When people visit a Third World country they come across scores of products, whatever they might be – woodcarvings, jewelry, fashion or decorative accessories – and with prices so much cheaper than what they see similar products sell for at home, they immediately think of starting an import business. The competition, however, is fierce.
Thirty years ago at a major wholesale trade show such as, for example, Los Angeles Gift and Jewelry, that continues to attract exhibitors from all over the world, retail store buyers could find product imported from countries like Guatemala, Thailand or Indonesia but it was imported by relatively only a few importers – wholesalers. Although one could come across few exhibitors already showing number of identical designs, they each still could find enough retail store buyers that would place orders with them and their import-wholesale business would flourish.
Gradually, however, as import export business proliferated and the retail sector was becoming saturated with much of the same style of products, and retailers, who were buying from much the same wholesale suppliers, were faced with steadily increasing competition and struggled for the consumer’s attention. It was in the mid 80s that I noticed some of my retail buyers were starting to make a trip overseas themselves to buy direct in order to cut out the middle man, me – the importer-wholesaler. Perhaps they did not succeed to find my kind of suppliers on their first trip, but they managed to find some of their type of inventory and likely at a price lower than was my wholesale price.
Increasing competition on the wholesale level as well as retail level was above all evident among products that were readymade, in other words products that one could source in places like Bangkok, Bali or Delhi, where routinely manufacturers copied one another, whatever the product type. For years one could import almost any product from there and still sell it effectively, both wholesale or retail, but in the process it became evident that to distinguish one’s line from his competition, one had to go into product design and development, then outsourcing the production to one of the factories with which one developed a working relationship.
To be successful today in import export you have to think product design and development, and thus importing a unique look of an original design, introducing fresh designs typically at least twice a year. If you are in fashion products or furnishings, you must show a new line in the January wholesale trade shows and then again in the July trade shows. That is an ideal way to approach your import business, but not everyone wants to get involved in product design and development, nor travel overseas to buy. May be you wish to start an online business selling fashion accessories like handbags, belts, hats and similar and have found a niche for your store already, which can be perfectly put together from products available without going into product development. In that case one of the easiest ways to get started is sourcing products from the comfort of your own home or office – check out the following free video on sourcing wholesale product to sell online: