Monthly Archives: April 2011

Olympics 2012. Good for biz?

Might have to blag a ticket from a friend of a friend or a man that knows a man for the main event, 100 metres men’s & women’s final, but tell me, how has the Olympics benefitted your business in terms of importing/ exporting, sales & marketing, warehousing – storage, you get the picture??

Retail websites now reach 75 percent of European internet audience each month

It’s great to get some good news in these challenging times.  It appears that on-line retailing is alive and well across Europe.

ComScore, Inc. a leader in measuring the digital world, has released results from a study of online shopping in Europe.  In January 2011, 270.6 million unique visitors in Europe visited sites in the Retail category, representing a market penetration of 74.5 percent of Internet users, up 8.5 percentage points on last year.  Retail sites also showed high penetration in individual markets, reaching at least 75 percent of the total online audience in 7 out of 18 European markets. In 2010, approximately one out of every ten Internet sessions in Europe included a visit to a retail site.

You can deep-dive the findings of the ComScore study here.

Budget 2011: Chancellor moves to close online VAT loophole

Announced in the Budget: The Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) threshold, below which goods imported from outside the EU are relieved of VAT, will be reduced from £18 to £15 from 1st November 2011.  It seems the Government is keen to limit this relief and prevent it from being exploited., and a further reduction in the 2012 Budget has not been ruled out.  This change particularly impacts the supply of low-value items which are currently available on VAT-free internet deals, such as CDs, DVDs, contact lenses, health supplements and more.

Full official details of this change can be found in the HMRC’s Tax Information and Impact Note.  You can read The Guardian’s take on the news and how it will affect consumers here.

Networking at WCA

We had an excellent time at the 13th Annual WCA conference in February.  This year, for the first time, the event took place in Vietnam, at the Saigon Exhibition & Convention Center (SECC) in Ho Chi Minh City.  We met lots of colleagues and associates from across the world and made some great new connections.  We found time to have a good time too, as you can see from the photos.

Booze and ciggies – you have been warned!

HMRC are getting tougher on alcohol and tobacco smuggling. With new teams around the country and more to come, they are targeting smugglers and aim to disrupt and destroy their supply and distribution chains. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, illegitimate tobacco smuggling loses the Government up to £3 billion in tax revenue every year – that’s money stolen from us, and not available for important public services.  And as we all know, the country can ill afford the loss right now.

Many illegal cigarettes are manufactured under very dubious circumstances and have been known to contain sawdust, tobacco beetles and even rat faeces. Illegitimate alcohol is little better and can contain potentially deadly toxic substances.

Whilst the Government’s approach has resulted in the prosecution of more than 2,000 people and a reduction in the criminal market from 21% to 13% in the last decade or so, they are not relaxing. They warn that those caught trading in illicit goods face an ever increasing range of penalties and sanctions and up to 7 years imprisonment. Enough said, methinks.

Get it there in one piece

Your packages to any destination need to be robust enough to survive passing through many hands. Here are some important considerations:


  • Use strong and durable packing materials, with reinforced edges and corners or padding if needed
  • Size matters! Select a package or box relative to the size of the contents. Under-filled boxes can collapse and overfilled boxes could burst
  • Select appropriate filling or cushioning – for example air bags, moulded polyethylene trays, polystyrene chips, shredded paper
  • Use strapping around boxes where possible, or strong packing tape. But do not over-seal as goods travelling across country borders are liable to be opened by customs personnel
  • For rolled items such as maps, blueprints, manuscripts etc, triangular tubing is more robust than round cylinders
  • Use large address labels and complete addresses clearly, in full, preferably using a printed label or at least writing in CAPITALS. Always affix your return address.
  • Re-using boxes is great for the environment, but make sure you remove all old labels to avoid confusion.

Fragile items

  • Writing ‘Fragile’ or ‘Handle with Care’ on fragile items is helpful, but alone, it won’t protect delicate items
  • Anything fragile should be surrounded on all sides by padding, and incapable of ‘drifting’ to the edge of its container
  • Gifts can come in attractive packaging which is nonetheless wholly inappropriate for travel. Brown paper won’t be enough – they will need to be re-packaged if you want them to arrive safely
  • Secure any sharp objects such as scissors or knives and other blades safely, using heavy cardboard. Ensure that they are secured tightly enough that they won’t come adrift in transit and cause wounding.


  • If liquid leaks, you won’t just lose the liquid, as spillage will damage other items in transit. Containers should be leak-free, double-sealed in plastic bags and cushioned with polyethylene trays or Styrofoam
  • Semi liquid substances such as oils, gels, pastes etc should be sealed with adhesive tape and grease-resistant paper. If containers are not robust, ensure you pack with appropriate cushioning (see above).

Top Tip No2: Get covered

It is often taken for granted by the originator of your consignment that the courier or forwarder will be insuring the goods – but in this world, take nothing for granted. We often hear of people setting out on holiday without adequate coverage and of the awful consequences when they need emergency medical treatment and there’s no insurance to cover the costs. In the same way that it is practical to buy travel insurance when you travel, so you should make sure you understand what insurance coverage is provided and if this isn’t sufficient, purchase your own insurance.

Top Tip No1: Don’t let handling costs catch you out

Handling costs are overheads and can make a big difference when you’re trying to run a business and move goods around the world. Before you accept a quote for shipping, make sure you fully understand what’s included, for example:

  • Weight – are they calculating based on actual weight or dimensional weight?
  • Pick up – is it door-to-door, door-to-airport, airport-to-door, airport-to-airport, etc?
  • Import and customs clearance charges – are they included or excluded?
  • Handling and storage charges – included or extra?
  • Import duty and VAT – included or additional?
  • Any other administration costs – get them itemised

Get something wrong, and it could cost you money that you don’t need to spend! And who want’s that to happen?

Who are these people?

Customs is a generic term used throughout the world. It stands for the recognised government body responsible for border control, import and export of goods (commodities) and the policing of all traffic coming in and out of a country. In the UK, Customs is HMRC “Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs”. HMRC looks after the collection of all taxes, duty, VAT and excise as well as control of illegal substances, contraband, counterfeit, drugs, etc.

I provide customs clearance services through my business, Customs Clearance Ltd. Customs clearance as a service is all about ensuring that the correct paperwork is received and presented to HMRC and that an entry declaration meets the requirements and follows the complex rules, regulations and guidelines imposed by HMRC.  We’re hand to assist HMRC with any consignment that needs a documentation examination or a physical inspection, and mediate on a client’s behalf, if needed.

Whatever the country of origin, whatever the destination, customs clearance is a complex business. Without a detailed knowledge of the rules and regulations, imports and exports can take much longer to process, and may make unanticipated demands on your budget and other resources.

That’s why I do what I do.