Well, the first month of the year is over and it’s been a great start to 2021 for my Amazon FBA business, with the December to January drop off being a lot less than I had expected.
That could be the result of more lockdown-induced spending but either way, I’m not complaining and it’s a great start to my 2021 targets. Amazon FBA continues to be a profitable, growing and scaleable way to generate profits as an online entrepreneur. Yes, some aspects of the ever-increasing Amazon FBA competition create new challenges, but for those of us who know how to research profitable products and sell them on Amazon the right way, Amazon FBA is still a gold mine.
I would love to hear how everyone else’s Amazon FBA sales have been for January, and I’ll also have a full update blog post out soon!
Time to start thinking about Self-Assessment?
January 31st is usually the yearly self-assessment deadline for sole traders in the UK but good news for all of those people who left it until the last minute – and judging from my emails there were a LOT this year – as the government have extended the deadline to the end of February. It’s definitely nice to see the government helping us ecommerce entrepreneurs out a bit.
Just to be clear as there always seems to be a lot of confusion over what constitutes a full year: this self assessment is for the tax year running from 6th April 2019 – 5th April 2020, and not the calendar year, and you MUST complete a self assessment even if you’re employed and your Amazon FBA business is a second income.
For tax purposes, your income from both your job and Amazon FBA or other ecommerce business are counted as one and taxed accordingly.
So if you’re self-employed / acting as a sole trader, or part of a business partnership, you have to file a self assessment if you sold over £1,000. And yes that’s SOLD, as in revenue not profit, as HMRC’s wording of “earned” is open to interpretation.
You will also need to include any other untaxed income in your self assessment, which includes:
Money from renting out a property
Tips and commission
Income from savings, investments and dividends
Long story short, if you’re making money, the government wants their share of it!
Going back to this year’s extension, here’s a full list of the self assessment deadlines:
Overview of 2021 Self-Assessment Deadlines for Amazon FBA Sellers
As you can see, filing your self assessment after January 31st would usually land you with a penalty, which is £100 if your tax return is up to 3 months late plus interest on the full late payment amount. There are additional charges if it’s more than 3 months late or if you don’t actually pay your owed tax on time. Do you really want your Amazon FBA profit margins eaten away needlessly? Please don’t procrastinate. Don’t hand over your hard earned ecommerce gains to the government unnecessarily. File on time!
For most people the above deadlines will apply, but they can differ slightly depending on your personal circumstances so if in doubt, it’s always best to call HMRC and speak to them directly on 0300 200 3310 or use the live chat service: HMRC Self Assessment Web Chat
When would the deadlines change?
Here are some of the cases where there’ll be a different deadline:
Submit your online return by 30 December if you want HMRC to automatically collect tax you owe from your wages and pension. You must be eligible.
HMRC must receive a paper tax return by 31 January if you’re a trustee of a registered pension scheme or a non-resident company. You cannot send a return online.
HMRC might also email or write to you giving you a different deadline
What about Partnership returns if you have a company as a partner?
If your partnership’s accounting date is between 1 February and 5 April and one of your partners is a limited company, the deadline for:
Online returns is 12 months from the accounting date.
Paper returns is 9 months from the accounting date.
How to complete the SA100
You basically have two options – you can either do it yourself or appoint someone (an accountant) to complete it on your behalf.
Which option you go for depends entirely on you. There are plenty of good local accountants who will take care of sole trader accounts and paperwork and file your return for a fairly small monthly fee but at the same time the form itself is incredibly easy and straightforward to complete. There’s loads of help available if you do need it and HMRC provide accompanying notes and help sheets for each section to help clear anything up.
Personally I suggest doing it yourself at least once as if anything it’s worthwhile to know how it’s done. As an Amazon FBA seller, I don’t want you spending a lot of time on tax returns but getting involved in the details at least once will serve you well.
If however you decide that a few hundred pounds is worth it to save yourself the time, which you can then spend on researching other new Amazon FBA products, I won’t fault you for it. As I’ve always said in business time is money and the smartest online entrepreneurs know when it’s worthwhile to outsource something.
If you do decide to go down this route you’ll have to authorise your accountant to deal with HMRC on your behalf but that’s a very simple process and they’ll be able to walk you through it.
Remember that this all applies to you being a sole trader, if you have a Ltd. company that’s a whole different scenario and in that case you 100% need to hire someone to take care of this for you.
There are more filing requirements and the rules are more complex so a good accountant will actually save you money, especially when it comes to claiming expenses which is an area a lot of businesses miss out on big time.
I’m planning a few great guides for Ltd. businesses on this exact topic – to help you maximise your FBA profit. After all nobody wants to pay more tax than needed!
As if COVID-19 hadn’t caused enough shipping problems for Amazon FBA sellers importing from China, we now have to deal with the Brexit disaster and even some snowstorms to top it all off!
Any Amazon FBA seller who imports from China knows that 2020 saw some HUGE increases in shipping rates, with costs increasing by up to ten times. Typically, shipping a 40ft container would’ve cost between $1,500-$2,000 but we’re now seeing ocean freight rates of $10,000-$15,000 for the same 40ft container.
And that’s not all, my fellow Amazon FBAers! Consider you pay import VAT on the total amount of the goods you’re importing, including shipping, so the government adds insult to injury with your higher VAT bill, too.
It goes without saying that this has had a huge effect on margins and profitability and for many Amazon FBA sellers has meant having to increase their prices. The only saving grace is that this shipping nightmare affects everyone importing from China: not just you, but your competitors, too.
What’s causing these increases in shipping costs for Amazon FBA?
These increases were initially caused by carriers reducing capacity in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic last year by introducing “blank sailings”, which basically means a cancelled sailing. This can be the entire sailing being cancelled or the removal of certain ports on the route.
The outcome is that a lot of importers had their goods stranded and they had to find another free vessel with space so they could ship their products. And with this happening on a large scale, coupled with increasing ecommerce and Amazon FBA sales, demand for shipping containers skyrocketed globally and there simply wasn’t enough empty containers in China to meet this demand.
And as we all know, increased demand and decreased supply only means one thing – higher prices!
The issue worsened and worsened, reaching its worst point in Q4 last year when there were severe congestion problems at some of the major port hubs in Asia, which then spread to Europe and the UK, in particular Felixstowe port, which all saw severe delays.
I saw first hand the effect this had on businesses here with some Amazon Sharks members having their products stuck both at port and then again at Amazon FBA fulfilment centres as the delays caused a huge bottleneck. Despite all this they managed to hit their biggest Q4 sales ever, so just imagine what it would’ve been without the shipping problems!
Now I know what some of you may be thinking – “if there’s such high demand why not just produce more shipping containers?” Simple right?
Well sadly, no – it doesn’t work like that. For a variety of reasons, covid of course being no.1, container production in 2020 was actually down compared to 2019 (H1 2020 container production was 40% less than H1 2019). This decrease in production coupled with the sudden increase in demand has led to a significant drop in global container availability.
And this is really the problem at the moment – there’s simply not enough containers, along with congestion and delays caused by COVID-19 which is causing a number of further issues, including:
Delays in the return of containers to China.
Lower productivity at ports and terminals.
Take Felixstowe port, for example, which was hit particularly bad in the busy Christmas season last year. They’re currently moving 22-23 containers per hour, down from the usual 28-30.
That might not seem like a huge difference but these bottlenecks add up and cause more delays, exacerbating the problem further and further. And with the big 3rd wave of COVID-19, it’s really not a surprise – there were 250 staff off from covid at Felixstowe at one point, though this is now down to 130.
I’ve seen a few people online suggesting this and in theory it makes sense. After all nearly all factories are closed for most of February so there’s no production and no new shipments, which will allow the backlog to be cleared…
Won’t Chinese New Year clear the backlog and get everything back to normal for your Amazon FBA business?
Well, sadly, no. While there will be a drop in shipping volumes for a short while, March will see another big increase as all the delayed orders are shipped out. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if anything I expect the problems to worsen after Chinese New Year.
What about shipping using other methods? Or ordering from suppliers in another country?
I’ve had a lot of people messaging me asking these questions and the short answer is it won’t really help.
While, yes, the problem is being caused by sea freight, this has spread and affected both air freight and even rail shipping from China. And it makes sense, because those who can switch to air freight have done so, thereby increasing demand and affecting pricing and services.
I would still suggest speaking to your freight forwarder about this option, because it could be the case that while sea freight costs for you have doubled, air freight is only 50% higher… so it might still be worthwhile switching.
Then in terms of ordering from other countries, by now this is a global issue with nearly all ports and hubs being affected, so that’s not really an option to save on shipping.
So that’s it? Are we stuck paying $15,000 for a 40ft container?
Well, no, and thankfully I can finally give some good news.
Speaking to Andy Ball, the Director of Trade for Asia for Woodland Global and he told me that the general feeling moving into 2021 is that “carriers operating ocean freight services have learned some harsh lessons since the outbreak of COVID 19 and in the main, the best lesson they have learned is that it’s no longer a race to the bottom in terms of rates. They are managing their utilisation much better and are limiting the amount of business they want to take on of lower rated contracts thus forcing the considerable surplus freight to move on higher rated spot contracts, meaning they don’t necessarily have to have their vessels full to make profit.
The general feeling is that rates will come down at some point this year as the current levels simply cannot be sustained but they will not return to the levels that have previously been enjoyed with the general consensus being that 40ft/HC rates settling around USD 5000-6000 mark but again there is no timeframe as to when this will happen and it’s only a feeling being shared amongst forwarders.”
So there you have it. If nothing further goes wrong, rates should start to settle and while we won’t enjoy the same prices as before, we also won’t have to pay the current exorbitant fees.
What should Amazon FBA sellers do?
I’ve spoken in depth to a number of Amazon Sharks members to try and help them navigate through this and my answer is really that it depends on your induvial business and there’s no one blanket suggestion that will apply to everyone.
This is the plan of action I would suggest:
Speak to your supplier / freight forwarder about alternate shipping options and see what they say. Compare air freight and sea freight quotes and see what makes sense for your business. You will always pay more for air freight, but it does offer a number of benefits to Amazon FBA sellers, such as much faster shipping times (especially important now when sales are up) and decreased storage costs as you don’t have to hold as much stock, either yourself or with Amazon.
Re-asses your margins and pricing.
Again, this is very specific to each individual business as it depends on how much your shipping costs have increased, your margins before and after, your competitors and whether they’ve increased their pricing etc.
But you have to make sure you know all these numbers! Please don’t be one of those sellers who blindly charge the same amount while their costs have increased, not even knowing their margins and net profit. Work it all out and then make the best decision for your business.
One final piece of advice is that now, more than ever, it’s so important that you work with a good freight forwarder. And my suggestion is Woodland Global.
I’ve recommended them countless times on this blog and to my Amazon Sharks members and I’ll continue to do so as their service is always fantastic. They’re sending out a lot of emails keeping us all up to date and you can also check their page here for more info: https://www.woodlandgroup.com/news/news/global-shipping-update/
Last but not least for today’s post, I do want to point out that it’s not all doom and gloom!
Yes COVID-19 has meant much higher shipping costs but it’s also meant much higher demand for ecommerce and Amazon FBA goods! Many of my students hit new sales records in November without spending a penny on PPC. That resulted in big jumps in NET PROFIT in one month, so the opportunities for Amazon FBA sellers really are bigger than ever.
I know that everyone is already in the Christmas mood, but I still wanted to get this update out to you and share my results on how my Amazon FBA business did in November.
Yes, this Christmas will be different, but I can still feel the Christmas spirit in the air, and I will still enjoy this holiday with my family in the best possible way.
And those with kids will know that they expect the “whole thing”, regardless of whether there’s a global pandemic happening or not. In fact, I don’t think kids worry about all this drama at all. They are so quick to adjust and simply look for enjoyment in the simple things. At least, that’s what my kids do.
I did all my Christmas shopping online this year. On Amazon. I spent no more than an hour ordering all of the gifts (well, not all) that my kids put in their letters to Santa. What’s interesting is that some of the items looked very promising from a business perspective, too! 🙂
Yes, the title of this post is rather dramatic, but there’s a reason for that: you really SHOULDN’T use Jungle Scout for your Amazon research.
At least not in the way that 99% of the self-proclaimed “Amazon experts” on YouTube recommend you do.
I really want to clear the air and show you exactly why you can’t blindly trust Jungle Scout numbers—or any other Amazon research software for that matter!
The main reason I wanted to write about this is that every week, I receive messages from people asking me “does this look like a good product?” Inevitably, they will have attached a Jungle Scout Chrome tool screenshot, often with the actual product names blurred out so all I can see are some numbers.
How can you possibly tell if a product has potential or not just by looking at the Jungle Scout numbers?
It’s time to resume our Questions & Answers blog post series! I really hate when so many good questions/topics get buried in the long comments threads, so starting from now, I will try to regularly publish the best questions and answers in a separate blog post.
Amazon has added yet another marketplace to its network: Sweden! This means that there are currently seven active marketplaces in Europe:
That’s seven opportunities to expand your business and reach more customers! Do not underestimate how important this Amazon expansion into other European countries is. Remember, there are 66 million people in the UK, but 741 million in Europe (including Russia).
I have been following eCommerce trends since the early 2000s. I have seen the growth of Amazon and eBay with my own eyes. It all started in the US, then it expanded to the UK, Canada and Australia (the main English-speaking countries), and then, slowly, it moved into other regions.
Every week, I receive emails from people asking me if this is a GOOD time to start selling on Amazon? Indeed, 2020 has been full of surprises. Apart from the worldwide pandemic, people in the UK have to deal with another new reality: BREXIT is actually happening on the 1st of January of 2021, and that will dramatically change the way Amazon FBA businesses will be run in the UK and EU.
But—and this is a big but—does it really matter?
Should you really stay away from Amazon until things clear up?
No, I don’t think you should, and here’s why:
1) Things are never perfect. This whole situation reminds me of an average person’s attempt at starting a diet. It’s always TOMORROW. There are always excuses for why you can’t start your diet or exercise today, but we all know that TODAY is the BEST day to make a change, no matter what.
I’m SO excited! 🙂 This is the feature I have been anticipating for more than two years now—and it has finally happened! Just a few days ago, on the 16th of November, Amazon announced that we can now upload and manage product videos on Amazon UK!
I already “tested” this feature two years ago, when I tried selling on Amazon US, but it has not been available for the UK or EU marketplaces until now. Well, it’s still not available for the EU marketplaces. From what I can see, only the UK platform is currently supported, but I’m hopeful that they will roll this out to all marketplaces next year.
Why am I so excited about this new feature? Because I believe that video will GREATLY help increase conversion rates and will generally help shoppers go through the buying process quicker and easier by SHOWING them the product in action and answering the most common questions in an engaging and visual way.
Phew, it seems like it just was yesterday when I wrote the September update post. Time flies by so fast! We’re now officially in Quarter 4, so let the FUN begin! And it has already started.
No, seriously, it’s so strange. Just like the previous year and the year before that, I’m seeing an INSTANT spike in sales starting from November 1st.
Halloween night is the cut-off point, and right after that, people start to shop for Christmas products online like crazy. I’ve already seen a 100% increase in my sales in the first week of November compared to October:
So, I can’t even tell you HOW EXCITED I am about November’s sales figures! It should be another record-breaking month, for sure, but we’ll talk more about that in the first week of December.
For now, let’s take a look at my October results. Also, a few months ago, I started publishing much longer monthly update posts. These included other updates, such as Amazon news and tips and tricks. Well, it turns out, for a number of reasons, this was not the best approach:
Let’s talk about the infamous Amazon ERROR 5665, what it is, how it works and how to fix it for good!
The ERROR 5665 started to show up on Amazon earlier this year when sellers tried to create a new listing for a product and enter a brand name that was not registered with Amazon’s Brand Registry.
Here’s the exact ERROR 5665 message that comes up on Amazon:
Amazon must approve your brand before you can use it to list products. Brands should be registered through Brand Registry, but if your brand is not eligible for Brand Registry, you can obtain an exception by contacting Seller Support and mentioning error code 5665.
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