Importing goods requires knowledge and skill in order to succeed in this arena. Geoff Lyons, an expert importer from New Zealand, talks to Dale Beaumont on the what he has learned are the five top tips in order to be a successful importer.
Geoff Lyons is the director of Haka New Zealand which specializes in importing a wide range of products. Haka has now also created a top-level clothing brand under the same name.
What are your top five tips for successfully importing products?
There are numerous things that you have to take into account when importing, however, these are five of the key factors for becoming a successful importer:
- Trust – it is essential that you know the factory that you are working with and that you have complete trust in them. Alternatively, you can set up an internal quality control so that you know the product you import is the same as the sample you have seen. Years ago, if you were importing soft toys from China, it was not uncommon to have the toys stuffed with pieces of old blanket, sheets and even used bandages.
- Costings – a lot of would-be importers do not do their initial costings of the product accurately. They will offer a price to the retailer that they think is ‘hot’ but find when they land the product that their margin is totally different due to higher freight rates, different exchange rates or duties that may not have been taken into account.
- Buying the right quantity – wherever possible, it reduces the risk considerably if you can work with your buyer to come up with the right quantity to order so that you are not holding excess stock or short-selling the product. One of the biggest failures of importers is to over-order and then have to sell the product at cost or below, thus eroding all of the profit margin. It is always a good philosophy to sell a product short and then the retailer will come back for more.
- Trade fairs – due to the diversity of the products we import, it is essential that we keep up to date with all of the new trends, products, colours and so on. In order to do this it is important that we attend as many international trade fairs as possible. Therefore, overseas travel is one of our biggest expenses. We often attend these fairs with the buyers looking for new ideas and products. With regard to the toys and sporting goods part of our business, I will undertake between eight and ten international trips a year. To some this might sound glamorous and exciting, but believe me, when you are living out of a suitcase in the darkest parts of China, it is anything but glamorous.
- Building a product listing – as an importer, the buyer does not expect you to offer them just one product. For example, if they have asked you to source a tennis racket they would expect you to present between three and four rackets; they will then choose the best one for their needs. Bearing this in mind, it is essential to compile not only a large range of products, but also to identify a number of different factories for the product.