One of the biggest headaches for Amazon sellers is the inventory prep process. You send imports from China directly to your house or warehouse, where you and your team have to spend hours packing and labeling products to be ready for Amazon FBA. With the extensive rules and regulations for Amazon FBA products, prepping by hand can be a time-consuming process for small and medium sized businesses. Thus, some sellers choose to skip this process with a hands-off approach to preparing their inventory.


What are the shipment options?

There are two options for sending shipments from China to Amazon FBA without putting your hand in the pot: middleman and direct.

An inventory middleman is usually a prep center in the USA. They will accept your imports and prepare your products for Amazon FBA. They will do all of the packaging and labeling. You’re thus outsourcing this process, which you would otherwise do yourself.

A direct shipment goes directly from the Chinese manufacturer to Amazon FBA. Your supplier will load the manufactured goods on the courier, who will then bring the goods directly to the Amazon warehouse. In most “direct” cases, the factory will do the packaging and labeling before sending to Amazon. You could also consider hiring an independent agent in China to do this process, which is similar to a middleman but in China not USA.

Below we’ll discuss the pros and cons for both options, so you can decide whether or not China-to-FBA is right for your business. 


Middleman Pros

A middleman prep center lives and breathes packaging. They are highly skilled at packaging and labeling for Amazon FBA—because that’s their job. In this way, goods tend to be packaged correctly, thus reducing the possibility that shipments will be rejected or fined by Amazon. This is crucial to success because an Amazon warehouse rejection means you have to start the whole prepping process again, which is double the time and cost expense.

The prep center will also have quality inspection processes. They will ensure that your products look appropriate before going out to your customer. This is an important step in customer service and satisfaction. 

Moreover, USA Amazon often requests a split of inventory. This means that you’ll have to ship different quantities to different warehouses. For example, if you’ve ordered 1,000 units, you may send 500 to one warehouse, 200 to another, and 300 to a third warehouse. Middlemen centers can easily handle this sort of breakup of shipment; manufacturers and factories may not have the same shipping competencies when shipping items overseas.

Plus, you can receive samples in your shipments. If you’re receiving samples of new products, it’s more cost effective to send these goods with another shipment of products, rather than sending them overseas as a separate package. If you have a direct shipment method, you can’t include samples in the same shipment. If you send the package to a middleman, though, they can separate out the samples and send those few products to you directly. This domestic shipping of samples is much less expensive than shipping samples separately overseas.

Finally, pallet products should always go to a middleman. The prep center can wrap and label the products on pallets appropriately. Sending pallets overseas adds weight and volume to the product, increasing the shipping cost exorbitantly.

  • Reduces risk of Amazon FBA rejection or fines
  • Quality inspection
  • Shipment control
  • Lowered sample shipping costs
  • Less expensive pallet shipping


Middleman Cons

The biggest con of a middleman is the cost. You have to pay for the cost of outsourcing to a company to prep your products for you. This costs more than a direct shipment process or if you did it yourself.

Although it can cut into your margins, it will save a lot of time and effort on your part. You are paying for the security that the inventory will be properly prepped for Amazon FBA, thus avoiding rejections, fines, and suspended accounts.


Direct Shipment Pros

Shipping directly from China to Amazon warehouses saves time and money. You’re not wasting time preparing the inventory at home. You also will save money on paying for a middleman, as middlemen often have a higher up charge for packaging and labeling than most manufacturers.

Moreover, direct shipment tends to have a shorter timeline by saving time on transit; the goods don’t have to go through your home or a middleman before going to Amazon FBA. If you need a fast turnaround of trending products, direct transit and prep can help prevent late shipments.

We recommend using the direct shipment method for smaller shipments only. This is the best solution if you are on major budget constraints and have a third-party quality inspection officer in China.

  • Saves time
  • Lower cost
  • Shorter transit time


Direct Shipment Cons

Direct shipments can be a challenge to manage. Amazon has strict requirements for what your products need to look like. If the products aren’t perfectly prepped, Amazon can reject the products or hit you with a hefty fine. Many Chinese manufacturers don’t know the intricacies of the prepping process or may cut corners. A lot can go wrong in terms of time and expense if your manufacturer isn’t properly trained in packing and prepping.

You also have to ensure that all the fees are paid off; otherwise Amazon won’t accept the shipment. You’ll need to ensure everything is prepaid with your courier to avoid rejection at the Amazon warehouse. This includes U.S. customs fees and duties. This can often be a challenge to figure out with direct shipment. 

Moreover, sending your products directly is a quality risk. In these cases, no one is checking the quality of the products outside of the factory. You won’t be able to make sure your products are up to standard before sending to your customers. This can lead to dissatisfied customers, high returns, negative reviews, and breached manufacturing contracts.

You can overcome this concern with direct shipping with a partner like Ask Idea Sourcing. We have quality inspection agents on the ground in China to check in on and approve your factories and suppliers. This helps ensure that there aren’t any unexpected issues when your goods arrive at the Amazon FBA warehouse.

If you decide to have a direct shipment process with your supplier, ensure that you thoroughly outline and detail quality expectations, payment process, and shipment procedures in your sourcing contract.

  • Inexperience with packing and labeling for Amazon FBA
  • Payment of fees and taxes
  • Hard to coordinate
  • Quality inspection concerns


The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to save time on getting your inventory ready for Amazon FBA, outsourcing the prep process might be the right solution for you. This is especially true for new sellers or those looking to focus on business strategy rather than the minutia of product handling.

Let us handle your logistics for you. Stop worrying about prepping your products and importing your products. Contact Ask Idea Sourcing today to start saving time and money for your Amazon brand!