Chapter Three: Locating Suppliers
If you wish to find a certain item that you’ve thought of, or you simply want to know what’s out there, you have to start by finding some likely product manufacturers. I get a host of products from the US and have thus built up solid contacts there, but the entire universe can be your arena. As I said earlier, launching a foreign operation is very costly for any producer. The further they are from their target market, the more difficult it is for them, particularly if English is not their native tongue.
Foreign languages do not have to be a barrier for you. You can correspond with your manufacturers through letters and faxes, and the Chamber of Commerce in your area will assist you with any required translations. This may not even prove to be necessary as English is now used widely in global business.
You may believe that you can find goods manufacturers by going to wholesalers and seeing who produces items that are akin to what you’re searching. Although you can get a general idea of items from wholesalers, and you may even determine how well different products do; it is my understanding that majority of the wholesalers are far too shrewd to disclose where they source their goods from. In fact, they even remove all the labels from their items so you can’t find out on your own. To find wholesalers, look in the Yellow Pages, or in a magazine called ‘The Trader’. This magazine gives you access to interesting ads which will help you determine what all is available.
Your closest City library, which can offer you directories on global trade, can be your direct method to find manufacturers. I always take the librarians into confidence and they then assist me to find the correct directories. The key information to unearth is which countries produce the kind of merchandise you are fascinated with.
With this information in hand, your next step is to dispatch a letter to the Commercial Department at the London Embassy of your selected nation. You can use one of two approaches in your letter. The first one is to tell them that you wish to import certain types of goods and would like the contact details of manufacturers of such goods. On doing so, you will get a horde of brochures in your mail. The trouble with this plan is that the manufacturers generally want you to import the merchandise on your own; or work as their regional agent, which entails making clients and delivering the orders to the manufacturer.
Thus, the second approach, which I also use, seems to be the smarter choice. I request the Embassy to provide me with a listing of all the trade magazines that are related to the goods I am interested in. I even request the British trade journals to give me information about their foreign equivalents. When I have a list of these magazines, I contact them and request a sample copy and subscription details to be Air Mailed to me.
On studying the samples provided, I determine which has the maximum usefulness, and then subscribe to that publication for an entire year. If you pay through your credit card, you neither have to concern yourself with exchange rates, nor have to pay bank charges for a non-pound cheque. Although you can locate these publications through trade directories; in order to get the most up to date information, you are advised to contact the Embassies.
Similar to British trade journals, these journals too have various adverts and also a ‘What’s New’ segment. From here you can get the details about the manufacturers that you seek. From here, you do as I did – you call up the manufacturers and enquire who they supply to in UK, and the rest as they say……..You might need to speak with their Export unit or their Sales and Promotion department.
As I mentioned previously, if language is a problem on the phone, simply fax them a letter instead.
Gauge the time difference prior to placing your call. The American East Coast is about 6 hours behind UK time, whereas the West Coast is about 9 hours behind us. In Europe, areas that lie east from Denmark to Tunisia, are a minimum of 1 hour ahead of UK time. All these countries employ the ‘daylight saving’ hours system, wherein their work day begins at 8am in place of our 9am.
When you call, be ready for them to ask about you (where you’re from, what you want etc). Not many ask, but you need to be prepared just in case. I generally circumvent any such queries by telling them that I have the exclusive rights to various items like theirs, and wish to add their item to my range to augment it.
The next chapter provides information about settling deals with the makers, but before that, a novel method to find great merchandise.
The Wonderful World of the Internet:
You’ve surely heard of the internet. I for one, use it on a daily basis. I have global connections and I chat with my contacts frequently through e-mail. I am also a member of various websites which have excellent information sharing forums (chat groups). The forums on ‘New Ideas and Innovative Inventions’ usually provide new information from people who wish to sell new goods. You even get the latest news, have access to advertisement columns, and can participate in ‘CB simulators’, which are live discussion forums.
Just a few minutes on these forums can give you excellent marketing ideas as well as fresh new products for sale. Some of the ideas may not be novel to you, but there will be plenty that are and these could help you make your fortune.
To connect to the Internet, you require a computer, a modem, and a high speed internet connection. By contacting any computer dealer, you should be able to acquire whatever you need to be set up and link to the wonderful world of the Internet.
About Trade Exhibitions:
I visit trade fairs every chance I get. One more advantage of finding those trade publications that I mentioned previously is because the trade fairs are promoted in them. I tried to avoid British trade shows because even if you do find some promising products, there is a good chance others will too. And what I needed was to discover items before others found them; which is why, the minute I could afford to go abroad, I started visiting trade shows in foreign countries and discovered many new products and suppliers.
If you do not have the means to visit the trade fair, you should at least call the fair organisers. Let them know how sorry you are to have missed the chance to attend the fair in person, due to prior commitments, and request them to send you a copy of the fair brochure. Rarely do they say no, and you get the contact details about all the booth holders.
Before I forget to say this – when you have located the perfect item, and found its manufacturers, please see to it that they are the exclusive makers of that product. You would be wasting your time and money by trying to procure sole rights from a particular producer when a host of other people manufacture the same goods and could be selling the rights to others.
Here’s a summary of your plan of action:
- Go to the City library and discover the countries where your chosen items are made.
- Contact the Commercial Department at their Embassy and request a listing for the trade journals of that particular country.
- Request information about their global counterparts from British trade publications.
- Get in touch with the publications and request sample issues and subscription charges.
- Visit trade shows and exhibits.
- Get in touch with prospective manufacturers and try to get information about items that catch your fancy.
- Get onto the Internet and join information forums.