Lots of Chinese suppliers use “smoke & mirrors” in that they want you to believe they are the actual manufacturer or that they are much larger than they actually are, when in fact they are a small trading company.
It is not uncommon for the signage at the factory to be replaced especially for your visit. Trading companies are middlemen who aggregate products from multiple factories and create their own range. They can be useful especially if you are ordering small quantities, but you are paying a premium.
Trading companies often serve as the sales and marketing arm for factories trying to access western markets, that is why you will often see the same products at multiple so called factories, who are actually trading companies.
Trading companies can play a very important role as they are more geared to western buyers, but you need to only deal with solid reputable companies who understand quality and offer good customer service. This can be like finding the needle in the haystack, and that’s where we come in.
These companies usually offer a large catalogue of products, and you can centralise ordering through them instead of trying to deal with multiple factories, so they are often a good place to start for direct importing, especially for smaller MOQ’s.
If you work with trading companies you are paying inflated prices and generally it will be difficult to customise a product as you do not have direct communication with the factory. Again, things can get lost in translation .
There are many trading platforms in China, like Alibaba, Made in China, etc, which are easy to use and which offer access to multitudes of “factories”, but most of them are trading companies simply posing as factories. These platforms are good for research, but you don’t really know who or what you are dealing with in reality, and that’s where proper due diligence is required to ensure you are dealing with a reputable supplier who is who they say they are.