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The Benefits of Using a Purchasing Consultant for Your China Import


For many small businesses, starting to import from China can be a minefield when choosing a good supplier and knowing the full process of purchasing and importing to the UK. It can be daunting and the likelihood is that you will make mistakes during your first few imports, which could prove costly and drain your confidence, as well as appetite to source abroad. There is an alternative to doing things on your own and that is to use a Purchasing Consultant, who will look after the whole process for start to finish, including the following.

The Responsibilities of A Purchasing Consultant

A Purchasing Consultant will look after the whole process from sourcing the best factory for your product to delivery to your door and everything in between. Typically your Purchasing Consultant will do the following.

  • Supplier Sourcing – ensure the correct factory match for your product and order.
  • Supplier Evaluation – verify the factory details, legal owners, licences, experience and certificates.
  • Supplier Communication – ensure clarity of dialogue and avoid miscommunication, which can (and probably will) lead to errors throughout the import process.
  • Sample Approval – check all amendments are carried out and check all materials, quality and specifications meet to your requirements.
  • Product Certifications – verify the factory certificates are relevant to your product and are compliant with UK standards and regulations.
  • Product Packaging – follow your design requirements, text, colours and eco-friendly material options if required.
  • Product Branding – confirm your logo requirements, material type, colours, sizes & placement.
  • Production Control – verify components, pilot production, start date, delivery time and packing procedure.
  • Quality Control Inspections – ensure the shipment is correct before paying the final balance including a pre-shipment inspection.
  • Payment Advice – advise best currency conversion rates and when to settle supplier accounts.
  • Support & Updates – communicate progress of your order and answer all relevant questions throughout each stage of the process.
  • Shipping Door-2-Door – compare the best rates and timelines for your preferred shipping method.
  • Import Duty Calculation – confirm the total Import Duty & VAT to be paid for your shipment, so you can calculate the landing cost.
  • UK Customs Clearance – arrange an approved UK Forwarder to handle UK Customs and deliver your shipment to your warehouse.
  • After Sales Service – follow up any queries after your shipment arrives in UK

How to Source A Purchasing Consultant for Your Product

There are a number of factors that will determine which is the best Purchasing Consultant for your product/business. Points that you should look for will include the following.

  • Communication in Your Language – by this I mean not in average English, but a high level of English to ensure no miscommunication. This is vital as any translation errors can (and probably will) cause errors during each stage.
  • Boots on the Ground – I cannot stress this too much, as it’s essential to have your Purchasing Consultant located in China and better still in the area the factories are located in, so they have local knowledge and can visit the selected factory to carry out inspections during each stage required.
  • Clear & Precise Details – this is your responsibility to provide comprehensive & detailed requirements to your Purchasing Consultant to ensure they have as much information to source correctly. The more information you can provide at the beginning, the better the results will be.
  • A Written Contract – this is vital, as the work a Purchasing Consultant will carry out is long and detailed. Ensure you have a contract in place that details all the responsibilities that they will undertake and the costs involved. A contract should include the following minimum requirements.

     1. All work to be undertaken, broken down into stages.

     2. A detailed breakdown of your product specifications and order requirements including branding and packaging.

     3. Timescales or each of the stage.

     4. Purchasing Consultant costs. (This is usually a percentage of your order value and will differ with each Purchasing Consultant)

     5. Other costs including factory sampling fees, courier fees and other expenses related to the development and shipping of your product.

     6. Product certification (if required).

     7. Quality control inspections to be undertaken.

     8. Payment stages.

     9. Responsibilities & documentation for shipping.

     10. After sales service offered.

  • Experience in Your Product Category – this is essential when selecting the best Purchasing Consultant for your product to ensure they have knowledge of your product.
  • Process Updates – there is nothing worse than keeping you in the dark, so updates during specific stages are essential.
  • Responsibilities – remember this is a 2 way street. It’s vital you work together with your Purchasing Consultant and understand what the responsibilities are for each party. This should be included in the contract to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Purchasing Consultant Fee in GBP – this will save you in unnecessary exchange rate costs.
  • Security of Balance Payments to Your Supplier – your Purchasing Consultant should confirm your shipment is complete and checked to allow you to make the final payment to your supplier safely.

Information You Should Prepare & Give to Your Purchasing Consultant

As previously mentioned, clear, detailed & precise information from you to your Purchasing Consultant will ensure that they know your exact requirements and will help them know which factory to source for your product and order requirements. Typically you should include the following, although this may differ slightly based on your product category.

  • Product photo/image – this is a basic requirement to keep your definitions clear.
  • Product specifications – include as much detail including dimensions, features, colours, labelling and any other product requirements.
  • Product materials – be as specific as you can, include weight, thickness, recycled or other eco-friendly or vegan materials if required.
  • Product packaging – this is an important element and you should provide the following minimum details: Preferred materials including eco-friendly or vegan, Pantone colours, dimensions, text layout, required compliance & certification icons, as well as any other details relevant to your product.
  • Product branding – branding is vital to your product and marketing, ensure the information you provide is clear with Pantone colours, typeface, size, placement and type of print/embroidery/badge/material required.
  • Master carton packing – this is to ensure your products are packed safely and arrive without damage during shipping, as well as the quantities you want in each carton. Ply count (7 ply is the norm for export cartons) as well as size and taping requirements are all important considerations.
  • Master carton markings – this should include your ‘Shipping Mark’, typically a few letters to denote your company, as well as model number, colour, carton quantity, batch number and any other information you feel will be helpful to know what’s inside the carton.
  • Product certification – if your product requires certification to be sold in the UK, provide details of the certificates required. It may be that you’ll need new certificates or advised to have your own tests carried out and not to rely on a factory’s certificates if abnormalities are found or the tests are outdated.
  • Price point – provide estimated product price points you’re looking for, but always remember that the lower you go, the quality may (and will) be compromised, so be realistic with this figure to give your Purchasing Consultant a guideline to the quality you’re looking for.
  • Shipping requirements – advise if you require the Purchasing Consultant to handle the shipping process from the factory to to your warehouse.

How Much Will a Purchasing Consultant Cost?

Typically the Purchasing Consultant will charge a % of the order value. The higher the order value, the lower the % they will charge. My advice is never go for the cheapest, but see what each Purchasing Consultant can offer you and is best suited for your business. Comparisons and due diligence are a must.

Will The Purchasing Agent Act in My Best Interests?

Yes and they’ll follow your instructions and order requirements. They will also negotiate where needed and you can input your ideas and advice at each stage of the order process.

10 Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do I need a Purchasing Consultant?
Simply put, they will control all the aspects necessary to source your product and follow the whole process until it reaches your door.

2. Is there a difference between a Purchasing Consultant & Purchasing Agent?
No, they are the same, although will use either phrase. Check that they follow the whole process from A to Z.

3. Is a Purchasing Consultant better than A Sourcing Agent?
Yes, typically a Sourcing Agent will only cover the product sourcing and identify a factory that can produce your product. If anything else is required, they will charge for each process. A Purchasing Consultant will cover the whole process for one fee.

4. How will I know if the percentage charged is competitive?
Like any purchasing, compare prices and the services offered.

5. Can the price be negotiated?
This will probably depend on the order value, but take on board that if you squeeze the cost, you may sacrifice on the service provided.

6. What due diligence should I carry out before choosing a Purchasing Consultant?
Ask for experience in the product category you want sourced, as well as their website to check their credentials. Ask for references and follow them up. Local knowledge with ‘boots on the ground’ is also an important consideration.

7. Will the Purchasing Agent look after UK Customs clearance and delivery to my door?
Yes, this should be discussed, confirmed and included in your written contract with the Purchasing Consultant. A UK forwarder will be used to handle this service

8. If the Purchasing Consultant refuses to issue a written contract, is it safe to use them?
No, I would advise against using anyone who refuses to give you a written contract. That’s just asking for trouble.

9. How will I know the factory selected by the Purchasing Consultant is a good match for my product and order?
Part of the Purchasing Consultant remit is to provide an evaluation report on the factory, so you can see their credentials, experience, countries they’ve exported to, product certificates, as well as other relevant details.

10. What happens if I’m not happy with the quality of the product?
A Purchasing Consultant will liaise with you during each stage and will not go ahead with the mass production until you have approved the sample as well as pre-production pilot samples. They will also carry out QC inspections including a comprehensive pre-shipment check.