Last month someone emailed me asking me if I could help her source a promotional product in China. This lady runs a small non-profit here in the SF Bay Area. She said she had contacted some vendors and agents on alibaba but, having never done business overseas, was nervous about moving forward with them. I told her I could help her and quoted my fee, which is not substantial. She seemed to waiver and then told me that the Chinese agents had quoted her a lower fee. I generally don’t advise using Chinese sourcing companies for reasons I have written about here, and I told her so. After a couple weeks of going back and forth and answering her questions as best I could I finally decided to give her the name of very reputable French sourcing company in China, for I had come to the realization that she was very reluctant to spend money on this project. The French company charges less than the Chinese company and although they are staffed with locals they are owned and managed by a French national with many years’ experience in China. They have a good reputation, are responsive and I think their sourcing fee is very reasonable, although things can get expensive, in terms of the costs associated with follow up, once they locate a factory for you.
About a month passed and the lady emailed me telling me she had had some discussions with the French company and was “weighing her options.” She asked me to advise her. I told her that with her QTYs and target costs, neither of which is substantial, she is going to need all the help she can get in finding a vendor in China who is willing to take her order. And if she is serious about doing this she needs to see that she will have to invest some money. In spite of the seductively low costs one sees advertised on B2B sites like alibaba and Global Sourcing, sourcing overseas requires serious investment and demands a serious, long-term commitment. In other words if you want to source in China, but are not willing to spend the time and money to do so, my advice is simple: forget it.