Chapter 9 – Order Samples

After making your decision about which factory to contract with, order your product samples but plan to evaluate them once you return home.

Samples Are Not on a Shelf

Sample preparation, depending which kind of products you want to import, can take considerable time. Contrary to what many people think, factories usually do not keep samples in their warehouse that can be sent right away. The more complicated a product is (for instance home appliances or consumer electronics products) the longer it will take and the more diligence is needed from the factory side to prepare the samples according to your specific requirements.

You have reached a turning point in your own quality control. The first step was your scrutiny of each factory visited during the trip. You should have a good idea how each factory will perform and how talented their management is.

Detailed Sample Requirements

Providing them with detailed information about your sample requirements could become the key to your success. Why is this so important?

Imagine that you did not pay adequate attention to instructing the factory about your sample requirements and they prepare the sample according their own factory standards. As mentioned before, timing is important and you need the samples checked for compliance with your requirements in your home country. It needs to be right the first time.

If the first sample is incorrect, you could take a risk and place your orders in hopes that the factory will get it right the second time. It is not a good idea to take the risk because there cannot be a guarantee that the factory will actually follow your new instructions.

It is best asking the factory to manufacture new samples. Time starts to become an issue as you wait for new samples to be made and it will take 3-7 days delivery time to ship them to your home country.  Add everything up and you have possibly lost a month. This could be crucial if your goal is to be among the first to promote the new products in your home market.

Never place any order with new suppliers before you receive acceptable samples of the proper quality and they have been approved by your QC people or an authorized lab. Anything else is a gamble and you don’t want to begin production with that level of risk. Only after establishing a sound business relationship with your suppliers, can you be confident the factory will closely follow your instructions. It is important to set things right from the very beginning.

Having the Samples Packaged

When asking for samples, be sure to request they be packaged according to your specifications. This should be the same packaging the end consumer receives. At this point, they should workout the details to determine how many pieces fit into one 20’ or 40’ ocean-going container. Along with this comes the details of how many fit into one export carton and if any inner packing needs to go into the export carton. With this information, you can calculate the freight cost. It may be necessary to change the sales packaging size in order to fit more pieces into one container and save substantial freight charges. It makes a big difference if you can pack for 1,400 coffeemakers in a 40’ container instead of only 1,200 pieces and it will certainly affect your selling price.

Why You Must Pay for Samples

Samples are seldom free which is understandable because they are handmade and very labor intensive. Even if they are simple plastic products, the factory has to follow your instruction and injection mold  them in a certain color which is very time consuming because the plastic injection machines are usually running at full capacity and the injection is limited to one color at a time. If you ask for several different color samples, they can only make them when they have production in the requested color. Naturally, this can increase the time it takes to receive the samples.

An alternative is painting the samples but the surface of a spray painted object looks different from an injected one and may mislead you to approve something which later proves imperfect.

Order Plenty of Samples

Do not make the error of ordering a single sample per product/color because you need reference samples for several purposes. Common sample needs include:

  • Samples for your showroom
  • Samples for lab testing
  • Samples for photo shooting and gift box preparation
  • Samples for your inspection company
  • Samples for your sales managers to show to customers

That is only the beginning of a long list and believe me, large buying offices like hypermarkets, department stores, and other large volume importers ask for even more samples because they are aware of the extensive need when introducing a new product.

The worst-case scenario is if you give the only color reference sample to a key customer and after they place an order with you, you cannot determine which specific to color instruct the factory to begin with. It is a good idea to always keep one or more samples per color locked up in a safe place to avoid embarrassing errors. Due to the limited storage space, factories may not keep their reference samples at all.

More About Sample Costs

You now have the information to better understand why factories are reluctant to provide free samples to new customers. In many cases, you can convince the factory to refund the sample costs after you reach a certain order volume. It is good business to negotiate this in the beginning.

Besides the sample charges, you will be asked to pay the freight charges for the sample delivery. This can get expensive because samples are usually sent by air courier in order to make up lost lead-time and stay on schedule. Factories don’t want to pay for these charges and it is often difficult to convince them to do so. If they do so, it is usually only after a successful business relationship has been established.

If you need the samples urgently and is that usually the case, you are better advised to look for a compromise otherwise you may lose the competitive edge in your home market.

Concluding the Visit

After everything has been successfully negotiated and you are certain the factory understands and will closely follow your requirements you will likely have the option to proceed to the next factory or accept a lunch/dinner invitation from the factory management. A meal together can be a great idea to cement the negotiations if you are fully confident the factory can meet all of your company’s requirements.

However, if you have the feeling during your visit that this is not the best factory, simply shorten your visit and focus on the next factory, which may be more qualified. We are not living in a perfect world and you cannot expect all factories to be acceptable.

A first hand visit quickly teaches you which are factories to do business with and which you want to avoid. You can do it the hard way and place your orders without a visit but chances are high a mistake will be made. The cost of a bad production shipment will cost much more than the cost of a personal visit to China.

The Chinese understand that you cannot fly in every time something needs attention. You can always hire an in country agent to attend to future activities but if you are going to be an importer from China, it is vital to occasionally visit and develop a good relationship with your factories.

Table of Contents