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Lure of the Caribbean

By: Greg Seminara,Export Solutions
Topics: Puerto Rico Panama Dominican Republic Jamaica Trinidad

Fact: The Caribbean Basin represents the largest international business for many exporters. Surprised ? 80 million consumers live on Caribbean Islands plus Central America. In many categories, these small countries lack the local manufacturing to provide the depth of product assortment that their consumers require. Proximity to the Southern USA has created strong trading relationships between local distributors and leading cpg manufacturers.

Key Business Drivers
Consumer awareness of USA/European brands is high through tourism and cable television. Wal*Mart is dominant in Puerto Rico plus core Central American countries of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Suppliers extend their relationships with Wal*Mart to the region. English language packages are accepted for sale in most countries, requiring little added complexity for manufacturers. Most middle/upper income consumers have visited the USA and are familiar with our brands. Tourists from USA/Canada/Europe are important contributors to the Foodservice sector.

Best Prospects
Puerto Rico represents the largest market. Familiar retailers such as Wal*Mart, Sam’s, Costco, & Walgreens serve as natural customers for USA brands. Panama & Costa Rica offer sophisticated retail environments and serve as important tourist and retirement destinations. Puerto Rico is suffering, as young people leave the island for better opportunities in the mainland USA. Dominican Republic, Trinidad, & Jamaica are the largest Caribbean markets after Puerto Rico. Guatemala’s 15 million population creates a worthwhile market. British brands enjoy strong acceptance in Jamaica, Bermuda, & Barbados. French brands do well in Martinique and Guadeloupe. Spanish products enjoy good sales in Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic.

Preferred Organizational Model:
Strong distributors exist in each country. These distributors are familiar with all requirements for the import and commercialization of branded products. The Export Solutions distributor database contains 354 distributors for 16 Caribbean Basin countries, an average of 22 per country. Click here to aAccess the distributor database. Direct sales to leading supermarket chains are a possibility. However, problems emerge as you have no merchandising representation at store level and out of stock situations created by an uneven supply chain.

Seasonality:
December-April represent the key months for consumption, particularly in the Islands. This means that inventory must be in place by September-October to capitalize on the peak selling season. June-August are slow months. Central American countries do not experience seasonal shifts except the normal Christmas surge in business.

Pricing Sensitivity:
Pricing strategy represents the largest challenge. Manufacturers seek to recoup the cost of freight to the region, resulting in higher prices versus the mainland USA. Caribbean retailers often compare local prices to prices available from USA wholesalers and "cherry pick" to obtain the lowest cost of goods. This frustrates local distributors who lose sales. On the other hand, manufacturers are reluctant to reduce their margins to the Caribbean to match mainland USA prices. Export Solutions has helped many manufacturers deal with this issue.

Export Solutions Can Help!
We maintain excellent contacts with distributors throughout the Caribbean Basin. Contact us to learn how we can help build your business in 16 Caribbean Basin countries or Mexico or anywhere in Latin America. We speak Spanish and can help you navigate the Caribbean !