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Killer Swag: How to Buy Direct from China

Killer Swag: How to Buy Direct from China by @floridaheather, HD Smith Author, Swag, Writer

I love awesome swag!

Finding the right promotional item can be challenging for authors. Price point per item is a huge factor. Unfortunately, price per item is generally tied to the quantity ordered. The more you buy, the cheaper each individual item costs–but who needs 5000 identical fidget spinners, right?

Cost Factors

  • Quantity
  • Style
  • Color

Any variation (style, color, design, etc.) will require a separate individual order, which will increase the cost.

Online Promo Sites

There are many good promo sites online, but most of them are product aggregators. They buy blank stock from overseas and offer customization options. These sites are easy to work with and make it easy to find a variety of swag to choose from, but price and style will vary per site. For most of us, and for most products we want to buy, these sites are the way to go … but they aren’t the only option.

Made in China

Love those cool products being sold on INDIEGOGO? The prototype, and eventually the final product, will most likely be produced in China.
China has thousands of factories making every kind of product imaginable. If you can design it, someone in China can make it. This includes standard promotional items.

How does it work?

  • Create an account on Alibaba (LLC needed)
  • Search for the product you are looking for: (type anything)
  • Find a factory (from companies selling the item)
  • Contact factory for a product quote (ask more than one, compare quotes)
  • Order Sample
  • Finalize Order

Laminated Bag Search (what I planned to order)


I’m an author interested in purchasing custom laminated shopping bags. I’m not exactly sure which size I need, but I’d like the bag to look like a large version of one of my books. I’d need exact specs to produce the art you need, or if your company is able to create the images needed based on my raw files, that would be great. As for quantity, I’d prefer to get the best price/quantity ratio to keep the total cost under $1000 (including shipping, taxes, setup fees, etc). Please assist me in determining my options. Final shipment would go to Florida, USA. Timing is flexible (no rush needed), but please provide details for different shipping methods if available. Thank you in advance for your time.

Original Request: Laminated Shopping Bag
Product Quoted: RPET Non woven bag (least expensive fabric option)


Hi Heather
Thank you for your interested on our bags. Follows is our suggest quotation.
Fabric : RPET Non woven bag
Size: 40W * 30H * 10D cm
Handle: 2.5 * 60cm , with X stitching
Printing: CMYK all over
QTY: 800pcs
Unit price : USD 1.25 ( Include Door to Door shipping)
If you can confirm , we can make sample for your refer first before you order.
Waiting to hear from you.

Original Quote: $1000/800 bags/$1.25 each bag
Final Quote (size changed): $1080/800 bags/$1.35 each bag

How long did it take?

  • June 21st – Contacted Factory via Alibaba Messaging, requested Quote
  • June 22nd – Quote Received, design discussed, initial art files sent
  • June 22nd – Finalized Design Specs, sent new high res images with final design
  • June 23rd – Art Complete (factory created necessary production files)
  • June 23rd – Samples Ordered
  • June 27th – Samples Completed (at factory)
  • June 30th – Samples Received
  • June 30th – Ordered Bags (6 designs, 100×2, 150×4, 800 total bags)
  • July 3rd – PI Sent (product invoice)
  • July 3rd – Requested PI changed to use Trade Assurance
  • July 3rd – New PI Sent
  • July 3rd – Payment via CC made through Alibaba
  • July 29th – Requested Order Status
  • July 30th – Order Complete, shipping “next Monday”
  • August 1st – FedEx tracking number sent
  • August 7th – Bags Received

The biggest benefit for me in ordering direct from the factory was the ability to split my quantity into multiple designs. Promo sites DO NOT do this. Ever.

What did it really cost?

  • Final Quote: $1080
  • Chose to pay via Credit Card (CC), which added a 2.8% fee ($30.24)
  • – Option 2 – eChecking (flat rate $15)
  • – Option 3 – T/T (Transatlantic Transfer) (fee variable, must contact bank)
  • Unexpected CC fee, which added $33.31 (Alibaba bank in London, so even though funds were in USD, there was a fee)
  • Total Cost: $1143.55/$1.43 each

eChecking appears to be the best option, although T/T may offer better purchasing protections. I chose the CC option assuming it would only be an extra $15 (over eChecking), because the next day was a bank holiday and I didn’t want to delay the process. This eventually cost me another $30 fee. For my next order I will research eChecking and T/T.

Initial Research

During my initial research into buying directly from China, I found the following blog post. It is a good read.

How to Buy from the Greatest Store in the World Blog Post … lots of good information here!

Bag Pictures

Production Art






Close-Up of Bag Fabric

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