How to export your business

So you want to sell abroad! Exporting is the next step for growth and you are on the path to success. Congrats!

So what questions should you be asking yourself before taking the jump?

Map of the world
Credit: Jamesison
Have you done your research?

How much market research have you done? Can you can stay viable if you expand?

Laurian Davies, International Business Development Executive of The Register of Apparel and Textile Designers said: “Research is vital. You need to know who your competitors are, what they are doing, plus any background on the shops and countries you want to export to.”

Research thoroughly before embarking on an overseas expansion. Failure to do this, will cause unnecessary losses for your business.

Should I test my product?

To maximise profits, testing your product on an online marketplace will help you consider where you need to focus your sales.

Ebay or Amazon are obvious starting points, but there are many online distributors to choose from. Amazon may be big in the UK and in the US, but may not be the first choice for international customers.

Alternatively, trade shows can be a valuable first step for many small businesses. Operating worldwide, with specialist shows in every sector imaginable, trade shows allow you to test your products and gain feedback from local and international buyers.

Taylor + Rani, a London social enterprise selling underwear for teenage girls, decided they were ready for expansion and are now selling all over Europe and in Japan.

Isobel Barclay, founder of Taylor + Rani said: “Lyon was my first international trade show, I was relieved that I had done research to fully prepare myself. I knew what sort of people would be attending, and I had the answer for every question prepared. I ended up closing deals with a dozen buyers in just three days.” 

What does the wholesale cost include?

When working out your wholesale price consider the following costs:

  • Custom clearance.
  • Duty and Taxes.
  • Paperwork.
  • Transport (delivery.)
  • Insurance

Clarify with the buyer what your price includes and negotiate if necessary.

Laurian Davies said: “Don’t let the buyer dictate the terms. You should be knowledgeable enough to be able to negotiate.

“Inco terms will give you the ability to communicate clearly a set of contractual agreements associated with the transportation and delivery of goods worldwide.”

The Inco Terms (or The International Commercial Terms ) is a set of pre-defined commercial terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce, created to clear up any interpretation problems. Regularly incorporated into sales contracts around the world, the Inco Terms are recognised by governments, legal authorities and practitioners worldwide.

Prices may vary depending on which country you want to export to. Read the conditions carefully and again, clarify all prices before you agree to anything. 

What do I need to do once I have made the sale?

Business is booming and you want to convert your sales into pound sterling. So what are your next steps? 

  1. If you’re experiencing high sale volumes in certain countries, it may be worth opening up a bank account in the trading country. This will make managing your payments easier and give you more control in managing your currency risk. 
  2. Remember, currency fluctuates on a daily basis, hedging is also another option worth looking at as it can stabilise your income. This will minimise the risk of an unfavourable change in the exchange rate when trading internationally. 
Don’t get caught up in legal trouble abroad!

There are legal restrictions and trade barriers in place internationally to control trade when exporting. Make sure you know what those are before agreeing to any sales abroad.

Advertising laws differ in various countries. An advert may work in the UK but not elsewhere. Research all your marketing strategies before spending money on a campaign that may be inadequate, insensitive, or illegal in your new target market.

Remember what you can and cannot export. Make sure that whatever you choose to sell is legal.

Consider safety requirements. For example, in the EU, nightwear has to be flame retardant and tested to conform to the EU Safety Standards Taylor + Rani.

So how do I export?
  1. Sell to a distributor. You can do this by contacting stores directly, talking to buyers at trade shows, or they may even contact you.
  2. Sell through a sales agent. Sales agents will represent businesses in unfamiliar and new markets on a commission basis.
  3. Open an office and employ staff abroad. This will give you complete control over your goods in your chosen country.
  4. Sell online.

Taking your business abroad can open up exciting opportunities for your company and you never know what effect your products may have abroad.

Exporting is vital to business growth. It is not easy and can be costly, but is worth it.

For more information on exporting you can find a list of helpful websites below.

Country guide with every business opportunity

Information on Intellectual Property

Safety Standards for exporting

Tradeshow guidance

Written on in Business Insights