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Suitcase Importing

Updated on July 25, 2011

Otavalan Marketer

The Markets of Ecuador

The craft markets in Ecuador are huge fun - dozens of vendors offering all sizes of beautiful tapestries for wall and floor; huge stacks of hand and machine knitted sweaters, all 'alpaca'; soft cotton shawls of all colours; tables full of silver handcrafted jewellry; colourful tagua necklaces and bracelets, unique art and carvings, and on.... and on....

Bargaining is mandatory. If you don't offer at least 20% less than the quoted price, you're going to be sorry. Besides, it's fun! I've found that everyone is willing to bargain, and you will never feel pressured to buy. But you will buy!

Now, what does that all have to do with 'Suitcase Importing'? Well, it's amazing how far your dollar goes. A dozen tagua bracelets will cost you anywhere from $15 to $25, depending on your aforementioned bargaining skills. Soft, lovely cotton shawls can be had for $1 to $2 each. You can fit a lot of those into a suitcase. People at home love them, and are willing to pay you up to ten times your investment. I've sold over 100!

One friend I've met in Ecuador says that people who see her wearing her ponchos want to buy them right off her back! They will cost you less than $8 in Otavalo. Sweaters like the one shown are priced between $10 and $15. Discounts for quantity are always negotiable.

And when you visit Otavalo, make sure you go into the streets off the Plaza de los Ponchos. That's where the wholesalers are located. There you'll find shops with stack after stack of hand knitted sweaters, heaps of ponchos, shelves and racks of embroidered cotton clothing, beautiful leather goods and silver or tagua jewellry.

In Cotacachi's shops, you can find quality leather purses for as little as $15. If you've been shopping back home, you know that a quality leather purse can run you anywhere from $60 to $300. Do you see an opportunity here? I won't even mention the leather coats, the quality saddles, the horsehair woven belts....

Look for opportunities. Do some market research before you leave home. Find your passion, something you know. It may be saddles, it may be sweaters, or wood carving. Then visit the markets of Ecuador, and fill your suitcases with the quality products there. Bring them back home, and I'll bet you have no problem making some money... for your next trip.

For more of my articles about Ecuador experiences, visit my blog, EcuadorExplorer.

Lovely handknitted sweaters


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    • Nolimits Nana profile image

      Nicolette Goff 7 years ago from British Columbia

      Being Canadian, I'm not sure of the US regulations and limits. I know here we are allowed $800 if out of the country for over a week. Once you go beyond that, you'll have to pay duty. I have never paid duty.

      Others I know(American friends) who buy over their $limit allowed have it shipped by courier from Otavalo.

      You'd be wise to check your own country's regulations on this.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      That would be my question too - getting your portable store past U.S. Customs. Is there a limit dollar-wise? Do you have to have receipts? Do you have to pay duty on the items? Other than that, sounds like a great way to recoup part (all?) of the expenses of a trip!

    • profile image

      Kimberly 7 years ago

      Okay, but what are the regulations for USA customs for suitcase importing? How much can you bring in? Where is the information on actually importing?