Whichever the season, hats and caps are worn worldwide, no matter the weather or occasion. Around 43 million caps are sold in the USA annually.
The estimate hat sales revenue at more than $2 billion a year (Lucrative, we know 💸). We believe this is an overlooked and growing market and needs some clarity on importing hats, especially for strong willed entrepreneurs looking to break into the market.
Whether you have an interest or have no idea where to start, in this blog, you will learn how to ship hats from China, and how to find suppliers accordingly in China.
Step 1. Sourcing
Where are most cap factories located in China?
Most export-oriented cap and headwear suppliers are located in Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Guangdong.
What should I include in my techpack?
While most factories can present showrooms full of demo products they’ve made for other customers, they still expect you to provide a complete techpack (a blueprint created by a designer.).
These files must be included:
• Sewing pattern
• Bill of materials (fabric, color codes, velcro, and other parts)
• Care label
• Logo/embroidery files
•Temperature insulation test
• Size chart
While it may seem like a shortcut to send over a reference sample to the factory, that’s rarely the case, something that often results in severe quality issues.
Potential quality issues
Here are a few quality issues you should look out for when importing caps and other headwear:
• Low-quality fabric (if no reference fabric submitted)
•Wrong Pantone colors (if no Pantone color specified in BoM)
• Too small or too large (if no size chart submitted)
Prints and embroideries can also be difficult, and often requires that the supplier remakes the cap samples multiple times.
What is the standard MOQ requirement?
Most cap and hat manufacturers set their MOQs on the same basis as other factories in the textiles industry. As such, you must request your supplier to confirm multiple MOQs:
• MOQ per order (e.g. 1000 pcs)
• MOQ per product or design (e.g. 500 pcs)
•MOQ per fabric and color (e.g. 250 pcs)
• MOQ per size (e.g. 50 pcs)
Where can I find cap suppliers?
Here are some of the most popular (and secure) platforms for connecting US-based importers with Chinese shoe manufacturers:
• Alibaba: Alibaba has a large number of manufacturers available on their platform with products ranging from heavy machinery to accessories and shoes.
• DHgate: DHgate is similar to Alibaba and you will find most shoe manufacturers in both places. We recommend DHgate as a second platform to try if you can't find any on Alibaba, as they do tend to have slightly more variety in their offering.
• Made-In-China: Made-In-China is similar to Alibaba and DHgate, with the key difference that 80% of their traffic comes from the Western market (US and EU buyers), while the other two get 80% traffic domestically (Chinese buyers). Their product offering is not that large, but if you do find options that interest you, the manufacturers are more likely suited for importing to the USA.
Their product offering is not that large, but if you do find options that interest you on Made-In-China, the manufacturers are a lot more likely to be well suited for importing to the USA.
We suggest you make your selection by comparing them on these criteria:
• Main products
• Test reports
• ISO 9001
• Registered capital
Step 2. Choose your design
Here's where the fun begins and your creative side can shine through.
The Right Level of Customization
Don’t just go for a custom patch slapped onto a generic hat, but rather you can choose among 4, 5, and 6 panels for a more precise, custom fit, plus different materials, bill types, panel color, bill color, stitching color, bill curvature, custom patches and logos, and more.
To learn more about creating your own custom hat, check out this blog on customs hats.
Many custom hat manufacturers tack on design charges, which add to your upfront costs, making the whole enterprise less accessible from the start. Look to get a free design service who will work with you until you’ve got the perfect product – no financial obligation until you’re happy.
This is especially important if you’re launching or growing a brand, though packaging inserts and stickers work great for merch as well.
High-quality custom labels, tags, and packaging help increase the professionalism of your brand’s image and deepen brand awareness by creating a memorable unpacking experience for your customers.
Step 3. Regulations
ASTM Clothing Standards
ASTM is an international standards organization that publishes different types of standards for corporations or governments, and the standards have been adopted in the United States. ASTM also provides textile standards for specifications and test methods.
ASTM’s standards are voluntary unless the standard is incorporated by reference.
In terms of textiles product, here are the standards that have been incorporated into the law:
• Children’s upper outerwear must be in conformance with ASTM F1816-97
• Standard Guide for care symbols for care instructions on Textile products – ASTM D5489
US Textiles Labeling Rules
When it comes to textiles labeling regulations, the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Federal Trade Commission(FTC) are responsible for enforcing labeling laws and acts.
In general, most clothing and home textile products are covered by the labeling requirements. Notice that the labeling requirements do not apply until the products are ready for sale to consumers.
Textile and apparel products to be sold in the United States must be labeled with the following information:
• Fiber content
• Country of origin
•Manufacturer or dealer identity
• Care instructions
As the fiber content is required to be provided on content labels, here we listed some common textile fibers and its attribute for reference.
• Silk - Smooth fabric finish with shine surface
• Wool - Warmth
•Cotton - Lightweight and absorbent
• Nylon - Durable, strong, lightweight and dries quickly
• Polyester - Durable, strong, lightweight and dries quickly
• Cashmere wool - Softness
The FTC has specified the placement of the required labeling. In general, the label must be conspicuous and accessible on the inside or outside the product, and the country of origin label should not be covered by any other label.
Label Placement Examples
1. For garments, the label must be attached near the inside center of the neck. The fiber content and manufacturer could be disclosed on another label attached to a side beam.
2. For Skirts, the label inside of the waistband is preferable.
3. For pillowcases, the label should be attached on the inside close to the open end.
The care instruction is required under the FTC labeling rule. Manufacturers and importers must attach the care instructions permanently to garments.
Care symbols are standardized under ASTM D5489-96c – the standard guide for care symbols for care instructions on textile products.
Care labels must state what regular care is necessary for the ordinary use of the product. For example, if the garment cannot be cleaned without harm, a warning sign should be provided.
Country of Origin
The country of origin labeling is mandatory under the FTC rule, and it must be on the front of the label. The country of origin label should not be covered by any other label.
• Made in China
• Made in Vietnam
• Made in USA
Country of Origin Rules
The country of origin label must represent the actual manufacturing country. You are not allowed to claim that the product is manufactured elsewhere by, for example, shipping the product for relabeling or repacking in a third country.
Made in USA
Marketers and manufacturers promote their products as “Made in USA”, must meet or virtually meet all the requirements published by FTC.
Here are some requirements for Made in USA labeling
1. The significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin.
2. If the product is not entirely made in the U.S., the claim should include the description of extent, amount of domestic content or processing.
3. US content must be disclosed on textile products.
The English language is mandatory. However, other languages can be added in addition to the English language version of the label.
Clothing Lab Testing
California Proposition 65 testing
CA Prop 65 requires warnings about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. However, it is difficult for importers to know what substances are contained in their clothing products.
With that said, we recommend you make a CA prop 65 test request to the laboratory in order to comply with the regulation when importing to California.
List of CA Prop 65 Testing Companies:
Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA) lab testing
Under FFA, CPSC issued the mandatory flammability standards for the clothing textiles and Importers will be responsible for meeting the standards. A lab test is the only way to ensure the flammability of your clothing products has complied with FFA.
Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) lab testing
FHSA required cautionary labeling to the hazard associated with the use of the product, also listed the banned hazardous substances for clothing products.
Although lab tests are usually not mandatory, it is still beneficial for you to make sure your products do not contain any restricted substance under FHSA.
List of FFA Lab Testing Companies
CPSIA lab testing for clothing
CPSIA requires children’s products including clothing, to comply with the safety rules and also be tested for compliance by a CPSC-accepted accredited laboratory.
On the other hand, CPSIA also requires a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC) for non-children’s products. In order to comply with CPSIA, importers must use the CPSC-Accepted testing laboratories and it is available through CPSC website.
List of CPSIA Lab Testing Companies
Step 4. Shipping
1. Choose Your Shipping Method
Air freight and ocean freight are the two main methods of shipping merchandise internationally. When shipping hats and caps from China, you want the best option for transporting your goods.
Within air freight, you have two options: express courier and traditional air freight.
•Express courier is faster (4-7 days delivery time), and it is 10-20% more expensive than traditional air freight
• Traditional air freight on the other hand is cheaper but has slightly slower delivery times (13-15 days)
• Polyester - Durable, strong, lightweight and dries quickly
Within ocean freight, you also have two options: FCL and LCL.
•FCL (Full-Container-Load) means that you ‘rent’ an entire container just for yourself. This is recommended only if you have enough merchandise to fill an entire container (upwards of 20 tons)
• LCL (Less-Than-Container-Load) means that you share a container with multiple importers. This is the preferred option for most businesses because it makes ocean freight very cheap and accessible.
2. Find The Right Freight Forwarder
The final step is to find a freight forwarder who can get your products from your factory to your warehouse quickly, cheaply and safely.
Should You Use Your Factory’s Freight Forwarder?
We propose it is not, for multiple reasons:
1. They will have higher rates than freight forwarders
2.They won't have any value-added services, such as helping you with shipping documentation, customs clearance and taxes & duties, or offering free insurance.
But there is hope! Some freight forwarders are modernizing the industry and implementing a customer-centric approach where customers benefit from many value-added services.
Don’t settle for less! A freight forwarder is ultimately a long-term business partner, and it is worth spending the time to find the right one.
If you have further questions about shipping hats from China to the USA, or anything else, feel free to shoot us a message.
Local Digital Marketing manager and content creator at Bookairfreight. I am someone who loves literature, but here to simplify interesting topics within the logistics industry that's easy to digest.