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Chasing China

(April 2008) posted on Tue Apr 15, 2008

A look at directly importing media from overseas.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Jonathan Zinsmeyer

As I stated earlier, sourcing directly from China is not for everyone because you need to buy multiple containers to really make it worth your while (and, of course, the vinyl has a life span of only 6 to 12 months so you can’t just buy it and sit on it for 2 years). For reference, my company is planning on placing a few orders this year alone, each consisting of more than 270 rolls of vinyl.

Some other quick tips I’ve picked up via my experiences:

* Finding the right translator is key. After all, you’re spending more than eight hours a day with the person and trusting him to not only translate but to interpret actions and reactions and relay that information to you. Your translator can also help you avoid mistakes that might seriously embarrass you. I found my translator through the list published on the tradeshow website. The search process is kind of hit-or-miss, but if you don’t like your translator you can contact the company and usually get a new one the next day (ask for their qualifications in advance).

* You do need a visa to visit China, but to obtain one all you need is a plane ticket, passport, and a letter inviting you to the show, or a letter from your company stating your intentions while in China. Send off the paperwork and your passport with a fee, and the visa can be back in your hands in as fast as 48 hours.

* I purchase all my items FOB my loading dock, so my exporter hires someone who takes care of all of this. You should expect an import tax though; this tax depends on how much and what materials you purchase-as well how you categorize it, or how the Chinese categorize it.

* While I attended Sign China ( in late February, China hosts other sign and related expositions as well, including a big show in Shanghai. But if you think the solvent levels in the air are bad at the Guangzhou event, the Shanghai event blows it away-there are actually people who use respirators at the show because the Shanghai expo center is crammed with ink, media, and printer manufacturers.

The why of buying direct

Let’s face it, my company-and others like me-only do this to save money, it’s not because I enjoy 17-hour flights and bad airplane food. Buying direct from the manufacturer adds up to savings of 50 percent on some items, 45 percent on others, after tax and freight are taken into consideration. The downside is you have to have the money up front, there are no terms, and it takes 4 to 5 weeks to get to you, if it doesn’t get tied up in customs. Buying direct makes sense for my company-we enjoy working with the Chinese and trust those that we’ve worked with. I’ve heard stories to the contrary, but that hasn’t been my experience.