China is the biggest source of products when we look at Amazon FBA. But there’s no reason you have to source only from China. Other countries also export to the US, and you might want to think about some of the other opportunities out there.
Many countries have specialties that can be of interest. Bangladesh, for instance, is big in textiles. France is great if you’re in luxury goods like leather-work or jewelry; its artisans have incredibly high standards, but you’ll pay top dollar. And that’s maybe not core Amazon territory. Besides, unless you have a specific product in mind, you’re competing with existing brands like Hermès and Louis Vuitton.
A couple of common choices are Vietnam and India. Vietnam has low labor costs, and it’s a good place to source toys and clothing and musical instruments. Bigger Vietnamese suppliers are used to working with US private brands, so they will understand your needs.
Vietnam also has a highly educated workforce. For instance, a lot of video games companies now outsource there, and if you’re after digital devices, home appliances, or small technical equipment, you’ll find you can get high quality at a good price.
The problem with Vietnam is that the infrastructure is less developed than elsewhere. Quality control can be difficult, banking is sometimes a pain, and customization isn’t always on offer from manufacturers, so you may need to look harder for a private brand supplier.
India has several advantages. You’ll find most educated Indians speak English, and the commercial system is pretty familiar as it was based on British law. There are no penal tariffs to contend with, and for artisan items India is a really good place to source. For instance, hand made fountain pens, lacquer, and traditional style furniture, are all strengths. Textiles and decorative items are strong too, as well as kitchen equipment and cutlery. Also, the domestic market is a really sizable one, with a big and growing middle class, and manufacturers are getting used to providing this market with what it wants (including good air-conditioning).
You’ll also find a lot of smaller firms are active on WhatsApp and other digital platforms, which can make your life a lot easier.
Downsides with India? Things can work slowly, and there’s a fair amount of bureaucracy. But most banks have branches in India, so at least transferring funds isn’t going to be a problem.
Taiwan is a much more developed economy but it’s got strengths in electronics and textiles with automated manufacturing and big economies of scale, so it’s definitely worth exploring. There’s a language barrier (made more complicated by the three different dialects of Chinese spoken on the island!) but most under-30s speak good English.
While most FBA sourcers head out to emerging Asia, don’t forget the EU as a source of supply. Germany has immense depth in machinery and chemicals manufacturing. Admittedly, most of the bigger firms have their own brands, but there are vast numbers of sizable family firms (the famous ‘Mittelstand’) that are open to private label business. Meanwhile Poland can be a bargain hunter’s paradise, as its quality is close to German levels but at way below German costs.
However, it’s trickier to find suppliers in the EU unless you’re a specialist, in which case go out and meet firms at the relevant trade shows. It can be well worth the air fare – and you can get some vacation time too. (Check the Covid regulations first though as things change from week to week at the moment.)
And don’t forget that you could also stay at home – and source from the USA. ‘USA made’ is a message that sells really well, there’s no language barrier or time zone issue, and you may get the best quality/price combo by sourcing domestically.