Okay, so you’ve decided to import from China. Maybe the goods will go direct to your warehouse or perhaps you’ll sell online and dropship via a third-party fulfilment partner such as Amazon. Only you can decide on the best goods to import from China. But whatever your plans for importing from China, we can help with advice and freight forwarding services to make the experience straightforward and profitable. First, a few tips for importing from China to get you started…

Of course, our top tip has to be to find a reliable, experienced freight forwarding partner like us. For help or advice on importing from China, call 01268 525444 or email us today


More about tips for importing from China

Read on for more tips on importing from China to the UK.

What do you want to achieve by shipping from China?

It sounds obvious, but this is easily overlooked amid the excitement of setting up an import operation from China to the UK. Maybe Chinese manufacturers offer something new and exciting for the UK market and you have the jump on the competition? Alternatively, perhaps you want a lower-cost source of existing products to meet the challenge of an increasingly competitive marketplace?

China’s factories await your order. Either way, importing from China could be the right way to go. But you need to think it through carefully to make sure you don’t throw precious resources into a project that isn’t right for you.

Don’t forget that all-important EORI number…

An Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is essential when importing. It’s used by UK Customs to record imports from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – or anywhere else – to the UK. As our article on FOB, CIF/CFR and EXW shipping terms explains, not having an EORI number could mean having to pay hidden handover charges before release of your shipment in the UK. That’s another important reason why getting an EORI number is one of our top tips for importing from China. It’s free and easy to get your EORI number here.

Source your suppliers carefully

Quite rightly, many people offering tips for importing from China recommend careful sourcing of suppliers. You’ve thought the project through and developed a plan that fits your business and marketing objectives.

Now it’s time to identify a reliable Chinese supplier who can be trusted as you work together. Check out their product quality, seek references and, if possible, visit them in Shanghai, Guangzhou or Tianjin. While there, establish whether they do everything themselves or if they outsource manufacturing.

By the way, before you go, how about learning some basic Mandarin and understanding the subtleties of Chinese culture? Even if most of your discussions are in English, knowing how to say Nǐ hǎo (‘hello’), Zàijiàn (‘goodbye’) and Xièxiè (‘thank you’) will help build the foundations of a mutually rewarding business relationship.

Use a well-drafted contract to reduce import risk

Never skimp on contract preparation. If necessary, seek professional contract advice in the same way that you’re getting professional help with your freight forwarding. The right currency choices, payment methods, payment and delivery terms are all essential to the smooth-running of your import operation. Setting out and agreeing contractual terms early helps avoid later misunderstandings.

In particular, careful selection of appropriate International Commercial Terms (Incoterms) is essential to avoid costly problems later. For instance, the difference between ‘Free On Board (FOB) Shenzhen’ and ‘Cost, Insurance and freight (CIF) Felixstowe’ really can make a big difference down the line. As you would expect, we can advise on the best choice of Incoterms.

Sea, air or rail? Getting goods from China to the UK

Though overland routes have been resurrected with transcontinental rail shipping along the ‘new silk route from China to Europe’, you’ll probably use containerised sea freight to ship from China to the UK. However, if speed and security is your top priority for urgent or high value, goods, airfreight may be worth considering. Either way, we can help.

Whatever shipping mode you choose, another important decision is about handling shipping yourself or appointing an experienced freight forwarder like us. After years of freight forwarding from China to the UK, we’re well positioned to help you with everything from basic documentation to the cost of a shipping container from China to the UK. Read our customer testimonials, then call or email us to learn more.

Understand your shipping costs

What could be simpler? Buy goods in China, arrange to have them put on a container ship, pay the ‘shipping cost’ and look forward to their arrival in the UK.

Actually, when planning door-to-door shipping from China to the UK there are many things to consider, not least, the weights, dimensions and volume of your goods and their port of departure in China. Then there are full or part container loads, marine insurance, import fees from China to UK and the port of arrival in the UK to think about.

What’s more, the Incoterms you agree with a China-based supplier also have a bearing on the final shipping costs. It’s a potential minefield for the unwary. Fortunately, we can demystify China shipping costs and advise on getting a good deal.

Keep in HMRC’s good books

It has always been important to stay on the right side of HMRC when importing to the UK from outside the European Union (EU). Now the UK has left the EU and the transition year has ended, challenges facing importers from China will only increase. Read more about the fast-changing world of post-Brexit (or ‘post EU exit’) freight forwarding here.

What’s the impact of Brexit on China imports?

Another top tip – and a particularly topical one at the time of writing – concerns the importance of understanding the implications of Brexit (or ‘EU exit’) on importing from China.

Of course, like everything Brexit-related, this is uncertain and likely to change further after the transition period. Additional uncertainty surrounds future changes based on the UK’s ability to negotiate a UK-China trade deal after a no-deal Brexit. Our top tip for this is to do as much research as possible before you buy and ship from China. Keep up to date with Brexit-related developments, bookmark our Brexit page and please talk to us about the latest situation.

The only certainty, whether it concerns imports from China to the UK or imports from the EU is that things will keep changing for the foreseeable future.

Understand the applicable UK Trade Tariffs

Do you know what you need to know as an importer from China to the UK? Having the right knowledge about tariffs, duty, import VAT and import licensing is something else that can keep you on the right side of the UK law. Overlook these details at your peril. Again, we can help with advice and practical help.

Know your commodity codes…

Using incorrect commodity codes (or omitting them) is a sure way to throw a spanner in the works of your import operation from China to the UK. Armed with the correct 10-digit commodity code, you have the key to understanding other important import requirements such as duty rates and import restrictions applying to your goods.

Don’t overlook taxes and duties on imports

Wristwatches, knitwear, furniture or electronic toys? Do you know what taxes and duties you’ll be charged on goods you import from China? It’s important because, after shipping them halfway around the world from Ningbo-Zhoushan to Southampton, you won’t be able to get your goods until all applicable taxes (including VAT) and duties are paid. The exact tax and duty for goods from China depends on their classification (see our tip about commodity codes above).

Do you need an import licence for goods from China?

One final tip is to check whether you’ll need an import licence to import goods from China to the UK. As with so many aspects of import and export, things are likely to change after Brexit. However, it’s reasonable to expect that various bans, quotas and surveillance (imports are monitored using import licences) will continue. The key to avoiding problems is to know exactly what applies to your planned imports and plan appropriate actions.

Contact us for more help

Now you’ve considered these tips for importing from China, please keep in touch. As we’ve said elsewhere, one of the best tips we can give you is to build a close working relationship with an experienced freight forwarder.

We’ve been helping with imports from China for years. We’re here to help you with the simplest enquiry or the most complex ongoing import programme from China. It’s what we do, so please contact us.

For more advice or to discuss your requirements for shipping from China, call 01268 525444 or email us today


Other China Guides:

How to import goods from China

Costs to import from China

Shipping time from China to UK