One of the biggest mistakes aspirant importers make is to assume that just because a product works in one country means it will work in another. So the first step is to research your local market thoroughly. If there is already a similar product being sold in South Africa, determine how you are going to differentiate the product you import.
Familiarise yourself with market trends in the product category you are investigating and bear in mind that some products are highly susceptible to the different tastes and fashions of different cultures. Researching your foreign market is equally important, especially if you haven’t decided on what product to import.
Research Competitive Products
Whitehouse & Associates is a research and consulting company that specialises in the international trading environment. Together with Mbendi, it has compiled a Guide to Importing that outlines what the goals of your foreign visit should be: “You need to conduct in-market research to determine whether the products you require or are supplying are competitive in terms of quality, packaging, presentation and price.
Study the Margins
“You need to establish mark-ups and margins and finalise your distribution channels. Hopefully an in-market visit will also allow you to meet with potential suppliers or purchasers.
Visit Trade Shows
“You’ll need to do your homework before booking your overseas trip and it’s a good idea to try and make it coincide with trade shows or conferences that will enable you to meet the right people and talk to them about your ideas. If possible, try to set up appointments in advance. Record your impressions of various suppliers and stands; a written reference will help you to remember specifics about each one when you return home.”