Yiwu is a permanent market rather like an oriental bazaar, where about 70,000 businesses rent stalls. Some are there permanently and some are only short term. A very large number of them do not speak English and this means you need to pay an interpreter.
That puts you at a great disadvantage because you don't know how accurately the translator is telling the stallholder what you said or telling you what the stallholder said. You won't know if they have arranged a commission for introducing you to the seller or for telling you that this stallholder has offered the best price.
The interpreter might only translate properly at those places where he/she gets a commission. Also, many of the exhibitors are traders, and that means you cant get ex-factory prices.
The Yiwu market is vast, covering over 2,000 acres and you would need several days to even scratch the surface.
A major consideration is that Yiwu stallholders are notorious for selling rejects and generally poor quality. Some dollar store owners visit regularly and they dont care much about quality or continuity of supply. If you want to establish a reputation or your own brand, Yiwu is definitely not the place to buy.
If you want quick profits and don't care too much about your reputation, you don't have to visit China in order to buy at Yiwu. You can buy from the suppliers at Yiwu by using the Yiwu market website, operated by CCC Group, but there are a few reasons why I would not consider that.
Firstly, if you buy good quality products, (and they do exist there), you will certainly pay more than you would if you bought direct from the manufacturers, rather than from the traders who make up the bulk of the vendors at Yiwu. CCC are acting as brokers and they add a margin, which obviously reduces your profits.
Secondly, because many stallholders have no English, problems can arise in relation to descriptions, specifications, packaging, etc. CCC say they handle that for you, but with thousands of small transactions taking place daily, chances are that such problems will not receive much attention.
Thirdly, product illustrations are not good and it can be a bit of a lottery as to whether the real product will look the way you expect it to.
Another option is open to people who want to buy cheap goods there, but don't want to visit the place. There are countless opportunist agents offering their services as buying agents at Yiwu.
They work on commission and some of their offers seem incredibly cheap, BUT.... there are some things you need to know before you decide to use one of those sourcing agents.
- Secret commissions are illegal in western countries, but it's common practice in China. They might charge you a small commission, but get a big commission from the supplier they use for you.
- From my countless visits to China I have learned that almost every business owner has a "cousin" who owns a business. The agents could well be buying your goods from a "cousin". How good will their price be? You have no way of knowing.
- Some agents buy cheap when they know what you want, and sell the goods to you through a business they own, without telling you it's their business. They don't even place the order until they have your money.
- Some offer to do quality inspections before ordering for you, but if rejection of the goods for quality reasons loses them a juicy commission, how conscientious will their inspection be?
- You have no idea how low prices in China really can be, so how do you know if you are getting a good deal? In western eyes, Chinese prices are a bargain, but I know for example that you can buy some products for $2 that sell for $50.