How to Profit Selling Imports

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In general, it’s easier for the home-based international trader to make big money in exports than it is in imports. Exporters usually deal in larger quantities and/or products that are of higher value. As a result, the profit potential is greater. In addition, many small-timers are enticed into importing and end up competing against each other. You are certainly aware of the companies — some of whom advertise on television — who try to lure you into importing through their “import-export” programs. They tell you what to buy and where to buy it. As a result, a great many people end up selling the same little trinkets and charms to the same boutiques.

The simple truth is that importing (and exporting) is not as easy as it’s made to appear. But it isn’t rocket science, either. In the case of the aforementioned training companies, some of the problems are the quality and cost of the goods. The other problem is finding buyers. Just like in exporting, the trick in importing is identifying a supplier, finding a buyer and collecting your profit. And just like in exporting, you’ll make a greater profit if you purchase directly from the manufacturer and sell directly to the end user. The more middlemen in the picture, the less your profit. It’s that simple. Beyond that, don’t buy on speculation (make sure you have a buyer first) and don’t buy if the cost is too high.

Many exporters get into importing while waiting for an exporting deal to come together. Some of them stay, become import dealers and never leave. Others deal in both imports and exports and become real international trading companies. Now let me tell you how many international traders make money in importing on a small scale, then move into the big time. Get ready for a surprise.

Flea Markets for Fun and Profit (and testing too!)

That’s right, flea markets and also swap meets. They’re an easy, inexpensive and quick way to cash in on importing while testing the attractiveness of your product in the larger marketplace. You can make hundreds, even thousands of dollars for a weekend’s work. More on that later. First let’s go over a quick and dirty way to find sell-able products at ridiculously low prices.

First you need to identify the kinds of products you want to import. Think long term. If you plan to sell sunglasses to a boutique down the road, then you might want to test sunglasses at your flea market booth. Similarly, if you want to sell toys to a larger market (very competitive), try selling toys at your flea market booth first. If you plan on never selling except through a flea market, then that opens up the range of possibilities to anything being sold successfully at the flea market. It’s always best to focus on certain types of products such as toys, tools or leather goods.

Stick with products that sell best for small importers. These include clothing, watches, clocks and electronic equipment, toys and novelty items, housewares, costume jewelry, auto accessories and sporting goods. These are good products because they are available for great prices, they don’t require servicing and everybody needs them. Where do you find these items? You can travel to the country yourself (and deduct the trip from your taxes — thousands do!) Or do what I did and contact trade promotion offices of various countries right here in the U.S. Soon you’ll be swimming in catalogs offering low cost products for import. The other possibility is to find companies with Internet sites.

If you’re in a hurry, you can skip the next step, but I don’t recommend it. That step is ordering samples of the products you’ve selected. Using the catalogs you’ve received, determine which products look best to you. Do this by comparing the cost of the product with what flea markets are selling them for (don’t forget to factor in shipping and duty costs and a tidy profit for you). Then write professional letters on your stationery to the manufacturers and request sample products. Use international money orders to pay for samples. If the samples are free, suggest the shipment be sent collect air freight. Yes, you can send emails but your letters are more likely to stand out in a crowd of correspondence.

Once you’ve checked out the samples and know they are of good quality, you’re ready to make your first purchase and begin selling. As I stated earlier, use a variety of similar products in your flea market booth. You might want to show sunglasses, toys and costume jewelry. Another combination that works well is leather goods, costume jewelry and accessories. Tools and auto accessories are another profitable mix.

Flea markets are a great place to test out the attractiveness of imports and also a place to make a little money while you’re doing it. When you’re getting started, make sure to sell a line that is already selling in flea markets and don’t buy more than you expect to sell in 3 or 4 weekends.

Today there are even flea market distributors, wholesalers and vendors who will sell your product for you if you don’t want to do it yourself. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to test out public interest in your product before you start a larger marketing effort.

Your ultimate goal is to develop a line of related products such as automobile accessories or housewares or clothing that you can sell to retail stories, at flea markets or through the mail. By researching the best products in magazines, flea markets and retail shops you can determine which products are most likely to sell for you.

write by Audrey


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