The Pros and Cons of Using International Suppliers

I work with some wonderful wholesale suppliers in the UK. They consistently provide me with great products for a good price and I receive my orders speedily and with no fuss. Despite there reliability, I do also work with suppliers from China and from the USA, primarily due to some of the incredible prices available from suppliers in these countries.

The location of your suppliers depends in part upon what you want to sell online. I don’t sell branded goods as in my opinion unbranded products can make more profit – and come with a lot less hassle - but even if I were going to sell branded goods then I most certainly wouldn’t consider sourcing them from China as they are highly likely to be counterfeit goods – and this fear of being scammed is why so many online sellers are terrified at the prospect of importing goods.


When I first started selling online I was exactly the same – like a rabbit caught in the headlights at just the thought of having to deal with international suppliers, so please don’t think that I’ve always been comfortable and confident in this area. I certainly don’t look at international suppliers through rose tinted glasses; and I am well aware that there are plenty of dodgy dealers out there and that costly mistakes can happen when importing.

I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to ordering from overseas, from having stock trapped in customs for significant periods of time, to having orders delayed before they’ve even left the country, to discovering scam suppliers that would certainly walk off with my money without sending me anything. And yet despite it all I still recommend this as a route you should consider if you want to end up with a successful, profitable online business.

So you’re probably thinking that I’m not painting a very good picture here, but I’m telling you about some of these bad experiences because there are always going to be hiccups that happen in your supply chain, and as long as you know this then you can hopefully avoid them altogether! No matter where you choose to source your products there are advantages and disadvantages so like many things in business, it’s a case of weighing up the pros and cons as to whether using international suppliers is for you.

The Pros

1. The ability to order products directly from what has become one of the manufacturing centres of the whole world - China. No matter what type of goods you’re after, you can pretty much guarantee that there is likely to be a supplier in China manufacturing and selling that product!

2. The ability to order large quantities and therefore lower your costs. You can benefit from this no matter how big or small your business may be.

3. Good quality products at low cost. I’m putting ‘quality’ in the ‘Pros’ list because the quality of goods made in China is in the most part excellent and has improved considerably over the years. You should always order samples of a product to check quality and safety before placing a larger order.

4. Secure payments. Chinese suppliers are now ensuring that secure payment methods are in place such as PayPal and Escrow. This makes the transaction no risk for either party and will put your mind at ease. No more worrying about unsafe payment methods such as Western Union!

The Cons

1. The language barrier. Whilst Chinese suppliers do have a good grasp of English it’s usually very basic (even still it’s probably going to be better than your Chinese!). So when communicating you need to make sure you avoid using complicated words and use simple English to ensure there are no misunderstandings.

2. Quality…yes I know this was in the ‘Pro’s list too but you should be aware that occasionally some goods can still be of poor quality. Your definition of good quality may be completely different to that of your suppliers, so as I suggested earlier, make sure you always get samples.

3. Minimum order quantities. Whilst the ability to place large orders is a definite pro, understandably, small businesses are not always able to meet minimum order quantity requirements – particularly when ordering from manufacturers. If you only require 50 of a product then it’s going to be more difficult to secure that amount at a low cost – so you will need good negotiating skills and be prepared to compromise.

To sum up, you should not be apprehensive about using international suppliers. As long as you do your due diligence, sample the products and use a secure payment method you will find that your business can benefit.

Amanda O'Brien is an eBay expert, skilled product sourcer and author of home study courses to help you sell successfully online. Sign up to her free w...

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