So you're thinking of importing from China?


Good on you!  We all know China's a huge country with thousands of factories making everything from iPhone covers to market umbrellas to trolley wheels to greetings cards to floor tiles to mining drill bits to pumps to modular kitchens to...  you get the idea.  Whatever you want, you can probably source it from China.  If you want a big enough quantity, and if you can find the right supplier.

We can't help you with what quantity you want to order, but we can give you some idea of your options for finding a supplier.  Here's the main ones

Use a sourcing website like or

Wendy Huang already wrote an article on SavvySME about sourcing from Alibaba, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this option.  The main point is that there is risk because the supplier checking is quite limited, so you need to do what you can to protect yourself from that risk.  It can be quite time-consuming, and if anything goes wrong, you're on your own trying to sort it out.  We've received many queries from people who used sourcing sites and ended up looking for help.

On the other hand, you've got a lot of control and you're not paying anyone else. If you want small quantities, this may be the only option which makes financial sense, and if the outlay is small, your risk is not so great.

Use an overseas trading company

Trading companies act as a middleman between you and the Chinese supplier.  Major advantages are that they usually speak the language, understand the culture and have networks in place already.  Plus they understand international trade and shipping.

On the other hand, you are probably still dealing with someone overseas who you've never met.  And you've now got an intermediary who needs to make money out of the transaction too.

Use an Australian-based sourcing agency

Similar to an international trading company, but with Australian offices and staff.  The best of them (us, for example!) have their own offices in China too - but as part of an international organisation, they're less likely to have commission deals with the local suppliers which can create conflict of interest.

Once again, you will save your own time and get access to experts in sourcing, negotiation, quality control, shipping and import.

Attend trade fairs or go on product sourcing tours in China

This method has the great benefit of meeting potential suppliers face-to-face and establishing some kind of relationship. Not only does this give you some 'gut feel' about the business (and you may even get to visit it as well), but those relationships are really important in Chinese business culture.

However, a trip to China is a relatively big cost, still with no guarantee you'll find the right supplier.  If you do want to do this, we'd recommend you use a professional guide and interpreter to help you get real benefit from the trip.  Unless of course you have your own friends, family and connections in China already.


All these options are possible, and you have to do your own research and decide what's right for your circumstances.  In many cases, it makes sense to start by importing via a trading company or sourcing agency.  This gives a balance of risk and cost and lets you dip your toe in the water without drowning completely!  

So if you've got an idea for something you could import from China, why not start investigating today?

(By the way, everything listed in that top paragraph is something we at Hornet have helped clients import from China.  You really can get anything there!)


Ilga Horvat

Operations Manager at Hornet Import and Export Group Pty Ltd

Hornet helps companies source products from overseas, mostly China but also increasingly India. We aim to save you time, money and stress by taking care of the sourcing and import process, so you can concentrate on growing your own business. Our clients range from boutique retailers (photography props, wall decals, candles) to retail suppliers (shop fittings; promotional/gift packaging; branded premiums; fluoro lighting) to industrial (custom moulding, mining equipment) and beyond.

Comments (6)
Brian Jo

Brian Jo, General Manager at Stools & Chairs

Great tips. Having just completed a few purchases from China recently, I would shop around and if possible, avoid the trading companies. A lot of manufacturers now understand the need to be able to speak english and it shouldnt be too much problem to communicate with them. Know that you are speaking to someone that English is their second language so be patient with them, also be as clear as possible. There is no such things as dumb questions when it comes to asking a manufacturer, if it is obvious to you, it may not be obvious to them By avoiding the trading companies, you are paying significantly less. May take a bit longer to set it all up, but it will save you money in the future.

Tim Greig

Tim Greig, Owner at Green Galah Pty Ltd

Great advice. We have imported around 6 or so times via Alibaba Express with only one issue which the supplier sorted very quickly. As we grow I'd like to investigate getting larger quantities a little more directly and this is useful information. At least with Alibaba you can see what is available and some indication of pricing.Thanks

View all (6) comments