US exports are growing at a rapid pace. More and more manufacturers and retailers across the country are recognizing that many opportunities for revenue growth lie in international markets.
Today, the United States exports many different types of products, ranging from computers and vehicles to pharmaceuticals and precious metals. But is it possible - and legal - to export firearms to other countries?
It is. But as firearms are restricted and regulated items, there’s a little more that exporters of guns will need to consider than other types of merchants.
This ultimate firearms merchant guide is designed to provide a brief overview of these considerations, taking a look at the necessary steps that merchants must take to ensure their exports are authorized, and exploring the challenges - and opportunities - that lie ahead.
Interested in Exporting?
If you’re wondering how to make more sales and boost revenue, opening up your business to new markets could be a powerful way to drive results. With recent changes to US export regulations, exporting firearms from the US internationally is more cost-effective than ever, especially with the removal of registration and licensing fees.
Many merchants are also beginning to notice that inquiries about international exports are growing from foreign purchasers. The demand is there. The opportunities are there. All that’s left is to get yourself into a position where you can say ‘yes’.
However, firearms merchants tend to shy away from exporting internationally. And it’s easy to see why. It’s often thought that global expansion is impossible for merchants who sell guns. Not because it’s prohibited, but because of the legal compliance and logistics issues that surround it. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.
While the process can still be complex, armed with a simple review of the Export Administration Regulations, or EAR, and support from industry experts who understand both US rules and import regulations around the world, it’s possible that getting started selling to purchasers outside the United States may be easier than you think.
Getting Started: Requesting Authorization
As exports of firearms and many accessories are controlled by the US Government, the first step on the road to exporting firearms from the USA will always be ensuring that your business is authorized to do so. In many cases, authorization is easy to obtain, especially if exporting products that are regulated by the Export Administration Regulations, or EAR.
Most products with an EAR classification (ECCN) can be exported by applying for an export license from the Bureau of Industry and Security.
However, there are some important things to know about firearms export licenses. Some products don’t require a license. And other products are regulated by different Government agencies, meaning a different level of authorization beyond BIS authorization is required.
Each order received by the business will need to be checked to determine what permissions are needed, and to ensure that you are able to fulfill the order in a timely and legally compliant manner.
The quicker, easier, less resource-demanding way to handle this is through software that lets you process export orders automatically. This software is capable of scanning all orders coming in, alerting you to any licensing requirements to avoid human error.
It can also prevent you from applying for a license for a customer that you’ve already been granted authorization to ship to, which can be a big time saver!
Planning Your Approach
As you may have realized, the existing methods that most exporters use are intended for large corporations handling huge order quantities and huge order values. These businesses can afford to bring in dedicated compliance specialists and legal experts to effectively and efficiently manage things on a transaction-by-transaction basis.
Independent merchants receiving smaller orders don’t always have this luxury. And this means planning your approach is absolutely critical.
In order for export operations to be successful, they can’t be approached randomly, or without careful planning and coordination.
It’s important to remember that there’s a lot that goes into developing a successful export arm of a business, right through from attracting lawful global purchasers and processing international payments to shipping across borders and ensuring a smooth, streamlined process at customs.
That’s why it’s essential to develop a firearms export strategy. This strategy becomes your ‘what’s what’ of exporting, and helps to guide you through all the essential steps to exporting successfully, and with confidence.
Your strategy should include information relating to 4 critical areas: what you want to achieve from exporting firearms from the USA, how you’re going to make it a reality, what tools you’re going to use to support your efforts, and how you’ll measure progress.
It’s a good idea to involve not only yourself but other people within your business when developing a strategy.
This ensures you’re considering things from all possible angles. For example, while you may feel as though you have the capacity to expand, your employees may not feel that they have the time to effectively process all the additional paperwork that comes with exporting. Look at it from all sides.
Once you have your strategy, make sure that this strategy is communicated and visible across the business. This helps to ensure that the right processes and protocols are followed by everyone on the team, increasing the chance of export success.
Even with a robust strategy in place, every merchant will face challenges along the way. This is natural. The difference between a successful exporter and an unsuccessful exporter is how prepared they are for the challenges, and how equipped they are to overcome them without placing burden on the business.
There are a number of common challenges US merchants face when shipping firearms overseas, ranging from finding the time and resources to handle the increased workload to finding a firearms merchant processing solution that’s compatible with handling payments for items regulated by the US Government.
Some common challenges include:
- Financial risks
- Legal risks
- Reputation risks
- Safety risks
Merchants will need to fully consider a number of aspects. For example, the markets they open up to, the unique challenges of operating within those markets such as cultural, language, and currency differences, the type of buyer within those markets, and the individual compliance risks that exist when exporting to those markets.
Exporting firearms from the USA can be a time-consuming and costly operation if merchants fail to assess and plan for the challenges that lie ahead. Fortunately, for those merchants that do take the time to fully consider the risks, these challenges can be transformed into opportunities for business growth and development.
Once authorization for gun merchants to export internationally has been obtained, and challenges have been assessed and planned for, numerous opportunities lie ahead.
Right now especially, when exporting firearms from the USA is still considered to be a very difficult - nearly impossible - process, those merchants that are willing to take the first step are being rewarded with a significant market share and a chance to win over purchasers in a variety of international markets that want US firearms.
When the right strategy is implemented - and the right support tools and platforms are utilized - it is possible for merchants to increase revenue with international firearms sales in many different ways. From attracting brand new purchasers to capturing the interest of ready-made audience pools who usually purchase from a competitor, opportunities to improve sales and revenue are practically unlimited.
With consistent revenue growth, merchants can begin to further develop their organizations by driving this revenue back into the business. Whether it’s sourcing new products, innovating technologies and internal processes, expanding the workforce, or venturing into even more markets, the possibilities are endless.
With the right approach and strategy, you’ll no longer be looking at your competitors and asking, ‘why them?’. You’ll no longer be asking yourself ‘what am I missing out on?’. You’ll see the opportunities ahead, and you can grab them.
Exporting With Confidence
Due to the challenges that merchants face when exporting firearms from the USA - and the potential for significant revenue growth when things go right - developing a plan that helps you to export with confidence can help reduce errors, minimize risk, ensure products can be shipped smoothly and legally, and boost buyer experience.
One of the best ways to export with confidence is to automate the process, ensuring that the same compliant protocols are followed for each and every order you receive.
Automation tools can carry out many standard export activities without the need for expensive labor from the merchant, such as identifying the need for licenses, applying for licenses, and confirming when all export conditions have been met.
Think about the current manual process for exporting firearms from the USA. First, an order comes in. Then that order must be sent to an internal compliance team or external partner for processing.
All data relating to the order needs to be recorded, assessed, and organized prior to accessing Government systems for license applications and export clearance. Only then can an order be shipped. It’s a very labor-intensive process.
So you could see many advantages of automating your firearms export process, such as less strain on your internal resources, fewer human errors, and a shorter time between an order coming in, and a shipment going out.
Ultimately, automation tools help to reduce risk when exporting firearms from the USA, making exporting an activity that is more likely to benefit a business, not hinder it.
Risk is a major obstacle standing in the way of merchants branching out into new markets. In fact, at EasyExport many of the questions we regularly get asked about exporting firearms from the USA are related to risk. Finding ways to reduce risk - and export with confidence - is key to building a revenue-driving export business.
Finding the Right Partners
If you ever feel as though the support partners available to businesses in other industries aren’t available to yours, you’re not alone. It is most definitely the case that support from insurers, marketing solutions, and financial institutions isn’t always readily available for firearm merchants. Even though you’re a legitimate organization, it can often feel as though you’re being treated as a criminal, or as an outcast.
But the truth is that the right support is out there. You just need to find it. There are multiple support services that are dedicated to helping US gun merchants enhance their operations and grow their business. EasyExport is one. Finding the right partners and leveraging their industry knowledge is vital for exporting with confidence.
Preparing for the Future
While it’s important to develop an export strategy that works for your business today, it’s also important to ensure you’re future-proofing your plan of action to give it the best chance of continuing to drive revenue tomorrow.
Merchants should stay up to date on the latest status of the international export market, tracking trends in international demand for US firearms, exploring opportunities in new high value markets, and being ready and prepared to adapt the export strategy as needed.
Say Goodbye to Sleepless Nights
As a firearms merchant, it’s natural to feel a little unsure about taking that first step into international exports. That’s completely normal.
The problem comes when merchants constantly fear that they’re doing something wrong, and become so consumed by rules and regulations that they can’t focus on their core business.
Being unable to sleep, constantly feeling nervous, and thinking that you’re always ‘on the hook’ for something aren’t worth it. If you’re going to move into exporting, there’s only one way to do it: with complete confidence you’re doing it right.
By following the guidance in this ultimate firearms merchant guide, US merchants should find it easier to get started in international exports.
By utilizing available tools, using software to bridge resource gaps, and minimizing the most common risks, US merchants can grab exciting opportunities to conduct business in new markets, staying one step ahead of the competition to build a leading global organization.