Buying / Importing your own sublimation items
It’s all about trying to save money, but what do you really benefit? Lets first look at the Sublimation Mugs. These can be purchased locally from many distributors for around $1 each ($36 for box of 36 mug), then you have to pay per box

To make one printed mug would be about $2.50 each, but is sold for $10-18 each, that’s $270-$558 profit for every box sold. The only concern is when dealing in volume sales and getting the production cost down, allowing to sell at a lower price to the bigger customers. This is done firstly by upgrading your equipment from a single mug press to perhaps a 5-in-1 mug press (making 20 per hour), or by using a sublimation mug oven doing 48 mugs per hour, or by using a conveyor doing 120+ per hour. The second is to lower material costs, by purchasing larger quantities at any given time awarding you with a lower price break.
CAN ANY OTHER SAVINGS BE MADE? Would hiring another person to help speed up the production work for you? A part time person may only cost you $50-100 for a days work in wages, and would lower your production time, allowing you to move to next job faster and thereby increase your gross sales for the week. Full time staff will cost more and include liability/medical insurance and taxes on their earnings.
but instead of doing any of the above, there is a thought that it can also be achieved by buying direct from the source. While this maybe true, does it save anything?
There are a few obvious sources overseas available to purchase our own sublimation products, such as bestsub, unisub or suntek and depending on the item they may allow a purchase of one piece of equipment or 100 printable items however the cost, of course will be higher than if you were to buy 500 or 1000. This is where the ‘buy groups’ come from, by sharing a purchase. Now that this cost is seemly lowered, you have now incurred a lot more in administration time alone in just re-sorting/packaging to send out numerous packages to the group members. So although the purchase price may of come down, you now have to package and ship, meaning money in time, packaging materials and shipping costs (by having to do this part, you have not had time to print/sell your own items within the same given time). Going back to talking more about purchasing from here, and what is not mentioned is their shipping fees. While on 100 items may be cheap and worth it for self use, if the overall package weight is kept low, buying 500+ will incur a lot higher shipping charge, but is divided among 500+ items and not just the 100 however you now have customs to contend with. Customs will approve or reject all packages coming in, but on the larger/commercial packages may also invoice you separately for taxes before they release your purchase. Import taxes on a shipping container may cost anything around $2k, but may only be less than $100 on a single box.
Finding a source for a ‘new’ item
is indeed very much more consuming in time, and indeed stress. Firstly, after browsing the endless list of possible suppliers you’ll need to stop up late just to talk live with these companies/sales reps, or wait the next day or two for responses to questions. You’ll then quickly notice that they don’t talk the same as you or I and their English language and grammar skills are not as we would like, making it a longer and harder conversation. With sublimation items and equipment you also must get answers to specific technical questions, such as chemical content such as polymers or equivalents and item melting points. Be sure they are understanding any technical or specific words you may need to use. There are many processes used to personalize an item DTG, Laser, sublimation etc. Laser also requires a heat process, but uses different inks/toners and paper/films. Therefore you must know yourself specific details on the process you use and the restrictions of it, to ensure you ask the right questions.
The options are there, and available to all, but do choose wisely in making sure you get the right item that includes all costs involved and allows for any breakages or missing items.
Sources to look for sublimation manufactures and suppliers:

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