What are the major freight paperwork and how do we overcome those?
If you are using a courier or one of the freight professionals, they do all that for you. You don’t have to worry about the various paperwork, custom claims, etc. This is a skill these guys have been working on for years, they can do it better and more efficiently than you, so let them do it. UPS is around £11 per shipment for customs clearance. DHL is right around there as are most of the others. Since you’re importing the product, most of the paperwork is done by the exporter and you’ll end up with the VAT and the duty. Both of these are calculate off the commercial invoice.
One thing the Chinese like to do to be nice, is send the shipment as samples. If they are a sample, that’s fine. However, if you’re shipment is 500 units, that clearly isn’t a sample. At some point, the guys at HMRC are going to catch on and you may end up with penalties as well as your future shipments getting more scrutiny causing delays.
You have a proper business, so you want to make sure you do things by the book. It may cost you more in duties, but you want to build your business on solid ground.
Another they offer is to lower the cost of the invoice to stay under a certain value at which point things become more complicated. Is that something to avoid as well?
At the end of the day you’re evading taxes, which simply put, is wrong. Also, if you get caught you may end up getting put on a list which will further delay you in the future. If one of the customs officials gets to digging around and realizes your products are valued at more than what was declared, they will put you on a watchlist. Ongoing shipments will be inspected and paperwork will be scrutinized which will hold up your shipment.
Do you need to instruct your suppliers about commercial invoices or will that be checked by DHL or UPS?
A commercial invoice is just like any other invoice. It will detail the value of what your purchased, the goods you purchased, the delivery address, the importer on record’s address, and the commodity code. That is a global code that details what the product is classified as which you can find on the HMRC website. So when the shipment comes in they can charge import duties.
Is that something the Chinese supplier will automatically put on the invoice and get right?
Well… they’ll put it on the invoice. It may not always be right and there is no way of going back and saying this is wrong, so you’ll just have to double-check it and next time you order tell your supplier that they put the wrong commodity code on it. Which could save yourself some money since the import duties can vary depending on this code. It can range from 0-12% on top of VAT.
How is VAT calculated? Is it the value of the goods only? So if I have 500 units that cost $2 a piece, is VAT calculated on that $1000?
It is the commercial invoice value + freight + duty. VAT is calculated on the total of all three.
Is there anything else we need to get on the commercial invoice? Say I order a shipment, sent to your prep company, do I need to make sure all that is on the invoice and how do I communicate that to DHL or whoever?
It does need to be on there, but in Greg’s experience if doesn’t matter. It seems to be a daily battle with FedEx, or DHL trying to get the person on the commercial invoice or airway bill. It doesn’t matte who the consignee is, Greg seems to always get the bill sent to FBA Pep UK at his address. If you look at the paperwork that comes with it, it clearly states the correct customer but they seem to ignore that.
How do you handle that, when you get the invoice in stead of your customer?
It depends on the customer. Some will just pay it which is fine. Even though it’s FBA Prep UK on the bill, they can’t sort it out. The customer has to contact them and tell them that they will accept that invoice.
The biggest takeaway seems to be that it’s best to just use a freight forwarder or use your courier and make sure that your name and the company name is on the paperwork.
Those guys are the professionals. They are doing this day in and day out. Sure you can learn it, but that’s time better spend on your company and sourcing more profitable products.
Another thing you have to worry about is your EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification scheme) number. Which is a number supplied by the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). You can’t apply for one unless you have a shipment coming, and you can’t get your shipment into Europe until you have it. It takes about 3 or 4 days to get it, so as soon as your supplier gives you all the detail on when the shipment is coming from, where it’s going to land, the size of it, the vessel number, take that information and you can apply for your EORI number online.
Small samples should be ok, your couriers can take care of it. Once you start getting bigger shipments coming in, you’ll want to get your own number. It simply for statistical purposes of what come in and goes out of Europe.
On a side not, outsourcing is vital! It’s a waste of time trying to do everything yourself. Some of the simpler tasks, or task that need expertise can be outsourced freeing you up to focus on growing your business. Here is just one example:
This is a 15×15 grid of everything that needs to be done with products. This is why you shouldn’t order 15 different things from AliExpress and why you need help with prep.
For more ambitious sellers what are the biggest challenges when trying to scale up?
What about people who want to import a lot of one product?
Factoring time scales. If your coming by air now, you’re looking at 7-10 days from China to yours or your prep company’s hands. As you scale up you’ll have to start coming by sea which is about 35 days from China to the UK. Then the ship has to be unpacked which is another 5 days. It’s about 40 days from the time the supplier delivers it to the time you take delivery. Obviously, this is something you have to consider. If you’re doing you analysis to determine when you will need more product, you’ll have to add another 30-40 days onto that or risk running out by the time the ship arrives.
If you’re used to doing your own prep, as you scale up the deliveries will get bigger. You’ll start getting them in pallets rather than loose boxes. If you plan on continuing to do it at home, you have to consider how you’re going to offload the truck. It’s no longer going to be a van or small truck, it’ll be coming in artics so access becomes an issue. Also, you have to request a truck with a taillift if you don’t have a forklift. That will cost another £40.
What about those who want to go from a few SKUs to say 10 or 20 but not a huge quantity of each one?
This is common with things like pencils. Where you have one type of product, but 5 or 10 variations. i.e. different colors which Amazon treats as completely different products. Having the product description on the boxes is a huge help. That way if there is a problem with a particular SKU, it’s easier to identify which ones they are without having to open every box.
Whether you’re ordering 500 unit of one product, or 50 units of 10, the challenges are the same. Where the challenges would come and the cost would rise, is if your importing products from different suppliers. Now, there are services that will consolidate for you. You can have four or five different suppliers send everything to these consolidation warehouses. They will consolidate those and export them as one shipment saving you money.
What do you see coming up in the Prep side of Amazon as a problem?
Amazon will start requesting detailed contents of boxes. You can do it now, as an option, and in the US they have started requiring it. Usually if it happens in the US it will happen in the UK. So you will have to communicate that with your supplies to be more clear about what’s in each box especially of you ship directly. They will also requiring packing notes, so when they open the box, they know what’s in it to speed things up on their end.
Brexit will likely have an impact on shipping in Europe.
Amazon announce recently that they will have an air fleet of about 40 planes to ship products themselves. It’s unknown if freight will change much since it’s a fairly stable and established system. However, Amazon will likely try to takeover that.
How can people get hold of you?
#54 Q & A Tuesday No. 6 Show Notes
Q1 : Gareth [INCOTERMS]
We are in the process of sourcing our first product and we are struggling with what we need to ask for in terms of delivery. Does the term FOB only refer to shipping (boat)? What is it we need to ask for to get air freight delivered to the door to FBAI (or equivalent) in the US? As we seem to be getting different responses from different suppliers?
Incoterms (“International commercial terms” in full) refer to the Freight deal you have with a supplier [aka Vendor=Seller].
There are 9 3-Letter codes denoting the 9 possible agreement types:
More precisely, it shows how much of the supply chain your supplier [the Seller] takes responsibility for, and at what precise point you as the Buyer take on responsibility for your consignment and any costs of transporting it/dealing with import/export etc.
The early in the Chain the Vendor passes responsibility on to the Buyer, the cheaper it is but the more work you as Buyer need to sort out yourself. Or of course hire someone to sort out.
FOB =Free On Board– strictly only for sea shipping but Chinese suppliers use this for everything!
This is okay to use to compare quotes if most suppliers give you the price in that way.
However, that is all.
I prefer to get quotes EXW=Ex Works i.e. literally just manufacture with no Freight. However I would never place an order EXW unless using a Freight Forwarder.
If your supplier will give you DDP=Delivered Duty Paid, this is the most expensive but simplest option. I would always start with this as a new seller unless you have expertise or experience or contacts in the freight/import area.
If you not you could go for the next best thing, Sometimes known as “DDU=Delivered Duty Unpaid”, [which really should be known as DAP=Delivered At Place in proper incoterms, but is known as DDU among some suppliers]
Note the difference between Air Freight and Air Courier. The latter is basically a well known courier like DHL, UPS, Fedex. They have their own channels for clearing customs in USA and are simplest for beginners or if you dislike freight issues!
You can always get a customs broker if shipping into USA – I’ve used Western Corporation Overseas for extra security around USA customs clearance. It will add to your costs but can provide peace of mind on first shipment.
Bear in mind that Chinese suppliers will know more than you (probably) when you’re first starting out but they are not experts in freight. Particularly bear in mind: They are speaking a foreign language! The nuances between “Freight” and “courier”, for example, may not be clear to your supplier – but they are nevertheless real when it comes to Freight. But they will be very used to using Air Express services like DHL.
If in doubt: 1. use your supplier’s courier account; stick to Air Courier; get DDP if possible or the closest you can.
OR use a Freight Forwarder if you want to do Sea Freight (a bit more involved for a first batch of first product in some ways but may be necessary for heavy items) or even Air Freight.
Q2. Chat [Inventory] Forecasting methods/techniques.
How do people project and plan for how much inventory they will need? What is important to consider when planning ahead for growth?
“Feels like you kind of have to guess a lot more in the beginning! Started off at 500 units and down to around 460. Most of those are giveaways though. only 3-4 are organic.”
3-4 units is almost no sales history so don’t try to make any predictions yet.
Get your reviews, start PPC and then after say 100 sales or two weeks or so you’ll have enough data to predict. Get some consistency if possible. If you’re buried on page 5, 10 etc, your sales will be low and also therefore will fluctuate a lot in relative terms.
The basic maths is simple:
weeks of inventory cover=Total units left of product÷weekly sales
e.g. in this case, if in say 4 weeks’ time you have 350 units left and are selling a steady 5 a day average=35 a week, that gives you:
weeks of inventory cover=350 units left÷35 units a week sales=10 weeks’ cover.
If your Lead time between placing an order and actually getting product live on Amazon is say 6 weeks, you will need to reorder at 6 weeks out the latest. Better to add a couple of weeks for delays.
Bear in mind delays at Chinese ports, delays getting into American ports especially before Xmas, processing at FBA Inspection etc, esp. in 4th Quarter , time to ship to Amazon etc.
If you have a duff product, e.g., no sales, no profit, you may not even choose to restock it. But if you do have sales and it looks profitable or that it will be next order, then this all becomes relevant.
Q 3: Ben Leonard: Inspection.
OK, so I know inspection is important. However, is it always necessary [?] Here is my situation:
My supplier is experienced, appears professional, stocks a lot of FBA sellers, and is very helpful. They have agreed to send me photographs throughout the process of manufacture, pre-labelling, and during packing of the order ready for shipping. I plan to put in place a purchase order contract which covers all of these.
I have no reason to believe why they’d send me a poor standard of product (samples were excellent), and we have already both expressed desire for a long relationship.
In this situation, would anyone here risk not having inspection?
Perhaps inspect once, and then not again, or not for another 3-4 orders?
Michael: My answer is simple: yes inspection is necessary. Definitely on the first order. No question. The fact that your supplier is responsive and experienced is an excellent reason to work with them in the first place. But that is just good due diligence on your supplier. Inspection is a separate matter.
Listen to the 2nd half of the interview with Manuel Becvar and read notes -it has your name on it! www.amazingfba.com/53.
If it’s a simple product, a man-day (sorry ladies, that’s the standard term, sexist I know) will cost you just 100 USD with Trigo.
Either way there is no reason to skip it and every reason to do it.
If I were you, I would just get that set up and move on. 100 USD is peanuts to have peace of mind and avoid negative reviews.
As Sellers we sometimes don’t consider the sheer expense of one negative review.
If it’s early days and you have say 9 reviews with 5 stars from review giveaways and you get one 1 star review, that means average review drops from 5.0 to 4.6. That could easily halve your conversions. Assuming your Pay per click costs stay the same, that could easily mean you go from profit to breakeven or even to loss.
You could lose your 100 USD within a week or less and then continue to lose money until you’ve either got rid of your one star review or buried it under new giveaways.
If this happens, just deal with it of course , it’s not the end of the world – but why not just take simple steps to avoid or minimise it in the first place?
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