In 2012, the Chinese government began establishing pilot e-commerce zones in a drive to boost domestic consumption. This allowed 3PLs to establish bonded warehouses within the zones, and clear customs for both import and exports moving through the zones. Since goods can be stored onsite at the warehouse until the time of purchase, much of the inventory can be shipped in advance of purchase via ocean.
However, precise forecasting is often impossible, and unplanned sales events and spikes in demand require air shipments to quickly replenish stock within the warehouses. With a finite number of stock keeping units (SKUs) the warehouse model is also friendly to returns, which can be handled onsite, rather than in the country of manufacture.
An often-pursued alternative to the bonded warehouse method, is the direct-shipping model. Packages traveling along this route either go through a formal B2C import channel, or are shipped by an express-delivery service. Direct imports require the shipper to upload order, shipment and payment data to Chinese customs at the time of purchase, so that duties and taxes can be assessed prior to the parcel’s release.