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Knowing how to import goods to the UK could make all the difference to your business, offering you a competitive edge with more reliable products or less costly components. However, among newcomers to importation processes, questions such as, ‘How much import tax will I pay?’ often go unanswered. This can lead some people to avoid setting up an importation operation at all.  

That said, gaining the knowledge required for how to import successfully isn’t too demanding. In this guide, we’ll show you what you need to consider from the outset and then what to do once you’ve decided to begin importing.

How to Import: First Steps

Identify Where and How to Procure Goods From Overseas Suppliers

When embarking on importing goods or components from overseas, a pivotal decision is choosing the right suppliers. This often involves weighing the pros and cons of sourcing from regions like the Far East, particularly China, against closer-to-home suppliers.

  1. Research Potential Markets: Focus on regions renowned for their manufacturing capabilities in your industry. Consider Asian nations, particularly China and India, known for a wide range of products and competitive pricing. European countries, on the other hand, are often associated with higher quality standards and shorter supply chains.
  2. Pros and Cons of Far East Suppliers:
    • Pros: Cost-effectiveness is a significant advantage, as labour and production costs tend to be lower. The Far East also offers a vast array of products and is capable of large-scale manufacturing.
    • Cons: Longer lead times due to the geographical distance, potential cultural and language barriers and sometimes lower adherence to quality standards and intellectual property protections.
  3. Pros and Cons of European Suppliers:
    • Pros: Typically, European suppliers offer higher quality standards and better adherence to environmental and labour regulations. Proximity to the UK reduces shipping times and costs and minimises cultural and language barriers.
    • Cons: Higher manufacturing costs and potentially higher product prices due to higher labour standards and production costs in Europe. Since Brexit, you also need to adhere to UK importation regulations from European countries, just as applies for the rest of the world.
  4. Find Reliable Suppliers: Whether choosing suppliers from the Far East or Europe, utilise trade fairs, B2B marketplaces and industry directories to find reputable businesses. Assess each supplier’s production capacity, quality control processes and market reputation.
  5. Legal and Compliance Requirements: Each region has its own set of export regulations and product standards. Ensure compliance with both the supplier country’s export laws and UK import regulations.
  6. Build Relationships and Negotiate Terms: Regardless of the region, establishing strong relationships and clear contractual terms is crucial for a successful partnership. This includes negotiation on payment, delivery schedules and order quantities.

Understanding the distinct advantages and challenges of different regions is essential in making an informed decision on where to source your products. This decision should, of course, be in accordance with your business objectives, budgetary constraints and quality requirements.

We are friendly, easy to work with, honest and we do not charge the earth.

At Barrington Freight, we specialise in making your importing and exporting straightforward. From customs clearance to finding the right commodity codes, our expert team is here to assist. Don’t let the complexities of global trade hold you back. Reach out to Barrington Freight for efficient and reliable shipping solutions.

Gauge the Demand in the UK so You Don’t Overspend or Over-Invest

Understanding and gauging the UK market demand for each class of imported goods is critical to avoid overspending or over-investing. After all, buying too little could mean you miss a commercial opportunity while placing an excessively large order could mean overfilling your warehouse for a long time until stocks are reduced. To avoid such problems, heed the following tips on how to import in the right quantities.

  1. Market Research: Conduct thorough market research to understand the demand for your products. Look into industry reports, consumer trends and competitor analysis. This research will help you gauge the size of your potential market and customer preferences.
  2. Target Audience: Identify and understand your target audience. Knowing who your customers are, their buying habits and what they value in a product will help in aligning your offerings with their expectations.
  3. Test the Market: Before committing to large orders, consider testing the market with smaller quantities. This approach allows you to gauge consumer response and make adjustments to your product or strategy as needed.
  4. Monitor Competitors: Keep an eye on your competitors. Understanding their strategies, pricing and marketing can offer valuable insights and help you position your product effectively in the market.
  5. Stay Flexible: Be prepared to adapt your strategy based on market response. This may involve adjusting your product range, pricing or marketing tactics to better align with customer demand.

Consider All the Financial Implications

Knowing how to import goods to the UK effectively also involves various financial factors. Each must be thoroughly considered to ensure the profitability and sustainability of your business.

  1. Shipping Costs: The cost of transporting goods from the supplier to the UK can impact your bottom line. Beyond comparing carriers, consider leveraging an industry expert like Barrington Freight. 

We analyse your needs, negotiate competitive rates, and handle all the paperwork and customs complexities, ensuring your goods arrive smoothly and efficiently. Save time, money, and stress – let Barrington Freight be your import partner. Contact us today!

  • Administrative Factors: Be aware of the administrative costs involved in importing, such as customs brokerage fees, insurance and costs related to compliance with UK regulations.
  • Duties and Import Taxes: Understand the duties and taxes applicable to your goods when entering the UK. This includes tariffs based on the product type and country of origin. 

Calculate import taxes and HMRC dues for any item with our free UK Import Duty Calculator.

  1. Onward Transit Costs: Consider the costs of transporting the goods from the port of entry to your storage facility. This might include inland transportation as well as storage fees unless you have your own stockroom capacity.
  2. Exchange Rate Fluctuations: Be mindful of exchange rate fluctuations, as they can affect the cost of your imports. Consider financial tools like forward contracts to mitigate these risks.
  3. Cash Flow Management: Proper cash flow management is often critical. Ensure you have sufficient working capital to cover the upfront costs of importing before revenue is generated from sales.

By carefully considering these financial aspects, you can develop a robust strategy for importing goods and components into the UK, positioning your business for success in the competitive British marketplace.

How to Import: Getting Going

Understand EORI and Who Needs to Apply for One With HMRC

An Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is a mandatory requirement for businesses engaged in importing goods into the UK. This unique identifier, issued by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), is essential for tracking and recording customs activities.

  1. Who Needs an EORI Number: It is imperative for both sole traders and limited liability companies to apply for an EORI number if they plan to engage in importing goods into the UK. Without this number, the customs process cannot be completed, leading to potential delays or seizure of goods. Barrington Freight can assist you with obtaining one.
  2. Application Process: The EORI number application is accessible online. The process involves providing details about the business, including its structure and nature of trade. Usually, the EORI number is issued within a few days when handled by a company that knows how to import.
  3. Role of Freight Forwarders: For newcomers in the import business, professional freight forwarders can be indispensable. They can assist in understanding not only the EORI process but other aspects of HMRC-related importation paperwork, too. Note that our expertise can simplify the complexities of customs procedures for new importers considerably.

Importation Implications for Sole Traders Versus Limited Liability Companies

Your business structure, whether a sole trader or a limited liability company, influences the importation process in various ways.

  1. Sole Traders: Sole traders, operating as individuals, are personally liable for any business debts and legal responsibilities. This includes liabilities arising from import activities. The administrative process for sole traders can be more straightforward under certain circumstances, but the financial risk is higher.
  2. Limited Liability Companies: Such businesses benefit from limited liability, protecting personal assets from business debts. However, they typically encounter more stringent regulatory and reporting demands, including detailed record-keeping for import transactions.

At Barrington Freight, we offer guidance on regulatory compliance and help in preparing the necessary documentation. We also advise on the best practices in how to import goods to the UK without delays or unexpected fees that might otherwise come up when goods have arrived in the country but have yet to clear customs inspections.

Logistical Matters: How to Import Cost-Effectively Without Undue Delays

Effective logistics management is crucial for the timely and cost-efficient importation of goods. Understanding and utilising the right shipping methods and customs processes is key.

  1. Palletised Services from Europe:  For importing from Europe, the pallet service via road freight is your choice. The delivery timeframe will depend on the selected service and the originating country within Europe. Choices available include standard groupage, express part load and the quickest option being a dedicated courier van.
  2. Full and Part-Load Shipping Containers from Global Suppliers: For bulk imports, using full-load (FCL) shipping containers is economical for large shipments. For smaller quantities, part-load (LCL) shipments allow importers to share container space, reducing costs. These options, however, typically produce longer transit times compared to road haulage from Europe.
  3. Customs Clearances: Handling customs clearance is a complex and crucial part of importing. It involves preparing and submitting documents required to facilitate export and import, calculating and paying duties and taxes and ensuring compliance with all regulations. Any errors or omissions in this process can lead to delays and additional costs. 
  4. Onward Transit Arrangements in the UK: After the goods have cleared customs, arranging efficient onward transit is vital. This involves selecting the appropriate domestic transportation methods and handling any further logistical requirements to get the goods to their final destination. Again, this is something we have extensive expertise in which, in effect, means being able to turn to us for a door-to-door service no matter where in the world you’re buying goods from and where in the UK you’re located.

In each of these stages, the role of a professional freight forwarding company cannot be overestimated, especially if you’re running a business that is still learning how to import goods to the UK. Feel free to contact our operations team to learn more.

Learn more about us

We’re friendly, easy to work with, honest and we don’t charge the earth.

For advice and information on importing, call 01268 525444 or email us today.

Needed Help getting an odd piece of machinery from the EU and got all the help I needed.
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The team at Barrington where incredible at delivering our goods on-time despite the new Brexit regulations on goods being imported. We even didn't pay tax on the returning shipment coming back to German.
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Working with Barrington was brilliant. They really looked out for us, tackling our tough shipping/freight requirements keeping us informed at every stage of the process. Thank you
kept up to date with all progress, i know they had a particularly troubling time with import customs messing up paperwork but sorted all that out for me. highly reccomend will use again
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Barrington Freight Ltd,
Bowden House,
Luckyn Lane, Basildon,
Essex SS14 3AX