Frequently Asked Questions


1) What is ICU?

With offices in Cranston, RI and Xiamen China, International Concepts Unlimited is an international sourcing company specializing in matching mid to large-scale purchasers of construction materials directly with manufacturers and sources in the Orient.  We have been sourcing items in China for 15 years.  Under new foreign ownership rules, ICU China is now strategically located in Xiamen, China, eliminating both distance from factories and the cost of a Hong Kong partner.  Click here for U.S. and China office locations and contact info.

2) What is direct sourcing?

Direct sourcing is the business practice of buying goods directly at the manufacturer bypassing all importers, distributors and trading companies. 

3) Why direct source?

Direct sourcing can usually save an end user 30% to 70% on material purchases with equal or better quality.  You are buying directly from the manufacturer, staging from China right to the job site thereby reducing shrinkage and breakage.   

4) What is ICU’s role?

ICU acts as your sourcing department.  With an office in Xiamen China (centrally located in Fujian province), ICU can find sources, expedite and assure quality on all orders. Our staff will supply you with pictures during the manufacturing process to assure you there will be no surprises when you open the container.  We will make sure you get what you spec’d, at the quality level agreed to, shipped on the day the factory promised to ship (or earlier).  We will also handle all of the paperwork and arrangements with the shipping companies and freight forwarders so all you have to do is pay that bill. 

5) What items does ICU source?

We specialize in construction materials and have manufacturing sources currently in the following categories: granite, marble, mosaic, cabinets, case goods, shower enclosures, cast iron tubs, fiberglass/vinyl tubs, faucets, shower fixtures, porcelain tiles, ballroom chairs, tables and fasteners.  The reality is if you are buying an item by the full container from a distributor and the boxes say, “Made in China” we can usually find a source for that item and save you 30% to 70%!  Our typical lead-time for quotation is within one week.  For an expanded list of available resources click here.

6) How does shipping work?

Our terms are 50% deposit/50% at time of ship FOB Port China.  These are the same terms we get from the factories.  By adhering to these terms we are guaranteed delivery and our place in the production schedule.  You will own the goods before they leave China.  To save even more money, you pay the freight forwarder directly saving the mark up we would have to charge were we to pay them.  Shipping costs for your goods will be priced to the door of the job site where the goods are to be delivered. Further savings are realized by not paying an additional markup on insurance or duties because you pay the freight forwarder those fees as well.  Click here for Shipping info and Freight Forwarder recommendations.

7) How does ICU negotiate price quotes?

ICU uses a competitive bidding process whereby the market forces vendors to be more efficient and give us their most fair prices each time.  By most fair we mean a price with a reasonable profit based on the spec.  When we ask for a quote we are supplying a spec so we want to know how much the factory can legitimately sell the item we want.  With multiple vendors quoting, we are able to enjoy the cost benefits of vendors in need of more production and our quotes are always the very best available for the specific time. 

8) How are price quotes submitted to customers?

ICU believes that if a vendor can take the time to answer a request for a price quote then we can show them equal courtesy to submit the quotes to our customer.  By submitting all the prices we are very transparent in how we approach our/your business.  If we save money then you can save money.  At first all the price quotes can seem very overwhelming… some of our databases have over 80 factories…  but over time you will find two benefits to our quote process.  First, you will have a broader understanding of the market that makes you more comfortable with the pricing you get.  Second, as you do more business in a category you see patterns and get used to certain vendors quality.  You may want to go with a slightly higher priced vendor to get exceptional quality.  Value starts to replace price as the primary factor in choosing a vendor.

9) What if a customer wants to visit a factory in China?

We are happy to host customers at a factory or our office in China.  We will gladly supply translators, space in our office to meet and work if needed and bring customers to other sources, trade shows or wherever else they need or want to go.  We will only do this for customers who have ordered from us and/or who have committed to using us as their exclusive sourcing company for China.  We will always welcome a customer who has an open order with us to visit that factory to inspect or just see production.

10) Can a customer contact the Xiamen office directly?

At ICU we like to say we are always open.  You can contact the US office from 8:00 am until 8:00 p.m. and you can contact the Xiamen office from 8:00 p.m. (east coast time) until 8:00 a.m.  If you have a question you absolutely need answered please feel free to contact Vicky and her staff in the Xiamen office.  They will do everything they can to help you.

11)  What are the warranties and guaranties given on products ordered from ICU?

ICU is not a distributor, importer or wholesaler, we are a sourcing company.  We are matching foreign companies with reputable Chinese companies thereby allowing the customer to achieve great savings by buying direct.  The warranty on goods is whatever the factory offers.  Most factories stand behind their product in shipping unless the goods are directly handled by a third party (warehouse, Customs, or a LCL shipper).  It is important to remember that the factory seals the container and will have pictures of the container and seal showing the goods left China in good condition.  So if a customer breaks the seal and they find breakage or damage then they must document it before the goods leave the truck otherwise the factory will not stand behind a claim.  ICU guarantees through first hand visual inspections that what the customer ordered is what was shipped.