Importing Brand Name goods? Use your Common Sense

Are you interested in buying high end designer goods direct from China to resell and make big bucks online? Read on…

If I had a dollar for everytime a customer asked me for branded goods from china I would be a rich man, I would be even richer had I taken those orders and sent out replica goods.

The hard truth is that you cannot buy genuine branded goods here direct from the factories. If someone tells you they can they are lying. That genuine iPhone you have seen advertised at $150 USD because the seller “Has a friend that works at the factory” is a copy, give it 5-7 days shipping time and you will see for yourself.

You can of course buy branded goods here. I should know as I  have lost and replaced enough iPhones since I arrived here to bankrupt a small business. It is also possible to get branded goods direct from a Chinese wholesaler or from a distributor, that’s after all where the shops are buying them from here in China before retailing them. It’s worth noting however that pretty much all of these none Chinese brands are more expensive here than anywhere else in the world. Why?

It was a big surprise to me to walk into a shopping mall here and see double the price on many items I could buy back home in England. I kind of felt like I was missing something, I’m in China after all what gives?

The short answer is that China has very high taxes on all none Chinese brands and that means anything that is classed as an “Imported” brand will have an inflated price. I assume that this is to promote the sale of home grown products and protect the Chinese internal economy but with them actually making these foreign branded goods here n the first place it’s a bit of a double edged sword.

There was a time, just about when i started University, when I too dreamed of importing high end branded and designer goods straight from the factory in China. It made perfect sense to me. All the goods are made there so they must be cheaper there right? Even if I can’t get them from the factory the products have to be cheaper in the shops as you would assume there are less fees associated with them getting to market being as there is no export or shipping etc. Right?

At the time eBay was rife with sellers moving very large numbers of branded designer goods. I was looking at a seller in particular who was selling very very large volumes of a classic trainer – the Nike air max. They were about £95 in the shops and on just one line this seller was moving about 60 units a day at £55. I was keen to get a slice of the action and went on my way looking for a factory who could sell me these trainers. There were of course endless amounts of “Factories” very keen to sell me genuine Nike trainers and my MSN contact list soon became full of various factory employees with whom I was negotiating an order with.

I soon found myself asking the same question repeatedly and receiving the same vague answers. “Are these genuine Nike trainers” I would ask “Yes there genuine quality” hmmm what exactly does that mean? I must probe a little more directly “Are these Adidas trainers fake?” i would bluntly message “No no my friend they are same same, original” was the reply.

More often than not this factory was also producing UGG boots, Rolex watches, RayBans and iPods. Something about one factory making all theses products didn’t quite stack up. Don’t be impressed by all this name dropping though, here are some examples of the quality fake branded goods you can get here, you would be surprised how good they are.

Fake Beats by Dre headphones, you would assume these were real unless i told you.

Fake SD and USB memory cards, Dont be fooled.

Copy Canon Binoculars – looking pretty good?

Fake Apple keyboard and mouse, actually look exactly the same as my real ones.

Sure this stuff looks pretty good, some of the copy goods even work well but all is defiantly not what it seems.

This is where perhaps the biggest and most valuable tool any successful importer needs to have rears its head. You don’t need buy any ebook from me at £39.95 or even download my black ninja secret suppliers list, you  just need Common Sense.

I guess “Common Sense” isn’t really a good phrase anymore, afterall i genuinely don’t think that everyone has it. So in retrospect perhaps its not that common? I have a joke with my little brother that, though much more of an academic than me, he has no “common ability”. I say this because he cant do simple manual labour type things such as work a drill or assemble a flat pack wardrobe. The kind of thing i would assume most people should be able to do but in reality perhaps cant. The same must go for common sense then as everyday i see forum posts from people wondering why the Gucci bags they ordered are made of plastic or worse still the product they paid for by bank transfer never arrived at all. Maybe common sense is the new sixth sense? can a i trademark that?

Ask yourself this. Would Apple really be using a factory to manufacture there goods who also then sells their products to every stay at home mum looking to make some extra money? Would a factory making Nikon cameras employ people to then undercut their retail prices selling them on the main “safe” china trading websites?

It doesn’t sound right, Right? Well common sense says that if someone is offering you these kinds of goods at a low price they are either a) Fake or b) The seller has no intention of sending you anything. It is worth noting that in the case of “b” this also applies to a seller offering any type of goods for sale at a suspectly low price. For example the Wushan Christian Gospel LED TV company selling a 50″ LED for $100 sounds good but common sense should tell you that this little container is never going to arrive.

I guess in a safe western society a lot of us could be wrongly forgiven for losing this common sense, maybe in our normal day to day lives we don’t need it? we are coated in bubble wrap sometimes and don’t need to second guess the environment around us. I never checked the date on food from Tesco in the UK, no need to as staff rotate stock daily – if it was out of date i could sue them for millions right? ha ha. Not in China, i have to even check that here or could end up in bed for a week.

In a rapidly changing economy this asinine attitude is not an excuse as there is no one to bail you out if you get caught short. You have to regain that sharpness we all had at some point in order to succeed. Your dealing with a country here that has been suppressed for years, watching westerners with there fancy cars and big houses, sitting, waiting, wanting. Now the Chinese have a chance to get these things and a lot of them will do anything to do so. Pretending that a branded product is real via email doesn’t sound so bad if you can get a nice Mercedes out of it…

In China there is a mentality that to create the best copy is to be the best in business. There are miles and miles of factories and markets dedicated to this and they are really good at it. The copies are often as good if not better than the real thing. Some designer handbags for instance use a better grade leather than the real thing, that’s right it’s not only the Chinese suppliers trying to cut corners, Prada likes to save money where it can too. Obviously some copies are terrible but it all just comes down to price.

So now we are beginning to establish that those beats by Dre headphones your thinking of making your first million on might cost you all of your spare capital or worse get you your first criminal record. Afterall counterfeit goods are a big problem and a serious offence if you get caught doing it. With the amount of great things available to export from China I feel like its not worth selling fake goods but everyday I see countless people here doing it, most of them flying about in Porsche’s. I guess crime pays…for a short while at least.

I will answer a few questions about importing counterfeit / fake branded goods from china here just so i have covered all the bases. Who knows, maybe i will save someone somewhere from losing there lifes savings? that would be nice.

I imported a sample order of some designer handbags from a seller i found on a major China wholesale website and they arrived at my house, does that mean they are real and i’m safe to make a big order?

No, What this means is that the order, i assume sent by air, was too small to get noticed and simply slipped through the net. This does happen and is how a lot of fake goods come to enter the market.  It does not mean that customs stopped your goods, inspected them and were satisfied that they were infact real brand name goods. Unfortunately there is no way for customs officials to stop and inspect every consignment entering the country. Eventually one of your packages will get stop, searched, confiscated and you may receive a followup visit from HMRC.

My goods are shown with all original labels and packaging so they must be real?

No, there are entire markets here dedicated to selling fake labels, tags, boxes, bags and security marks for all brand name goods be it clothing or electronics. Its just as easy to buy a fake iPad box here as it is to buy a fake iPad.

How about if i email Foxconn directly (the manufactures of the iPhone amongst other things) and ask them to buy from them in bulk?

They would never risk losing a multi million pound manufacturing deal with Apple to sell you goods, let alone the legal implications of doing so. If you are intent on buying iPhones you can contact a distribution agent in your sales territory but i can assure you that the MOQ will be very high along with vigorous sales stipulations and you will not be excited by the margins offered.

When all is said and done i am aware that men have built empires here from this and will continue to do so for years to come as the insatiable  global desire for hi end goods with low end pricing grows. I don’t approve of it but who am I to judge?

When importing from China please use you common sense but if you feel you may have lost yours please feel free to use mine.

Do you have any questions on this topic or have you got a story about being tricked into importing fake goods from China you want to share? Ask below and I will answer.


54 thoughts on “Importing Brand Name goods? Use your Common Sense

  1. Do you know of any cases where brands claim that goods entering Europe are counterfeit when in fact they are genuine products?

    • Hi David,

      The owner of the trademark is king, what they say goes.

      Legally speaking without a distribution agreement from a trademark owner or paperwork showing you got the goods form a third party who has said distribution agreement for their own sales territory the goods may well be classed as counterfeit be they genuine or not.

      Its a grey area for sure, maybe thats why its called grey market importing 🙂

  2. Hi, i have connections in china for factory over run branded clothing with certificates of originality. can i leagaly import them to the u.s?

  3. Hi Dan, thanks a lot for your article. Please let me understand better.

    1. I completely understand that trading with fake goods is illegal, that is true in UK and in the rest of the world.
    2. Also understand that even if I can buy real branded goods in China, it is illegal to trade with them because of unfair competition with official distributors.

    But please help me clarify the following, what if:

    1. I have created my own design and I want a Chinese manufacturer to build it and then import it back into the UK. This should be legal, isn’t it?
    2. Also what if I buy the same kind of product but this time, instead of designing it, I buy it directly from a Chinese manufacturer (and supplier)? It is not branded, I mean, it is not an IPhone or Nike. Let’s say that it is “Wang”, where Wang is the owner of the brand. Can I still buy it in China and sell it in the UK?
    3. How can I know that Wang really owns the brand and the rights to sell that product?

    • Hi, Glad you liked the article and understand the points raised.

      To answer your questions:

      1. Yes as long as your design does not infringe on any design patent or trademark laws in your country of import. In addition to this it obviously would need to meet the other legal guidelines in your country such as CE certification and ROHS compliance.

      2. If your buying an unbranded version of a product with no design patent issues or the legal issues raised above then yes you can do this. You will need to check throughly that the product has no IP protection. Modification of the product also negates these points in some cases.

      3. You can check the registered trademarks in your country to see who owns them. If the design has a patent you can also check the owner of that too.

      Typically if a design is extremely unique it will likely have a design patent on it, you cannot sell an its with a design patent without permission from the owner. this is usually in the form of a distribution agreement. Design patents are not very common on run of the mill items but more so on function specific items.

      A lot of factories here produce products for several brand owners. In some cases they may all order a very similar product and the factory will add their brand name. This doesn’t mean anything other than the fact the average consumer may not realise this is how mass manufacture works. Brands are just that – brands, that put their logo on products manufactured by factories who manufacture products for a wide range of different brands.


  4. Hi Dan. Thanks so much for this post. I am doing some research to import products for resale in the US. just the idea of dealing with Chinese people scares me. I come from a Chinese background and have visited multiple times. I have purchased a USB memory stick and worked about 2 times and broke. My friend bought a Western Digital 250gb external memory drive and it was made with the actual casing but had large bolts inside just for the weight. And of course you can’t return anything in china. It’s hard. Your article has exposed some of these and will no doubt help many. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the comment Jay, sound alike your as familiar with these problems as me.

      You have to be on your toes in China thats for sure.



  5. Hi,
    I wud like to get an answer to this :

    if i purchase ORIGINAL & GENUINE branded goods in one country, import them to my country, is it illegal ?
    i don”t think so, since i wud have purchased legitimately.
    and what if i export these legitimately purchased goods

    please answer, i know i wud be making least possible profit, but, worth a try

    • Well that depends, how can you prove they are genuine? customs don’t have a special machine that can tell if an item is fake or not, they need paperwork provided but the original manufacturer and the brands trade mark owner.

  6. Can you help us by identifying an area of sales that we could do from China. We used to own a designer shop of furniture and home goods – but closed down (high street). Now need to do something that will bring us in a small income. Thought about toys – power rangers, minecraft etc etc.
    Would really appreciate some help.

    • Hi Corrine,

      Thanks for the message. It might be a good idea to find a niche that you like the look of and ask us to source it via my sourcing company based here in China, Please head to our website for more details.


  7. great article, hopefully you can clarify the following for me? i understand that we cant really import branded goods from China, but on DHgate if you search for most brand names ie Apple, Nike etc they dont show up in the search but certain other brands do such as littlelife baby back backs and Griffin phone and tablet cases. does this mean that it is ok to import these branded goods or that the two companies i mention dont have the clout Apple do? hope this makes sense.

  8. Today, while I was at work, my cousin stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a 40 foot drop, just
    so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views.
    I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  9. Hi Dan,

    I just want to say thank you so much for this blog! I was going too delve into this sort area of business, but I decided the risks far outweight the benefits not to mention it could hinder any future business start up. However, I would like to try the legitmate side of importing from China, so if you could tell me more about this I would be most grateful. And oh, you said you have whatsapp can I add you?

  10. Well, the article is largely correct. But, having said that, it IS possible to find branded, and designer goods from China, it all depends what niche it is. Electronics, housewares, jewellery etc.

    Personally, I have located 2 suppliers that can provide mid range branded designer watches which retail over £300 here for about 70% off the RRP. And before you say it, yes they are genuine. I risked myself by sending them to the manufacturer for an authenticity check, they came back authentic everytime. Had it not been I probably would have had the police down my house!

    I’ve been told that the manufacturers don’t permit trading in this way so they often keep on the low. Bulk orders is also a big no-no.

    • Hi Jay,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Just to help you understand the situation i will write an example for you:

      If a factory here makes say, an Adidas Tracksuit and you manage to buy some from the factory that makes them because the supervisor fancies supplementing his income then yes that is possible. Of course some of the staff take home some goods and sell them, it used to happen back in the UK when we manufactured so why not here. I have been offered this kind of stuff and i know people who do it. It is however illegal and still the goods will be classed as counterfeit as you have no written documentation from Adidas or an authorized representative of a rights owner stating that you are the legal importer, exporter or distributor. Without this paperwork you will be shut down.

      Hundreds of ebay users get there account suspended each week for selling goods where the trademark owner does not approve. Google “VeRO” when you get time if you have not already.

      So yes it is possible, but that is the reason why the manufacturers, as you say, don’t permit trading this way because simply put its still illegal and without there paperwork – even though they came from the same factory, there still classed as fake.

      Mad world right?

      • Hi Dan,

        I see what you mean, but I’m not sure if this has been the case with the watches I’ve been importing. It could be possible, but I’ll never know. Plus, I believe my supplier is a retailer, not a factory, so perhaps I suppose I am ‘purchasing’ from his retail shop and choosing them to sell on (which might be different on legal grounds).

        Everytime I send them to the manufacturer for an authenticity check, they always background the serial number on the casing of the watch (which also brings up its warranty information and country of origin, I believe). So the the UK arm is well aware where the watch came from. Even the warranty cards are stamped with the retailers details. I don’t want to deal with anything illegal which is why I take this risk in sending it to them, which so far hasn’t proved problematic (fingers crossed!).

        You’re right, it happens in this country too. I know one person who works for a large designer cosmetics firm, and she uses her staff discount to buy expensive cosmetics then puts them on eBay or wherever. Whether this is allowed by the company I have no idea, but I can’t see how it can hurt them as they are making money though her abundant bulk sales and all they have to sacrifice is that small staff discount she gets, but that’s similar to how wholesale works anyway (discount for large orders).

        Regardless, we have to be on our toes when dealing with China and trademarks of other companies implemented in third part products. I read your post on the car entertainment units, and wasn’t sure whether your said these were genuine VW systems? Believe me, when you start shifting them in the UK you’ll get messages en masse asking this same question.

        All the best!

        • Sounds like your dealing in a parallel or grey market import then – A legitimate branded product obtained through illegitimate distribution channels and sold without the consent of the trademark owner.

          This kind of thing is “ok” for small scale importing but if you get to the stage where you want to bring them in bulk you will have problems. Its essentially an IP violation and depending on the country your doing it in you can have different levels of repercussion.

          It sounds like your aware of this though and I’m sure your aware of the risks involved.

          I try to keep my advice to get people thinking of honest straight forward and long term business ideas. That includes avoiding counterfeit goods and staying clear of a business that is not scalable. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what people should be doing or that I’m right in my thinking but its just how i work.

  11. Hey,
    Reading your article its actually remind me of something . two or three months ago , my friend in Netherlands asked me to order some fake brand watch for him ( the name of the brand is “ICE WATCH”) , i actually send once to him before . but just 65 pieces . this time he ordered 200 pieces orange ones for sell on queen’s day . but , the package was too big , so it was held by the custom . and he need to pay 200 euro for this . if not pay he will go to jail . So its really not a good idea to send fake things abroad .
    China is a big market , Everyone knows it . but everything can be faked in china . Everything . So , if anyone really wanna buy something brand . As a Chinese , i suggest not buy from china .
    But Daniel your blog is really help a lot of people . you are doing pretty good man . keep doing it .
    i’m about to do some business like this also . and i know a lot of people got cheat by Chinese , and i feel sorry about it . But what i’m about to do is gonna be honest business .

    • Thanks for the comment Denise, your right – if the goods get seen by customs they will be seized, destroyed and you will end up in trouble.

      Not a good idea to do this kind of thing.

      Good luck in your new business.


  12. Hi,

    I was wondering what type of legal and profitable ways can you import from the far east? I am relatively new to this but I am interested in importing and selling products as more of an interest than anything else? I am not interested in huge profits, as I said it is mainly out of interest I want to try this, but I also don’t want to end up in any illegal activity or losing my imported products through customs etc. What type of products would be suitable for this and how is the best way to get started searching for them and importing them?

    This is all down to an interest in the matter and as I haven’t much of an idea I am just looking for a point in the right direction.

    Thank you,


    • Hi Shane,

      Stick away from brand name goods and try find a niche that you might have a personal interest in.

      For me it was bikes and it has just gone from there.

      Good luck and feel free to ask me any questions you might have.


  13. Hi,
    I am new to TWF and I am looking for someone to bring my idea to life and manufacture it. So I am not interested in importing fakes but my very own design. I have researched and found so many dishonest people out there, do you have any advice for me. I have my logo TM, but am weary about someone trying to take my idea before I have a chance to produce it myself. Thanks

    • Hi Michelle,

      Good on you for taking the initiative and coming up with your own unique product idea.

      Your right to be careful but remember that in China if they will fake an iPhone they will also fake your idea and you can not totally protect yourself against that.

      I have helped a couple of people bring there own product ideas to market and could help you if it is a market i feel i have some knowledge in.

      Email me and lets see what we can do.



      • Buying fake goods is excellent why buy something for 100& up that will brake when you can get 2 or 3 for that price our time on earth is short were entitled to live and break rules

        • You could have a point there, each to there own i guess.

          For me though there is nothing more frustrating than having to put up with a cheap flawed item everyday when i can pay a bit more for one that wont let me down.

          Saying that i use an genuine iPhone and its not exactly faultless so sometimes you cant win….

    • Hi Leopold,

      I try to respond to all email within 24 hours but some times i might be visiting factories in an area of China with no wi-fi internet for a couple of days so please dont worry if i dont respond the same day.

      I am on whatsapp messanger on my iphone 24/7 though, feel free to add me.



  14. hi, i want to import fake iphone4s ,samsung fake mobiles from china. is this can cause copyright problem ? or any more problem in customs. can u guide me a way that i can easily import it to my country. can u even tell me how to save customs. i will be very thankful to you frnd.

    • Hi Vicky,

      Thanks for the question.

      Your main problem here, and one that personally would prevent me from doing this kind of thing is that it is against the law.

      The copyright problem you speak of will fall directly on your toes as the importer. If your countries equivalent of the HMRC or the owner of the copyright wish to follow up the loss of taxes, earnings and brand liabilities associated with the copy goods they will be looking at you directly.

      If you decide to go ahead and import then you will then encounter problems at customs. The items may be seized and you could be subject to a fine along with imprisonment.

      Its the reality of this kind of business but I assume you know all of this already?

      I mean this in the best possible way but if you are asking online about how to conduct an illegal activity then perhaps you better look into another business as this may not be the best line for work for you.

      There are thousands of legal and profitable products to import from the far east, i would be happy to discuss those with you.


    • Thanks Thomas,

      Yes there are some very convincing replica goods here, that is why you have to be extra careful as its easy to end up with a copy item without realising it.

      Take care.

  15. I started in 2005 (I’m now 28 too), things have definitely changed alot since them though I imagine certain things probably more so in the years before that. The early days weren’t easy and I certainly learnt alot quickly about all aspects from sourcing, buying / pricing, cultural differences, shipping to the sales side of things in the west and also learnt what stress is! But I’ve had alot of fun along the way and thats a big part of it too!


    • A good summary of what it’s like working in this industry James, your right.

      Its a combination of a learning curve, high stress but ultimately a fun career.

      Could be worse I guess….


  16. It is a minefield for those of us stuck in the UK and wanting to make just a little by getting stuff cheaper than wholesalers here.
    I am still contemplating buying from Alibaba (small time league) and put in a buying request for a particular named product (not knowing it was a trade name) The request was rejected as it ‘may infringe intellectual rights’, but there are still suppliers offering the same named product as we speak, in the same packaging.
    Thanks for the interesting and informative reminder of ‘common sense’ that is sometimes over ridden by naivety or greed, keep up the good work.

    • Hi Geoff,

      If the market has enough demand there is always the potential of supplying a none brand name equivalent. This won’t work in instances such as Gucci shoes or Ray Ban sunglasses where it is purely the brand name that consumer want but I have seen in work in plenty of other markets where a cheaper equivalent was greeted with a good response and ultimately good sales.


  17. Great article Dan, very well done! 🙂

    I’m in same position as you – everyday I receive e-mails from people looking for “cheap” branded goods from China – I should probably create a default answer e-mail to all these. It’s amazing how much money is being wasted on fake branded wholesale goods, especially online! All those thousands of Chinese websites promoting designer clothing etc. I really feel sorry for people scammed by these schemes.

    Keep up the good work Dan, always a pleasure reading your posts!


    • Hey Andrew,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes it is something that I guess will phase out as people begin to realise that there is no way of buying genuine branded goods from China wholesale or from a factory. Only last night I get a phone call from an American customer who said I was stupid for thinking I could not find branded goods here from a factory telling me I was not looking hard enough. That’s me told. Ha ha.

      Realistically the economy would be set back a lot here if this element of the Chinese market disappeared, even locally speaking it is strong with everyone here sporting Armani polos and Louis Vuitton bags.

      Maybe I will do an article at some point showing some of these suppliers.


      • Hi Dan, been reading your blog with interest. I’ve done a similar thing to you in the past, but working solely for myself in a number of Asian countries – now based in UK but still get out to Asia often. I don’t agree with selling fake branded goods either but have seen first hand that it is occasionally possible to get genuine branded goods (specifically clothing) from factories however this was in Cambodia and I’ve never seen, or looked for, this in China.
        All the best,

        • Hi James,

          Interesting to hear fom you having walked the path before me. Hats off to you, i can imagine this was much harder in the past, I bet even just 5 years ago would have been a tougher challange.

          It has to be said that your right and yes there are very very rare instances where genuine branded goods are leaked from a factory but then there are genuine instances where certain people get a brand new Mercedes sl500 for free too. Like many things in life it’s not what you know….

          Glad to head you made a business from your time here, all the best.


  18. **PLEASE NOTE**

    I have had a lot of emails in the last few days from people asking me for copy or fake goods.

    I do not and will not sell copy goods of any kind.

    I enjoy my life and wish well of others but i do not agree with this type of business.

    This article is intended to warn you of the likelihood of being “Scammed” if you chose to try and buy copy goods, it is written to dissuade you from doing so and to consider a more legitimate product to import as there are plenty here in China to choose from.

    Please do not be offended but i am not interested in working with you if this is your prerogative.


  19. A great and profound set of ideas, as usual, mostly of good use for the people who actually have and use that “sense”, which is not so common after all…
    So tell me mate, did you receive my mail?

    • Thanks,

      Thanks for the comment, I think these ideas are just very basic ones, but sometimes the most basic ideas can be the hardest to grasp?

      If i did not reply to your email already then I think you may have sent it to the incorrect address as i usually reply within a few hours during my working day here.

      Please email



  20. Another great post !

    I’ve had first hand experiences of this. Not only fake goods, but goods that don’t comply with EU regulations in my case. Lesson learnt I guess. Very wise words mate!

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