Where to Source Products to Sell Online

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If you’ve read our 2020 Global Imports Report, you know that global trade has undergone significant shifts in the past few years. Variations in a country’s share of total U.S. imports and production specialization affect Amazon sellers, many of whom source products to sell online from overseas suppliers.

We analyzed millions of import records spanning 2015 to mid-2020 to help sellers understand where they should source their next product. 

Which countries are your best bet for finding the right supplier? Let’s dive into the data. 

 

Where to Source Products in 2020 by Import Category

U.S. seaports receive millions of shipments of imported goods each year. These goods are grouped into 15 categories depending on their materials and intended use.

Imports include goods at every stage of the production process, from raw copper ore to ticking Timex watches. So while some products are decidedly Amazon-unfriendly—bulk hydrogen gas is not Prime-eligible, for example—sellers can find profitable product ideas within each of the largest categories of U.S. imports.

As experienced sellers know, China is home to many high-quality Amazon suppliers. Import records show China dominating every U.S. import category; products from China account for over 41% of all U.S. imports. 

But there are plenty of other countries with skilled suppliers equipped to collaborate with Amazon sellers. So let’s take a look at which countries lead the way within the top categories for U.S. imports and Amazon products.   

1. Machinery/Electrical

Machinery and electrical products make up the top U.S. import category, accounting for 20% of all goods imported in the United States. 

While “machinery” may call to mind items that are unfit for FBA purposes—think boilers, jet turbines, and bulldozers—sellers can still choose from a wide variety of products to sell under the top Amazon product categories. Small kitchen appliances, smoke detectors, and hair dryers alone knock out Home & Kitchen, Tools & Home Improvement, and Beauty & Personal Care, respectively. 

Where can sellers find Machinery & Electrical suppliers?

  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Japan
  • Germany
  • Belgium

2. Miscellaneous

As the name suggests, imported products categorized as Miscellaneous fall across a broad spectrum, comprising over 12% of all U.S. imports. This category is a treasure trove of the most-listed Amazon product categories. Items like furniture, musical instruments, art, clocks, toys, sports equipment, pencils, and buttons all fall under the Miscellaneous umbrella. No matter the Amazon product category, you’re likely to find a variety of potential listings among these imports.

Where to find Miscellaneous suppliers:

  • Vietnam
  • Taiwan
  • Italy
  • Malaysia 

3. Textiles

Textiles make up 9% of all U.S. imports and cover a vast swath of profitable products within the Home & Kitchen, Baby, and Clothing, Shoes, & Jewelry categories on Amazon. Profitable Amazon products include clothes, rugs, bedlinen, and fabric. 

Sellers should note that shoes and hats are categorized under a separate import category known as Footwear & Headgear—and while this makes up a relatively smaller share of total U.S. imports than Textiles, it still contributes millions of imports to the U.S. each year. 

Vietnam is a rising star in U.S. textiles imports, outpacing its rivals in share of U.S. textiles imports for 2020. 

Where else to find Textiles suppliers:

  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Indonesia 

4. Metals

The Metals category, accounting for 8% of U.S. imports, includes small tools and hardware with low production costs. This includes cutlery, nails and screws, and knitting needles. Sellers can list products like these in Home & Kitchen, Garden & Outdoor, Tools & Home Improvement, and Arts, Crafts & Sewing. 

Where to find Metals suppliers: 

  • Taiwan
  • Germany
  • India
  • South Korea
  • Japan 

5. Plastics & Rubbers

At 6% of all U.S. imports, plastic and rubber items include essential household items like tape, plastic wrap, and food storage containers. Sellers can also source home improvement and recreational products like PVC pipes and joints, work gloves, and bike tires. 

Where to find Plastic & Rubbers suppliers: 

  • Germany
  • Taiwan
  • South Korea
  • Vietnam 

Other Import Categories

The remaining import categories make up smaller shares of total U.S. imports, but still offer profitable niche opportunities for Amazon sellers. They are, in order from largest to smallest in 2020:

6. Chemicals and Allied Industries

  • 7% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: candles, soap, paint, camera film, and printer ink
  • Top importers: China, India, Germany, Belgium, and South Korea

7. Foodstuffs

  • 6% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: dry pasta, pickles, sugar, and cereal
  • Top importers: China, Italy, France, Thailand, and Chile

8. Vegetable Products

  • 6% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: coffee beans, flour, olive oil, nuts, and dried fruit
  • Top importers: China, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Canada, and Honduras

9. Wood & Wood Products

  • 5% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: Jungle Stix, toilet paper, firewood, and books
  • Top importers: China, Germany, South Korea, Brazil, and Vietnam

10. Stone & Glass

  • 3% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: jewelry, ceramic cookware, mirrors, and precast cement tiles
  • Top importers: China, Italy, Spain, India, and Brazil

11. Transportation

  • 3% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: parts and accessories for cars, bicycles, and baby strollers 
  • Top importers: China, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, and South Korea

12. Footwear & Headgear

  • 2% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: flip-flops, shoe inserts, baseball hats, and umbrellas
  • Top importers: China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, and India

13. Mineral Products

  • 2% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: gravel, cosmetic kaolin clay, and table salt
  • Top importers: China, Brazil, Italy, India, and South Korea

14. Animals & Animal Products

  • 2% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: honey, cheese, and milk
  • Top importers: China, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Canada

15. Raw Hides, Skins, Leather & Furs

  • 1% of all U.S. imports
  • Product examples: Leather handbags, faux fur clothing, and briefcases
  • Top importers: China, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia

 

2020 Sourcing Strategy

Moving forward with product research in 2020, U.S. sellers should choose products within the top U.S. import categories, making sure to source from the countries that lead global production within the relevant import category. 

You’ll still want to sell products among the top Amazon product categories in order to maximize your brand exposure and convert more sales. 

 

There are heaps of niche products stored in every U.S.-bound freight ship, but we’re most interested in those that fall under Amazon categories that see a ton of consumer traffic. 

It may help to consider a well-sourced product as occupying the center of a Venn diagram.  

Choosing the right supplier based on global trade trends can help prevent sourcing complications and ensure that a product is made by experts in that category. 

 

Should You Source from China? Pros and Cons of Top Global Suppliers

Why source outside of the number one U.S. importer? Let’s consider the advantages and drawbacks of working with suppliers in China versus two of its strongest competitors: Vietnam and India. 

China

Pros: 

  • Leads production across all industries—they can and do make anything
  • Generally lower production costs
  • Better service and faster response times than other regional suppliers
  • Quicker production process

Cons: 

  • Design process tends to follow templates, with less opportunity for personalization
  • Higher order minimums
  • Higher shipping costs
  • Tariffs

Vietnam

Pros

  • Lower labor costs may translate to lower production costs
  • Growing in share of U.S. imports—more so than any other country
  • Has different product specializations than China
  • Unaffected by U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods

Cons

  • Quality control may be more expensive
  • Less infrastructure in banking, communications, and transport than in China
  • Some suppliers don’t offer customization, so private label sellers may have to hunt for the right supplier
  • Occasional worker strikes pause production

India

Pros

  • A leader in natural materials like artisan wood, textiles, and metals
  • Commercial laws based on British common law, so it’s similar to the U.S. legal system
  • International banks tend to have branches in India
  • Not subject to U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods

Cons

  • Sourcing synthetic fabrics can be more expensive than in China
  • India faced the worst early 2020 economic downturn than any other importer to the U.S.

For more in-depth spotlights on China, Vietnam, and India’s unique trade profiles, check out our Global Imports Report for 2020.

 

Find a Supplier Today

With countries from nearly every geographic region represented within the top U.S. import categories, sellers shouldn’t feel limited when choosing a supplier. 

For a step-by-step guide on how to source a product using Supplier Database, check out our How to Sell on Amazon page.  

 

 

 

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