Selling imported goods within the U.S.
can be a lucrative business opportunity. High demand imported products such as
artisan crafts, furniture and even food and beverage products such as olive
oils, wine, etc. represent a significant market opportunity for savvy business
owners. Margins of up to 700% can be lucrative indeed.
If you are interested in importing and
selling overseas goods into the U.S.
market - whether you are actually based in the U.S.
or not - you will need to do your research regarding both the country of export
and the country of import (the United States).
Here are some business and regulatory
tips to guide you through the process of selling imported goods in the U.S.
you Do Anything - Check Import Rejection Laws and Trade Barriers
In addition to determining the market
opportunity for a particular product or range of imported products, be sure to
check U.S. trade barriers
and local in-country laws to be certain that you can actually export your
chosen goods out of the country of origin into the U.S.
While the U.S. is very import friendly, it
does have stringent safety and quality controls that don't exist outside its
borders. Likewise, foreign nations sometimes restrict the export of religious
ornaments, rare or protected goods. For example, certain animal by-products
such as furs and ivory as well as fake designer goods are banned or are
governed by export restrictions.
Read about import goods rejections and
trade barriers on Export.gov here. If you wish to import or sell
agricultural products into the U.S.,
the Food Safety and
Inspection Service provides a checklist and other information to help you
comply with the laws that govern the import of meat, poultry and egg products.
For more information about trade
agreements, refer to this guide on
Set up Your Own Business
Consider formalizing your business
entity before you start pursuing importing opportunities and engage in any
regulatory practices. Read these 10 Steps to
Starting a Business for a step-by-step guide to the planning, financial and
legal steps involved in starting a business.
If you are a foreign national and plan to import and do business in the U.S., read Starting a Business in the U.S. as a Foreign National for guidance on tax and legal obligations.
Relationships and Network on the Ground in the Export Country
As with all wholesale procurement, you
will want to meet and greet with the producer or distributor of the product(s)
you will be selling. Try to establish whether the company you are dealing with
has export experience, and request references. Refer to these resources for Doing Business
to ensure your business travel is well planned.
Hiring a Customs Broker
Many people who are in the business of
importing goods into the U.S. choose to utilize a customs broker to help
facilitate the laws and regulations that apply to your business, including
licenses, taxes, duty fees, etc. A customs broker prepares all the documentation
needed for importing goods,
just as a freight forwarder does for exporters. You can read more about customs
brokers here. You can also search
for a certified customs broker at the *National Customs Brokers and Forwarders
Association of America.
Whether you Require a License or Permit to Import Certain Goods
Many imported and exported products are
regulated by federal agencies. If you import or export any of the types of
products listed by the government here, you may be
required to obtain specific licenses and permits or complete additional
paperwork (the link also provides information on how to get the appropriate
licenses and permits). A customs broker
can also help with this aspect of importing goods.
Imported Goods - Retail and Distribution Options
How will you sell your imported wares?
There are a number of options from re-selling your products to niche
independent stores to selling direct at fairs, festivals and markets (get tips
set up your own retail store. Read How to Start a Retail Business - A Step-by-Step Guide for more
Online retailing or 'e-tailing' is a
useful option if you happen to be based outside the U.S.
and wish to sell to the U.S.
market. But be sure to set up your site using a U.S. domain and host it on a U.S
server. Read Starting and Growing an Online Business: An Entrepreneur's Checklist for tips about
starting an online business operation.
Business.gov - Essential information from across government on what you
need to know about importing and exporting.
- Export.gov brings together
resources from across the U.S. Government to assist American businesses in
planning their international sales strategies and succeed in today's global
on buying and selling imported goods at craft shows and fairs across the
country. Search events and more.
*Note: Link directs reader to non-government Web site.