So you’ve identified a great sales opportunity and need to source products. Maybe you’ve spotted an exciting niche that no-one else is supplying? Or you just want to source more competitively to keep ahead of the competition? Whatever your plans, you simply can’t ignore China. But how do you set about importing goods to the UK from this economic powerhouse on the other side of the world?

Read our starter guide to importing from China or contact us today to discover how your experienced freight forwarder can make importing simpler and more profitable.

For more advice on how to import goods from China, or to discuss your shipping requirements, call 01268 525444 or email us today


More about how to import goods from China

Read on to find out more about how to import goods from China to the UK and the things you need to consider.

Decide what you want to import from China

Knowing how to start importing goods from China begins with knowing what you want to import. Some online guides assume that you don’t even know what you want to import from China. More likely, however, you’ve identified the product or products that you want to source.

Now it’s time to thoroughly research the quality, reliability and reputation of the goods available in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This could range from basic desk research to an extended tour of Chinese manufacturers. If you do this, remember that China is a huge country, so allow sufficient time for travel between the country’s main manufacturing centres of Shanghai, Ningbo, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Xiamen.

Are the goods you want to import permitted in the UK?

This is important when importing from China to UK destinations. You must make sure that the goods you plan to import from China are permitted in the UK – and any export markets that you will subsequently supply. In particular, be aware that three kinds of import controls currently apply when you import items from China:

  • Bans – where import isn’t allowed under any circumstances.
  • Quotas – where volume of goods is restricted.
  • Surveillance – where import is monitored with licences.

You can find a helpful guide to UK import controls here, complete with updates on current national import controls. Alternatively, please get in touch so we can advise you.

Find the correct commodity code for your goods

When importing goods from China to the UK, the merchandise can be classified using the readily available commodity codes. Knowing which codes apply to your shipment is the key to unlocking other essential information about duty rates, reliefs and applicable quotas. Again, the UK Government has a handy page all about finding commodity codes for imports into the UK, as well as the EU, which we left early in 2020. When classifying your goods, please be aware that some are notoriously hard to classify.

Fortunately, from aircraft parts to wood, the UK Government site offers special guidance. For most goods, however, the site’s convenient Trade Tariff tool will help you find the correct commodity code. It’s very important that you do this because import of goods that are unsafe, don’t meet health requirements, or violate restrictions could get you into serious – and costly – trouble. Delivery from China to the UK is challenging enough without falling foul of the law once your merchandise arrives here.

Calculate the landed cost of your goods

Landed cost can be defined as ‘the total cost of purchasing goods and getting them from their country of origin to their final destination’. In this case, the country of origin is China and the final destination is the UK.

Ideally, you will research and confirm the landed cost upfront. However, in some cases, you may not know the exact cost of your China import until it reaches the UK. If this is the case, make sure to estimate your landed coast as accurately as possible. It might even be prudent to build in a contingency allowance.

Source your supplier in China

This is where things get really interesting and exciting. Depending on the complexity and value of the goods involved, you may be able to make a decision remotely. Alternatively, it could be time to book a flight out to China and visit potential suppliers on their home territory. Either way, the result should be that you find a good supplier who can provide exactly what you want at a great price.

Place your order

After confirming all product details and terms of business, it’s time to ‘pull the trigger’. At this stage expect to get an appropriate pro-forma invoice for your goods, including Harmonised System (HS) information, descriptions, values, weights, packed dimensions and agreed buying terms.

Your purchase terms will include agreed Incoterms (International Commercial Terms). An oft-given piece of advice for importing from China to the UK is to specify Free On Board (FOB) terms (e.g. ‘FOB Tianjin’ or ‘FOB Shenzhen’) rather than Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) which leaves you responsible for all costs incurred after the goods are loaded in China. The difference in cost and administrative hassle between FOB and CIF can be considerable. You’ve been warned! If in doubt, please contact us for more advice.


Allow sufficient time for shipping

Although airfreight and even rail freight options are available from China, knowing how to import things from China involves choosing the best shipping mode. From experience, that means you’re most likely to be shipping by container from China to the UK. As you’ll see from our page on shipping time from China to UK ports of entry, door-to-door shipping from China to Southampton or Felixstowe can take up to six weeks, depending on the departure port. If possible, we recommend allowing 8 weeks between placing an order and the time your goods are required in the UK.

Arrange shipping from China to the UK

Although you could arrange this yourself, haven’t you got more important business tasks to get on with, such as planning the sales and marketing of your new ‘killer’ product range? Do you really want to spend lots of time trying to understand the intricacies and nuances of how to import products from China when professional help is just a call or email away?

Okay, so we’re biased after so many years helping importers get goods to and from the UK. But a reliable, experienced, freight forwarding partner can make a huge difference to your business here – and not only by arranging the best shipping from China for you. Not only can we take away the hassle and worry of arranging shipping, but we can do what’s needed to get your goods from China to the UK smoothly and cost-effectively.


From Beijing to Bradford, we’re here to help

Not only can we help smooth the sometimes choppy waters of sea freight shipping from China to the UK. We can also help with administering your shipment when it arrives in the UK. And, of course, onward delivery to Amazon, your factory or your warehouse.

From your Chinese supplier, through shipping halfway around the world and onto your shelves, freight forwarding from China to the UK is what we do every day. You know how to sell watches, tools, clothing or electronic goods. We know how to import goods from China!

For more advice on how to import goods from China, or to discuss your shipping requirements, call 01268 525444 or email us today


Other China Guides:

Tips for importing from China

Costs to import from China

Shipping time from China to UK