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Trade Routes: The Challenges of a U.S. Launch

By: Michael Long and Chris Czajkowski
Posted: March 5, 2007

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Once a brand has cleared the importation hurdle and is ready to launch, the day-to-day routines take on a life of their own. Brand management is a constant driver of the business, and past results must be reviewed while planning for the future. This includes developing and executing marketing strategies; anticipating and handling in-store activities; planning, hiring and training selling staff; driving the PR machine to ensure the brand is receiving priority placement; managing appropriate and timely flow of goods; and securing in-store presentation and positioning. These demands are essential from day one, regardless of whether the brand is sold in one door or in one hundred doors.

As an international brand gains a foothold in the U.S. through increased sales and distribution, the logistical challenges grow accordingly. Larger retailers require electronic data interchange (EDI), and smaller retailers require more frequent shipments—and the cost of shipping small orders from overseas becomes prohibitive. In addition, retailer payments to overseas vendors can be problematic. In order to be competitive and able to react to immediate opportunities, the international brand should be positioned in the U.S. with a flexible logistics infrastructure.

An international brand can maximize its success and enjoy a very rewarding and profitable business model in the U.S. International companies should recognize the challenges associated with launching in the U.S., and the fear to venture alone is, in part, well-founded. By partnering with a U.S. management organization, there is sufficient expertise to address each challenge, move through the decision-making process and continue to move the brand closer to launch and future success. It is clear that the ultimate legacy of a brand will be dictated largely by the actions taken in initial planning, preparation and execution.

The essential elements of success are immutable: great product, well-positioned branding, adequate infrastructure and skilled, hands-on management. The rewards are there for the taking. So why shouldn’t an international brand enjoy a profitable and rewarding experience? The answer is they should.
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