I get more questions about selling internationally than probably any other topic! I must be honest and upfront from the start. My knowledge on this topic is limited, but I’ve been pushed by a couple of readers to pursue this area of business that I have been wanting to try for a long time, but found myself too intimidated to take action. Well, I’ve taken the first steps and my first product is now live in Canada! If this goes well, expanding to more countries will definitely follow! While I am by no means an expert, I’ve learned a couple things along the way which I will share today!
AMAZON IS PUSHING FOR INTERNATIONAL SALES
Amazon has made an effort to make this process easier and easier. They have really been pushing for sellers to expand internationally. This is good for Amazon as it will fill their warehouses around the world, drive sales and ultimately put money in their pockets (remember, Amazon takes 15% of the sale plus fulfillment fees!) Amazon recently set up THIS page which I’ve found to be very helpful. This will walk you through the entire process.
I should note that I only plan to sell wholesale and private label products internationally. Selling media and arbitrage items could work, but this will not be part of my growth strategy- at least not at this point. There are a number of reasons for this, but ultimately it comes down to volume, numbers and cost efficiency when dealing internationally.
SENDING DIRECTLY FROM MY SUPPLIER TO CANADA
The supplier for my first item I selected to sell internationally is in China. This supplier has been shipping directly to FBA (in the U.S) for me for some time now, so we have got the process down. (detailed information on this topic is part of the subscription package when you sign up to the mailing list. You’ll receive this information 10 days after signing up). Working with the supplier to send the merchandise directly was not an obstacle since this was something we had done many times. There were really only 2 obstacles as I saw it. The first was setting up an international selling account. This was far more simple than I thought.
OBSTACLE 1: SETTING UP THE ACCOUNT
After going back and forth with Amazon for some time, I realized this is an area where the seller support reps don’t seem to have accurate information. In multiple emails with multiple reps, I was told conflicting information. Here are the the conflicting responses I received:
I was told:
-I could not set up an Amazon.ca account
-I could set up an Amazon.ca account
I could, but I would need approval from the seller performance team
I could, but I would need a Canadian Bank Account, address and Phone number
and then the most helpful answer:
Amazon.ca is operated as a completely separate entity. Amazon.com and Amazon.ca essentially do not overlap. I would need to contact Amazon.ca for information on this
Interestingly, there was still some confusion on the bank account, business and phone number information when I contacted Amazon.ca. I was told I definitely needed a Canadian bank account, but upon researching, I found this was not the case. In fact, there are a variety of countries and bank accounts that Amazon.ca supports. When I sent this link to Amazon.ca seller support, they basically said “oh, it turns out you’re right.” So, from what I gathered, starting an account on Amazon.ca will not compromise your current Amazon.com seller central account in any way. Furthermore, you do not need an alternate business, phone number or bank account to make this happen as Amazon.ca is operated independently of one another. This made things incredibly easy (I’m not 100% sure if the same applies for other Amazon sites. You’ll need to research this. Amazon.com still requires a U.S. bank account- more on this below)
OBSTACLE 2: TAXES AND REGULATIONS
The second issue (and biggest obstacle for me) was the taxes and regulations. Thankfully, Amazon has a section for this HERE (Canada’s specific tax and regulation information is HERE). This was definitely the most intimidating part of the process! In reality, there are only 2 steps:
1. Register as an NRI (non-resident importer)
2. Register for GST (whether or not you do this will depend on a couple factors- more on this soon.)
I admit, this was still a bit intimidating for me after viewing the requirements to register as an NRI online. I went ahead and contacted Samuel Shapiro and Company to help me with this. I have used Sharpio several times now for a variety of services and highly recommend them! They are knowledgeable, efficient and they get the job done! Furthermore, they have helped demystify a lot of of the process and language of importing (I had no idea what GST or NRI was or if I needed to register or how… I’m just simple pizza delivery guy after all!) For shipments entering Canada, Shapiro partners with Cole International. I was directed to them for the remainder of the process. An agent from Cole assisted me with registering as an NRI.
I received a letter in the mail informing me that I was registered as an importer in Canada along with forms to fill out to register for GST. After speaking with my representative at Cole, I was informed that registering for GST is recommended, but not necessary until my revenue exceeds $30,000. There are benefits, however, to registering including tax benefits. Also, if I plan to collect and remit sales tax in Canada, I must register for GST. I contacted my CPA regarding these matters because quite frankly, I don’t have a clue what is required. I was told that we should keep an eye on sales and when things start moving, then we can discuss taxes. I’m in an ongoing conversation with my CPA about this and will keep you all posted on the progress. Cole provides a service to register for GST for me, but the fee is nearly $1,500 which is a bit steep for me. I’ve reviewed the paperwork and it seems fairly straight forward. My plan is to fill out the paperwork myself and register for free.
From there, it was just a matter of getting my products into Canada! In this case, since the product is small and lightweight, I opted for a UPS shipment and had Cole International clear customs for me. I could ship by sea, but the savings in this situation were not worth the hassle. For heavier items, it’s certainly worth it! There were a few more steps along the way (I needed to obtain a commercial invoice from the manufacturer, fill out some paperwork with Cole etc) but I was notified of each necessary step as they came along. Overall, this was far easier than I thought.
Now, the majority of the questions I receive on this topic come from readers outside of the U.S. who wish to sell on Amazon.com (which remains the most popular Amazon site- but also the most competitive which leaves a lot of opportunity for selling outside of Amazon.com!) I don’t claim to be an expert on this matter as I’ve never been in this exact situation (I live in the U.S.) but I have provided a basic step by step process below based on my experience with importing into Canada as well as from the experience of readers from outside of the U.S. who I have corresponded with.
IMPORTANT: I highly recommend consulting with qualified professionals if you are considering doing this. If you have the knowledge, you can certainly do this on your own, but there is a lot of risk involved. I personally could not have done this without the advice from my CPA (certified public accountant) and without the assistance from Shapiro/Cole International. Also, I’m clearly not an attorney. I cannot take responsibility for the legal ramifications or even the accuracy of the anything written here, but I am, of course, striving to be as accurate as possible. The information below is accurate the best of my knowledge. If I discover new information in the future, I will update this accordingly.
Step 1: Set up a U.S. Business:
Set up a U.S. company and/or a U.S. bank account. Setting up a U.S. company is fairly straightforward with inexpensive services provided by legalzoom. I would recommend contacting legalzoom for details on how to do this from your specific region. Alternately, you can use your individual name or non-U.S. business name and set up a U.S. bank account. The easiest way to go about this is to find a bank that operates in your country as well as the U.S. and physically go to the bank and discuss how to set up an account in one of their U.S. branches. This may require a U.S. address. There are numerous services that provide this. Check out UPS addresses for a simple solution. If you have trouble setting up a U.S. bank account, check out Payoneer.com which is a service that specializes in helping international business manage their payment options.
Step 2 Set up a Seller Central Account:
Set up a seller central account on Amazon.com (note, I registered for the “single seller” account in Canada until sales get going. I would suggest doing the same in the U.S. to avoid the $39.99 monthly fee until you’re selling at least 40 items per month). Use your newly acquired bank information and business name (if you chose to register a U.S. business)
Step 3. Review the U.S. requirements:
Be sure to review the U.S. selling/importing/tax requirements HERE. Once you are confident that you have fulfilled the requirements based on the structure of your business, then it’s time to move on to our final step!
Sourcing, Sending and Selling!
Now the fun part! You’ll need to source product, list them for sale on Amazon and send them in to the FBA warehouses. As mentioned in my ebook “Invisible Inventory”, the “sending” can be done directly by your supplier or by your U.S. contractor (invisible Inventory is an ebook included in your subscription package. You will receive it free of charge 10 days after subscribing to the newsletter). You can, of course send the items in yourself as well, but depending on the products, this is not always the most cost-effective option. I would highly recommend getting in touch with Samuel Shapiro and Company if you are planning on doing any importing.
Now with all this said, my sales in Canada to date are exactly… zero (the inventory only arrived 3 days ago!) An optional “step 5″ would be promotion. I plan to work on this for the next 30 to 60 days and hopefully share some positive income numbers from my Canada account in the September or October income report! Until then, I hope you’ve found this helpful! If you want to sign up to my mailing list, you will receive my ebook free ebook which provides more general information on my 6 step strategy and also some ideas to get you started! Thanks for your support!
UPDATE: Since originally writing this post, Amazon has made it even easier for U.S. sellers to start selling in Canada. They have made it possible manage Canada listings from within the Amazon.com seller central interface! The content of this post, however, still applies to selling on any other international site! I hope you found this helpful!