By far the most popular dropshipping method is to dropship goods from AliExpress, owned by AliBaba and the second largest ecommerce platform behind Amazon.
The range of tools to automate the process and the type of product you can sell is almost endless, but there is one downside. Shipping times, especially around Chinese holidays.
While ePacket is the go-to shipping method to get your customers orders to them for free and in a "reasonable" time, it is completely Chinese controlled until it hits customs of the country it is being sent to.
With that in mind, it is important as a dropshipper to know when the Chinese public holidays are so you can plan your customer communication, sales and support around expected delays.
The most obvious holiday is Chinese New Year, where the entire country shuts down for two weeks (at an absolute minimum), and delays are felt for weeks after. You can pretty much write a month of pretty crappy fulfilment into your production schedule around Chinese New Year.
But there are other as well, some a single day, others a week, but all affect your delivery and fulfilment times in some way.
Be sure to check the calendar each year and plan how you want to support your customer around these times.
My tip. Don't lie. Call it a "national holiday" if you are trying to keep the location of goods a secret, but make it clear delays will be encountered if the holiday is any longer than a couple of days.
OK here is the complete list.
Chinese Public Holidays
- January 1st. New Years Day - Not all suppliers will take this day off, though most will. Being a single day, you can hide this in your normal delivery times without too many issues. Of course, there may be delays in the western world countries, especially as the goods pass through customs, but this is much easier to explain to a customer is already hung over from their New Year celebrations.
- Late January - Early February. Spring Festival/Chinese New Year - Otherwise known as dropshipper hell. Officially, the holiday goes for a week, but in reality, most suppliers will be closed for two weeks at a minimum, sometimes more. Logistics companies will be closed at least for that week as well, and will have a huge backlog of orders to get out once they are back. Expect at least 3-4 weeks of delayed orders, especially if your supplier is making your orders on demand (such as apparel). As this is based on the Lunar calendar, the date changes every year, but is usually either late January or early February.
- 5th of April. Ching Ming Festival - Otherwise known as Tomb Sweeping Day is marked as a single day of celebration, but most suppliers will make it into a two-day break. Depending on your normal delivery times, you may be able to ignore this, but if you do a lot of express orders, be aware there may be a day or two extra in turnaround times.
- 1st of May. Labour Day - Not the same as Labour Day in countries like Australia, the US and UK, this is a single day public holiday and generally has little impact on dropshipping times.
- 7th of June. Dragon Boat Festival - Another single day celebration but the whole supply change will shut down during that time. Check with you supplier if they are turning this into a two-day break. If not, you should be OK.
- 13th of September. Mid-Autumn Festival - One of the bigger celebrations in mainland China and can sometimes be referred to as the Mooncake festival. My experience with supplier around this time is varied. Some take a single day, others take several and many things in between. Check with your supplier on this one.
- 1st October - 7th October. National Day Holiday - Also known as "Golden Week". This has the second most impact holiday behind Chinese New Year and definitely needs to be accounted for in customer communication. Most suppliers will be shut down for the entire week, and while logistics come back a little quicker, just like Chinese New Year, the backlog will often add another week to orders.
How to deal with Chinese holidays when Dropshipping
Don't be scared off by the above holidays, it doesn't matter which country you are in, we all have some holidays of some sort. It really is Chinese New Year that gives dropshipping out of China such a bad name, and in some cases, rightly so.
So what can we do to help offset the risk?
Here are some ideas:
- Plan ahead, and use local warehousing during that time. This can be via Amazon fulfilment, independent warehousing arrangements or perhaps you just have space in your garage. Your sales volume will tell you which of those will work best for you.
- Stockpile returns and exchanges. If you get returns and exchanges back to your address, instead of on-selling them immediately, stockpile them for holiday time and run a "Stocktake Sale". These sales work wonders as your competitors won't be doing this, and you can use the ultimate conversion tool. Scarcity!
- Include Print on Demand into your store. Just because most of your items are dropshipped out of China, it doesn't exclude using a print on demand service to fill out the store, and provide some insulation to Chinese holidays. Perhaps it is a gift section that sells T-Shirts, mugs etc. that you can promote when China is closed. Most Print on Demand companies are based in either the USA or Europe and have different holiday times.
Whatever you do, be aware you will have to deal with the delays that come with dropshipping out of China, so plan for that in your sales calendar, and incorporate it into your support staff's training.
The best method I have found? Be honest. In the end, it will be clear on the package it is coming from China, so you are fighting a losing battle trying to hide the fact.
With some planning and innovation, you can minimize the impact it has on your business, and even boost sales with special promotions around those times.