The Seller Abroad

Using FBA to sell on Amazon from abroad… can't be that hard!

Tag: Logistics

Shipping Cheat Sheet

Okay, so I’ve been getting a lot of questions of how exactly to go about dealing with shipping your product into the USA and to the FBA warehouse when you live abroad. I figured the best way to address this was to create a Shipping Cheat Sheet that takes you through the process and points out some of the sticking points. So here goes…

  • Firstly, ensure the quote from your manufacturer includes FOB – This is a service that most manufacturers offer. It means they will cover the cost of getting your stock loaded onto the ship.
  • Get a quote from your freight forwarder – Ask for a quote from FOB at the port of your manufacturer to the Amazon FBA Warehouse address.
  • Ensure customs brokerage is included in the quote – This is a fee that you pay for a customs broker to file the appropriate paperwork when your stock arrives at the US port.
    • Single Entry Bond Vs Continuous Bond – This is a decision you have to make when requesting the customs brokerage quote. There is a fee charged when you import items into the USA. This is basically a bond that you pay (and don’t get back). There are two ways you can pay this bond. Below is a description of the two options.
      • Single Entry Bond – This option, as the name suggests, covers the bond for a single shipment into the US. It is normally cheaper than the Continuous Bond (Usually between a third and half of the price) but it does take longer to clear at customs (about a week). Keep in mind that you will have to pay this bond every time you import product. Some freight forwarders have a policy of not allowing more than 1 single entry bond for a customer as this option requires the freight forwarder to mess around with an agent, which I am guessing is a waste of time for them.
      • Continuous Bond – This option, covers the bond for your shipments into the US for a period of 1 year. It is more expensive that the Single Entry Bond however it is much quicker (only takes about a day to clear at customs). Your freight forwarder will not require an agent to fulfil this option.
    • Make the Decision – I personally went with a Single Entry Bond as I was strapped for cash when I started and was unsure about how successful my product sales would be. In hindsight, I should have gone for the Continuous Bond from the get go. I now have a Continuous Bond in place. You will have to decide what works best for you and inform your freight forwarder.
  • Keep the freight forwarder informed – Despite you providing an expected shipment date, the freight forwarder will likely wait till you remind them to start booking things in. I would recommend you keep in touch with your manufacturer and give the freight forwarder a reminder a week prior to the completion date. At this stage, the freight forwarder will likely ask you for some paperwork and get you to fill out ISF form.
  • Submit Paperwork – You will likely have to send the freight forwarder an official invoice and a picking slip from the manufacturer. This cannot be done until the goods are complete so allow at least a week between completion of manufacture and the ship sailing. Once the freight forwarder receives these documents, they will use their foreign agent to book space on the next ship. These usually leave every week or two. The most complicated form you will need to submit is the ISF form, details of which will also be requested by your manufacturer in order to provide FOB service. Fortunately you do not have to wait till manufacturing is completed to fill out this form.
  • ISF Form – This form documents all entities involved in transporting the goods. The most confusing part about the ISF form is knowing who each entity is. If you have seen one, it basically asks for consignee details, importer details, container stuffing and loading details, ect. The ones you will need to worry about are Importer, Consignee, Notify Party, Seller, Manufacturer, and Ship-to Party details. Keep in mind that not all this information may be required, however I had to provide all of it my first time so I’m going to cover all bases for you. All other details will be done by the manufacturer or the freight forwarder. Let me try clarify these entity references for you as it drove me insane trying to understand what information I had to provide for which field.
    • Importer – This is yourself. You will need to provide your name and an Importer of Record Number, which is usually your Federal Tax ID. What’s that… you don’t have one? Nor did I! Luckily they also accept the following details in lieu of the Federal Tax ID: your passport number, country and document description, date of birth. So it should look something like this:
      • Name: Sherlock Holmes
      • Importer of Record Number: M1234567, Australian Passport, 22nd January 1986
    • Consignee – This is again yourself. Only issue is that this field sometimes requires a physical address based in the USA. If not, you can just say same as Importer. But what happens when they ask for an address? You use your Amazon FBA Warehouse address. It should look something like this (take note of the name section):
      • Name: Sherlock Holmes C/O Amazon.com
      • Address: 123 Warehouse Road, San Francisco, CA 12345-1234, USA
    • Notify Party – This is going to be the same as your Consignee. Sometimes they ask for the address details under Consignee sometimes under Notify Party.
    • Ship-to Party – This is just a name and Amazon warehouse’s address. Should look like this:
      • Name: com
      • Address: 123 Warehouse Road, San Francisco, CA 12345-1234, USA
    • Manufacturer – This is your manufacturer’s details. You will need to provide the name and physical address
    • Seller – In most cases this is the manufacturer, unless you are buying from a middle man. In which case, put in the middle man’s name and physical address.
    • Buyer – They sometimes ask you for buyer details. If they do, you can put in your name and your actual physical address in whichever country you live in. It does not have to be a US address.
  • Keep up Communications – Once the manufacturing is completed, promptly forward the invoice and picking slip to your freight forwarder. Ensure you inform them that the product is good to go. They will then communicate with the manufacturer using their agent in the country of manufacture to arrange shipment loading. This is around the time I also mark the FBA shipment on Seller Central as “shipped”.
  • Pay Freight Forwarder – At this stage your freight forwarder will likely request payment prior to commencing shipment. I recommend doing this as quickly as possible to avoid delays.
  • Wait – Now you wait until the product hits your Amazon warehouse. Most freight forwarders will inform you of the progress of your shipment along the way. If you are getting nervous, you can always email them to ask for an update. I tend to do that a lot! Be prepared to wait for a while. Shipment from China to USA takes about a month on the water. After that you need to clear customs (time varies depending on the type of bond you chose). Then there is the land portion of the freight which cannot happen till Amazon receives communication from your freight forwarder informing that the product is ready to send to the warehouse. Amazon will then have to give the freight forwarder a delivery appointment. During busy periods such as Christmas, you might have to wait a week or two to get an appointment.
  • Product Received – Amazon will inform you once your product has been received. Now you are good to go.

Hope that helped… Good Luck!

Logistics…. a learning experience

In this post I will cover dealing with the logistics side of importing product to a FBA warehouse.

Logistics

Logistics can be such a pain. If you are using the Amazon FBA service, you will need to create a product listing in order to find out which warehouse you need to ship your product to. At this stage, I wouldn’t waste too much time with the listing as you’ll have plenty of time to work on the marketing aspects of it while waiting for the product to be manufactured and shipped. That said, you will need to input product dimensions, weight, general information and a UPC code. If you do not have a UPC code, you can easily buy one on ebay or one of the several other websites offering it at a low price. I got mine from a site called Speedy Barcodes, which worked well for me. Once you’ve created a rough listing, you’ll have to create a FBA shipment that will provide you with the delivery warehouse information. The shipment can be created in your sellercentral account under the “Manage FBA Inventory” page. Now comes the process of vetting multiple quotes from several freight companies. Fun right…

Logistics – Picking the Freight Company

Logistics

In my case, I was transporting from China to America. In my extremely unclear state of mind, I decided to use three different companies for logistics for my first shipment. I had the manufacturer use their freight forwarder for the sea freight, I used a customs broker recommended by Amazon and used a land freight company I found online. It was a nightmare! I definitely do not recommend using multiple freight forwarders to get the job done. I strongly recommend using one of the Amazon recommended customs broker companies (found here) for the whole freight process first time around. It will likely cost you a bit more however it will save you a lot of trouble. The additional expense is usually not as bad as it seems when you spread the costs among the hundreds of products you are transporting.

The biggest help in using one of the recommended freight forwarders is that they know how to file the customs for someone that does not live in the USA. Most freight companies get confused with this and require a US address, which drove me up the wall…. Turns out you don’t need that.

Logistics may be a significant cost for your initial stock order, however if the product is a winner and you order larger quantities in the future, it will only get better. I am in the process of ordering 3 times the amount I did in my first order and the logistics costs per item has almost halved!

Post Highlights for logistics

  • Create a rough listing and FBA shipment to obtain destination FBA warehouse address
  • Stick to a single freight forwarder for the entire journey
  • Use an Amazon recommended customs broker for customs clearance
  • Be aware that freight cost can be high for initial small shipment. This will get better with the next bigger shipment

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