importing - A Foreign Affair - Preparing to Attend an Overseas Tradeshow
by Chris Malta
What to Know Before You Go
According to Peter Zapf, of ChinaSourcingFairs.com, you should familiarize yourself with a fair's suppliers, in advance. Advises Zapf, "A little preparation will help you get the most out of attending a show." With so many exhibitors, it's good to know which products and suppliers you want to target. Check out the exhibitors on the tradeshow's web site, and research the companies that interest you. If the info you want isn't on their site, email them your questions about their products, pricing, etc.
Your next step to prepare is researching your product market to determine how much you can spend on landing costs and still make a profit. Your landing costs equal the price of the product itself, plus the cost of transporting it to your location. A customs broker or freight forwarder can give you a fair idea of the cost of shipping your goods from the most likely foreign port to your warehouse. Once you know your logistical costs, you can back those out of your landing cost to see how much you'll have left to spend on the actual goods.
What to Ask When You Arrive
Trade fairs are your chance to speak with potential product sources face-to-face. You want to gather as much information as possible, so you can choose the suppliers that best fit your E-Biz needs. Have your questions ready, so you don't forget to ask anything critical when you’re there:
- What are their order minimums? Some suppliers will work with new importers in small volumes; others are less flexible.
- How much lead time do they require? When you're sourcing products from overseas, you should expect to give at least 60 to 90 days lead time.
You need to keep this in mind when placing orders, especially holiday orders.
- What are their payment terms? Most suppliers want 30% up front and the remaining 70% when the goods ship. However, refunds and returns are difficult, so start with a small order and increase the volume as you build confidence in a supplier.
- What are their delivery terms? There are many different delivery terms available; these simply state which logistical costs and arrangements you'll be responsible for, and which your supplier will handle. In most cases, you'll be buying "Freight on Board," which means your supplier must deliver your goods, cleared for export, alongside the vessel at the named port of exit; from there, you're responsible for bringing them stateside, clearing them through Customs, and arranging inland shipping to your warehouse.
- Will they ship products to you packed in bulk, or individually? If they're bulk packed, you're going to have to re-package them yourself, which adds to your time and back end expenses.