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Sourcing goods from Alibaba & AliExpress.com

By Chris Dawson March 31, 2011 - 6:02 pm

I’m often asked by the occasional eBay seller and more often by journalists where eBay sellers go to get their stock. There are no real secrets, almost all eBay (and other sellers) get their stock from manufacturers direct, their appointed distributors, or from wholesalers.

However there is one alternative and that is to have your goods manufactured yourself. Traditionally that’s been out financial reach for smaller sellers. The cost of manufacture has to be paid up front, and then the complexity of shipping, importing and clearing customs is too high.

This month I decided to find out just how hard it is to have goods manufactured to your own specification using Alibaba. Alibaba founded in 1999 in China connects businesses with suppliers enabling them to negotiate contracts.

Alibaba also have a transaction-based wholesale platform called AliExpress, geared for smaller buyers seeking fast shipment of small quantities of goods.

I contacted a seller on Alibaba on Thursday requesting a customised item and they replied overnight confirming they could fulfil my requirements. I ordered on Friday afternoon and the delivery time was impressive to say the least. By Monday my order was ready for shipment, it was collected by DHL in Hong Kong on Tuesday and was at Heathrow airport by Wednesday morning. It then cleared customs, was shipped to Reading and was out on a delivery truck who was knocking at my door by 13.05 on Wednesday afternoon.

Apart from being flabbergasted at the speed a parcel be delivered to me from the other side of the world in just 24 hours, I was massively impressed at my first experience of buying from a Hong Kong manufacturer. The product (clothing) is outside my normal eBay product lines (I normally trade in computer products), but it opens up possibilities for selling in totally unrelated categories for the future. At the speed goods can be supplied at you could almost drop ship or back order when a customer makes a purchase.

Sellers on Alibaba are generally looking for large quantity orders, but on AliExpress orders can be for order quantities as low as a single item. Payment is safe as funds are held in escrow and only released to the supplier when you confirm safe receipt of the goods and that you’re happy with them. You can pay by credit card or for ease they also accept PayPal.

If you’re considering ordering stock I would recommend you start by requesting a sample on AliExpress and if you’re happy with the quality of the sample start off with small quantities until you’re happy with the manufacturer. You can then progress to ordering larger quantities direct from the manufacturer with the knowledge that you have a trading history.

If you’ve had goods manufactured to your specification how did you locate your supplier and negotiate the contract? If you’ve never ordered goods direct from a manufacturer from my experience I would recommend starting by giving Alibaba a try.

  • Gerry007
    7 years ago

    We’ve been importing dor years now, but to be truthful chris, you are making this sound ‘oh so easy’.

    Firstly, having stuff [betond samples] shipped by DHL [or similar] is very expensive, & a bulk order would have to be shipped by sea, using an agent.
    Most makers have a fairly long lead time, which we’ve seen at upto 8-20 weeks.
    A good shipping agent is worth their weight in Gold, if they are any good.

    Most makers really want a minmum order, which can be about $6000, so buying from a maker that has a large product range is more profitable as you can mix the items you buy.

    Not so strangley, the transport costs in the UK, from shipper’s warehouse to the buyer [us] is far more expensive than the cost of shipping from china itself.

    I do agree, that finding good reliable makers is very important, so what you buy [samples obtained] is what you get.

    One more thing, in general Indian makers are rather unresposive to enquiries, so don’t pull your hair out, waiting for replies…

    • 7 years ago

      Very good points 🙂

      So where would you with your experience suggest people start, e.g. how did you source your shipping agent?

    • Gerry007
      7 years ago

      Hi chris, well the site aliexpress appears mainly for small quantity buys, therefore unless thats where you are, most of the sellers are basically buying where you should be buying from.

      Alway try to get to their own www address,which if you follow links you can usually find, or google the name.
      Makers own website are more likely to have a fuller range on.

      SAMPLES;

      Ask for samples, & most are willing to send a few for free, but they will want you to pay the DHL BILL upfront.
      I am alway surprised how many do not have paypal accounts, so then you’ve got to get the money processed into $ (the mainly used currency) and sent to their account, but this is expensive!!.

      SHIPPING. Funny this, we’ve got a great one just a few miles from us in the SE, so google shipping agents & say your local big town/city.
      Many shippers, will ship to a near by port to you.
      Sharing a container (part load) is the 1st way forward until you get a good footing of what you are about to do.
      Find a shipper who genuinely has a worldwide business. Our’s has agents worldwide & have saved us a few bob, as they will go to the factory & report back.

  • Gerry007
    7 years ago

    Re;’I’m often asked by the occasional eBay seller and more often by journalists where eBay sellers go to get their stock’.

    Apparently BID.TV (channel 23 Freeview).

    I was flipping through the channels & came across this. The item was a ladies ‘designer’ handbag’. The preseenter, said, And for all you buyers that are going to re-sell on ebay’….

    So now we know..!!

  • 7 years ago

    What a patsy article.

    • Gerry007
      7 years ago

      Suppose it is to a 1 product Co….

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