We got many inquiries from people who want to start a small business by importing small quantity products from China since our website started. Most of them do not have much relevant experience, and just consider it’s very simple: find a Chinese supplier, buy products at a low price, ship home, and sell a high price in the local market.
But the truth is importing small quantities directly from China is never that easy. You will face many different problems, such as shipping fees higher than the product’s value, or your order being much less than the supplier’s MOQ. In some circumstances, you may have to give up your wonderful plan of starting a new business.
In this article, we will give a complete introduction of how to import small quantity products from China and explain some problems you may have.
What Is Small Business? And What Is Small Quantity Buyers?
Different companies and people have different definitions of small business. Most sourcing agents or consulting companies define small businesses as those that import less than USD 500,000 annually. But for many business starters, this amount is way too high, and maybe they still can’t reach it after 5 years. That’s why it’s not easy for small starter businesses to find a suitable sourcing or consulting company that can offer them relevant services.
I’d like to define customers who purchase USD 5,000-50,000 (including different kinds of products) in one order as Small Business. With this amount, the shipment volume usually is from 5 CBM to a 40HQ container. This amount usually can reach the factory’s MOQ and can buy from them directly.
4 to 5 CBM normally will be the most suitable minimum volume for LCL (Less than Container Load) shipping. If less than this, the whole export & import process is complicated and costs lots of money, which means the average cost for each product will be high.
Small Quantity Buyers refer to those who buy less than $2,000 per order, and who just start a new business (I mentioned in the beginning) are also a part of them. This article will more focus on helping this group of people.
What Kind of Products Are Suitable for Small Quantity Buyers?
a. High-Value or Small Size Products
Shipping is always a big problem for small quantity importers. Because their shipping volume is always too less for LCL, usually less than 2 CBM, and have to choose air freight or express, which costs 8-10 times higher than LCL sea freight.
Products with large size or large packages, like mug and teddy bear, is not suitable for small quantity importers, because both express and air freight fee are charged by dimension weight (length*height*width).
This means your shipping cost is even higher than the products’ value, but your competitors import by LCL sea freight which costs 80% less than you. Then you have no chance to compete with them in the local market.
So for small quantity importers, high-value, small-sized products are a better choice. Shipping cost won’t be high, sometimes only 10% of the product’s value. Such as fashion accessories, small electronic products, watches, etc. Most importers won’t choose sea shipping because of the timeliness, so no need to worry about your shipping cost is higher than competitors.
b. Choose Interesting Products, Instead of Normal Items
Small quantity buyers can try to find some special and interesting products, and avoid those common products which can be bought everywhere.
Some people think that daily used products, such as socks, are very easy to be sold as everyone needs them, but it’s not true. Because there must be numerous people importing and selling these items with low profit, and it will be hard to compete with them. But you can think about importing some special socks, such as “non-slip children socks”, or socks with good designs.
Common products in daily life are not suitable for small businesses, either. For instance, we received many inquiries from different countries (European and Middle East countries), and they want to import a 20GP container of A4 printing papers.
But they only found that the total cost to import from China has no big difference from the price in their countries. Because this kind of product has no much-added value, and the cost is mostly depending on the raw material. So the price is very transparent, even with a large demanded quantity.
Toilet paper is also a very common product, but our Czech customer selects those with interesting designs printed: such as US dollar, Euro, Heller, and even Kama Sutra. These special toilet paper can be easily sold at several times higher prices than the common one.
How to Find Chinese Suppliers for Small Quantity Buyers?
Most small quantity buyers find Chinese suppliers online. Even customers who buy larger quantity (around USD 30,000-50,000 for each order), they seldom actually come to China for finding suppliers, except attending some fairs.
First is the high cost, including air ticket, hotel fee, and traffic allowance, and it will cost totally around USD 4,000 for a week visiting China. Second is finding a good Chinese supplier is a tough task, except you go directly to some places like fairs or Yiwu wholesale market. Or you already contacted suppliers before coming to China.
But if you have enough time and budget to come to China to visit wholesale markets, I recommend you to read Top China Wholesale Markets for All Products.
No matter for large buyers or small quantity buyers, searching Chinese suppliers on Alibaba is the best choice. But If you are buying a very small quantity (less than USD 400 for each item), Alibaba suppliers probably can’t sell you because usually, they have higher MOQ.
Maybe you can pay for products at a higher price, and sometimes suppliers will sell you. If not, you have to turn to DHgate or Aliexpress. Don’t spend much time persuading them that you will buy a big quantity in the future, and this is for trial. Because Chinese suppliers are hearing this from clients every day, and it doesn’t work at all.
b. Dhgate and Aliexpress
If the Alibaba supplier’s MOQ is still hard for you to reach, maybe you can only go to DHgate and Aliexpress. They’re two similar sites to Alibaba with some differences. Usually, DHgate tends to small quantity wholesalers whose buying quantity is between Alibaba and Aliexpress. Aliexpress more tends to retailers, though it claims itself for online wholesale, and this truth is known by most Chinese suppliers.
Many buyers may have such questions: Is Dhgate safe? Is Aliexpress safe? Actually, both of them are legal platforms and what you really need is practical tips to avoid or handle problems when buying on them.
How to Ship Cargo from China When Buying Small Quantity?
I have to say that the shipping way is really a big problem for small quantity buyers as mentioned in the beginning. Sometimes small quantity has to give up importing from China because express is the only way to ship, and it’s too expensive.
a. International Express and Air Freight
International Express is suitable for cargoes under 300kg, while air freight is suitable for over 300kg. But air freight needs the same import & export processes as sea freight. You also need to pick up your cargo at the airport.
Hazardous articles such as liquid, powder, and products with batteries cannot be shipped by air in cargo. Balancing scooters is also one among them. (You can check another article-Importing Balancing Scooter from China)
b. LCL Companies That Offer All-in Price Shipping Service
This kind of LCL company is the best choice for small quantity buyers. They usually are specialized in certain ports or areas and offer an all-in-price shipping service. They will handle all custom and shipping processes, and you just need to pick up your cargo in their warehouse, or sometimes they can deliver to the door.
Moreover, their price is very low even you ship 0.5 CBM because the container is shared by 10 to 40 clients. You can learn more by check another article: How to Ship Products When Import from China: Complete Guide.
But this kind of company is hard to find, not existing in every area or city. You’d better ask some experienced importers in your country, and maybe they know.
I know some of these kinds of shipping companies, and I’d like to help you. You can tell us what kind of products and the quantity you’d like to deliver and I will contact you via email.
There are companies offering $80/CBM to Malaysia & Singapore, delivering to the door; $280/CBM to Kenya but you have to pick up cargos at their warehouse in Nairobi; $280/CBM to Sydney/Melbourne warehouse, etc. The rate is just for reference.
c. Consolidate Cargoes from Different Suppliers And Ship Together
If you are buying from different suppliers, then you can think about consolidating them in one shipment, and you will save shipping costs. Because even use international express, heavy cargo is charged in lower price/kg than light one.
It makes more sense for sea freight. If you import 5 different products from 5 suppliers, each product 0.5CBM, then you can consider consolidating them together by LCL sea shipping. By doing this, your shipping cost will be 80% less than express. Or you have to pay for 5 international expresses separately because there’s no cheaper solution.
So you need a person to consolidate your cargoes in China. One solution is to find a reliable forwarder who has its own warehouse, then you can use it for consolidation (usually free of charge). However, most of the forwarders don’t have a warehouse, and they just pick up your cargo from the supplier, then send it to the LCL shipping company to load in the container. (This may due to the particularity of the Chinese shipping agency industry, which we will introduce in a future article)
Another Solution is you can choose one reliable supplier, and let other suppliers send all the cargoes to him, then the forwarder can pick up cargoes together in one place.
We strongly recommend you to try to consolidate cargoes, so that you can gain more import experience. Then congratulations, you moved the first step of expanding your business, and you can try to purchase a larger quantity next time.
How to Avoid Scam When Buying Small Quantity as a Business Beginner?
Many starter businesses are afraid of being scammed on Alibaba and other online platforms when sourcing products from China, but the truth is seldom people were under this case.
No matter you are buying from Alibaba, Aliexpress, or DHgate, none of the suppliers can take your money without sending the products. Because all suppliers on these online platforms are required to offer their Chinese ID cards, or company registration information in the beginning.
Then they have to pay a certain amount of fees every year to become suppliers on these platforms. Such as for being a Gold Supplier in Alibaba, you have to pay CNY 29,800 (around USD 4,730) annually for a membership fee; pay for USD 4,700 deposit to become suppliers in Aliexpress.
One interesting thing is: many people believe that Gold Suppliers are qualified suppliers verified by Alibaba, that’s also what Alibaba tells. But it’s not true. All suppliers on Alibaba are Gold Suppliers because they already paid for it. So you can just ignore the Gold Supplier thing when directly searching for suppliers on Alibaba or using the RFQ service.
So the worst situation is the products sent by the supplier are of worse quality than you expect or fewer products you received.
Further Reading to Make Your Purchasing Safer
Please I want flowers and decorations items I need help
I want to buy beads for making bags and necklaces. And travelling boxes in sets of different sizes
I want to import engine belt please I need help
Send us an email to tell us more details
I want important pk belt and timing belt don’t know how to go about it
Send us an email, let our sourcing specialists help you out.
Im a small quantity busines.. want to import pet products. Can you help with an agent who can take care of shipping and coordinationg
Send us an email and tell us more details.
Hello I bought somethings from a supplier in 1688 and 3 items I bought from a particular store was not delivered to the warehouse till now what do I do
Hey I bought liquid cosmetics in china via alibaba, they are still at my importers warehouse, as I didn’t know liquid is not shipped by air, the shipping cost is way higher by sea than the products price, how can you help
Yes, Jane， it’s hard for liquid goods to be shipped by air and the shipping cost is higher than regular goods.
Hi I would like to start a small business selling gaming computers in the UK, particularly computers with the later intel i9 9900k processors, fast graphic cards and large hard drives which are quite plentiful on Alibaba many with low 1 and 2 MOQ, once I have found a good quality supplier I would look to purchase 4 or 5 at a time with an individual price of $300 to $400 each, the profit margin would be quite high there are suppliers that offer to your door shipping. Is this plan in your experience something that could be possible using… Read more »
I want to import small quantity of pet toys from china. I have found a supplier on alibaba but no one in pakistan is helping us with the import process
Hey, I would like to import ladies bags from China to Nairobi Kenya. Please advice me accordingly.
I want to buy clothes,shoes and bags i need a supplier …is my first time i want to start ordering i don’t have a supplier am a namibian
Hi…am looking for a supplier in alibaba
Hi…from KZN (North Coast) South Africa. VERY new to this sourcing from outside of SA as well as CHINA. I need to source the following shapes / sizes of UV protective Glass bottles / jars / spray and roller products…I would love them to be BLACK glass, but if NOT available in the sizes I require, I would need to go for the AMBER coloured glass BECAUSE products are NATURAL and contain some ESSENTIAL OILS. THE containers ALL need to be the same COLOUR as well as the same style. I need a reliable and quality product in the end.… Read more »
Email us and our sourcing specialist will help you out: [email protected]
Hi there! I’m a Nigerian and 18. I’d love to start a small business by importing shoes(unisex), perfumes and some other things which aren’t that common, but thing is; I don’t know where to start except looking for legit suppliers, examine product if they are of good quality, etc. Asides that, I know nothing else.
I’d love you to give me a guide.
Thanks in advance.
Hi, I am starting a small business in Singapore and would like to import some goods from China. My items are relatively small, estimating the carton size to be 510mm * 410mm * 410mm and only weighs less than 25kg. You mentioned that “I know some of these kind shipping companies, and I’d like to help you. You can tell us what kind of products and the quantity you’d like to deliver and I will contact you via email.“ Could you kindly advise me on this kind of shipping companies? Other than that, kudos on the great website. It is… Read more »
Hallo, I would like to import a machine weighing 300kg to Kenya. Do you know of a person/company in China that can ship it for me to Kenya?
You can ask your supplier or someone else in China for help. Most Chinese suppliers may have cooperating freight forwardings, and there are many freight forwarding companies in China, they can find one easily. You can ask them for the fee of express or air freight, after comparing the price, you can decide how to transport your machine. And if you need our help, you can submit a ticket to us:https://jingsourcing.com/submit-ticket/
Hello , I’m Grace from Nairobi, Kenya. I would like to import kitchen/ household products. Please help on how to go about it. Thank you
If you don’t come to China, and the value of your products is under $500, you can buy from DHgate or Aliexpress. If the value is more than $1000, you can search suppliers on Alibaba, or contact us, we can help you find suppliers and import the products to your country, you can submit a ticket through this link:https://jingsourcing.com/submit-ticket/
I want to import few power bank, phone and ladies bags and slippers to Nigeria, I need ur advice and with channel that I can get it with maximum security required for my goods….thank you.
Hey I would like to import wholesale dresses to kenys
I am in Nigeria and I am interested in selling kitchen gadgets that are cheap but good quality with little capital
Am Mark please i want to start importing
Goods from China to Ghana but how do I go about it
Hi, i am from Pakistan. I want to import small quantity mobile phone accessories and electronic gadgets i need assistance for buying products (need supplier) also need guidance about shipment. How can i import from china.
Thanks for your comment, We have written a post that may benefit your business, you can check them before you import from China.
Hi, i read this ‘I know some of these kind shipping companies, and I’d like to help you. You can tell us what kind of products and the quantity you’d like to deliver and I will contact you via email. ‘.
can you assist me for this case ?
In addition,i would like to know that would you help me to check the goods at supplier warehouse (recommended product in terms of quality or not) ?
Sorry hamid, we have cooperated with some freight forwarding companies before, but many of them have changed their businesses, so we stop introducing freight forwarding companies to customers.
Usually, we need customers let their suppliers send goods to our warehouse, then we inspect the goods. This is our Basic Plan, please check this link: https://jingsourcing.com/pricing/. If you purchase a large quantity of goods, we can also go to the supplier’s warehouse to inspect the goods, but there will be an additional cost.
If you really want to purchase some products from China recently, you can submit a ticket to us:https://jingsourcing.com/submit-ticket/
Hi, my name is Opeoluwa from Nigeria, I do like to have more information on how to buy bags and shoes from China. I bought things from Aliexoress last year Sept am yet to get it.
You mean you haven’t got the shoes you bought from Aliexpress last sept? For small packets, you need to choose the kind of express company that can provide you with tracking number and can ensure transportation time is within 20 days. If you choose the cheapest transportation way with 1-2 -month transportation time, it is likely to lose the packet.
What is the name of this shipping company to Kenya that charges $280
Sorry, we have cooperated with some freight forwarding companies before, but many of them have changed their businesses mode, so we stop introducing freight forwarding companies to customers.
I want a home solar system, this includes solar panels, batteries inverter, these things are small but heavy. When I searched on Alibaba I found the prices to be Lower relative to the quality. The problem is that most of the suppliers have no idea about Uganda being land locked. They only want to transport the goods upto Mombasa. Which could be hard for me… I was expecting that the goods could be brought to Uganda cause I can pick them from Malabar. My second aiestion is on the pvoc certificate… When I try to check the unbs website they… Read more »
Hi Wasswa, most products we source are daily-use consumable products, solar system is a little bit beyond the scope of our business.
Firstly, you’ve mentioned your suppliers don’t want to transport the goods upto Malabar, you can find your local freight forwarders who are specialized in transporting goods from other countries to Uganda, you can ask them to help you to pick up the goods.
Secondly, about the pvoc certificate, you can ask your local suppliers who are engaged in the solar system industry, they may know fully about this issue.
Hi, I would like to buy a small quantities to Australia,
Do you have any suggestions, I want to buy from different suppliers, things like waist belts, A mix of apparel and maybe phone chargers
Hi Michelle, I have three suggestions:
1. If the value of your “small quantity” is about $100 or $200, You can purchase on AliExpress
2. If you want to buy goods in stock, and the value of your “small quantity” is about $500, $1000, or $2000, you can ask one of your suppliers who is more reliable to purchase the other products. Then he can help you pack and ship to you.
3. Or you can submit a ticket, we can help you deal with all the problems
hi i am looking at importing electric bikes, i have gone thorugh alibaba and contact the manufacture direct as well as through Alibaba i am now in the position of arrangiong door to door service in regards shipping. do you have a company you would recommend for this?
sorry, we can’t deal with electric bikes. If you have any other products, please contact us.
Hello, I have been using China mail Ali express to import hobbyist electronics like small sensors and microcontrollers. I wanted to use air freight using a cargo handling company in Kenya as this would be faster and items are light and they handle customs and consolidate so it wouldn’t be as expensive. They gave me a warehouse address in China Shenzhen but there is no option to ship to China in shipping address in AliExpress or Alibaba. Kindly assist with this. Maybe you can recommend some options.
Hello, Kzee, thanks for your comment, you can contact your supplier to send the goods to Shenzhen, suppliers in AliExpress or Alibaba mostly have the ability to send goods.
Thank you for your response.
Also kindly advise on this “I know some of these kind shipping companies, and I’d like to help you. You can tell us what kind of products and the quantity you’d like to deliver and I will contact you via email.”
Hi there. I want to import small quantities (150-200pcs) of small baby goods (hats,mittens,washcloths etc.) All products are from different suppliers to UK. Can you advise which is the less expensive and most convenient way? Thanks
Hello, DBolyarska, our customer service will contact you soon.
Hi, i am based in dubai and i am in the process of starting an e-commerce store. I want to get baby stuff from different suppliers for maybe around 300-500 usd each. I want to know the cost effective way to ship the products together from china different suppliers to dubai, uae. Mostly from dh gate alibaba and ali express. Can you advise me? Thanks
Hi, I want to bring some Nintendo switch adapters to Canada (around 20) would I need to register here as a company or can I just do it paying online on Alibaba? Thanks
We can’t help you with the brand product, If you have any daily-use consumable products, please contact us. For the Nintendo switch adapter, you can just do it paying online on Alibaba. Thanks for your comment.
Hello,I’m gift and am from Nigeria .I would like to recommend cheap and reliable shipping agent for me .
Hello, Gift. Our customer service will send an email to contact you soon.
Hi. How can I import small quantity from China by cheaper price?
Hello, Ovo, what product do you want to import? And what’s the quantity. please send more information to us, email is [email protected]
I know some of these kind shipping companies, and I’d like to help you. You can tell us what kind of products and the quantity you’d like to deliver and I will contact you via email. Kindly share the companies in Nairobi Kenya. Am interested in cosmetics and beauty products.
Hello, Julius Muchira, thanks for your comment, our customer service will answer your question, please pay attention to your email.
Kindly share the companies in Nairobi Kenya. Am interested in cosmetics and beauty products.
I plan to buy 100 rolls of elastic bands from China (Alibaba) cost around £600 including shipping to UK. Do I need to pay customs duty or whatever taxes may have?
Hello, Sal Fritzie Paller, our customer service will answer your question, please pay attention to your email.
Hi, am Zainab from Nigeria, am new to all these, I want to buy in small quantities and I don’t have any link or websites to order what I want and how it can be shipped into Nigeria and also how it can be delivered at my door step. Pls guide me
Hi Zainab, thanks for your inquiry. Which product do you need to order? We can help you source suppliers to order and ship to Nigeria if you need wholesale these products. You can send an email to our customer service via [email protected]. Or if you need to order only several pieces for each item currently, you can order via Aliepress first to test your market.
Hi.am Juma from kenya i would like to import solar panels and phones small quantities.
Thanks for your comment, our customer service will reply to you soon.
My name is precious I want to start importing hair from China at a cheap rate
Hi, precious, Thanks for your comment, our customer service will reply to you soon.
Hello, I want to import shoes from China small quantity .I want cheapest shipping companies to Ethiopia. I need information. My email is [email protected].
Got it Ayele, will email you soon to help import shoes for you
I am toyosi from Nigeria, I want to start importation of household items and phone accessories. Please I need your help on how to source for products
Hi Igbinovia, thanks for your inquiry. Our customer support will email you soon to know more details
Hi Igninovia, thanks for your inquiry. Our customer support will email you soon to discuss the details
Hi.. Nice one,I want to start importation of diapers from china to nigeria
Please I need your guideline.I am from Nigeria
Hi Sir/Madam, thanks for your inquiry. But sorry we cannot help with diaper. Do you need to import other products from China?
I have to send few pieces of hands-free from china to Pakistan. I have customers there. but shipping cost is too high, how can i send?
Hi Liang, which hand-free product do you need to ship? Later our customer service will send an email to know more details with you
Hi I am in Liberia I want to start a small business in China but how much budget do I need to start to get 40ft container
Hi, we will contact you by email. Please pay attention to your email inbox.
Hello I’m Esther from kenya I would like to start an online bag business eg sling bags …handbags etc….kindly advice me on the shipment to kenya via LCL for a business starter
Hi Esther, you can submit a ticket to tell us your goods’ quantity.
Thank you for this informative piece.
I want to ship in clothing accessories and fabric from China via LCL.
Kindly reach me with this email:[email protected]
Hi Emelda, please submit a ticket and tell us your goods’ quantity so that we can help you.
Looking cheap shipping small quantities to Zimbabwe
looking for shipping to Zimbabwe
Hi Naison, please submit a ticket and tell us your goods’ quantity so that we can help you.
Hello,I wanted to know the total cost of sea shipping of 2000 tf cards and 2000 USB flash drive from shenzhen china to nairobi kenya
Hi Franklin, I will ask my workmate to contact you and he will quote you the price.
How can i reach you?
Hi Michelle, our email address is [email protected]. And if you want to source products, you can submit a ticket.
Hi There, I’m Vasan from Malaysia, recently I’m starting small scale business which is import lighting product from Ningbo, China to Malaysia, i find difficulties on costing whereby import charges is more than 50% per items cost price cause using air freight, so I only manage to sell on marginal profit which is not effective. Any one from here can help to consolidate in container as stated above to cut down as much can, Thanks
my email id [email protected]
My whatsapp +60164166010
Hi Vasan, could you tell me the quantity of your goods so that I can help you? Please submit a ticket.
What if I am wanting services like sewing from a Chinese supplier? Are there any requirements or costs involved in shipping them the materials direct from the Chinese manufacturer? Will I have too much in import tax for the final product worthwhile?
Hi Paul, if you want extra requirements and services, you can directly negotiate with the supplier.