My first visit to the Natural Products Show( Expo West) was 25 years ago when the event was held in a hotel exposition hall adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center. Fast forward to 2018, the Natural Products Show brought together more than 3000 exhibitors and 60,000 attendees-making this trade event one of the biggest in the United States or should I say globally. In fact, the remarkable take-away from this year’s event- how global interest is driving the natural products industry. The show was literally so busy, walking the show was like filing into a crowded stadium. So what’s behind this? A WSJ article pre-show indicated that Expo West is now the must see event for grocery merchandisers in the U.S. I think it is not far fetched to say this is the case for just about every consumer product sector for both U.S. and global buyers. While I must admit there was a dazzling array of products, another major takeaway was how many start-up entrepreneurs’ were using this trade show to launch their companies. Only problem, about 1000 or more of these exhibitors will not make it to Expo West 2019. Despite the inevitable industry attrition, a savvy import/exporter can walk this show and find a ton of opportunities. The most exciting development from the mid-90’s to 2018, exporting and international trade is not a distraction, but actually a driver for almost every company participating at Expo West. Back in the early 90’s there was a big question whether or not organic/natural products had a place in U.S. retail, now the question is can companies survive without being all-in natural and organic. If you want to find a path to future international trade success, you don’t have to look farther than Expo West. If you live in the East Coast, no worries, Expo East is coming this Fall.
When I started my trade career-now going on 25 years- I never thought I would visit the Middle East, let alone do business in the region. Times change, opportunity arises and I have learned to never say never. Translation- I made my first trip to Saudi Arabia on January 19th, 2018 and likely that will not be my last visit. A little background, I have really well connected business contacts that have been pushing me think about the Middle East and even dabble in export trade in the region for the past five years. I also have been consulting a school in Southern California that specializes in health care training with groups from the Middle East. So I anticipated that a trip might happen sometime in 2018, just not mid-January! All this being said, Saudi Arabia is probably not the first market or even the 10th market most trade entrepreneurs consider. Yet, there are a number of reasons to reconsider. Let’s start with Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman or MBS. MBS, just 32 years old, has placed as his top priority to re-invent the Saudi Arabian economy and society under the banner of Vision 2030. In simple terms, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA) is open for business with the West, East and all comers willing to bring expertise, particularly in key industry sectors such as education, health care, infrastructure, and tourism. My unexpected trip to KSA in January was largely to consult the government on a major education project that will include a minimum earmark of $400-500 million and possibly more than a billion dollars to prepare the future workforce for careers in agriculture, archaeology and hospitality/tourism. This project alone certainly justified a visit to KSA, but this visit also confirmed the time is now to find and secure business opportunities emerging as a result of the Kingdom’s rapid goal to diversify and modernize the economy.
Have you heard of JETRO, how about HKTDC or ProChile? These are literally free resources for businesses that are largely ignored by most American companies. I had the distinct privilege to brief a group of Los Angeles based Trade Commissioners hosted by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce on November 16th on the growing influence of e-commece on international trade, but I was the one who came away educated. I was surprised and impressed to learn how much local businesses can benefit from accessing the resources, mostly free, offered by the many trade commissions in our backyard.
Want to start a side-hustle importing custom clothes? Well, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council(HKTDC), www.hktdc.com can help you identify suppliers, even ones that will supply from 1 master carton. Talk about low risk! Want to find a business opportunity or partner in Japan, The Japanese External Trade Organization, JETRO, has a daily online matching/posting service, www.ttpp.jetro.go.jp. Not interested in Asia, not to worry, you can find trade commissions representing all regions of the world. One I found interesting, ProChile, www.prochile.gob.cl, I had never heard of their website, but Spanish notwithstanding, the site is chalked full of great contacts, particularly if you are looking for smaller suppliers.
Don’t despair if you live some distance from Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, New York, you can tap into most of these trade resources online. I also suggest you identify the country or countries you are most interested and search for their trade commission and just pick up the phone and call the Trade Commissioner. After all, the staff at these Consulates are stationed in the U.S. to generate more business for their respective countries.
Don’t be surprised when U.S. mainstream media extols the strong Black Friday Sales and expected record sales on Cyber Monday, but offers scant mention that these numbers fall short of Chinese Singles Day, 11/11. Yes, in a single shopping day the likes of Alibaba, JD.com and other leading Chinese e-commerce marketplaces transacted more than $60 billion dollars in sales. The good news from the surging e-commerce sales in China is just how much comes from cross border sellers including many U.S. brands. Just a few years ago the prospect of selling direct to consumers in China was implausible, but a breakthrough pilot program launched by the China Government in late 2013 reset the rules for exporting to China. The Cross Border Pilot Program established in 2013 set up7 pilot zones- meaning customs established special provision for personal imports purchased direct from foreign supplier or bonded warehouse in the approved pilot zone and established a set import fee for most product categories( roughly 11%) Cross border imports allow Chinese consumers to dramatically expand their product choices, particularly in categories where quality concerns are paramount- baby/mother, beauty, health/wellness, and food. Cross border e-commerce in China is already a $120 billion market(about 1/6 of all e-commerce sales in China) and poised to grow quickly in the coming years. While there are challenges to establishing presence on the leading Chinese cross border e-commerce platforms, many lower risk options are starting to emerge including the JD.com U.S. Select Store*. If you are not selling your products in China, cross border e-commerce might offer the platform to do so.
*JD.com has recently launched a special platform to help 2nd and 3rd tier companies launch their products through cross border e-commerce. The author has worked with the State of California, Centers for International Trade, to launch a special online registration system for companies in California wishing to be considered for inclusion on the JD.com-US Select Store. http://www.citd.org/jd-cal
Lost in the contentious political debate about Free Trade is the ever growing trade surplus in service exports. Leading the way is education exports- a $35 billion dollar a year business for the U.S. The impact of education exports is now felt in just about every community, small or large, around the United States. While more and more U.S. schools are being certified to host international students on F-1, J-1, M-1 visas, many other businesses benefit from the legions of international students coming to the United States. The spillover effect is broad and includes: automotive rental/sales, entertainment, housing rental, insurance, travel, and general services for everything from dry cleaning to acupuncture. My organization, California ETEC, a pioneer provider of international education recruitment and marketing services recently coordinated a set of study fairs for the TABS Boarding Association in Beijing, Shanghai, HCMC and Hanoi. Yes, the market for education service is especially booming for secondary education, particularly high quality boarding school programs. The above mentioned fairs included participation from more than 50 leading boarding programs from the U.S. and saw strong turnout in each of the event cities. While a U.S. education at all levels is increasingly in demand globally, the competition from English speaking countries is keen and American school dominance is under continuous threat. Nonetheless, for now, education exports, is one of the bright spots for the U.S. in the global trade arena.
Mark Matsumoto was the keynote speaker for the LA Port’s Export University Series hosted at the Greater Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Friday, October 6th. The dynamic 3 hour event drew a crowd of 60 business owners and entrepreneurs seeking to draw tips to expand their global business leveraging digital marketing tactics. Matsumoto a leading subject matter expert on international trade, international digital marketing and doing business in Asia shared a number of tools of the trade and cases studies during the interactive presentation. Some of the leading takeaways from the seminar included:
- Website Globalization Techniques
- Localization and Translation Best Practices
- Leveraging Google Ad-Words and Social Media to generate international customer leads
- The Alibaba Effect™-Understanding the international e-commerce landscape
- Introduction of new cross border e-commerce platforms, including a special promotion offer with JD.Com
- Benchmarking your competition through efficient market research collection
Mark Matsumoto, Network International Exports, Inc. founder and co-author of Exporting in the Connected World spoke in front of a packed audience at the LA Chamber of Commerce on August 22nd. The event promoted by the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Small Business and the Los Angeles Port( TradeConnect) drew more than 120 attendees who came to learn strategies to market and promote their businesses to global consumers. Mr. Matsumoto’s presentation including practical tips to develop a website, manage and optimize a website, including translations best practices, creating a high performing google ad-word campaign and developing effective blogs and social media campaigns. The presentation concluded with breaking news announcements about new cross border e-commerce platforms available for the first time to California exporters.
Attendees received a copy of Exporting in the Connected World and a preview of Matsumoto’s next book, Trading in the Connected Word, the complete guidebook for importing, exporting and conducting global e-commerce.