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The secret way to get stuff from the US - from SMH

I tried to talk my brother who lives in California into running a business like this 3 years ago but he never got excited about it. These Aussies are doing $1mill per year with the same idea...

Since then I have been toying with the idea of a town consolidation model... ie pickup locations where larger multi-person shipments are shipped from the US to an address in a local town (ie Byron Bay) and people who wanted cheap shipping group together to get one consolidated package shipped...

For it to work the goods must be non deteriorating and the recipients must be happy to wait for the full order by weight to be completed before the shipment can go off... so a person wanting a pack of batteries must wait until 80 kg of other orders are made to have the goods shipped.. but that way they may be only paying 1-$5 per kg shipped.

From SMH:

MySmallBusiness is running a selection of readers' favourite stories from 2014 over summer. This is one of them.
What do a life-size collectable ET toy, a statue of Medusa, a toilet for a caravan and a plane fuselage have in common? Well, nothing, apart from that they are some of the unusual items that Australians have requested from the United States.
Australians want to purchase some items in the US because they can be up to 80 per cent cheaper.
Cheap American goods have proven a boon for Sarah Madigan and her partner, who started the company US to OZ three years ago.

A study by Deutsche Bank in 2013, when comparing Australian prices with US prices, shows we pay twice as much for a pair of Levis, up to 30 per cent more for an iPhone, more than 40 per cent extra for a packet of cigarettes, and cars and hotel rooms are often double the price.

Cheap American goods have proven a boon for Sarah Madigan and her partner, who started the company US to OZ three years ago.

"Essentially, we are a freight forwarder," Madigan says. "If a US retailer won't ship goods outside of the US, our customers utilise our US address for the delivery. We then reship direct to the customer in Australia for a small fee. We enjoy high-volume discounts with most of the carriers, keeping the shipping costs as low as possible for our customers. Over 12 months ago, we expanded our offering to include sea freight, which is an economical option for large and heavy items."

Of course, US to OZ is not the only freight delivery service and companies like Amazon have been delivering products to our door in Australia, albeit, very slowly, for some time. However, US to OZ differentiates itself through price.

"We try to provide a cheaper shipping option," Madigan says. "Amazon's international shipping rates can be quite expensive, and if you purchase multiple items, they may ship in multiple shipments. Our advantage is that often shipping is free within the US, and we can consolidate all of the customer's items into a single package, making the overall cost cheaper for the customer. Amazon is also prohibited from shipping many brands outside of the US.

"Recently, we shipped out 19 pairs of children's shoes for a customer in Sydney. We removed all of the individual packaging free of charge and her total shipping costs came in at $5.88 per pair. She posted on our Facebook page that she saved 'between $600 and $1000 on that shipment alone'. All of the shoes, except one pair, retail between $70.99 and $79.98 in Australia. She paid anything between $14.99 and $32 a pair."
Madigan's business grew through the frustration of wanting to mail items back to Australia after returning to the US in 2010.
She decided that she could make a business out of it and at the end of her third year, the business has turned over more than $1 million this financial year.
"Shortly after launching the business, I sent my husband off to Target in the middle of a snowstorm to collect a doll for a customer's young daughter who was about to celebrate a birthday," Madigan says. "He wasn't thrilled about making the drive in the dangerous conditions in over a foot of snow, but we didn't want the customer to miss out on the item that wasn't available for purchase online.
"I sent my customer a photo of my husband shovelling the snow off the driveway and she was so thrilled with the level of service she posted about it on a forum called OzBargain. That was back in February 2012, and we have received so much business from that glowing review and the subsequent others that people have posted on a variety of different sites."
With the Australian dollar falling, US to OZ may suffer as a result, but Madigan, who hails from Perth and had a career in finance winning awards for "banking salesperson of the year" with Macquarie Bank, is a step ahead of the game.
"After an increased amount of interest from non-Australian customers, we decided to set up a secondary business, Freight it Forward, to assist non-Australian customers," she says.
"Despite the new expansion, we remain 100 per cent committed to US to OZ and our Australian customers."
Madigan says it is a big advantage being an Australian-owned company, as Australians like to deal with their own.
They also like "good old-fashioned customer service", a lesson Australian retail shops should learn in a hurry if they want to remain viable.

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