Assessing an Import/Export Product’s Potential

By John J. Capela

Whether you’re assessing a product you plan to sell in your hometown or one you hope to sell halfway around the world, the product has to match the needs of the market. So how can you tell what your product’s potential is?

When you’re importing, look at how the product is doing in international markets to try to gauge whether it could be successful in the U.S. If the product is successful overseas, it may also do well in the U.S., as long as the U.S. has similar needs and conditions. That last point is key — there may be a huge market for snowshoes in Siberia, but if your target market is Florida, you probably won’t find many buyers.

If you’re exporting, one way to gauge overseas market potential is to look at sales in the domestic market. If a product is selling well in the U.S., it may do well abroad in a market that has similar needs and conditions.

Even if the sales of a product in the U.S. are declining, you may still find a growing international market. This is especially true if the product is losing U.S. sales due to advances in technology. A developing country may not require state-of-the-art products. For example, sales of brooms in the U.S. may decline as vacuum cleaner sales rise, but a country where electricity isn’t as widespread may have a huge market for high-quality brooms.

Because of economic, cultural, environmental, political, legal, and financial differences, some products offer limited potential in some markets.