Do You Need A Sourcing Agent?

For importers that are serious about finding a high-quality supplier and controlling their product quality, sourcing agents could be the easiest answer.

If you’re importing from somewhere like China and researching around the topic, you’ll have likely heard of sourcing agents. In today’s post, we will be exploring the use of sourcing agents and helping you to determine whether using a sourcing agent would benefit your business.

Finding a high quality manufacturer is the often one of the first steps for starting up your importing business – and it’s definitely one of the most important. Your manufacturer is the foundation of your business; they control your stock, which controls how customers view and interact with you. A good supplier means: high-quality goods, happy (and hopefully repeat!) customers, good reviews and more purchases. A bad supplier? Low-quality goods, dissatisfied customers, negative reviews, returns, a bad reputation and an unsuccessful business.

Sourcing agents are a shortcut to finding your ideal supplier. They cut out all the leg-work that you would have to do and negate a lot of the risk involved in trying a new factory.

Who are sourcing agents?

Sourcing agents are third party services that you can hire to find high quality suppliers in their native country on your behalf. They speak the language and are familiar with the customs. They liaise with the supplier – and they’re able to visit the factories and complete onsite verification. This means that you do not have to find a supplier yourself and it’s a way for you to minimize the risk of importing low quality goods.

Why should I use a sourcing agent?

There are many reasons to use a sourcing agent but the main one is that you are more likely to find a high quality product quickly and efficiently.

When sourcing from Asia, the reputation for producing low quality goods and prospect of the uncertainty that comes with having a supplier on the other side of the planet can be enough to put first time importers off. A large part of ensuring that the goods you receive are of a high standard and able to be resold in the UK is finding a high-quality supplier. Sourcing agents are able to do this on your behalf and a lot more efficiently than you will often be able to.

What are the benefits of sourcing agents?

The main benefits of using a sourcing agent to find a supplier for you to use all center around the fact that sourcing agents live in your supplier’s native country. They are from your supplier’s country – and they know how to navigate it far better than you will.

  • Sourcing agents can visit factories and quality check in person.
  • They can speak the native language and navigate the culture, which means there will be less communication barriers.
  • Sourcing agents can immediately spot scams.
  • You don’t have to pay suppliers anything until you’re 100% sure of them!
  • Sourcing agents are familiar with their country’s scene and will know the best suppliers as well as the ones to stay away from.
  • You don’t have to do any legwork!
  • Sourcing agents are experts at what they do

Are there any pitfalls to using a sourcing agent?

Although using a sourcing agent can be a great way to ensure you’re sourcing from a trust-worthy supplier, there are a few drawbacks.

  • Blind mark-up. Sourcing agents are a middleman. This means that you have no contact with the supplier – which essentially turns your sourcing agent into your supplier. All prices you get are what they’ve given you (probably with a commission thrown in) and you have no idea if you’re paying a good price or not.
  • Sourcing agents can, on occasion, slow shipping.  Your chosen shipping company will normally liaise directly with your supplier to sort out delivery dates and times – but, when using a sourcing agent, we/they have to go through them who then liaise with the supplier. Typically, sourcing agents won’t have the right knowledge to chase the supplier as effectively and this can lead to a lot of back and forth to get the right information.
  • Your agent doesn’t have to tell you who your supplier is. Your sourcing agent’s job is to get you the best quality product that they can find – end of. Sometimes, they might just tell you the price and the product details and that’s it. This means that you aren’t aware of who your supplier is – which is part of the reason it makes the shipping companies job harder!

In the end, it all depends on what you’re looking for. Using a sourcing agent is the closest thing to a guarantee of high-quality that you can get ahead of production – but you’ll pay extra for the safety net. If you do want to cut costs, we have written a post on sourcing high quality goods and a post of how to minimize quality issues when importing from China.

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