Cheryl Lockhart

Article Summary:

More items can be shipped around the world than you'd imagine; it's worth considering how your product might be shipped around the world.

Unusual Exports: Is Your Product Appropriate For Export?

My husband and I attended the Edmonton Home Renovation Show in January (we just bought a new home) and spent some time at a booth with low volume flush toilets. We try to do our part for the environment and were considering a model that has two flush options.

I was reading the company literature and noticed that these toilets, "The Wonder from Down Under" were manufactured in Australia. I checked with the salesman and yes indeed, they are imported into Canada all the way from Brisbane. The model with a plastic tank is less expensive, and more popular, but they also have a traditional ceramic model, in addition to a variety of bathroom sinks.

Just imagine - these heavy, bulky toilets are manufactured in Australia, shipped across the Pacific Ocean and over the Rocky Mountains, then sold directly to a target market almost halfway around the world!

Re-thinking your product
A lot of companies assume that their product is too heavy, too bulky or too large to be appropriate for export. Well, I challenge you to re-think that notion. There are novel ways of packing that can cut down on bulk (think IKEA furniture) and customers are willing to absorb the extra cost of shipping for a product that they value. That is how we felt about this bulky, heavy toilet. Of course, there is always the option of licensing your technology or establishing a joint-venture, but that's material for another article.

Carving a niche
I've been working in Bali a lot lately and am always astounded by the number of huge, heavy stone carvings (Buddhas are very popular) that tourists purchase and then send home. A large shipping and cargo industry has evolved on the island, in large part catering to the tourists and wholesalers that visit the island purchasing local handicrafts. I've often thought it would be cheaper to pay the artisan's plane ticket to come to your home and custom carve local stone!

In Egypt, I've eaten Baskin Robbins ice cream, shipped all the way from British Columbia, where it was manufactured. Imagine the logistics involved in keeping Mint Chocolate Chip (my favourite) frozen while trucking it from the warehouse to the retail shop in Cairo on a 35C day. There aren't a lot of refrigerated trucks in Egypt! Though this is a difficult item to ship to a hot part of the world, Canadian manufacturers were able to export $100,000 worth of ice cream to Egypt in 2002.

The most unusual item I've seen exported lately?
A disposable pee funnel, manufactured in Northern Europe, which allows women to urinate while standing. I am not kidding. I won't get into the details of how it works, but essentially it is just a piece of waxed cardboard that a woman can carry in her purse. While it is not bulky or heavy, it's another one of those items that most people would never imagine could find an export market. Well, it did - on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton.

Cheryl Lockhart is the owner of International Strategies Ltd. She specializes in assisting small and medium-sized companies enter foreign markets with their products and services. With her proven process, your company will avoid the common mistakes first time exporters make and realize export sales more quickly than going solo. Expand your business internationally with less risk, less uncertainty and less expense by working with Cheryl Lockhart. For more information about International Strategies, to set-up a free initial consultation, and to read more export-related articles, visit

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