Exporting fashionable footwear to the United States or Canada can be a very profitable if you carefully plan ahead with the aid of a qualified footwear expert. Why is having access to a trusted footwear expert so important to succeeding in North America? Read on.

EU exporters to the U.S. market face tall regulatory walls. In the U.S. products are increasingly being required to conform to multiple technical regulations regarding consumer protection (including health, safety and sizing issues) and environmental protection (Lacey Act). In general, these trade barriers are not de jure discriminatory, but the complexity of U.S. regulatory systems can represent an important structural impediment to market access.

Tariffs levels on leather (3% or 5%) represent an important barrier for European exporters, considering that margins in the leather sector range from 1 to 5%, and European leather is the most expensive of all US leather imports. Tariffs for some footwear products are as high as 48% of the Free on Board (FOB) value.

Footwear is often divided among basic styles of footwear as follows: sandal, slipper, clog, slip on, open-toe / open-heel, pump, oxford, mule, moccasin, boot. In some countries in Europe, the weight of the shoe is important for classification purposes, while U.S. Customs may be more interested in whether the footwear covers the ankle or not.

Footwear can have a Goodyear or Blake welt construction, and since welt footwear typically pays a lower duty rate Customs applies a narrow interpretation of the criteria for "welt construction". Do you want the lower duty rate without Customs problems? If you are not sure whether your shoe qualifies as welt, talk to an expert before declaring it as "welt footwear" in your commercial invoice.

Some footwear is constructed on a wood base (so Lacey Act requirements may apply), which affects classification, duty rates, and regulatory declarations. Are you aware of the Customs classification differences in footwear defined as "constructed on a wood base"?

Do you have shoes with uppers of a base of textile having uppers with over 50% of leather accessories or reinforcements? If so, you could be overpaying duties, since there are several classification issues to consider.

Sports shoes and sports sandals need to be carefully evaluated for classification purposes. Have you informed yourself of the difference between "sports footwear" and "athletic footwear" from a Customs point of view?

Do you know which American male shoe sizes qualify a shoe as "footwear for men" and which American female shoe sizes qualify footwear as "footwear for women"? Do you understand how U.S. Customs treats "unisex" and junior footwear?

Having a firm grasp of the three criteria needed for a material to be considered part of the footwear ESAU is fundamental for proper footwear classification and duty payment.

McNeese Customs & Commerce can give you the expert footwear assistance you need for Customs and regulatory purposes.