A Complete Guide to EU Exports for Amazon FBA Sellers. Keep the Brexit Nightmare at Bay!
Well exactly as many of us feared, Brexit has caused a lot of problems for us UK-based FBA sellers and the horror stories have been pouring in all year…
Multiple fines, shipments delayed, and even sent back completely – I’ve heard it all in the last few months.
It’s safe to say it’s been a real nightmare for Amazon sellers in particular, with couriers being completely confused themselves and giving out wrong information. (Even UPS and Amazon stopped their partnered carrier option for shipments to the EU).
Well to help put a stop to this Brexit madness for Amazon FBA sellers, I’ve put together a complete guide to exporting to the EU post-Brexit.
Let’s get straight to it!
Exporting to EU: An FBA Refresher
First things first – there are 4 main “terms” when exporting goods to the EU and which one you use will have a big effect on the shipping process. They are:
DDU (Delivered Duty Unpaid) Terms
You’re sending the shipment to the buyer’s door, and they will be responsible for any import duty/taxes.
DAP (Delivered At Place) Terms
You’re sending the shipment to a named place but again, the buyer is responsible for any import duty/taxes.
EXW (Ex Works) Terms
You’re leaving the entire shipping and customs process up to the buyer. You simply make the order available for collection and they take care of the rest. Obviously, this would only be feasible and applicable for B2B sales.
DDP (Delivered Duty Paid) Terms
You’re completely responsible for the shipment and customs clearance process at its destination, including all import duty and taxes.
DDP Terms are the hardest to comply with as they carry the most requirements but unfortunately, when you’re shipping to Amazon FBA centers it is always DDP. This is because you’re acting as the importer when you ship goods to Amazon.
Amazon is very clear about this, stating:
“It is important to note that Amazon, including the fulfilment centres, will not serve as the importer of record for any delivery of FBA inventory. Any FBA inventory delivery attempting to make entry with Amazon as the IOR will be refused and returned at the deliverer’s expense – no exceptions.”
But amazingly a lot of people still get this wrong, including some courier companies who have told Amazon Sharks members that Amazon is the importer!
It really is black and white. There shouldn’t be any confusion here. Shipments to Amazon FBA centers have to be sent DDP, so that’s what we’re going to focus on in today’s guide.
UK Sellers Shipping to the EU: What do I need to do?
So what exactly do you need to send shipments into the EU as an Amazon seller?
You need a representative in the EU to act as your Importer of Record – i.e. the business that you’re sending the goods to / transferring the stock to. And this Importer of Record cannot be your same UK business – you can’t send the stock to “yourself” in this way. It has to be either a separate EU business which you’ve set up and registered or a fiscal representative acting on your behalf.
A fiscal representative is a type of VAT agent for foreign businesses with VAT registration in the EU. They become responsible for the VAT calculations and reporting of their client (i.e. you) and are the designated point of contact for local customs in case of any issues, questions, or even audits.
For the vast majority of people, hiring a fiscal representative is the easier and more cost effective option, vs setting up a designated separate EU entity, and there are a number of companies that will provide this service.
• VAT numbers
• Commercial Invoice (for customs clearance)
The invoice needs to be completed by your UK business, showing your UK EORI against your registered address, and invoiced to your EU business or fiscal representative, showing your EU EORI and VAT number.
Your freight forwarder will use this commercial invoice for both the export declaration and import declaration at the destination country, and it will also be used to calculate applicable import duty and taxes.
If shipping multiple SKUs then the invoice must show the full HS Commodity codes with the value of each individual product, and then the total value as well. And it also needs to show the country of origin for all products.
This is important because if your goods are manufactured in the UK or Europe then there’ll be no import duty to pay. However, for the vast majority of Amazon FBA sellers, this won’t be the case and your products will be manufactured in China, other Asian countries, the US, etc.
VAT is of course payable regardless of the country of manufacture.
So there you have it! The 5 requirements to export your goods to the EU post-Brexit.
Now before somebody points out that you don’t need to be VAT registered to export your goods, that is technically true. But practically speaking that won’t work out as it’ll mean paying VAT on the original shipment into the UK and then paying it AGAIN as you import into the EU, so 40% in VAT… Not efficient to say the least!
Plus you will need to be VAT registered to store your stock in Amazon’s EU FBA centers anyway.
How does this all differ if you’re sending straight to your end customers in the EU rather than to Amazon…from a Shopify store for example?
Well in that case we go back to the different shipping terms which we covered earlier on but long story short is that you’ll most likely be sending items DDU – Delivered Duty Unpaid, which essentially means that the customer is taking on the responsibility of the import, including the customs clearance and any import duty and taxes.
Which means you DON’T need an EU EORI, VAT number, EU entity, or fiscal representative.
Of course, they’re not going to be dealing with that themselves and the courier company will clear the shipment and then bill them for it (with their added fee of course).
So just make sure your customers are fully aware of this before they place any orders.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking, and this is something that a lot of people have emailed me – “it’s just not worth the hassle!”
And I completely understand that it seems needlessly difficult BUT it really isn’t. The process itself is actually fairly simple but a lack of knowledge and expertise is exacerbating every problem.
This brings me back to a point which I’ve been screaming about for years now. Get a good freight forwarder!
The role of a Freight Forwarder for Amazon FBA sellers
Seriously I can’t emphasize this enough. So many problems and headaches are taken away when you use a good freight forwarder who knows exactly what they’re doing.
Now I’ve been recommending Woodland Global for years on my blog and nothing has changed there but today I’m happy to include another recommendation for you, one of our Amazon Sharks FB Group members – Westbound Global.
Ryan Clark, the Co-Owner and Director, is often seen on the Amazon Sharks Facebook group offering helpful advice to fellow members and he actually contributed a ton of information to help me put this entire guide together.
His knowledge is really second to none and it’s no exaggeration when they claim a “personalised” logistics service as Westbound Global really does take the time to look at your individual business and guide you through the entire import/export process.
I look forward to testing them fully soon with a full order but for now I’m more than happy to give my recommendation to Ryan and the team at Westbound. As well as all the info and requirements we’ve covered so far, Ryan has also offered some further insider tips and advice to ensure everything goes smoothly:
We strongly advise to forward all paperwork to your forwarder to ask for a pre-check, including at destination customs partners to ensure no ad hoc problems arise whilst the goods are sitting there on a trailer in Calais incurring waiting time charges. Whilst it seems frustrating and ‘you just want to get the goods on their way’, don’t send them without getting everything approved. It could cost you thousands if not.
On your commercial invoices, detail as much info as possible to make it easy for the destination Customs Broker. If you send a long invoice with multiple HS codes, and multiple manufacturing origins, they will simply look at it and put it at the bottom of the pile or worse still, refuse to handle it. It’s like chucking an empty quality street jar of coins at your local Tesco checkout saying you’d like to pay for your £150 weekly shop. a. Sub categorize by: HS code + Country of Origin = Value. Then a new HS code + Country of Origin = Value. Then Sub Total each Origin batch to EU/UK and Non EU/UK. This will show the workings quickly and easily to the customs broker so they know what value to use for the Zero rated Trade deal products, and what value to use for the non-qualifying trade deal products.
Customs Problems – We mentioned above that you need a Fiscal Rep or EU Entity. The two options are different but do have a different approach to how the European Forwarder or Customs broker acts in regards to customs clearance.
This is very different to the UK so it’s important advice. In the UK, we clear on behalf of an entity or person no matter where they reside or are registered as a business and this is called Direct Representation. It’s the importers responsibility to declare correct values, HS codes and info.
In Europe, the customs brokers can be an easy target by the local Customs authorities ‘if’ any of the information provided by you is incorrect, even at a later date.
If you were an EU entity, they would seek corrections, fines or repayments directly from you. If you are a UK business or other non EU entity, they will seek the customs broker for representing you, which could lead to fines/costs to them.
This means customs brokers in the EU are refusing to perform customs clearances for UK businesses unless they are actually set up as an EU business/entity and having a Fiscal Representation does not give you a real entity for customs to approach. This is why many are having problems right now where brokers are, behind the scenes, refusing to clear goods due to this EU customs stance towards them. It is worth considering whether you should seek to set up an EU company rather than use a Fiscal Rep.
After Brexit, there are no more UK to EU pallet network operators due to severe customs problems. Imagine one customer not getting one part of the above correct, it would hold up the entire truckload.
Before Brexit, there were pallet operators (Pallex/Palletways/Palletline and many more) offering something like £170 per pallet to Europe. It’s unbelievable to understand that actually, in Europe they DO NOT have a pallet network at all. This was previously subsidized from the UK to Europe on backload trucks which cost (in the old days) not a lot. The real bulk of that cost (£170) was a prorated figure from the local destination depot to the door delivery place.
The costs now for getting stock to Europe is much more than £170 a pallet due to the lack of drivers willing to come here (because they are scared, that they will get stuck – Covid tests/isolation possibilities, and their own customs procedures heading back) and also, the EU have introduced a permit requirement for UK Truckers to enter Europe, but only issued an initial 2,500 of them. There were near 12,000+ trucks previously heading into Europe + Republic of Ireland truckers, who now cannot due to a lack of permits. This has all driven the price high along with problems being caused in customs.
The method we are using to ease congestion is to avoid Calais and Rotterdam clearances at port, but to Transit Bond the goods to a nearby partner depot and customs clearing there. As long as the paperwork is correct, this is relatively straightforward although it does add another £75 fee (approximately) for the T1 bond document. Distribution is then carried out from the local depot or, Amazon SPD in Europe actually offers collections for LTL and FTL unlike UK or USA. Here, it’s just UPS pick ups for cartons where SPD is used but in Europe, it’s actually a good idea to utilize SPD from our destination depots in a way which we are used to releasing UPS cartons.
I hope you now really understand why I stress using a good freight forwarder. Just look at what a difference it makes!
Will Brexit affect Amazon in the UK? I think it already has and will continue to. Check back for tips on Amazon: UK after Brexit thoughts and tips/
And that’s pretty much it for today’s guide. I hope you’ve found it useful and it will help avoid some of the problems people have been having. It’s been a tough time for shipping with COVID-19 and then Brexit but hopefully everything will slowly get back to normal this year.
Once again, a big thank you to Ryan and the team at Westbound Global. Keep an eye on their website for any upcoming shipping changes and news.
As always if you have any questions get in touch with me and I’ll personally get back to you.
I have something a little bit different and very exciting to share with you today! I’m very proud to release this interview with someone who took my online FBA course, Amazon Sharks, launched his product on Amazon late November last year, and achieved some phenomenal results.
I won’t yet reveal exactly how well they did, you’ll have to read the interview to find that out!
Without any further ado, let’s get to the interview.
Why take an Amazon FBA Course?
Hi Matt, firstly thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for our blog readers. Before we get into your Amazon journey – how did you first become interested in online selling?
I’ve always been really interested in the concept of owning my own business. At first, I merely wanted to test the waters (so-to-speak) and make a bit of money on the side selling on Ebay; I wasn’t bothered about making a full-time wage. Whilst I didn’t make much money, it did introduce me to the world of online selling and I think it gave me the motivation to be more ambitious and seek more lucrative opportunities online.
How did you find my blog & Amazon Sharks?
I was browsing the internet for information on how to improve any Ebay sales. I came across many of Andrew’s old blogs on Ebay selling and noticed that he had, more recently, moved over to selling on Amazon. All of his blogs were always very informative and full of great content, so I started following his blog more closely. I noticed his Amazon Sharks programme and thought it looked amazing value for what you get, and unlike other so-called Amazon gurus out there at the moment, Andrew has never promised that you are guaranteed to get rich quickly. Instead, it’s all about building a good and sustainable business where you are your own boss!
Why not simply “go it alone”?
I needed to develop my knowledge of how to sell on Amazon, source products from China and how to expand any opportunities both nationally and internationally. With the Amazon Sharks course, you go through absolutely everything, from how to decide what to sell, how the Amazon FBA programme works to how to send a pallet to Amazon or expand into other Amazon platforms. Best of all, you also get Andrew’s expert knowledge and you can ask him anything along the way.
How did Amazon Sharks meet your expectations?
The course contains many hours of detailed content. To be honest, I would say that it definitely covers everything you’ll ever need to know. The great thing is that if you can think of a question that isn’t covered, Andrew is only too happy to help with any queries. The quality of the course seems vastly superior to any other content or other courses I have encountered online.
How much did you invest in your Amazon FBA business?
Initially I ordered 2,000 units from the manufacturer at a landed cost of £5.63 per unit.
In total I invested about £13,000 for my first order. That covered everything – from product purchase, VAT, import duty to photography etc. etc.
How did you find your first Amazon FBA product?
This is something that a lot of new Amazon business owners really struggle with. I used the research tool, JungleScout. After many hours of research I knew that this product was a clear favourite. As an extra plus, I knew that if it went well it would provide me with many other opportunities to do other, related, products under the same brand.
What are your FBA results so far?
I started selling the product late last year. My first order arrived just before Christmas (for 2,000 units) and I sold out much quicker than anticipated – within just a matter of weeks! I was shocked at how well things went. I made a net profit of around £14,000 on my first order which was a very nice and unexpected surprise to say the least!
(So, there you go. Simply amazing! £14,000 NET PROFIT. That means Matt more than doubled his initial investment on his first order. And that’s not a one off – the beauty of selling online and in particular on Amazon is that you can keep repeating the process again and again!)
What’s the biggest surprise of your Amazon FBA journey?
How easy it is to use Amazon’s seller interface after a bit of practice. At first, it sounds/seems so complicated, but everything soon becomes second nature. Same goes with other tasks, such as importing goods from China. It’s all really simple once you have done it a few times.
What’s the no.1 tip you would give to new FBA sellers?
Do the Amazon Sharks course! At £990 it really is amazing value. You will make that money back many times over. Also, don’t cut back on expenses. Get the best you can possibly afford – go for a more expensive photographer, designer etc.
What’s your long term goal for your FBA business?
In the short-term, I want to ensure that I have enough stock to meet any demand over the next 6 months or so. Longer-term, I want to expand into many other products and to start selling across Europe.
…And there you have it! A very big thank you to Matt for taking the time to answer these questions and I look forward to hearing more success stories from him and other Amazon Sharks members!
I really hope that you can use this story as inspiration for your own business. A lot of people don’t like hearing this but it really does all depend on you! As long as you have the right plan and guidance and you TAKE ACTION – you can’t fail.
Here’s a quote from Matt from an email he sent me last year as he was planning his upcoming product launch and wanted some final guidance on pricing.
“It’s the kind of brand/product that could lead to a whole business, if successful. The great thing is that I can already think of 100+ products that would fit perfectly under this brand. I just hope it all goes to plan, but I will keep toiling away anyway!”
He wasn’t going to try one product and then give up if it wasn’t a huge success right away (although in his case it was!). And that’s the problem so many wannabe Amazon sellers have… they want instant success.
But all real successful businessmen and women know that failures can and will happen – the difference is they use it to learn and become better and come back stronger.
And that’s exactly the mentality that Matt showed and what allowed him to be so successful early on.
Well that’s it for today.
If you’re an Amazon Sharks member who’d like to share their story then get in touch with me via the contact form on this site. If there’s enough interest we can turn this into an ongoing series for the blog.
There are a few questions I always get asked by newbie Amazon FBA sellers and one of them is, “Do I need a business account or can I simply use my own normal personal account?”
And my answer is always the same – while you don’t technically need one, it’s not an Amazon requirement for example and they’re happy to pay into personal accounts* I always suggest getting a dedicated account solely for Amazon FBA business. And there are a few good reasons for this:
It makes tracking your FBA business expenses and income so much easier, which also means:
It saves you time and money when it comes to doing your yearly self-assessment.
It builds your business’ credit history.
It helps a lot with making sure you reinvest any profits (as much as possible of course) which is extremely important when you’re just starting out on your online selling journey.
So now that we’ve decided you do need one, the follow up question is always so what’s the best business bank account for amazon sellers in the UK?
And that’s exactly what we’re going to go over in today’s blog post.
But I’m not going to simply bombard with you a long list of every available option with a boring comparison table with all the basic info… as you can find that kind of thing countless places online. Instead I’ll suggest 3 companies, based on my years of experience and the countless real life feedback I’ve received from my blog readers and Amazon Sharks members.
3 Great Banks for Amazon FBA: Tide, Revolut and Starling Bank
Tide offers 3 different account options – Free, Plus, and Cashback. The Free account is, you guessed it, free. The Plus account is £10 +VAT a month, and the Cashback account is £50 +VAT a month.
I’ll focus on the Free and Plus accounts as they’re better options for the vast majority of new Amazon FBA sellers, and the main difference is with the Plus account you get:
20 free transfers a month (vs 20p per transfer)
1 free team card (vs £5 a month)
phone support and priority in-app support
So not a huge difference as you most likely won’t be making multiple business transfers a month and the fee is only 20p.
Personally though I think the phone support is a big bonus as I hate online accounts without a UK phone number. If there’s something wrong with my business account, I would want to be able to speak to someone urgently and not depend solely on app support.
There’s also good accounting features, with integration with leading software such as Xero, Sage, and Quickbooks, as well as the ability to grant your accountant read only access.
The rest of Tide’s fees are equally reasonable, with a £1 charge for cash deposits and ATM withdrawals and free card payments in the UK and abroad.
Lastly let’s take a look at Tide’s Trust Pilot rating. Now I know I know, Trustpilot isn’t exactly a great indicator of how good a company or service is, I mean just take a look at PayPal and their 1.2 star rating!
However it can be useful as a comparison. And for Tide they’re sitting at 4.0 stars from over 6,500 reviews.
Ok now moving on to our next bank…
Just like Tide, Revolut also have three main account levels:
Free – £0 per month
Grow – £25 per month
Scale – £100 per month
As you can see the price difference between each account is higher, but there’s also a bigger difference in features and fees.
Comparing the Grow and Free accounts, for £25 a month you get:
1 free metal card (vs £49)
10 free international payments (vs £3 per payment)
100 free local payments (vs 5 free local payments – 20p fee for any additional)
£10,000 foreign exchange at the interbank rate (vs a 0.4% markup)
£2,000 free UK consumer card payment acceptance (vs a 1.3% fee)
10 included team members (vs 2)
Which to go for will depend on your individual circumstances. For some people the interbank exchange rate alone will make the Grow account better value for money but for others the Free account will offer everything you need to get started.
One of the main benefits of Revolut is that they allow you to hold virtual accounts in multiple different currencies, so you can accept payments in EUR or USD for example and use that directly to make payments in that currency or convert it to GBP whenever you like. A very useful feature if you have a lot of international customers.
At the moment Revolut is lacking in invoicing and payroll features, but they’re apparently coming soon.
Last but not least, let’s take a look at their Trustpilot rating:
And with a 4.3 star rating from 75,000 reviews, they beat out Tide!
Lastly we have:
3. Starling Bank
Now Starling are a little bit different as while they’re not on the high street, they are a fully regulated UK bank (more on that a bit later), so that puts them somewhere in between our two categories.
And for me overall if I had to recommend one company today, it would be Starling. I’ve had a lot of good real life feedback about them from my Amazon Sharks members and personally that counts for a lot.
They offer a business current account with no monthly fees with optional extras/upgrades, such as a EUR or USD account for £2 or £5 a month.
The basic account includes free UK ATM withdrawals and bank transfers as well as free ATM withdrawals abroad.
There’s full integration with Xero, QuickBooks, and FreeAgent but disappointingly they don’t offer read only accountant access yet.
Starling also offers business overdrafts once you’ve been trading for a certain period, which neither Revolut nor Tide currently do. Tide offers a workaround for this by partnering with Iwoca for business loans but I don’t consider that the same at all.
This is one of the benefits to Starling being a fully registered UK bank, the other big point being that you get FSCS protection. This means that your money is covered up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in the unlikely event that the bank becomes insolvent. Tide and Revolut aren’t covered in the same way.
I think we’ve had enough financial crises in recent years for that peace of mind to be worthwhile.
So let’s see if the Trust Pilot reviews mirror our Amazon Sharks members’ feedback!
And they do, with a 4.5 star rating from over 20,000 reviews, beating out both Tide and Revolut.
So there you have it!
Now you might be wondering why I didn’t include any of the traditional high street banks in our comparison and instead went for only the newer online only business accounts.
This isn’t because high street banks aren’t suitable, because they all do offer dedicated business accounts as well – but generally the application process is more difficult and takes a lot longer and you sometimes need to already have a personal account with them in order to be eligible (as is the case with Starling as well).
Also most people will already have their own experiences and opinions when it comes to high street banks, so there’s not a lot for me to offer here.
Their business accounts are in general very similar, with comparable fees and features.
And broadly speaking they have worse apps and functionality than the online banks but you get other benefits like business loans and overdrafts, as well as the FSCS protection of course.
I’ll leave some links here if you want to look into them further and see what they’re offering compared to the banks we looked at in this post:
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 scalable 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 has extended the deadline to the end of February. It’s definitely nice to see the government helping us e-commerce 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 e-commerce 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
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 are 12 months from the accounting date.
Paper returns 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 provides 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 authorize 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 Amazon FBA taxes 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 Amazon freight 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.
This has had a significant 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 this increase in cost to ship to 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 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. With this happening on a large scale, coupled with increasing ecommerce and Amazon FBA sales, demand for shipping containers skyrocketed globally. There simply weren’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 firsthand 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 various reasons, COVID-19, 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 badly in the busy Christmas season last year. As a result, 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-19 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?
Unfortunately not. While there will be a drop in shipping volumes for a short while, March will see another significant 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?
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 individual 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.
Reassess your margins and pricing.
Again, this is very specific to each individual business as it depends on how much your Amazon seller 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 e-commerce 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.
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