In my 20+ years working in international trade in Australia and the U.S, I must have seen and experienced it all. Working with fortune 500 companies in areas such as;
Customs, freight forwarding, distribution, continuous improvement, trade & product compliance & procurement.
In my time, I’ve been lucky enough to witness the massive shift from the traditional importing of products to sell in brick and mortar retail, to importing and selling products online.
This shift has allowed anyone with internet access and an idea, to become an importer and online retailer, selling through Amazon, Ebay, and online stores and reaching a global audience.
With increased opportunities however, come increased risks and challenges.
The only way to combat this is through gaining the right knowledge, valuable experience, and working with the best quality people for the tasks at hand.
I too have been swept away by this wave of online selling.
Now let me tell you about my epic fail.
After many years serving large Importers, I decided to give it a go myself and private label my own product to sell on Amazon USA.
I did the initial research, found a great new product, negotiated moq’s with a great supplier in China, had my packaging designed, and arranged my shipment into Amazon FBA, did the usual PPC and launch campaign, and started getting some initial sales.
All was looking good, and “this is a bit too easy” I thought to myself…. The calm before the storm.
After selling out on my initial 300 units in a month I decided to re-order 1000 units to decrease my landed cost per unit and maximize my margin.
….. Two weeks in, after selling 25 units a day, 3 days in a row, my listing was shut down, and I received the dreaded email from Amazon.
It seems I was infringing on someone’s trademark.
My product was a pair of Bluetooth headphones, and I received a letter from the trademark owner informing me of how I was infringing their trademark.
Oh shit, you’re kidding me right?
I know now that even something as generic and widely used as Bluetooth technology requires permission from the trademark owner to use the word “Bluetooth” in any of your Amazon listing, packaging etc.
There it was front and centre on my packaging “Bluetooth Headphones “.
After a few discussions with the trademark holder and Amazon, it was clear there was no way I could continue to sell the product on the Amazon platform, with the current packaging and wording on my listing.
So yes, after spending USD 6000 on stock, I was stuck with over 700 units sitting in Amazon’s warehouse in the USA (and I’m over here in Australia!).
How did I deal with this? Well, I looked at every scenario, including shipping it all to myself in Australia for sale on Ebay, re-designing and repacking the product and removing the word “Bluetooth” from the packaging and listing, then attempting to sell it without promoting the main function “Bluetooth”, and offloading it for bulk sale on Ebay USA, which would mean risking legal issues with the trademark holder.
In the end, the best overall solution was to have 80% of the inventory destroyed by Amazon, and ship the rest to Australia, for resale on Ebay (without the packaging).
Ouch! Egg on my face- I guess you could say!
There’s always a lesson learned, and I learned a few on my personal journey with my product.
Who would have guessed the word “Bluetooth” had been trademarked? If I did my due diligence correctly, I would have checked the trademark register and flagged this as a problem before investing my hard earned money into this product, and pursued an entirely different product.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing; however, foresight and due diligence are better.
My experience serving importers for over 20 years, coupled with my personal experience of importing and selling online, has given me valuable insights into the opportunities, risks, and challenges every importer/retailer faces on their journey.
I’m lucky enough to work with some of the best people (government and commercial levels), and have amassed a network of friends who are professionals in all facets of importing and retailing.
With all the information available online, it can become daunting and overwhelming for importer/retailers to obtain the right information.
There needs to be a better way!
What if there was a website curated by industry professionals, which was loaded with accurate information, advice, and a course of action. A place where the average online seller could come and know that the info they are receiving is directly from the industry’s best and most experienced quality people.
This was the idea behind SHIPWISE.
Leverage our professional experience.
Navigate through risks and challenges with relative ease.
Gain multiple benefits by using our network partners.
Give yourself an edge over your competitors.
Let’s go !