As the digital business environment has become ever more sophisticated, the ability for small businesses to access foreign manufacturers has skyrocketed. The most popular marketplace by far is Alibaba,
As the digital business environment has become ever more sophisticated, the ability for small businesses to access foreign manufacturers has skyrocketed. The most popular marketplace by far is Alibaba, a China-based wholesale and manufacturing portal which functions very similarly to eBay - but for minimum product volumes sometimes numbering in the thousands.
The essence of import businesses is no different to any sales strategy: buy low, sell high. The key difference is that huge profits can be achieved by purchasing products in massive bulk, minimising both the per unit cost and spreading shipping costs across a large number of products. It is not uncommon for a product to cost an importer as little as $1-2 per unit, but fetch a price of $20-30 per unit on the retail market.
Before you rush to import anything and everything however, it is important to understand the demands of running an import business and the risks inherent in doing so:
Choosing the right product is essential: if a product is easily broken, has many moving parts, is prone to malfunction, is too heavy or is too expensive, it is going to be a nightmare to import. Ideal import products are priced between $20-$200, are small enough to carry single handedly and are durable and non-complex (i.e. low-tech, no small parts, little or no assembly required).
Choosing the right supplier is even more essential: there are many low-quality and knock-off providers out there. The best importers ensure that they have done their due diligence, which often includes physically visiting the factory prior to taking on the risk of large orders.
You must understand the law: regulations are different from country to country, and just because it is legal to manufacture something in China or another foreign country, does not mean it is legal to import to your country.
The finer points of setting up an import business can be found on our importing services page.