A report by Barclays about exporting caught my attention recently. It found that nearly half of British retailers view the US as the toughest market to break into, despite it being the top destination for growth.
The bank's report, which questioned retailers on their attitudes towards international expansion, said 46 per cent consider the US to be the most challenging market to achieve commercial success but also one of the most desirable.
These are interesting, if counterintuitive, findings. Our customers have actually found that with its shared language, culture and history, the US is one of the main territories outside the Eurozone to look to before starting out in international trade.
These benefits, combined with the ease of market access due to international e-commerce, should all add up to an obvious territory to penetrate for the first time.
The World Bank's "Doing Business" guide also ranks the country as number three in the world for ease of doing business.
However, international trading isn't without its challenges - especially for businesses who are just starting out. The report also identified the main barrier to entry for the US for businesses: the sheer scale of the United States can make it seem impenetrable.
The USA is the third largest country in the world; thirty seven times larger than the UK and spans six time zones - which means that your customers' needs could be completely different in one time zone to another. By focusing in on the area that you've identified as having a gap in the market and consumers with a genuine appetite for your product, you're far more likely to succeed, rather than by targeting the territory as a whole.
Establishing a partnership as a joint venture with a US company - whether for licensing opportunities, a third party shipper or another exporter - can also support your entry into this huge market. In addition to its highly developed economy, the U.S. has a sophisticated system of monitoring and governing its imports and exports through its 300 points of entry across the country. Companies that wish to do business in the country need to abide by its laws and regulations. They should be aware though, that there are a number of quirky customs that DHL has identified. For example, a well known children's chocolate egg is prohibited for import due to the assemblable parts inside the chocolate and so is anything with cat or dog fur.
The United States has a voracious appetite for products and services from most places in the world. As the world's biggest importing economy, the country holds vast opportunities for savvy businesses owners who can find a niche to target within this diverse population.