It is not just actors and musicians who dream of ‘breaking America’, as the saying goes. Thousands of British firms rely on trade with the US and, as Brexit nears, many more can be expected to start looking over the Atlantic.
However, running an export operation to any country can be complex, and the USA is no exception.
For example, the US has particularly strict laws surrounding consumer product safety.
Compliance requires gaining the right levels of certification and documentation, or in some cases even registering with federal authorities.
Add in US customs, bond holding and brokerage regulations, and just getting your product into the country requires considerable effort, knowledge of local regulations and experience.
And then how do you go about distributing, marketing and selling your goods once you are in?
The USA is a huge country with a broad range of mature, complex markets to navigate.
Expectations on service are high, from wholesalers right through to consumers.
As a UK supplier, you have to think about how you can fulfil those expectations from across an ocean.
Distributors and sales agents are a traditional solution.
But these are distinct commercial entities with their own business agendas, they are contracted to fulfil a specific role and operate at arm’s length from your business.
Many exporters find this does not give them the ‘official’ presence they need to grow in such markets.
The alternative is then to establish a business presence in the US, either by setting up a branch office or a wholly owned American subsidiary.
But this then opens up a whole new area of intricate complexity where local knowledge and experience is vital to success, from different rules on incorporating a business in different states, to liability for local, state and federal taxes and workers’ insurance obligations.
This often reduces the feasibility of branching into the USA market to all but the largest corporations.
There is, however, a “halfway house”- third party export representation. Like sales agents and distributors, third party export representatives offer a contracted service.
But the terms of that service are to act as your US branch office or subsidiary, providing an official presence on the ground and carrying out all necessary functions.
A third party representative will take care of incorporating a subsidiary for you, overseeing all aspects of day to day running such as leasing premises (or utilising existing infrastructure), warehousing, staffing, order fulfilment and administration.
They will then handle the distribution, marketing and sales of your goods as your official partner, plus provide customer service at the levels US clients expect.
Compared to setting up, staffing and running an American subsidiary or branch office yourself, contracting this out to a third party partner can save considerable amounts of money.
Compared to using distributors, it provides you with a level of control over how your goods are distributed and orders are fulfilled that will help you manage and carefully monitor growth.
The Alliance Shipping Group is a freight forwarding specialist with offices in Redditch, Basildon, Heathrow and Atlanta, Georgia.
It offers USA order fulfilment and outsourcing via it’s USA hub in Atlanta, serving an extensive list of blue chip export and import companies through a worldwide network of air and sea freight agencies.