Import products from overseas

Importing from overseas can give you access to a wide range of business products for a fraction of the cost that you would pay in your home market, but there are challenges to overcome when opting to import. These include language and cultural differences, different payment methods and additional paperwork. This guide will show you what to watch for when sourcing suppliers from overseas.

  • Research is key
  • Relationships with overseas suppliers
  • Payment systems
  • Legal requirements

Research is key

Decide which countries you want to import from and establish contacts there. Apply the same principles when importing from overseas as you would with a domestic supplier. Check prices, quality and trade history and ensure the supplier can be relied on to deliver good service consistently. How far away is your chosen country and how will this affect shipping costs and delivery times?

  • Compare suppliers based on price, quality and reliability
  • Visit the countries if possible to establish contacts and see supplier operations first-hand
  • Consider the levels of existing trade between your chosen country and the UK and find out what other businesses have imported from there

Relationships with overseas suppliers

Trust is vital in any supplier relationship but this only comes with time. Ensure you draw up contracts for all deals. Each time you use a new supplier, negotiate short-term or shipment-by-shipment contracts, until you have experience of doing business with them over a certain amount of time.

  • Trust is essential and is built over time
  • Draw up comprehensive, written contracts for all transactions

Payment systems

Find out how what currency your suppliers will expect to be paid in - most likely it will be in their local currency, but they may have a UK or European bank account, enabling you to pay in pounds sterling or euros. Bear in mind that exchange rates may change afar you have placed your order.

  • Plan how you will make payments for goods
  • Match payments to your cashflow needs

Legal requirements

When importing items into the UK, you need to ensure they are allowed in and for certain goods,  you'll need to obtain an import licence. Ensure you pay any duty and VAT under UK and EC law. Check if any laws are applicable in the product's country of origin.

  • Check whether you need an import licence
  • Factor in the costs of duty or VAT fees

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