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Wholesale Silver Jewelry: Industry News August 2007

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The Ins and Outs of Importing

One of the most important aspects of the import game is to make sure you get what you think you have ordered. I generally have to travel to the places where the goods are made to make my selections.

With the age of the internet, this is only slightly less true than it used to be.  Foreign suppliers have become more savvy about taking pictures and using the web as a commercial vehicle.  Having said that, most have not changed the attitude that once it ships, it’s gone for good.

I’ve found a prevailing willingness for foreign suppliers to make “judgement calls” in the name of expediency (or convenience) that often conflict with my agenda.  It may be easier for them to ship 500 pieces of one style rather than the assortment I had requested. Nothing like getting 500 sarongs in bright orange!

Of course there are exceptions to this rule, and when I find a supplier that is conscious of my needs and understands the Western concept of acceptable quality, I stick with him.  There is an old saying: “Cheap, fast, good.  Pick two.”  This principle applies to foreign suppliers, except sometimes you can only get one of the three.

Our company is based on Kauai, a remote part of a state that is already off the beaten track.  Shipping, especially by ocean freight, is always a challenge.  If I lived in LA, things would be much easier (but then I’d have to live in LA!).  Airfreight is usually a pretty straightforward affair, until the invoice arrives…

Nothing beats having a good customs broker, and if I have a question about a potential purchase, I try to gather as much info from him as I can.  Over the years I have saved myself many headaches by having things packaged appropriately or procuring the correct documentation ahead of time.  After the goods are shipped, the supplier is generally not as interested in helping as they were before they got paid.

There is no substitute for meeting a supplier face-to-face.  Seeing the actual manufacturing operation and physically checking the goods before they are shipped is a huge plus.  I like to run quality control, and I also like to check that labels are applied correctly and things are packed securely.

Once your goods hit customs, if there is anything wrong in terms of documentation or labeling, it can become so costly to rectify the situation that it ends up being cheaper to abandon the goods.  Generally, the specialists at US Customs and Border Patrol are very helpful, but the agents inspecting cargo are often overworked and unwilling to be of much assistance.

If you do find goods you would like to bring into the US, it’s a good idea to check with some of the supplier’s other customers to get a feel for his or her integrity and ability to complete the order in a timely manner.  Even so, be prepared for excuses and delays.  The famous Indian “holidays” are often and lengthy.  Rains, relatives, employee problems, disease: if you can think it up, you will hear it!

(This article written by Mike McGinnis and published originally on We allow republication provided the piece is copied in its entirety with links and attribution.)