Piggy Back on the Brands You Love (and your competition!) to Find Great Suppliers

Shipping manifests from various government agencies reveal the China factories where famous brands source products, letting you go straight to the source.

Famous brands spend a fortune researching Chinese suppliers to meet their exacting standards. Their sourcing managers need to be certain that production quality, intellectual property protection, labor conditions, and environmental impact meet their exacting standards. And of course, they also need to get a great price–that’s why they came to China in the first place, after all.

Learn what they are buying and where they are buying!

As it turns out, at least ten countries, including the United States, consider the shipping manifests for imported shipments to be in the public record. That means you can tap into this data to find your competitor’s or target company’s shipments.

Unfortunately for us, most buyers don’t want their secrets to get out–that’s their competitive advantage, the barrier to entry that makes their product and services stand out from the rest. Yet Customs reporting obligations leave them with little choice. In many cases, their shipping data is a matter of public record and there for you to use in your own sourcing ventures. China is so hard to navigate on your own, why not leverage the work other professional buyers have conducted by taking advantage of this information in the public record?

In my view, if the buyers have not taken measures to hide their information (as explained in this blog post), then we should feel comfortable accessing this information. After all, as the data is in the public domain, we should feel bad if we don’t take this opportunity to help ourselves.

How to get our hands on the data?

There are now almost 30 websites charging various fees to access the data. They basically take the data in raw format from the government and synthesize it into something manageable and useful for use buyers to access online. One company in particular, Import Genius, has made a name for themselves for providing robust data for a small service fee. Reports from Import Genius are key tools to use when evaluating potential suppliers. Import Genius’ President Ryan Petersen states that they have collected and made searchable over 200 million records from ten governments. Visit their site and see with your own eyes. I was impressed.

How to use the data?

It is pretty straightforward: search for companies you admire to see the names of all their factories and what they’re buying from each. Just as interesting, try looking up your own suppliers–or potential suppliers–to verify their overseas customers.

Almost by definition, the companies with the highest quality products are already working with the best factories in China. Shipping data from Customs agencies reveals the trade secrets that help make these companies successful.

When dealing with factories in China, you need to use all the data at your disposal to determine who they’ve supplied, what they sell, the trends in their export volumes and more. Customs data isn’t the end of the game–you’ll need to follow up with factory audits and quality inspections–but it’s certainly better than flying blind.


The world’s most famous brands have incredible connections in China. They’ve done the hard work of finding the best suppliers and helping them bring their quality up to standard. Take advantage of their investment.

Wishing you successful China sourcing!

About the Author

Mike Bellamy is an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center (www.ChinaSourcingInfo.org). He is also the author of, “The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing” (chinasourcinginfo.org/book) and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions (www.PSSchina.com)


  1. jorge meneses m on July 14, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Of course, excellent tips…tks.

  2. […] 3. Piggy Back on the Brands You Love (and your competition!) to Find Great Suppliers […]

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