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Importing Basics - What You Need to Know to Get Started

by Chris Malta
Last updated 8/23/2018


You're Already Importing - Why Not Get the Benefits?
Like most retailers and online retailers, you probably already know that there are great deals to be found overseas - product inventory that can be obtained for a fraction of the cost. But what you may not have considered is that many of the products you're sourcing domestically have already been imported. You're just paying a mark-up cost to the person that did the actual importing for you. For retail newcomers, there's nothing wrong with that. But for the established business owner, importing directly can save a lot of money.

3 Things to Consider When Importing
There are several things you need to keep in mind when you decide to import a product:

    1. Your wholesale cost isn't what you pay for an item.
    Your wholesale cost is the cumulative total for getting that item to your warehouse, ready to be shipped to your customers. You may be paying fifty cents a vase, but after you pay a Customs broker, import duties, various fees, freight, consolidation, and insurance expenses, your actual cost of goods may be $2.25 each. Look at all your costs before you jump at a deal - anything you forget will come directly out of your profit margin.

    2. You'll have to allow significant lead time when placing an overseas order.
    It can sometimes take two or three months, or even longer, from the time you place your order to the time you receive the goods. Problems with Customs can delay your orders even further. The costs of air freight are probably ten times higher than the costs of ocean shipping, but it's a lot faster and less risky. You must understand when you need to receive your wares, in order to determine whether the benefits of air shipping will offset the additional expense.

    3. You need look at the legal aspects.
    There are numerous government forms to fill out and a great many regulations regarding your imports. You are responsible for ensuring that what you bring into this country complies with safety codes and all other applicable laws.
How Do I Get Started?
If you're brand-new to importing, your best bet is probably to start with a Customs broker. Kelby Woodward, of TradeInnovations.com, explains, "The Customs broker really helps you through the whole process. They make sure that all your I's are dotted and your T's are crossed, and that you've considered all the different factors to accurately estimate your product's landing costs." A Customs broker can assist you in finding a trustworthy freight forwarder to advise you on the best way to ship your products and to book their passage for you.

Additionally, a Customs broker will walk you through the regulations and legalities, insuring you're properly declared, you've paid the correct duties, and you aren't dealing with gray market wares. If your goods get tied up in Customs, your broker can help expedite the process of getting them through. States Woodward, "Expert advice in the beginning is very important. As you develop your expertise, then you can start taking over some of these processes yourself and save even more money."