What are Importers?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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Importers are individuals or businesses that acquire goods and services produced in a foreign country and resell those goods or services in the importer’s country of origin. As is true with any retail situation, the importer will sell the imported products for rates that cover all the expenses associated with the initial purchase, any applicable tariffs, and the transportation costs involved to ship the goods into the country.

In some cases, the importer functions as an agent for a company in another country that wishes to enter the retail market in the importer’s home nation. When this is the case, the importer does not purchase the products outright. Rather, the importer makes arrangements for the goods to be shipped into the country, arranges for temporary storage, and handles all the details associated with a purchase and delivery to consumers. In return for his or her efforts, the importer receives a commission from the manufacture of the imported goods.

Importing is the opposite of exporting. With exports, goods are produced within a particular country and shipped to other countries for sale and consumption. From this perspective, exporters are individuals and companies that work with importers to supply and sell goods in whatever nation the importer resides.


Just about all types of goods and services can be supplied by importers. Two of the major examples of import activity in the United States have to do with the reception of textile goods and food products that are manufactured and packaged in other countries. Importers are often able to supply goods of this nature for less than they could be produced within the United States, making them very attractive to a large segment of consumers.

Importers may also function in niche markets as well. For example, an importer may specialize in securing and reselling art objects produced by artists in other countries. The importer arranges for the sale and shipment of the objects with the seller, receives and stores the objects once they arrive, and then sells the imported goods to consumers.

For the most part, importers work within the regulations set in place by both the country where the goods and services are produced and the nation where the products are shipped for sale. This can involve understanding the customs laws of both countries involved, as well as properly calculating any tariffs or other fees that may apply. These legitimate importers tend to work with government and law enforcement agencies to minimize the amount of illegal importing activity that occurs in many places around the world.


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