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5 principles for finding a reliable wholesale supplier of e-cigarettes in China (long-term business)

Every business is unique and also has individual requirements. Therefore, the suppliers that your business needs are also different due to your unique business models and scales of each period. Obviously, the way to find suppliers will also vary.

Finding suppliers in China is a big topic, and hence I want to divide it into several parts for a detailed discussion. Read through with patience, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Choosing a Supplier That Matches Your Business Well

Many people asked me directly: “Mandy, do you know how difficult it is to find a suitable wholesale supplier in China? Either my MOQ is not enough, or the product cost exceeds my budget.” Some new sellers do not I am happy to tell me: “The listing finally has stable sales. I am really happy to place a second order with the previous supplier. However, the quality of the two batches of goods is different, which caused my listing to attract a lot of bad reviews. It’s a nightmare.”

I have divided the importers into the following four categories, and will give you practical advice for each type of importers:

  • Plan to establish an agent wholesaler for its own e-cigarette brand.
  • Online chain stores that want to enrich SKUs
  • Importers who want to develop products according to their own ideas.
  • Importers such as chain convenience stores, pharmacies, tobacco stores, and e-cigarette stores

Plan to establish an agent wholesaler for its own e-cigarette brand.

These platforms are well known, and I believe that most new e-cigarette importers start their business with these platforms first.

What these three platforms have in common is the diversity of products. No matter what style or brand of e-cigarettes you are looking for, you can almost find them here.

since during the initial stages, sellers must test the waters and evaluate the market response for the products they are offering. Each product will only need a small amount of inventory to test the market. After a period of analyzing sales, a large amount of stock can be purchased for the goods that had a good response.

This seems like a perfect and low-risk option. However, things are counterproductive, but when you really cooperate, you may find a lot of problems.

So, in this case, should you visit the manufacturer directly to buy the product? of course not! The best way is to contact some officially authorized e-cigarette trade wholesalers to buy a small number of products in a variety of styles to test the market.

This will reduce your investment risk and improve your business benefits.

Online chain stores that want to enrich SKUs

Are you an Online chain distribution e-cigarette brand importer? Well, today you’ll be leaving with a truckload of practical and efficient tips that will boost your business. I have served more than 1,000 online sellers in the past several years and hence have a lot of good advice to share. Google is committed to giving users a good experience in terms of product and customer service, So, the success mantra here is:

Good product + Good content + Right marketing strategy = Good Ranking

So, for online sellers, a good product and a stable supply chain are of paramount importance for the start of your business. You should be more careful when looking for suppliers. If you are an online seller, and reading this part of the content, I believe you will be deeply touched. I have some young clients who are selling only one or two products online and have already earned their first bucket of gold.

It’s worth noting that if you look for a supplier on Alibaba, many Alibaba China suppliers will give you a large MOQ of beginning. Don’t give up, try to communicate with suppliers, usually, there is some room to maneuver. You can get less MOQ, but it will mean that the price may be 20% higher.

If the supplier is reliable, and the quality of the subsequent products is also guaranteed, then I suggest don’t be too concerned about the starting price. Once the sales volume of a listing is stable, you can slowly increase your MOQ to lower your unit cost and accelerate your profit.

In addition to finding suppliers on Alibaba, you can also come to some of China’s exhibitions. Visiting China will allow you to communicate with suppliers for negotiating a better deal directly, and you may also find some unique products that are not available on Alibaba.

Importers who want to develop products according to their own ideas.

Although disposable e-cigarettes look simple, they are actually very particular. As a fast-moving consumer good, it pays attention to the repurchase of popularity and
Flavor. From the product point of view, product functionality can be placed third, style can be placed second, flavor and taste must be placed first. This is the first element of true repurchase.

Why is it not even necessary to put functionality in third place? Because some functions are pseudo-demand, their existence is not a necessary factor for consumers to purchase and repurchase. For example, a customer previously asked us to develop an e-cigarette product with Bluetooth function, game function, detection port number, automatic adjustment function according to human suction habits, and the color of the body can be switched through the APP. It sounds very advanced, but in fact, the cost of such products from research and development to production is very high. Most importantly, most consumers are unwilling to pay. It deviates from the underlying logic of fast-moving consumer goods.

The appearance style is relatively simple, and manufacturers with R&D capabilities can basically solve this problem.

Pursuing taste experience and fragrance is a science, and each cigarette oil factory may have a different fragrance for the same fragrance. The explosive power of the taste is closely related to factors such as oil storage cotton, heating wire, structural design, and resistance value.

In this case, you can choose an authoritative manufacturer or hire a purchasing agent. The advantage of using this strategy you’ll be able to avail the services of an industry professional and leverage his network and resources. You will also save time in search of the required products and their suppliers.

importers such as chain convenience stores, pharmacies, tobacco stores, and e-cigarette stores

importers such as chain convenience stores, pharmacies, tobacco stores, and e-cigarette stores generally offer tens of thousands of products. Several products can be procured from their home countries, but there is a wide assortment of products that they need to purchase from China. However, the importers who do not have any experience in buying goods from China find themselves worrying about a lot of factors like finding the right suppliers, regulation compliance, and transport, etc.

To be honest, you can find the suppliers yourself in China, but believe me, it is an incredibly daunting task. You have to spend a lot of time in search of suppliers for various categories of products. In addition, there are many product brands you need, and you may not know which brands may be unique and which products have popular trends that can help you bring better benefits. Finding and contacting multiple suppliers will be a headache for you. At this time, the best way is to find a partner who is willing to be your procurement agent, and let him use professional and personal resources to solve all problems for you.

In fact, most of the large retailers like Walmart, Costco, Carrefour, etc., do not source the products themselves in China, but purchase goods through trading companies or sourcing companies.

Five Major China Wholesale Suppliers

Now that you’ve read my detailed explanation of the best options for procuring products from China as per your business model, I hope that you are clear about the very first step. So, let’s move on to the next level. In this chapter, I will elaborate on who these so-called Chinese suppliers are, what exactly are their roles in the supply chain, and how the different suppliers partner among themselves. First, I will classify all Chinese suppliers into five categories and then introduce them separately.

  • Manufacturer
  • Trading company
  • Suppliers in domestic wholesale markets
  • Sourcing agent or sourcing company
  • Small wholesaler or drop shipper


The manufacturers are the source of products for all the different types of suppliers in the market. As for you, the manufacturer is the supplier who will offer you products at the lowest price.

There are two types of manufacturers in China. The first ones are those who don’t have their own English salesman. They usually cooperate with domestic trading companies and sourcing agents, which means that these factories sell their goods to foreigners through trading companies and sourcing agents. The prices of such factories are the best.

The second type of manufacturers is those who have their own English salesmen. They usually participate in exhibitions in China and abroad and also have their own online store on Alibaba. Some of these manufacturers also have their own independent websites online and even indulge in online marketing.

You can search for them on Google. The prices you get at this kind of factory are comparatively higher than the manufacturers who deal through trading companies. But at the same time, their rates are lower than the price offered by a trading company. Plus, their MOQ is generally very high. 

If you specialize in certain products or want to develop your own product, manufacturers are suitable for you. They will generally give you a lot of advice on product design and will also help you develop the product at the lowest possible price.

Trading company

Trading companies are also called middlemen, who also help importers procure products from China. There are many trading companies listed on Alibaba, and you may also stumble upon factories on Alibaba that are actually trading companies. However, most of the time you can’t identify whether the supplier you are working with is a factory or a trading company, especially if it’s your first time on Alibaba.

There are also some suppliers that will tell you directly that they are trading companies that can help you find a good factory. This is true. Usually, trading companies work with many factories, and finding a good factory is not difficult for them. Trading companies commit to trading services and have their own English salesmen, so communicating with them is also more comfortable.

Additionally, you can get a relatively small MOQ (Usually 400-2000 pcs/flavor)because trading companies and factories have long-term cooperative relationships.

Sourcing agent or sourcing company

Such companies don’t sell their own products; they are more focused on sourcing services. You can enjoy complete import services that include finding suppliers, production follow-up, quality inspection, and shipping arrangements. Therefore, many Amazon sellers prefer the services of a sourcing agent.

Compared to trading companies, sourcing agents are more flexible. They can help you find any product you want in China. Frankly speaking, a sourcing agent acts as your representative in China. You just need to tell them what you want, and they will procure the product for you.

Hiring a sourcing agent is the best option for those who require several different products from China.

The suppliers of the wholesale market in China

Planning to visit China and explore the wholesale market yourself? Well, chances are you may find products at a better price as compared to the prices offered by the online suppliers. In China, the leading wholesale markets are in Yiwu, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. Many large and small factories are also concentrated around these three cities.

Below you will learn the primary characteristics of these three wholesale markets and the introduction to their main product offerings, as well as some critical skills that will help in dealing with these suppliers.

Yiwu, China: Mainly engaged in small commodities and daily consumer goods. E-cigarettes as an accessory product

Shenzhen Huaqiangbei: Mainly engaged in electronic products and cosmetics, with electronic cigarettes as subsidiary products

Guangzhou: Mainly engaged in clothing, luggage, beauty, adult products. E-cigarettes as an accessory product

Things to note when going to the Chinese wholesale market:

  • Most of the vendors in the market do not accept U.S. dollars, only RMB, and they cannot pay by wire transfer.
  • Find a competent interpreter in advance to help you communicate with your suppliers.
  • Look for freight forwarders in advance to help you arrange shipments in time. You can also consult them about import matters.
  • If he provides you with a well-known brand product, please provide a certificate of authorization. Otherwise, you can easily buy low-quality products.

Small wholesalers or drop shippers

Small wholesalers are generally found on DHgate, AliExpress, and other distribution platforms. Usually, the wholesale MOQ here is relatively small, and dozens of pcs are also available.

Dropshippers offer a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when your store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third party like Shopify and gets it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, you never see or handle the product yourself.

If your customers have high-quality requirements for products, I don’t recommend you to find small wholesalers or drop shippers because you can’t guarantee the consistency of the product quality. These small wholesalers at these sites don’t purchase a lot from the manufacturer and often purchase from different factories. So it is difficult to guarantee that the quality of the goods will be the same every time. You can test the market this way when your online business starts, but it’s definitely not a long-term solution.

Channels to find suppliers

Finding Suppliers at China’s Fairs

There are two types of exhibitions in China, comprehensive exhibitions and professional exhibitions.

The comprehensive exhibits are clear at a glance. The well-known Canton Fair is one of the most famous comprehensive exhibitions in China. You will find a wide range of product categories at the show. Many e-cigarette manufacturers and brands will exhibit it.

Professional exhibitions only display products in a single category. The advantage is that the supplier resources of a certain category are very concentrated. For example, in the e-cigarette business, going to the IECIE e-cigarette exhibition is more appropriate than going to the Canton Fair. Currently, it is only held twice a year.

Source China wholesale suppliers online

There are many e-commerce platforms where you can find suppliers such as Alibaba, Global Source, Made in China, DHgate, Aliexpress, etc.

Let me briefly talk about the general situation of these platforms.


There are several different types of products on Alibaba, and there are relatively more suppliers on Alibaba than any other B2B site. Many people always want to find a way to identify whether the supplier is a trading company or a manufacturer. I suggest that you don’t spend too much energy on it at first. All you have to do is to make a balance between the quality and price of the product.

As your business model matures, you will also gain more and more experience in dealing with the suppliers, and then you will meet more cost-effective suppliers.

Alibaba is really a good place to find suppliers, but there are a few misunderstandings you should pay attention to.

♦ When looking for suppliers on Alibaba, those marked with “Gold Supplier” are not always the good ones. The truth is that, as long as you pay the annual fee of about $4,000 on Alibaba, you will be a gold supplier. So, almost everyone on Alibaba is a gold supplier. It’s wrong of you to use it as a criterion for judging a good supplier.

♦ Alibaba’s search ranking mechanism is different from Google. When you search for suppliers of a type of product, the top one may not always be a good supplier. Its good ranking is often based on expensive ad-rate.

Global Sourced & Made in China

If too many suppliers on Alibaba give you headaches and make you go crazy, then Global Sourced and Made in China are better alternatives. Here, you won’t find so many suppliers, and the chances of finding a reliable supplier are also higher. Why?

Both of these sites have much higher auditing standards and fees for members. So, in addition to being able to screen some of the most reliable suppliers in the market; the probability of finding a direct factory is also higher on Global Sourced and Made in China. At the same time, the MOQ on these two platforms is also higher than Alibaba. If you deal with machinery or electronic products, I suggest you go to Global Sourced & Made in China.

For example, if you want to develop an E-cigarette that you have designed yourself, finding suppliers on the two sites is more efficient, and the suppliers are also more professional. But remember, the MOQ on these sites is also higher than on Alibaba.

Aliexpress & DHgate

The MOQ of these two sites is small. You can just place an order at a few hundred dollars. But the downside of Aliexpress and DHgate is that when you reorder from the same supplier, the quality of the product may be different from your first order.

Don’t be surprised! The suppliers on the two sites go to many different factories to purchase the same product. So, they cannot guarantee consistent quality every time. Therefore, if you are running a long-term business, I will not recommend you to purchase from these two sites.

Many suppliers on AliExpress and DHgate also sell their own branded products, and they value the quality of the product more than other suppliers. But, the problem is, if you purchase these brands from them, others will purchase them too. So, it will be hard to distinguish yourself from other competitors.

How to Verify a Chinese Supplier Worthy of Long-Term Business

Some tips for getting over the scams

$2 for a 5000puffs X? This is too good to believe the offer is undoubtedly a scam. If something doesn’t conform to the logic of the market, you should be more careful. In the procurement of daily goods, you don’t normally encounter such ridiculous things. For example, you pay the money to the supplier but don’t receive the goods. Don’t worry! Most Chinese suppliers are now doing legitimate business.

In general, the manufacturers on Alibaba have the invention patent certificate for their own products. If the trading companies resell the factory’s existing brand products, they will have a power of attorney from their factories.

The trouble that many importers encounter is that the product quality of massive production does not match the samples. I will give you some advice on overcoming this issue.

Before placing an order, you should test the suppliers from all aspects beyond letting them send you samples. Although you can’t completely avoid the risks, you must do your best to avoid some troubles.

For example, ask your suppliers if they can trade via trade assurance of Alibaba instead of Paypal. Although you can apply for a refund in this way, the process is very complicated, and if your goods really have quality problems, you may not get a refund.

Even so, why use this method? Because the suppliers promise you to use this method, indicating that the supplier is confident about the quality of their products.

If your supplier is not on Alibaba, then you have to be more careful. Check their business licenses and authorization certificates for their products, which are under their company’s name. If so, it proves that the supplier has long-term and legally sold the product

Four key points for good suppliers worthy of long-term cooperation

No matter where you look for suppliers, Alibaba, Google, or some exhibitions all good suppliers will have the following 4 characteristics:

A. The right balance between quality and price

You will always find cheap products on the market. But I bet you won’t purchase products from suppliers that are 15% cheaper than the lowest price in the industry. In business, you get what you pay for. Adjust your budget under the premise of ensuring product quality. The lowest prices may be accompanied by poor quality and at times scams.

Some time ago, an e-cigarette seller with 3 stores sent us an inquiry, asking us to produce a 4000puffs e-cigarette with a quantity of 30,000. We gave him an offer, but he thought our price was high, and he said that he found a supplier that was 0.75 dollars cheaper than us. Four months later, we received an email from him saying that almost all the electronic cigarettes he bought had problems, either because of oil leakage or the battery was dead. He asked the other party to do after-sales, but the other party refused. He asked us for advice.

I just want to say, don’t try to save a little and end up losing a lot.

B. The expertise of the supplier’s salesman

I think a qualified salesperson should be very familiar with the products he is selling. He knows its material, the price difference between different materials, advantages and disadvantages, and the relevant certificates required for import and export. You ask a question, and a good salesman will give you multiple options for you to choose the best one and save your time. But a poor salesman might struggle to answer your question clearly.

If you think that a supplier’s product quality and price are still good, but it is tough to communicate with this salesman, you can just write an email to the owner of the company directly and ask him to give you a better, more professional salesman.

The salesman assigned to you by the suppliers is random, no matter on Alibaba or at the fairs. Once you show them that you are a big purchaser right at the beginning, they will send the salesman who has been in the company for a long time to serve you.

C.Efficiency of communication

Time is money, and hence an effective communication is critical. In international trade, communication mainly relies on Emails. In some areas of Europe and America, the time difference is long, which may lead to delayed responses. Using a common chat tool can solve this problem. Some Chinese suppliers may use Whatsapp or Skype, but they might not check the messages on time, while some suppliers don’t use them at all.

I suggest you install a Chinese app like WeChat, on your phone. In Europe and America, not everyone uses Facebook to communicate, but in China, everyone uses WeChat in their daily life. They will reply to you at any time, even on weekends. Chinese people work hard.

If a salesman doesn’t respond to emails after work, you can consider changing a salesman or a supplier. Timely communication can solve most of your troubles and will make the process much smoother.

d. Responsibility – Attitude towards problems and ways of solving them

A responsible supplier treats all the orders no matter how big or small, equally. However, many suppliers on Alibaba treat small orders (just reach MOQ, or are less than MOQ) is that they are interested in doing business with you once. Hence, they will offer you a higher price, and will also not care much about your order.

Purchasing existing brand products from China or customizing a product, particularly a batch of products, can be a complex and time-consuming process from production to import to your country. There are various challenges in this process, especially if you are importing from China for the first time. This is why choosing a responsible supplier becomes even more important.

Furthermore, small challenges and obstacles are bound to occur during production. For example, the logo is printed in the wrong position, or the requested changes have not been changed, etc. Here, the key to ensuring that everything goes perfectly is the attitude of the supplier to deal with these problems. If the supplier evades responsibility when something goes wrong with a product, or doesn’t compensate for the issues by getting them fixed then he’s definitely not a good supplier.

A good supplier understands the truth of win-win and is willing to take responsibility for his mistakes. He can make himself unprofitable because there are some unexpected problems in order, but he will not let you suffer unreasonable losses. No matter large or small orders, he will always have a positive attitude, because he wants to establish long-term cooperation with you.

three Tips for Dealing with Chinese Suppliers to Make Your Business Grow Fast

A.Exchange rate

The exchange rate is dynamic data that changes in real-time. It is normal that it changes between 5%-10% in half a year or a year. You don’t need to worry if the fluctuations aren’t significant since suppliers do not adjust product prices for slight exchange rate variations.

For instance, if the rate drops from 6.5 to 6.2, it will not affect your product prices too much. However, if the exchange rate goes down a lot and your goods are high value, in this case, you can negotiate with the supplier to update the product price. One day, for example, the exchange rate was 6.9, falling back to 6.2. At this time, the supplier will adjust the price for you.

B. When you want to purchase a new product, please ask the old supplier first

Reliable long-term cooperative suppliers are also your resources; you should make good use of them. When you want to buy a new product, and he happens to not have one, you can consult your old supplier. It not only saves time but also reduces potential risks. If you can get some information about the supplier of the product from your old supplier, even if you buy it yourself, it will be of great help to you.

C.Ask your supplier to recommend new designs or new products

In business, timely and accurate information is priceless. As the disposable e-cigarette market becomes more and more competitive, and the product style life is getting shorter and shorter (3-6 months), as a businessman, we should always pay attention to trends and products sold by competitors. You should take the initiative to ask your suppliers what new products or flavors are popular recently. You must get the most popular products the first time to sell and make more money first.

All in all, the information from your suppliers is also important for your product ideas.

Now It’s Your Turn

Thank you for coming with me here.

I hope this post showed you everything about finding good suppliers in China you didn’t know before.

Now I’d like to hear your take:

Which idea from this post are you ready to try first?

Are you going to start your import journey?


Maybe some points in this post leave you puzzled. Either way, please let me know in the comment section below or email.

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