Doing your first order in China ? Start small.

What people are saying about Mulberry Fields
“I have read through quite a few of your blog posts and have enjoyed them very very much. We do business in China and face many of the challenges you describe. Much of what you write resonates with me and there are some very helpful tips” – a company in Utah.

It is always a wise idea when you are staring out with a new vendor in China to order as little as possible. The obvious reason you want to do this is to make sure the vendor can make and deliver your product before you give them a big order. Many vendors have an MOQ for a 40’ container but vendors are reasonable people and if they want your business badly enough and have a good enough relationship with their own suppliers, they may allow you to order a 20’ container. If you have a QTY that meets the vendors MOQ but will not fill a 20’ container, you can of course go LCL ( Less than Container Load). The problem with LCL shipments however is that if damage occurs it is sometimes hard to assign blame because there is a third-party consolidator involved. If you need to increase your order slightly to get to a 20’ container that would be advisable.

There are three additional reasons why ordering a 20’ is preferable to LCL:

1.) To see how your product packaging holds up over a month of transit. If you are shipping ceramics from China to the US and you get a container in which half your mugs are broken, this means you obviously need to improve your packaging. Inner or outer or both. Once again, if you use LCL it may be hard to know why or where damage happened.

2.) To see how your vendor loads the container. A well loaded container will maximize space with weight of product distributed evenly. If there are empty spaces vendors need to fill these spaces with dunnage or pallets so that cartons do not collapse onto each other and damage product. Heavy cartons should of course be placed on the floor of the container. And lighter cartons on heavy ones. Loading a container can take a couple of hours, is very physically demanding work and the tendency if someone is not supervising is to do it without care.

3.) To see if the product itself can withstand ocean transit. Containers pick up a lot of moisture when they are on the water for 14-21 days and this sometimes adversely affects the contents of the container. Product when it ships from China looks fine. But when it arrives in Oakland three weeks later, is moldy. Sometimes this is because there is not enough dessicant in the container. Sometimes the production process itself is flawed, vendors for example who do not allow product adequate drying time before loading into the container. If you and the vendor are the only ones touching the contents of the container then it will be easier to identify and solve problems.

In short, plan your business so that your first order is ideally a 20’ container of product you can use but will not need urgently to fill an important order. Avoid the scenario where your first order with a new vendor is a 40’ container of goods you need to deliver to your customer immediately upon receipt.



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