get started importing - Far From Home - 4 Keys to Successful Importing
by Chris Malta
1. Research Your Suppliers
Peter Zapf, of GlobalSources.com and GlobalSourcesDirect.com, recommends taking several steps to find and select a manufacturer:
- Locate suppliers. Look for online sites that deliver imported goods directly, or that list manufacturer names and contact information. If possible, attend an overseas tradeshow, visit their booths, and ask questions in person.
- Verify suppliers. To ensure you're dealing with legitimate suppliers, find out what steps a web site takes to qualify the manufacturers they list.
Also, ask the suppliers if they participate in any tradeshows, and then go to those shows' web sites and confirm their participation. Most tradeshows research their exhibitors; and companies that invest the money to take part in a trade show are probably genuine.
Lastly, always be certain they provide you with the paperwork to prove they have all relevant certifications.
- Evaluate suppliers. Suggests Zapf, "Notice the customer service you receive — how long does it take them to respond to your inquiries? Are their answers thorough and friendly? If they seem capable, try them out with a small order. If you're happy, go from there."
Refunds and returns are complicated, at best, so make sure that what you're expecting and what you're getting are the same thing:
- Request a sample, and examine the product and packaging.
Study the spelling and the information for accuracy. You want to make sure everything is correct, and that there are no language issues, such as instructions written in British English for a U.S. market.
- Keep in constant communication with your supplier. Email digital pictures back and forth of any changes.
- With a larger order, you may consider hiring a third-party quality control firm to inspect and count your products at the factory, and perform a functional check. A small order may not justify that kind of risk-management investment; but with a high volume purchase, you can more likely afford to pay for an inspection and still make a profit.
Your shipping agreement will divide the various shipping costs and logistical factors betweem you and the manufacturer. Depending on the terms of your agreement, you may choose to use a Customs broker or freight forwarder to handle your end of the shipping logistics. A freight forwarder will give you a quote based on the shipment size, the ports you're going through, and the inland freight to your warehouse.
4. Plan Ahead for Duties and Customs
All imported products are categorized and assigned a duty rate, which you can find in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, available online. However, Customs doesn't decide how to categorize a product until they see it, so you may not know the exact rate of certain ambiguous products until they arrive. Even though two-thirds of all products have no duty, you should always look up the code — never assume they're duty-free.
You don't want unplanned expenses eating away at your profits.
Enthuses Zapf, "When your e-business reaches a certain point, importing becomes a practical consideration — buying directly from overseas suppliers can provide your business with a steady source of low-cost, quality products."