4 Ways to Source South African, UK and International suppliers
The heart and soul of any online store are the products they carry. Sourcing unique and reputable suppliers and products can be a challenge, but it’s worth spending a little extra effort on. Whether you’re looking to import or source locally the process will be very similar and the route to finding quality suppliers can be a long one, but fruitful one in the end.
Many of Mantality’s suppliers sourced during the startup phase are still our most loyal suppliers, and generally when you find a good one you stick with them. Then, as they expand their product lines and add new ones, so can you – ensuring you have the freshest products possible. The benefit with sourcing international suppliers is that the products will be imported and mean there’s a good chance that no one else in your country is dealing in the same products. The downside is that these imports are subject to currency fluctuations and import costs along the way – not to mention the array of things that can crop up during the import process. I remember one shipment had “Grow your own” garden products in it, and upon hitting customs I was informed that the Department of Forestry needed to inspect the shipment. It turned out that an import permit was needed for the seeds contained in those gift products found inside the shipment. The entire order then sat at customs for a further 3 weeks while I applied for an array of seed permits. Not fun. But importing albeit a challenge is very rewarding once you have all the procedures and documentation in place. Nothing beats cracking opening a new supplier shipment to see all the exciting new goodies that await.
Where do I find suppliers and distributors?
Finding new products to stock is an ongoing task. Every magazine you pick up, shop you visit or website you browse is a potential haven for new products and suppliers. To get you started, below are a few sources I’ve find that prove invaluable when looking to find new products and ultimately new suppliers. You’ll find that once you have a good collection of suppliers and distributors, as many of them will carry multiple brands, that you can focus on other areas of the business since the product line up is buttoned down.
Fairs & Tradeshows. Tradeshows are a goldmine for finding your next big supplier – and it’s hella fun perusing around the show looking at product porn for a morning or afternoon. Fairs and tradeshows are where suppliers, manufacturers and distributors go to market their products to other businesses (B2B). Here you can meet the people behind the business, oftentimes the very people you will be dealing with at the company, and get a feel for the products they carry and how they operate. Below is a list of some tradeshows both locally and abroad. TIP: while 1st prize is to actually visit the tradeshow, many of the tradeshow websites will have an exhibitors list section where you can view the contact and website details for all of the exhibitors.
Local and international tradeshows
- Spring Fair (UK) – this is the UK’s biggest annual fair and sells everything from toys to décor. Its sister fair is called the Autumn Fair which I went to and although it’s not as big, it’s equally impressive.
- SARCDA (SA) – this is the South African equivalent of the Spring Fair and showcases gifts, toys, novelties, décor etc.
- Spielwarenmess (GER) – this one I found recently and looks to be of the biggest Toy Fairs in Germany and possibly Europe. Showcasing everything around toys and gifts.
- iF Exhibition (Ger) – finding awards websites is another great way to source cool products that are winning awards in their field. Gift of the Year is another great one.
- 10times.com (SA) – this is more of a directory of upcoming tradeshows but a handy one nonetheless. Also look at the websites of the venues for a list of their tradeshows. Ie Gallagher, Sandton Convention Center, Coca Cola dome etc.
- China Sourcing Fair (SA) – although most items you’d find here aren’t of the best quality and a bit “knick-knacky” there are a few good suppliers you could meet.
Online. Online is also great place to find your next great product range. Do a bit of reverse engineering to find cool products, then find out who manufacturers them and then on the manufacturer’s website you’ll often find the local distributor in your country. Below are a list of websites and magazines I regularly read to keep up to speed with the hottest products available.
- Uncrate – cool men’s stuff from gear to gadgets.
- Cool Material – as the name suggests, the coolest wares on the planet.
- Gear Culture – nifty gear and gadgets for men
- Gadget Flow – no frills website showcasing the coolest gadgets
- Stuff – neat magazine with all the hottest tech from around the world
- eSources Directory – I used this one in the early days to find suppliers that can offer dropshipping in the UK but then later used it to find wholesalers. There’s an annual fee to pay but it’s worthwhile if you use the site regularly.
Shops and kiosks. Although a bit of a cheeky one, many new suppliers and brands can be found by looking at the packaging of their products. Visit existing shops in SA and look at who made the product and note their contact details and most importantly get a website address to browse later.