Shoes are a great addition to any retail apparel space, whether it be an actual storefront or an online shop. This quick “how-to” article will help you get started importing shoes. Getting into the shoe business shouldn't be too difficult. As a consumer you’ll know what products to look for and what merchandise you’re interested in. Take the time to find a reliable supplier you’ll feel comfortable doing business with. Several online marketplaces like GlobalSources.com and Alibaba list thousands of supply companies. You might also prefer attending a trade show to meet suppliers in person. Check out EventsEye.com for a list of worldwide business events. If you have the opportunity, we’d also suggest checking out the factory overseas to ensure they meet the proper standards for working conditions. This is a valuable learning experience and allows you to get a feel for the people you’ll be doing business with. You can also look into factory audits and shipment inspections. These reports will calm your concerns when it comes to the quality of the goods you’ll be receiving. A trustworthy supplier is important. You want to find one that will meet their end of the bargain and one you can build a solid business relationship with. Consider using a database like Import Genius that allows you to view actual shipping records into the U.S. and 10 countries in Latin America. This tool will help you find more information to evaluate footwear suppliers. The web application compiles data sent directly from U.S. customs, so you can find supplier names and contact information. This gives you a good start in contacting suppliers and making arrangements to secure your order. If you know of a supplier you’d like to research, just search their name to see what footwear companies are already using them. The Import Genius visual mapping tool lets you view the supply chain to see the suppliers used by companies across the shoe importing industry. There isn’t any other U.S. customs application that has this feature, so you’ll find that you have access to a wealth of information through investing in this searchable database. For example, a quick search for ADIDAS brand shoes indicates that ADIDAS in Latin America, K-SWISS INC. and NIKE USA use NIKOMAS GEMILANG for their supplier. A search for the product “toms” shows you several suppliers, such as FUJIAN APEX INTERNATIONAL TRADING and XIAMEN UNIBEST IMPORT AND EXPORT used by the popular TOMS SHOES. When you’ve chosen your supplier, you can proceed with placing your order and establishing payment terms. If you get a letter of credit from your bank through their trade finance department, the letter will be issued to your supplier in exchange for a service fee. You can also elect to put a down payment of about 20-30% of the total order. This may be the more convenient method since the letter of credit requires some extra time and paperwork. Another suggestion to avoid stacks of paperwork is to hire a customs broker. Your broker can get your goods cleared through customs once they’ve shipped. You’ll pay for your order when it’s ready to ship (less the down payment, if applicable) and when the freight reaches port, a drayage company will transport the goods to your warehouse. Ask your broker about arranging the drayage. Check out this resource if you have any questions about the basics of importing. Happy importing!