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A Secret Weapon for Doing Competitor and Supplier Research (Part 2)

In a previous post titled A Secret Weapon for Doing Competitor and Supplier Research (Part 1) I discussed how you can use public customs data to do research on your competitors and suppliers. While it’s not hard to see the value in such information, this post will give a quick example of how valuable it can be.

Lets pretend you are in the automotive industry. One of your competitors is very likely to be Autozone Inc, the second largest retailer of after-market auto parts in the U.S. You notice that Autozone is selling wiper blades for extremely cheap and you wonder a) how they get them for so cheap and b) where they get them from. By accessing free customs data information through a website such as you can find out this information easily. See the image below.

Public copy of Autozone

Public copy of Autozone’s Bill of Lading

Paid tools like ImportGenius give you even more complete information as seen from the screenshot below listing over 20,000 records for Autozone Inc.


By simply searching for Autozone on PortExaminer I have been able to find dozens of copies of Bills of Lading that Autozone has used to import various products into the U.S. From the Bill of Lading shown above I have been able to determine that Autozone has imported from Unipoint Electric MFG Co. LTD in Taiwan. Further down (not shown above) it says that they imported 1262 wiper blades.

By simply googling the name Unipoint Electric MFG Co. LTD I’ve found their website at The information above doesn’t tell me what exact type of wiper blades they imported or how much they paid. However, I do know that Unipoint Electric MFG Co. LTD likely sells a reasonable quality product at a reasonable price by virtue of the fact that they’re selling to a major retailer like Autozone. Chances are, Unipoint Electric MFG Co. Ltd would likely be happy to sell to you directly as well provided your order is large enough (and we know their MOQ is likely not any higher than 1262 pieces).

Tools like PortExaminer and ImportGenius prove their weight in gold when you can find a Supplier that isn’t listed on Alibaba. The vast majority of importers use Alibaba exclusively to find Suppliers, so if you can find a Supplier who doesn’t advertise on Alibaba, you’ve automatically reduced the amount of competition you’re going to have for that product.

There’s a serious lack of tools and apps related to importing. And while public customs data information isn’t the be all and end all for doing competitive research, for the limited time and money it takes to perform, it’s an excellent place to start.

Have you had any luck using customs information to find suppliers or do verification on Suppliers? If so, please comment below.

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  • Reply
    Joanie K.
    March 21, 2016 at 1:48 am

    Great info!
    Is there any other way to find suppliers not on Alibaba?

    • Reply
      David Bryant
      March 23, 2016 at 5:44 am

      Definitely the two best ways are use a tool like import genius or attend trade shows (and if you can’t attend the trade show, browse the exhibitor list for the trade show website). Once you actually start selling particular products and are ranking in Google, Chinese Suppliers have a way of finding you and cold emailing you (what we might refer to as spam!) and I’ve made more than one good contact through these emails :)

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