If you’ve spent much time in Gazelle, you have probably noticed these two buttons in the myriad of filtering options available to you. Maybe you’ve tried to use them, and have wondered what purpose they serve, what does that mean, how we created them, or why they are on the platform at all?
If so, you have come to the right place to get answers to that and more. If not, then today is a great day to learn about another feature in Gazelle we hope you can use to make your job easier.
What Are The Filters And How To Use Them?
The technical definition of importing and exporting is increasingly complex in the digital age. For example, a software company that sells a single license to a foreign user is technically an exporter, even if no one from their team ever travels abroad, and no goods were ever shipped through customs. And that individual who purchased the software or mobile game is technically an importer. Likewise, a tourist purchasing coffee at the local cafe during their vacation abroad is an importer, and the local mom and pop store is an exporter. The simplest technical definition would be a citizen/corporation exchanging currency for goods/services from another citizen/corporation from a different country. The one giving the currency and receiving the good/service is the importer; the one receiving the currency and providing the good/service is the exporter.
In some economic development, foreign tourism is a major sector of the economy, and these local goods/service providers (whose goods may never actually travel across international borders) are significant economic drivers for employment and prosperity. For most locations, however, the largest economic drivers are companies who actually send/bring goods across international borders. These are the classic exporters and importers, requiring foreign currency exchange, freight forwarding and logistics, export compliance, and the whole nine yards. Most are B2B, supplying equipment or parts to other manufacturers or distributors, but some are B2C, selling directly to consumers, like Apple selling phones or Nike selling shoes and apparel.
This second category is our primary focus for these buttons. The exporters and importers you find in Gazelle will primarily be those companies moving goods across international borders, or major software/service providers that have a truly global footprint (as opposed to a one-off foreign sale).
How Are They Sourced?
We source and tag companies as importers/exporters in a few different ways. The most important considerations on our part are accuracy and recency - we prefer to get recent, known exporters/importers, even if it lowers our overall volume. We generally use four kinds of sources for this information:
1. Standard data providers - Some of our data partners have export/import tags in the data we receive from them. When we clean and include the data into our platform, these tags are kept.
2. Government databases - One of our favorite sources is when a national, regional, or local government will compile a list of companies involved in exporting or importing.
3. Industry source - oftentimes, there are industry associations who have an interest in helping members connect with other reputable companies around the world, so they will compile industry-specific lists of exporters or importers, which are generally kept up to date annually.
4. 3rd party sources - Most of these sources are based on government records, and some are databases with a direct mandate from a national or regional government to produce such a directory. One great example would be Import Genius, which use port shipment records to discover who is bringing goods into a country from foreign locations. We have partnered with them to create lists such as “Largest US Importers by Sea Container Volume.”
What Are The Limitations?
This feature is not exhaustive. Not every exporter or importer is on the platform, and there are even importers and exporters on the platform that aren’t tagged. If a company isn’t tagged as an importer or exporter, it doesn’t mean they aren’t involved in global trade. It only means that we haven’t been able to positively confirm them as such, from one of our sources listed above. Our data sources are constantly growing in volume and accuracy, so be on the lookout for new exporters and importers on a regular basis.
History Of The Importer/Exporter Filter
The Importer/Exporter buttons originated with the data fields from our standard data providers, but, for some time, that was the extent of their usefulness. As we begin to serve more and more trade clients, we have big plans for this feature.
At the beginning of 2021, there were about 12000 exporters (8000 in the US) and 10000 importers (7000 in the US). This is what we had passively received from data partners. As we have begun to work on trade features this year, we have nearly doubled the number of companies tagged. As of early September 2021, we have around 21000 exporters (13000 in the US); and 23,500 importers (17000 in the US).
Big plans: Our goal for this feature is to tag 100,000 companies as importers and 100,000 as exporters, and to have at least 70,000 of those importer & exporter profiles be outside of the US and Canada.
How Does This Relate To HQ/Subsidiaries/Branches
One of the questions people ask is how the exporter/importer buttons relate to Headquarters, subsidiaries, and branches. We match the exporter/importer tag to the individual locations, based on the shipment records, or directory profile. So, if you see a subsidiary tagged as an importer, that particular facility is involved in bringing goods into the country. For the sake of accurate data, we only tag the locations we can match directly. Any extrapolation to related HQs, subsidiaries, or branches is up to you, the user.
Some knowledgeable extrapolations can absolutely be made from the data, though. These are all based on common sense and industry knowledge. Here are a few examples.
Example 1: Let’s say you have found a manufacturing company with several locations around the US. One of the subsidiaries has been tagged as an importer, and a different one has been tagged as an exporter, but the HQ and the rest of the subsidiaries have no tag on them. If we check the HQ facility and it’s also a manufacturing location (not just a holding company), we can assume fairly confidently that this location (as the HQ) is also involved in international trade, in some way shape or form.
Another extrapolation could be the decision-makers. If the subsidiaries are manufacturing locations, and not separate companies that have been purchased for vertical/horizontal integration, then it’s likely that the major decision-makers for supply chain, new facility growth, etc are likely based out of this HQ office.
Example 1b: However, say that you look at the profiles of the subsidiaries and the HQ, and it looks more like these were independent businesses acquired for competitive advantage, it’s equally likely that decision-makers will be located each of the “HQ” of the independent business units. So, even though these locations are counted as subsidiaries since they are wholly-owned business units, they really do operate fairly independently. In this case, the parent manufacturing company may or may not be involved in imports/exports, but we could treat each business unit as independently as they operate.
Example 1c: One more chance to our example. Imagine if you looked at the HQ and found out it was a holding company. An educated guess would tell you that supply chain and trade decisions probably take place at the subsidiary level, and not at the investment portfolio level. In this scenario, the investment company (if they are only a business buying/selling entity) is likely, not involved heavily in trade, and focusing on the known exporters/importers is your best route forward.
Example 2: Let’s switch it up and assume that we have an HQ that is tagged as an importer/exporter, but none of the subsidiaries or branches are. Again, the type of company and relationship between HQ and subsidiary is crucial. For example, a giant company like Walmart, Amazon or McDonalds will have HQ (and regional HQ) that are definitely importing/exporting; but any local branch that appears in the platform, or even a regional distribution/fulfillment facility, is not likely to have the decision making authority for economic development or trade partnership. In this scenario, we can be nearly certain that the individual locations are not exporting/importing (and if they are, it is not insignificant amounts).
Example 2b: If we change the scenario to a different HQ/Subsidiary/Branch relationship, the resulting conclusion can be different and lead to different actions you should take.
All of this exampling to say this: we aren’t going to extrapolate data and guess who is exporting. This tag will always be known as exporters/importers from one or another of our sources. Our hope is that giving you this solid foundation is the first step towards exciting analysis that yields great connections, conversations, and progress for you. With that in mind, here are some ideas for how you can use the exporter/importer tag.
How To Use These Filters In A Search
1. Help local companies connect to new foreign suppliers/buyers
2. If you have large importers in your region, you might be able to work with them to bring a new facility from their major supplier(s) into your region
3. Know who are your local exporters and help them grow sustainably
4. Attract foreign exporters who export significantly into your country, but don’t have any presence/facility yet