Import agents, also known as buyers’ representatives, import consultants, or trade brokers, aim to develop long term relationships with their clients so that they can source products from their network of known suppliers and manufacturers. An import agent can help you identify the factory best suited to your needs, and usually has colleagues who have been on the ground to verify information regarding factories and to develop relationships on the supply side. All this service comes with a price.
Import agents usually charge a mix of flat fees with ongoing commissions based on the orders you place through them. This can add up to tens of thousands of dollars at the least over time. Compared to dealing with a trading company, an import agent has more incentive to keep your best interests at heart, since they want to keep earning commissions from your orders over the long term.
However, the downsides of going through a trading company or distributor apply here as well. You have no control and minimal knowledge of the factory where production is taking place, and again must go through a middleman to get anything done. Less control and knowledge of your manufacturing base means more risk. Going through a middleman and paying ongoing fees and commissions means less profit to boot. In addition, using an import agent can open up your intellectual property to more hazard, since it is another pair of hands your ideas and designs must pass through. An agent could very well share your privileged information, or at least details such as your product cost if not actual designs, with competitors who are looking to use the agency’s services to import similar products.
It makes more sense to learn how to import for yourself and avoid going through middlemen. Check out our main page for more info on how to import from China and buy wholesale without middlemen.