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How to Import Toys from China

May 1, 2018
Laura Isaacs
All toys imported to the United States must comply with regulations set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

Those seeking to import toys from China will find that it’s more than just child’s play. In fact, toys can be big business.

All toys imported to the United States must comply with regulations set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). All domestically and internationally manufactured toys must comply with these rules.

Recent numbers from Toy Association Inc. indicate that toy sales are on the rise; up 5 percent over the previous year’s numbers. For a $26.5 billion industry in the U.S., this steady increase creates tons of opportunities for those who seek to import toys from China and other international sources.

Chinese toys on the market today can be classified generally into several categories: Electronic toys, mechanical toys, plastic toys and wooden toys. Additionally, toys like models, licensed toys, dolls, ride-on toys, educational toys, high-tech toys and internet-connected toys are becoming larger parts of the toy market.

Why Import Toys from China?

China manufactures some of the best toys in the world. Toy cars, electronic toys, dolls, stuffed animals and other children’s products are essential parts of the toy market and Chinese suppliers often offer the best prices. When purchasing toys wholesale, it is wise to consider toys from Chinese suppliers.

Recent closures of major toy retailers like Toys ‘R’ Us indicate how the toys market is shifting. Instead of buying toys in brick and mortar stores, many of today’s consumers are buying toys online. Retailers with a strong online presence like Amazon and Walmart are taking over the toys market. These online marketplaces allow third-party vendors to sell items and products on their platforms. This creates many opportunities for retailers to take advantage of changes in the toys market and grow their business by selling imported toys online.

Just how big is the toy export and import business? In 2016, the most recent numbers available,  world toy exports topped $ 97.7 billion. According to recent statistics, China owns nearly 46 percent of the international toy export market. Other top toy exporters include:

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  • U.S. (6.4 percent)
  • Hong Kong (5.9 percent)
  • Netherlands (5.5 percent)
  • Germany (4.7 percent)
  • Czech Republic (3.4 percent)
  • Taiwan (2.2 percent)
  • United Kingdom (2.1 percent)
  • Italy (1.8 percent)
  • Belgium (1.8 percent)
How big is the toy export and import business?

With such a large portion of the international toy market coming from China, it’s no surprise that importing toys from China is big business with lots of opportunities to make money.

What are the Requirements for Toys?

The CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) oversees both imported and U.S.- manufactured children’s products and toys. Toys and children's products regulated by the CPSIA include:

  • Baby products
  • Children’s accessories, clothing and furniture        
  • Children’s jewelry
  • Dolls
  • Educational toys
  • Plastic toys
  • Plush toys
  • Toy cars and trucks
  • Wooden toys

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees the CPSIA, refers to the commodity’s manufacturer as the responsible party on its website. However, this only applies to domestic manufacturers. When importing toys from China or abroad, the importer is responsible for making sure toys and children’s products comply with federal mandates.

Still Have Questions

According to rules set in place by the CPSIA, all toys and children’s products are subject to the following three regulations:

  • All children’s products and toys imported or domestically manufactured must be compliant will all safety regulations.
  • Testing is required of all toys and children’s products at a CPSC-approved laboratory.
  • A tracking label must be attached to all children’s product or toy products or product packaging.

According to information from the CPSC, 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 following chemicals are phthalates and are limited for use in toys based on safety standards:

  • BBP (Limit: 0.1%)
  • DBP (Limit: 0.1%)
  • DEHP (Limit: 0.1%)
  • DIDP (Limit: 0.1%)
  • DINP (Limit: 0.1%)
  • DnOP (Limit: 0.1%)

Phthalates are commonly used in plastics to make them more flexible and harder to break. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), phthalates are commonly used in materials called polyvinyl chloride plastics. These plastics are used to make items such as plastic packaging, inflatable toys and other children’s toys. Studies suggest that exposure to small amounts of phthalates isn’t always dangerous, but exposure and ingestion of large amounts of phthalates has been proven to lead to reproductive problems in laboratory animals. Some researchers have also linked exposure to phthalates to problems like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), low IQ, breast cancer, obesity, neuro-developmental issues, Type II Diabetes, autism spectrum disorders and behavioral issues.

Lead is also a carcinogenic material that is strictly limited for use in toys. Children are exposed to lead in toys after putting the toys containing lead in their mouths or touching the toys with their hands. According to information from the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of lead poisoning can include developmental delays, learning difficulties, sluggishness and fatigue, weight loss, and seizures.

Additionally, mechanical regulations are in place to make sure the physical aspects of a toy are safe for children. Seams and plastic parts are among parts regulated for safety. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets international standards for product safety. The ASTM F963 is the process followed to meet safety standards. Certified compliance with ASTM rules is required for toys and children’s products.

Testing Regulations

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.

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Tests applicable to most toys include:

  • Accessible edges
  • Accessible points
  • Cleanliness of pastes, liquids, gels, putties, and powders
  • Heavy elements, including paint and similar surface coating materials
  • Heavy elements in substrate materials
  • Small objects

There are CPSC approved laboratories located all around the world. There are many CPSC laboratories in China. Other approved testing labs are located in

Hong Kong, Canada, Vietnam, Greece, Mexico, Indonesia and the U.S.

After testing, approved products will receive a Children’s Product Certificate.

Labeling Test

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.

Toy safety standards
What is the Toy Safety Standard?

The ASTM F963 sets the standard for toy safety. This toy safety directive mandates that all children’s toys are tested and certified. This standard applies to all toys made after April 30, 2017. The ASTM toy safety standard addresses many of the health issues and hazards identified with toys. Compliance with ASTM F963 used to be up to the manufacturer’s discretion, but recent CPSIA mandates require that all toys on the U.S. market comply with these rules.

Still Have Questions

Many sections of the ASTM F963 are only applicable to certain kinds of toys. According to the ASTM, the following toys or toys with the following attributes must be tested at CPSC-approved labs before the toys can enter the U.S. market:

  • Battery operated toys
  • Toys with confined spaces
  • Expanding materials
  • Toys with hinges and folding mechanisms
  • Magnets
  • Nails and fasteners
  • Pacifiers
  • Plastic film
  • Pom poms
  • Projectile toys
  • Projections
  • Rattles
  • Ride-on toys and toy seats
  • Simulated protective devices
  • Sound producing toys
  • Squeeze toys
  • Straps, cords and elastics
  • Teethers and teething rings
  • Tires, wheels and axles
  • Toy chests
  • Toy guns
  • Toys intended to be used as a crib or playpen

According to ASTM F963, toys designed for use by children under age 12 need to comply with all toy safety standards. 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. Very few toys will likely fall into this category.

After any required testing, approved products will receive a Children’s Product Certificate.  Once you know the requirements and safety standards, you can begin searching suppliers and importing toys from China.

How Do I Find a Toy Supplier in China?

The first step in importing toys from China is finding a supplier. Different toys are generally manufactured in different regions of China. The Chenghai District, located in the city of   Shantou, Guangdong Province, China, is one of the leading manufacturing areas and exporters of toys worldwide. Toys commonly manufactured in and exported from the Chenghai District include:

  • Baby toys
  • Building toys and blocks
  • Classic toys, like yo-yos and balls
  • Diecasts and toy vehicles
  • Dolls and stuffed toys
  • Puzzles and DIY toys
  • RC toys including remote control cars, helicopters, and boats
  • Toy figures, like action and animation figures
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Other common locations for toy manufacturers include Yangzhou, Qingdao, Yongjia, and Yiwu.

  • Dolls and stuffed toys are commonly manufactured in Yangzhou and Qingdao.
  • Yongjia is famous for its outdoor play equipment and playground toys.
  • Classic toys like yo-yos, balloons, balls, and kaleidoscopes are commonly manufactured in Yiwu.

These cities are located on major sea and river ports to make export and transport simple.

You can also buy toys wholesale in China at annual toy fairs. The Chenghai Toy Fair is held in the late spring. The Canton Fair has been around since 1957 and features baby toys, action toys, plush and cloth toys, dolls and more. The Canton Fair is held annually in the spring and fall. Additionally, the Mega Show held in Hong Kong each fall showcases premium toys and games.

If you are unable to go to China to meet with Chinese toy suppliers, you might want to use a sourcing agent. A sourcing agent will reach out to a variety of suppliers and/or manufacturers. Then he or she will find the toys you need, buy them, and make a commission on the sale.

You can also use online trading companies like Alibaba.com to purchase toys from China wholesale. Alibaba presents millions of products available to wholesalers and consumers directly from the source. Online global trade is a growing sector and many small businesses are choosing to work with online vendors for toys wholesale.

Regardless of which toys you decide to buy and how you decide to buy them, you might need to consider the wholesaler’s minimum order quantity (MOQ). Some toy manufacturers and wholesalers have a high MOQ; others have a low MOQ.

Still Have Questions

After you find a supplier and the toys you’d like to import, you will need to find a way to fund your transaction. Importing toys from Chinese and international sources isn’t like buying from a domestic supplier. There are several common payment methods to consider:

  • Open account: This is when the seller extends a line of credit until the goods are received.
  • Letter of credit: The buyer’s bank provides a document stating how much credit is available. A letter of credit generally works like a conditional bank guarantee. Your bank will pay the supplier when the obligations of the letter are met.
  • International wire transfer: This is a common method payment for small to medium transactions. Normally international wire transfer payments are made in advance of the delivery of goods.
  • Documentary collection: This works like a cash on delivery (COD) option in which the seller’s bank works with the buyer’s bank to collect payment. Goods can be available before or after payment, depending on the method of documentary collection used.
  • Online escrow: This method of payment works similarly to a letter of credit and is commonly used for transactions less than $5,000. Online importers tend to prefer this method of payment.

Each of these payment methods has its own risks and benefits. Generally speaking, the most common method of payment for toys and goods imported from China is the letter of credit. It’s also important to be cognizant of fluctuating currency exchanges when paying your supplier. Even if the price quote you are given is in U.S. dollars, the cost is likely based on the supplier’s currency.

After paying for your toys, it’s time to arrange shipping. The shipping option you choose depends on the amount of toys you import from China. The most common shipping methods for toys are air freight and sea freight.

Toys are shipped via freight
How are Toys Shipped?

It is wise to ship toys in bulk to save on costs. Toys and other products you buy from China are usually shipped via sea freight.  Cargo shipped overseas is often held in 20 by 40 feet cargo containers. A full cargo container load holds approximately 800 square feet or 2400 cubic feet. A 40-foot container has a payload capacity of approximately 61,000 lbs. That’s a lot of room for toys!

Is your cargo at least 5 pallets? If so,  a good option is to ship through full cargo load (FCL) shipping. If your cargo is of a smaller volume, the most ideal option might be through loose cargo load (LCL) shipping. This means your cargo will share container space will other kinds of cargoes. You might share cargo space with other similar wares or other dry goods.

Many international ocean carriers have a limited liability insurance for cargo damage. This is generally just $500 per container of goods. Because your imported toys are likely valued at more, you will likely want to have cargo insurance. Your insurance company or your Licensed Customs Broker can likely help you with the insurance process.

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After they toys you are importing from China arrive at a seaport, they might be shipped by rail to a location closer to you. From there, the toys might be shipped on a truck to your warehouse or store.

When Will My Imported Toys Arrive?

When you import toys from China, you should think about the time it takes for the manufacturer or wholesaler to prepare your order and the transit time. Generally speaking, transit time between the U.S. and China takes two weeks to two months, not including customs clearance time. This does not include delays due to weather and other unseen circumstances. With this in mind, you should estimate that your shipment of imported toys will arrive in 2-3 months.

If you are shipping small amounts of toys from China, you might use air freight. Air freight is usually much more expensive but can be much faster. Working with your Licensed Customs Broker can help you decide which option is best for you.

What Documents Do I Need to Import Toys from China?

Your Licensed Customs Broker can help you ensure that you have all the proper documents in place when importing toys from China. The import document paperwork for toys generally includes:

  • A receipt or a bill of lading listing the toys.
  • An official invoice that lists the country of origin purchase price, and tariff classification of the toys.
  • A packing that details your imported toys.
  • An arrival notice from a specified U.S. customs agent.

It’s also important to know that China has its own regulations and rules you are required to follow when importing goods into the U.S. You should also make sure to get the import duty, or the tax, you must pay for your imports.

Can I Import Electronic Toys?
Can I Import Electronic Toys?

High-tech and electronic toys have become more popular in recent years. Toys like RC cars and helicopters, cameras, basic coding toys, kids’ tablets and drones are becoming more popular than ever and are staples in almost every household with children. Many of these toys are imported from China.

There are rules and regulations to follow when importing electronic toys from China to the U.S. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates all toys that are WiFi enabled, Bluetooth, and transmit radio. Toys that feature Bluetooth speakers, tablets that connect to WiFi, radios and walkie-talkies are all examples of toys that must receive certification from the FCC. Other items like earphones, headphones, power packs and toys with printed circuit boards must also be certified by the FCC before they can be imported from China into the U.S.

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protects the safety and health of all U.S. consumers, including children. The FDA does more than oversee food and drugs. In fact, the FDA also manages and inspects imported electronic toys and products. The FDA ensures that electronic imports are safe and effective. The following guidelines must be met for FDA import clearance approval:

  • The imported electronic toy or device must be safe.
  • The imported electronic toy or device must be durable and effective for regular use.
  • All labels must be proper and include information in English.
  • Radiation-emitting toys and devices must meet defined standards through this declaration form.

It is also important to note that electronic products have an individual section in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS). The HTS determines what tax, also called a tariff, importers are to pay for electronic goods. A numerical classification is given based on a electronic toy’s name, the item’s use, and/or the components and materials used to build the product.

Still Have Questions

Can I Import Licensed Toys from China?

One major theme on the toys market is goods with licensed characters. Barbie, Superman, Batman, Minions and other licensed characters are extremely popular toys on the market. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can be very strict when it comes to importing items featuring trademarked or licensed characters. The CBP takes intellectual property very seriously.

If you are importing licensed toys, it is important to double check your contracts. You should be very clear on what toys have trademarked characters or licensed logos. It is also important to 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.

Some licensed toys available online are counterfeit and fake. Importers purchasing toys from China and other international sources need to know that it is their responsibility to make sure their toys comply with federal, state and other import regulations. Look out for signs that your licensed items are fake or counterfeit, including trademarks, quality indicators and certificates of authenticity. This is important because you could face fines and legal action as the importer and seller of fake or counterfeit items.

Make sure to have detailed records of all licensing or trademark paperwork, as this can help you prove the legitimacy and authenticity of your imports. The CBP seizes and halts many of imports every year, some of which are for licensing violation.

Can I Import Wooden Toys?

In addition to the safety standards set for toys, wooden toys like building blocks and wooden playground equipment are regulated by the same standards for importing wood. This means that you will need to follow a few special rules when importing wooden toys. These rules and regulations help deter illegal logging and help protect the U.S. from pests.

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) presides over the import of timber and wood products, including wooden toys and playground equipment. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires that all wood entering the U.S. is inspected. Imported wood and wood products must also undergo sanitization procedures. These wood sanitizing procedures can help prevent non-native pests and insects from entering the U.S.

APHIS requires heat or chemical treatment to sanitize wood. Heat treatment involves treating the wood in a kiln or special microwave energy dryer. Chemical treatment involves fumigating wood with a surface pesticide.

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Additionally, those importing wooden toys and products must get a Timber and Timber Products Import Permit to accompany their shipments. You can easily get this permit by filling out PPQ Form 585. You can even fill out the form and apply online. Be aware that it will take approximately one month to get the permit, so it is wise to file in advance. The import permit indicates the type of treatment the wood requires: heat treatment or chemical treatment. You will also need a phytosanitary permit to import wooden toys and wood products.

Hire a licensed customs broker when importing toys
Do I Need a Customs Bond to Import Toys from China?

You will need a customs bond to import toys. According to information from CBP, a customs bond is required when you are importing more than $2,500 worth of goods or when the imported commodity is subject to another federal agencies’ requirements. Because toys fall under guidelines of the CPSC, CPSIA and electronic toys under the FDA, you’ll need a customs bond to import them.

A customs bond is an important document that acts as an insurance policy. A customs bond is an imports bond that ensures payment of duties and taxes to the United States government upon the import of goods and commodities. There are two main custom bond types: single entry and continuous bonds. A single entry customs bond covers a single import shipment into the U.S. A continuous customs bond is valid for one year and covers all imports into the U.S. during the year. The type of bond you choose to import toys depends on how often you intend to import. If you plan to import toys more than two or three times a year, a continuous entry customs bond might be a better value.

Still Have Questions

If you are working with a  Licensed Customs Broker, they might include use of their bond in the cost of doing business. So what does a customs bond cover? If you are purchasing a bond on your own to import toys from China, consider that you are essentially buying an imports fee insurance policy. You are purchasing a customs bond for a specific amount of coverage. Just as the benefits of single entry and continuous bonds can vary, so can the price.

  • Continuous entry customs bonds are simple. To get a continuous customs bond, you’ll need to purchase at least $50,000 of coverage or 10 percent of the fees and taxes you paid in the previous year. Even though the cost for a continuous entry bond can vary, it is often more economical to purchase this type of bond if you plan to import three or more shipments of toys or other goods in a year.
  • Single entry customs bonds can be a little more complicated. The minimum amount of the bond purchased must be at least what the goods are worth, plus the taxes and fees you would owe on them. If your shipment must meet the requirements of another federal agency as in the case of importing toys, the bond must be worth at least three times the value of the goods imported. For example, if you are importing $5,000 worth of electronic toys that need to be certified by the FDA, you will be required to purchase a bond amount of at least an $15,000. The price of the bond can vary by surety company. It’s also important to keep in mind that you will need additional coverage to meet Importer Security Filing (ISF) regulations if you are shipping by sea.

It’s also important to note that your Licensed Customs Broker’s bond can be used to secure your transaction. Working with a Licensed Customs Broker can make the process easy and simple.

Are You Ready to Get Started?

Need more information about how to import toys from China?  Make the importing process easy! Let USA Customs Clearance help you with your importing needs today. Our Licensed Customs Brokers can handle your toy importing and shipping needs. You will find our value-added customs brokerage and customs services can work seamlessly to give you a stress-free importing process. Have questions or ready to get started? Click the chat box in the bottom right corner of your screen and we can answer your questions right now!

One comment on “How to Import Toys from China”

  1. Hello.This post was extremely interesting, particularly because I was looking for thoughts on this topic last Thursday.

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