Toys are defined as products designed for use by children aged 12 or younger.
In 2020, U.S. retail sales of toys in the United States amounted to 25.14 billion U.S. dollars. The toys and games market consists of total revenues generated through the sale of action figures, dolls, games and puzzles, plush toys, vehicles, and other toys. The total toy industry in the U.S. was valued at 32.61 billion U.S. dollars in 2020.
Whether you have an interest or have no idea where to start, in this blog, you will learn how to import toys from China, and how to find suppliers accordingly in China.
Toy sales in the US:
Step 1. Sourcing
Use trusted platforms like Alibaba to search for Chinese suppliers since this site has lots of toy suppliers. Look at their location. Suppliers who come from the region with fewer suppliers could be brokers.
Keep in mind that most of the suppliers online are toy trading companies since toy factories in China are not that big. Also, most of the orders they receive are from trading companies.
Here are some of the most popular (and secure) platforms for connecting US-based importers with Chinese toy manufacturers:
• Alibaba: Alibaba has a large number of manufacturers available on their platform with products ranging from heavy machinery to accessories and toys.
• DHgate: DHgate is similar to Alibaba and you will find most toy 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).
Step 2. Regulations
Customs documents vary depending on what toys you’re shipping. Shipments from China require these documents:
• Air Wayill (if shipping by air freight)
• Pro forma invoice
For reference, toys are officially classified with the HS Code 9503.00.00, under the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule. They are generally duty free, though the Merchandise Processing Fee and Harbor Maintenance Fee will still apply.
All toys imported from China must have a certified tracking label on the product or on the product’s packaging. This label must supply certain product information, including:
• The manufacturer's name
• The location and date of the toy's production
• Specific information about the manufacturing process, including a batch or run number, and additional identifying characteristics
• Any other information about the specific source of the product
According to the CPSC, third-party testing is required for toys designed for use by children under age 12. Testing must occur at a laboratory approved by the CPSC. After testing, approved products will receive a Children’s Product Certificate.
Tests applicable to most toys include:
• Accessible edges
• Accessible points
• Heavy elements, including paint and similar surface coating materials
• Heavy elements in substrate materials
• Small objects
A list of CPSC-accepted labs can be found here
Toys designed for children ages 14 and over do not need to comply with toy safety standards. If a toy is designed for 13-year-old children, ASTM F963 safety standards apply, but laboratory testing is not required.
American Society for Testing and Materials
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets international standards for product safety. This toy safety directive mandates that all children’s toys are tested and certified.
The ASTM F963 is the process followed to meet safety standards. Certified compliance with ASTM rules is required for toys and children’s products.
Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission oversees the CPSIA. The CPSIA oversees both imported and U.S.- manufactured children’s products and toys.
A few specific materials are prohibited from use in toys. Lead and phthalates are potentially harmful materials that are very strictly limited for use in toys and children’s products.
The CPSIA defines the term “children’s product” and generally requires that children’s products to:
• Comply with all applicable children's product safety rules
• Be tested for compliance by a CPSC-accepted accredited lab, unless subject to an exception
• Have a written Children's Product Certificate that provides evidence of the product's compliance
• Have permanent tracking info affixed to the product and it's packaging
Factories that print famous animation characters on their products must get the animation company’s authorization.
If they don’t, then their product will infringe on the company’s design. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can be very strict when it comes to importing items featuring trademarked or licensed characters.
Make sure you have some proof of trademark compliance in writing from the seller with your import documents. If your toy supplier purchased the items from a third-party vendor without obtaining the proper paperwork, the trademark or license might be violated.
Step 3. Shipping
Choose Your Shipping Method
Air freight and ocean freight are the two main methods of shipping merchandise internationally. When shipping toys 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)
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.
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 importing toys from China 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 are easy to digest.