According to research from the British Parliament, China was the United Kingdom’s second-largest source of imports outside of the European Union in 2019, accounting for 7% of UK imported goods and services.
Additionally, the UK imported a record-high £47 billion worth of goods from China last year.
UK imports from China have grown year on year since 1999. Thus, it is no surprise that there is so much trade between some of the world’s largest economies.
For UK businesses, there is much to gain from importing from China. However, the process may not be smooth sailing, especially for first-time importers of popular items such as telecommunications equipment, furniture, plastics, toys and games, sporting goods, and office equipment. This is where the valuable guidance of a professional sourcing agent comes in.
What is a sourcing agent?
A sourcing agent helps importers find factories and get their products manufactured. They often take care of the entire process, creating a screen between the importer and the factory and acting as an intermediary. Also, sourcing agents can easily talk with the local suppliers and manufacturers you want to order from, giving you the advantage of finding the right quality at the right price.
With China being the world’s biggest manufacturer and provider of affordable products, you can hire a sourcing agent in mainland China to find suppliers that meet your business needs.
What does a sourcing agent do?
As discussed earlier, sourcing agents help you find the products or suppliers you need for your market.
If you are considering purchasing a product, you should communicate as much as information and details of your product to the sourcing agent. The agent will then research the chosen location for manufacturers who can meet your needs. When they determine one or more of these manufacturers, the agent will get in touch with you to choose one that meets your requirements.
Once you have selected a manufacturer, the sourcing agent will help you discuss the critical elements. This can include minimum order quantities (MOQ), quality standards, lead-times, and unite price, among others. The sourcing agent can also help ensure that the prepared product is delivered safely and meets all standards.
A sourcing agent’s primary services include:
- Factory inspection
- Talking and discussing the terms with suppliers
- Overseeing production
- Providing you progress updates
- Logistics management
- Product quality assurance
Remember: you don’t need to pay the sourcing agent for quality checks if they work on commission. The sourcing agent will lose their commission if the quality of the product does not meet your standards.
Why should you hire a sourcing agency?
There are many reasons why you need a sourcing agency. Since retailers and sellers will need products from different locations, a sourcing agent can help you familiarize yourself with your target market.
The main reason you hire a sourcing agent is to make sure your purchasing and manufacturing timetable is on schedule. A sourcing agent helps you get started immediately with suppliers.
You don’t have to go through the trouble of finding manufacturers or negotiating specifications with them directly. The sourcing agent can do this for you. Specially, if you’re importing from China, where language barriers come into place.
Language doesn’t have to be a barrier to you. When time for negotiation comes, the sourcing agent helps brief your chosen supplier on the product specifications. The agent also ensures that every essential items on the specifications list is in the brief.
Another essential item that sourcing agents can help you with is negotiating. They assist you in discussing specifications, making sure to keep quality at a minimum price. Here, a sourcing agent is needed most, as they know the market and are more familiar with standard and common practices.
Inspecting your chosen supplier’s licenses and certificates is very important, and sourcing agents can help with that, too. Agents study the language in which such documents are issued, making sure the supplier is operating legally.
By doing this, sourcing agents will help deter scammers who might come up with dubious company names or government licenses. With the help of a sourcing company, the risk of being scammed by the manufacturers is significantly reduced.
Experience and network
You gain access to a more extensive network when you hire a sourcing agent. They’ve worked with a variety of manufacturers who may be the best for the products you need. In this way, they can use their market experience to help you find the right supplier for your needs.
What makes a good sourcing agent?
Considering the reasons why you should hire a sourcing agent, here are is what you should look for in an excellent procurement agent:
Like any company, you need to find a licensed sourcing agent. This means they have the legal authority to operate as a sourcing company. It also helps you keep an eye on the agent and assess their legal and business registration documents. If something happens, you can use their license number to track them down.
Experience and specialization
Having a licensed and experienced agent is essential. The more experienced they are, the more quickly and smoothly the entire sourcing process can proceed. Also, you want to find a sourcing agent who specializes in your field or product categories. Because they have expertise within your product domain, you can expect prompt service, excellent quality, and favorable terms of negotiation.
Previous projects, partnerships, and reviews are also important elements. As with finding a contractor, you can search for a sourcing company based on recommendations. This allows you to find agents who work well with various stakeholders.
A procurement agent functions as a bridge between your company and your supplier. Hence, you need to find one that is fluent not just in Mandarin, but in any regional languages.
Location and flexibility
You want your sourcing company to be at the city or town of your choice. It would help y ou to save on travel costs. Also, by doing so, the procurement company will keep you up to date, as they don’t need expensive trips.
If you want to place a manufacturing order for furniture or homeware, or whatever product category it is you are best at, look for a sourcing agent that specializes in the same categories and industries. Sourcing agents, such as Easy Imex, know the ins and outs will be able to guide you throughout the process and help troubleshoot any potential problems.
Easy Imex is a UK-owned professional china sourcing agent based in Shanghai. We offer a one-stop solution to foreign importers purchasing in China, from sourcing suppliers to negotiation, quality assurance, quality control, and shipping.