A look at directly importing media from overseas.
We all think about it. Some of us know someone who does it. Others have only heard distant, second-hand rumors of someone who has done it. I’m talking, of course, about directly importing material from overseas-China, specifically.
Unless you’re considering distributing the product or you’re a large consumer of vinyl, pressure-sensitive vinyl, or other PVC-based materials, direct importing may not be for you. But as someone who has personally taken up the "China challenge," I can tell you that this can be done and it does have its benefits.
Building a relationship
My first experience was attending the Sign China tradeshow in Guangzhou, China. Let me set the scene for you: Picture very crowded aisles with prints scattered all over the floor. There are hundreds of vendors on three floors, all targeting different sign products-digital printing on the first floor, LED on the second, and CNC and plasma cutters on the top floor. There is no ventilation and solvent levels are high. Venture into the plasma cutting room and be prepared to watch out for the mystery green and blue gases.
Many of the booths are resellers or brokers of vinyl products, so it took my translator and me more than two days to find the vendors I was looking for: the actual manufacturers. Yes, dealing with a broker is an easier option, but going direct to the factory gets you a better discount. Still, you have to keep in mind that working with a Chinese manufacturer is more complicated than simply signing a contract with a US supplier. Because your "relationship" with the manufacturer is very important, it must be built over time via e-mails, phone calls, dinner, or personal visits. A good working relationship will enable you to negotiate better pricing and turnaround times.