Should Retailors Import or Buy Domestically?

Scott Smith Oct 15, 2023
30 People Read
Sales Rep Visiting a Store

My History:

I stumbled into the world of import-export wholesale, all the while exploring various career options in pursuit of my own entrepreneurial dreams. The allure of buying and selling interesting artisan items sourced from exotic locales and the prospect of exhibiting and selling them at different outdoor venues, specifically hippie-oriented concerts and music festivals, held me captivated.

As I delved into this business, the creative aspect of designing and collaborating with skilled artisans helped fulfill my artistic impulses. The thrill of seeking out new, trendsetting products and collaborating with designers, craftspeople, producers, and more has been awesome.

I am passionate about traveling and experiencing the richness of new places and cultures, with a particular focus on those of native peoples.

Their artistic traditions and talents can be really really interesting. Establishing connections with these communities and understanding their essence through their handicrafts, which serve as a direct extension of their artistic spirits and personalities, brings me joy. Collaborating with them, exchanging ideas, and collectively shaping product samples is an aspect of my work that I love – it's my favorite part of the business. This is why I’m an importer.

Furthermore, I revel in the challenge of discerning what items people will want to buy, delving into current trends and predicting their path, all while identifying the products that encapsulate these trends. In essence, it's why I'm drawn to the import-export business.


Cost Considerations: Importing products can often be cheaper due to lower production costs in some countries. This cost advantage can lead to higher profit margins for retailers. But things are always shifting and changing. For example, in the 1990s, China had the lowest labor costs, as well as competitive prices and a fast-developing parts and logistics supply chain. But as the cost of labor has gone up drastically, it is more economical to make things in other regions of the world. 

Product Variety: Importing allows retailers to access a wider range of products and styles, which can be appealing to customers looking for unique or exotic items. However, buying from domestic companies means you are getting many designs that you would not have the resources to design and produce.  

Market Demand: If there is a demand for products that are not readily available domestically, importing can be a viable option to meet customer needs.

Seasonal or Trend-Based Products: Importing can be advantageous for retailers who need to quickly respond to changing fashion trends or seasonal demands.

Global Sourcing: Retailers can tap into a global supply chain, allowing them to source products from regions known for specific expertise or craftsmanship. 

Domestic Sourcing:

Supporting Local Economy: Buying domestically supports local businesses, creates jobs, and contributes to the local economy.

Reduced Shipping Costs and Times: Domestic sourcing typically involves lower shipping costs and shorter delivery times compared to international imports.

Quality Control: Retailers may have more control over product quality and manufacturing processes when sourcing domestically. They can visit suppliers more easily and implement quality checks.

Sustainability: For retailers focused on sustainability, domestic sourcing can reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation and promote ethical labor practices.

Regulatory Compliance: Products sourced domestically often have fewer regulatory hurdles and import/export compliance issues to deal with.

Brand Image: Some consumers prefer products made in their own country, associating them with quality, craftsmanship, and ethical practices.

Ultimately, the choice between importing and buying domestically should align with a retailer's business strategy and values. Some retailers may choose a combination of both approaches, known as a "hybrid sourcing strategy," to balance cost-effectiveness with local support and sustainability goals.

It's essential for retailers to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis, consider their target market's preferences, and evaluate the supply chain logistics before making a decision. Additionally, staying informed about trade regulations, tariffs, and customs procedures is crucial when importing goods.