The first step should always be market research. Is there a demand for your product? Are there similar products, already for sale? If so, what distinguishes your product from the others? Quality, pricing, and marketing are factors you can use. Are you allowed to market your product, what are the requirements? Read the KVK article on Market research to find out what to consider before you set out.
Know your business partners
If you are importing a product manufactured abroad, chances are you will be dealing with both the producer and an exporter. Do research on both, so that you know if your business partners are trustworthy and their businesses viable. Also, take into account Corporate Social Responsibility: avoid going into business with a company that engages in socially reprehensible practices, such as child labour or discrimination.
Looking for business partners
If you are looking for business partners in the Netherlands, attend network meetings set up by the sector organisation that is active in your sector, or by the Europe Enterprise Network (EEN) or other networking organisations.
For a list of sector organisations and their contact details, scroll down to Find your sector organisation on our Contact page.
Importing a product: taxes
If you import products from another EU country, you will probably need to declare and pay VAT in the Netherlands. See VAT on products from other EU countries. If you import products from a non-EU country, you will have to deal with Customs: you will have to lodge a customs declaration, pay import duties, and pay VAT, either at customs or via your VAT return (if you have an Article 23 declaration).
Importing a product: product requirements
If your product has already been introduced in another EU country, in principle there should be no reason why you should not be able to introduce it in the Netherlands. Under the EU agreement of Mutual recognition, you don’t have to apply for permission if your product is admissible in another EU country: it meets all relevant EU standards. If your product is from another EU country, and meets all the product requirements there, the same applies. Read the ChecklistImporting products from an EU country to find out what you need to do. If your product is from outside the EU and will be introduced on the EU market for the first time, it is a different matter. You will have to make sure your product meets all product requirements. For instance, have you thought of CE marking? Are labels and manuals available in the languages of the countries the product will be sold in? Read the checklist Importing from a non-EU country for all relevant information.
Do you use an agent or distributor?
You can market your products in the Netherlands yourself, or you can make use of the services of an agent or a distributor. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. A distributor is in effect a client you sell products to: they then arrange for the marketing, transport, and other considerations. They are also free to charge the price they want to set for your products. A distributor knows the market, and has access to a network of potential customers. This can be useful if you want to start selling your products quickly and with relatively little paperwork. An agent will act as an intermediary between you and potential customers. In return, they receive a fee. The end-users are your clients, and you deal directly with them. You set the price, and you stay in touch with the customer.
Which type of representative you choose, depends on how much of a presence you want to establish in the Netherlands, how much effort you want to put into the introduction of your product on the Dutch market, and the level of control you want to retain over pricing and distribution.
Introducing a new invention
Are you introducing a new invention onto the Dutch market? If the invention is your own, make sure to protect your Intellectual Property (IP) rights, for instance by taking out a patent. Use our checklist: protecting a product, service or innovation to find out what your options are. Once you have ensured that your product is protected, you need to decide whether you yourself are going to produce and market it, or if you license a third party to do so. This may make it easier for you to produce and sell your products, but it may also make you vulnerable: you are dependent on a third party to make and sell your product at the level of quality you want.
Read more about preparatory research for your innovation.