What to Import from China

Friday, 15th June 2012

So many products can be manufactured cheaply in China that the choice of what to import is a difficult one. Before deciding, you need to take several factors into consideration.


You need to know there’s a market for the product you plan to import. Ideally, you want to sell your entire container load as soon after it arrives as possible, so you have to know the product is something people want or need.

Do some market research and see what people are buying and what the latest and greatest is in various categories. Is there a gap in the market where your product would fulfil a need? Are some products particularly expensive, particularly hard to get, lacking an obvious improvement, etc.?

Stay away from fads or overnight trends, as importing takes time and your product may be yesterday’s news by the time you get it on your shelves.

  • Insider’s Tip

If starting from scratch, a great business plan is to pick a product area which is currently commoditised.

For example, pick an area where others are successfully selling a product, but where no other seller has created a branded product. Work with manufacturers to develop some simple and unique features to help sell the product better. For example, the manual for the product may be very poor and in need of improvement.

Often in China you can purchase items for very low value which have much higher perceived value. For example, something which costs $1-2 but looks like it could easily cost $10. Use free ‘bonuses’ to outmarket your competition.

Chinese manufacturers can produce very good products, but their marketing is often very, very poor. Use this to your advantage. A good import agent will be able to arrange high quality photos of the product for your marketing. They can also work closely with you to get valuable information from the supplier so that you can market it better.


Your choice of product will also depend on the kind of business you run or are planning to operate. Is it an online business, or do you have an actual bricks-and-mortar premises from which you can sell?

If you are an online business, then you probably use a courier company to deliver to your customers, in which case your products need to be easy and affordable to ship.

If you operate a store, then you can afford to carry and display larger items, as the only shipping involved will be the initial importation.


The size and weight of the product you choose will affect your shipping costs. If you don’t want to order a whole container load of your product, look for an import agent that offers mixed container shipping, where you share space in a container with other importers.

There’s a lot of red tape involved with importing, so it would make good sense to employ an agent to take care of all the paperwork for you.

Things not to import

Steer away from electrical goods unless you can afford to have them approved to Australian standards (a costly business) and can supply your own warranty.

Forget about trying to import brand-name products. The only way you can is if you become a licensed distributor, which is a costly business. If a Chinese supplier offers you brand-name products at reduced prices, you can be fairly confident they are fakes, which, if sold in Australia, may land you in court for infringement of Intellectual Property Rights and breaches of the Trade Practices Act.

Do not try to import food or medicines, any items that are illegal in Australia (i.e., firearms, pornography, tobacco, drug apparatus, etc.) or any items that will attract extra fees or taxes or spend long periods in quarantine.

Deciding what to import from China is a difficult decision, so do a lot of research before you commit yourself and make sure you have the necessary professional assistance to ensure your goods arrive safely.

Above all, start simple. Choose one product from one supplier and see how it goes. If you are successful, then try expanding to two or three products the next time.

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