Importing, like exporting offers new business opportunities and a solid knowledge of the toy and game market is essential. While the actual process of importing may be quite straightforward, in some cases national culture and a different set of business terms can lead to misunderstandings and disappointments. It may be difficult to explain to a foreign supplier that a precise delivery date is mandatory or that even a small delay in delivery can make the shipment worthless.
International toy fairs are a good source to assess foreign markets. Any products being considered for import must meet certain Canadian federal and provincial requirements; these should be researched in advance of any contracts being signed. There may be licensing, duties and tariffs to consider - in fact, there is specific documentation and required record-keeping in order to comply with Canadian regulations before the goods are released to Canada.
Packaging and Language Laws
In Canada, The Packaging Act contains the regulatory requirements for product packaging. For a comprehensive understanding of the Act and its regulations, a useful publication is the "Guide to the Consumers Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations".
As a minimum, federal regulations about packaging stipulate that the following four items of information must be shown on the packaging:
· Country of origin
· Principal place of business (in English and French)
· Net quantity (e.g. 54 blocks; one doll and one carriage; six balls and one bat)
· Product name ("Doll") or pictorial representation of the item
In all provinces except Quebec, the federal regulations apply for packaging. If you have any questions or concerns about the suitability of packaging relative to government regulations, you should check with the appropriate officials. Packaging in Canada should be bilingual (French and English).
Effective January 1, 1998, in Quebec all language printed on packaging and everything else related to the product must be in French only or bilingual (French must be at least equally prominent to any other language). This rule also applies to any instruction sheets or descriptions accompanying the item.
Professional Advice is Worthwhile
As an importer, you are responsible for all records on reporting, releasing, accounting for, and paying for goods that you imported. You must substantiate what goods were imported, quantities, price and the goods' origin.
Because there are many aspects and details to importing, it is recommended that appropriate expert advice be obtained either prior to importing or to assist with the ongoing process. Many government agencies and non-profit organizations offer services, programs and assistance in all areas of importing. Talking to a reliable customs broker is important for expert advice about issues such as customs clearance, freight forwarding and logistics.
More Places to Get Help
Information offices are located at major airports and centres, providing information about the release of toys in incoming shipments, etc. Check your local telephone directories for the branch nearest you.
Canada's international competitiveness and success as an exporting nation will increasingly depend on how effectively Canadian companies can prepare for international markets. Partnerships between federal and provincial departments and agencies, industry associations and companies across Canada enhance the "Team Canada" approach to our success abroad.
International business is key to furthering economic growth in Canada and creating jobs for Canadians. It has been estimated that every $1 billion increase in export sales generates about 11,000 new jobs in Canada.
Exporting means opportunities
Exporting is, for most Canadian manufacturers, a logical extension to their business plans. With declining market share, exporting offers potential on new horizons. A successful product in Canada does not necessarily mean it will sell in other countries and, while it may be competitive here, it may be unsuitable for export.
The most important first step in considering an export market is to research the potential market. This involves assessing the direct competition and whether consumers and retailers would be interested in the products and what the appropriate pricing would be. All exported products must comply with the standards and regulations which apply in the country to which they will be exported.
There are numerous government agencies and offices which play a key role in assisting companies to export for the first time. The range of services is extensive and help is available in areas such as export market information, export market research, tariffs, regulations and licenses, technical assistance and export publications. A useful publication is "10 Steps to Export Success", published by the Government of Canada (Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada).
Help for small to medium exporters
Professional Advice is Worthwhile
While operating in international markets provides great opportunity, there are many risks associated with taking the business where it has never been before. The principal way to achieve export distribution on a significant scale is to appoint an agent or distributor or establish a local subsidiary or joint venture. With all arrangements, there are financial, credit, insurance, contractual and regulatory issues that must be identified and clarified.
An efficient and reliable approach to minimizing risk and simplifying the process is to seek appropriate expert advice in certain areas such as market analyses, government regulations for taxation, packaging, tariffs, etc. and local customs requirements. Most government agencies offer extensive resources to potential exporters, including automated voice services, publications, Internet access and trained specialists and inspectors. In the private sector, there are customs, taxation, export/import, marketing and financial experts who are reliable sources for assistance and information.
Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
The BDC has developed a range of financing alternatives for small-to medium-sized businesses that are ready to expand. BDC offers Canadian entrepreneurs a one-stop approach which combines financial and management services. For exporters, BDC's support is designed to meet the needs of businesses preparing first-time forays into foreign markets, as well as those who are already exporting. A program called "New Exporters Training and Counselling Program (NEXPRO)" focuses on broadening export knowledge and skills.
Canada Business Service Centres
A Canada Business Service Centre is located in each province and territory. In Ontario, for example, the centre is called the Canada-Ontario Business Call Centre. Each centre offers a wide range of products and services to help Canadian businesses reduce the complexity of dealing with various levels of government.
Marketed as "the first stop for business information", the services and products offered by the centres are of interest to those who are starting a new small business; those who want information on provincial and federal government regulations; and those who want information on specific topics such as intellectual property, research and develpment, taxation, strategic alliances, training, exporting, importing and employment.
The centres are accessible in many ways:
· On the Internet at: http://cbsc.org
· By toll-free telephone to talk to Business Information Officers
· In person, to undertake research in an extensive collection of reference materials or to access external databases.
· By fax., toll-free-on-demand service, using a touch-tone telephone 24 hours/day
· Pathfinders and Info-Guides, overviews that describe services and programs, organized by topic (e.g. exporting). Linkage with other provinces is also possible.
· Toolbox, an Interactive Business Planner, is a new business planning tool designed for the Internet (http://www.smallbusinessbc.ca). It has a new on-line service for export information also.
Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC)
CCC is a Crown Corporation providing Canadian exporters with assistance in selling to any foreign government or international organization. CCC will act as a prime contractor and guarantor for the sale of Canadian goods and services to the foreign customer. The services are of particular benefit to small and medium-sized businesses which may not be known internationally.
Export Development Corporation (EDC)
EDC is a financial services corporation, providing risk management services (including insurance, financing and guarantees) to support exporters and their global cutomers. Medium-to long-term financing is available and, for most capital goods and services, EDC will generally finance up to 85% of the Canadian supply in an export transaction.
Export Orientation Programs
These programs focus on helping companies learn about international markets and how to gain access to them. For example, there is a "New Exporters to Border States (NEBS)" program, specifically for new exporters who wnat to break into the American market, particularly along the Canada-U.S. border. NEBS-PLUS serves Canadian companies already exporting to the U.S. border states and wishing to expand to other regions of the U.S. There is a "New Exporters to Overseas (NEXOS)" program, specifically for companies interested in Western European markets. NEWMEX is a program for companies wishing to take advantage of business opportunities in Mexico.
International Business Opportunities Centre (BOC)
Operated jointly by Industry Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), IBOC matches Canadian companies, particularly small and medium-sized, with foreign opportunities. Using a variety of research tools, IBOC offiers compile a list of potential Canadian suppliers when Canadian Trade Commissioners and Commercial Officers abroad learn of a trade lead.
International Trade Centres
International Trade Centres are part of the Trade Commissioner Service, an international network of trade offices. Found in major cities across Canada and the 125+ countries around the world, the Centres offer pertinent information for current and potential exporters. The Centres have access to timely information on trade opportunities and market intelligence from Canada's embassies, high commissions and consulates around the world. Stall will assist with identifying potential markets, developing international marketing plans, devising an export strategy and obtaining information on joint venture and technology transfer opportunities, to name a few of the services provided. Seminars and workshops are also available.
Program for Export Market Development (PEMD)
PEMD is a federal government program and its goal is "to increase Canadian prosperity and competitiveness in the international marketplace". Founded in 1971, PEMD assists Canadian businesses in marketing their products and services abroad. PEMD's specific objective is to increase the export sales of Canadian goals and services by sharing the costs of activities that would not or could not normally be undertaken alone; this reduces the risks in entering a foreign market.
There are four major elements in the PEMD program:
- Market Develpment Strategies (MDS): primarily for small businesses, assistance with the implementation of marketing plans to penetrate an international market; for new or experienced exporters
- New-to-Exporting Companies: an introduction to foreign markets
- Capital Projects Bidding: support for Canadian companies bidding for major capital projects outside Canada
- Trade Association Activities: supports export market development strategies of national trade and industry associations
Technology Inflow Program (TIP)
This program is designed to assist companies in the development of new products, processes and services through the transfer of foreign technology into Canada if the technology is not available domestically.
World Information Network for Exports (WIN Exports)
This program is a database of 23,000+ Canadian firms and their exporting capabilities. It is used exclusively by Canada's Trade Commissioner Service, at home and abroad. Using this database, trade officers can identify and source Canadian suppliers to fit specific sales opportunities. Canadian companies are also recruited from this database to participate in trade fairs and missions.
More Places to Get Help
Trade Administration Services
Information offices, located in major cities and airports, provide general or specific information about a wide range of topics including documentation requirments, tariffs, duties, classifications, etc.
Automated Customs Information Service (ACIS)
Located at various locations across Canada (including border points, inland truck terminals and airports), this service is staffed by bilingual customs inspectors who can answer specific questions about exporting.
For information about required documentation, freight forwarding and other details, a reliable customs broker is a good source.