There are plenty of great import opportunities waiting to be exploited by ambitious entrepreneurs.
The problem is that unless you're an experienced importer, it can be difficult to identify which products are most suitable for importing. If you don't know what you're doing, you could build your business model around a product that can't be legally shipped to the U.S.
One of the secrets of successful importing is specialization. The best importers don't engage in generic importing activities – they narrow their focus to a specific segment of the market, and then cultivate relationships with foreign sellers and domestic buyers. Consequently, they become extremely adept at navigating the customs and import requirements for their products.
So for new importers, the key is to selectively carve your product range down to a more manageable market niche. Rather than envisioning your business as a general import operation, carefully evaluate the options based on market demand and available resources. As you work through the possibilities, a handful of suitable products will begin to emerge.
- Market research. Import product selection begins with solid market research. Importing goods that lack a domestic market makes no sense, so it's critical to make sure that American consumers want to buy your goods before you invest the time and resources to bring them across the border.
- Distribution channels. After you have successfully imported products, you'll need distribution channels to get them in the hands of consumers. If you can't identify reliable distribution opportunities for a specific product category, move on to a different product or market niche. Although it's possible to retail merchandise directly to consumers, a lack of available distribution channels can be an indication that demand isn't what you think it is.
- Export potential. Some imported products can be re-exported to different countries. Even though you'll incur additional expenses, you can expand the demand for certain imported goods by evaluating their potential to be re-shipped overseas. If the domestic market alone won't justify a specific import, re-exporting is definitely an option worth considering.
- Self-retailing. If an import is new to the domestic marketplace, it may be difficult to convince distributors and vendors to receive shipments. But if you're convinced that there is a market for the product, self-retailing can be an attractive and lucrative alternative. Many importers reduce their retail overhead by building their business model around e-commerce and other low capital retail channels.