4. Obtain your shipment
When your goods arrive at a port, all of your planning and arrangements should have already been started with your customs broker to clear the delivery. Even if all the I’s are dotted, and t’s are crossed, issues still occur impeding shipment pick up.


Following these tips and do your research, while complex, are highly doable. A template checklist for each type of product imported will demystify the process and allow you to sleep at night, assured your imports will pass each hurdle.

When you develop a good factory resource in China, keep them away from your customers, and vice versa. It takes a lot of work to establish key factory relationships. Delivery cycles are short. Controlling shipping goes a long way toward owning the most critical element in the entire importing process; successfully delivering the order. Allowing your factory to ship directly to your customer is unacceptable. Blind Shipping is a closed loop. Only the importer will know the points of origin and destination. Prevent supply chain predators from cutting you out. Deliver within 2-days. Learn more below. #BlindShipFromChina #ItsEasy 

Perry David Caplan | Founder
23,000+ shipments since 2008, What We Do

Common Import Sea Freight ProblemsTop Tips: Best Express Courier Options from China

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