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It was only a matter of time before online shopping overtook traditional retail.

Way back in 2017, when online shopping represented just 16% of overall retail spend, investment bank UBS was already making the bullish forecast that the ecommerce sector would deliver 15-20% annualised growth in the coming years. The COVID-19 pandemic has simply accelerated the inevitable, and while traditional retailers are now being allowed to open their doors to shoppers once more, there is unlikely to be a reversal of ecommerce’s meteoric rise. New consumer habits have been embedded; awareness of the virtues of online shopping are now widespread.

However, the pandemic has also left the retail sector at something of a crossroads, particularly with regards independent outlets. Consumers do not want to see local retailers go to the wall – 75% claim to be planning to support local merchants more regularly going forwards. But at the same time, if independent retailers are going to survive amidst a deep recession and challenging social distancing restrictions in store, they too must embrace ecommerce and develop a sustainable online presence for their businesses.

And what the pandemic has shown us is that while the move into ecommerce makes sense for SMEs across a wide variety of categories, the barriers to entry have been underestimated leaving thousands of small businesses struggling to fulfil orders and drowning in a flood of customer feedback.

Much has been made of Amazon’s decision to deprioritise third-party inbound at the start of the crisis, creating lead times of up to four weeks and – in many cases – causing customers to abandon their carts and shop around for alternative products. But rather than sticking the knife into the retail giant, Amazon’s move should serve as a cautionary tale for any small business about the perils of over-reliance on a single sales channel. More pertinently, it has a vested interest in protecting its core business; faced with a huge and unexpected spike in demand, coupled with a shortfall in delivery drivers, it’s hard to question the logic of its decision.

At the same time, several other third-party logistics businesses were caught unawares by the crisis and found themselves ill-prepared to meet the demand from small businesses. Many have been forced to turn down new business or close their doors entirely due to challenges remodelling their operations to be COVID-compliant.

Consumers have been admirably patient with online retailers throughout the lockdown. Many have accepted the unprecedented nature of the crisis and let retailers off the hook when items have not been dispatched in a timely manner. Similarly, some independent retailers have managed to survive by fulfilling deliveries themselves at a local level, ferrying goods around in their own cars while prevented from operating their physical stores as normal. Neither trend is sustainable in the longer term. Consumer expectations around online order fulfilment are already rising. Independent retailers will not be able to meet these expectations on their own.

The Micro-Hub Fulfilment Approach

At Huboo, we’ve built a third-party fulfilment business that is specifically designed to enable these retailers to thrive in the ecommerce sector. It’s a fulfilment model that allows SMEs to sell across multiple channels, as well as direct-to-consumer, and that gives every retailer high priority when it comes to the timely delivery of their goods. And it’s a model that today serves more than 300 retailers, on the back of 100% quarter-on-quarter growth over the past year.

Further, our micro-hub approach to warehousing has been social distancing compliant from the outset, while we’ve implemented a variety of further safety measures to keep our staff safe and secure in the workplace. As a consequence, at a time when other third-party providers have been closing their doors to independent retailers, we’ve been able to grow 50% month-on-month throughout the lockdown.

For years, the challenge of creating a sustainable online offering appeared insurmountable for many independent retailers. Today it is unavoidable, which is why it’s vital that these SMEs seek to form strong, lasting partnerships with trusted logistics providers such as ourselves. Ultimately, consumers want to see independent retail flourishing in the post-COVID world. By working together, we can deliver that reality.

 

 

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At Huboo, we care about our staff and like to think we’re so much more than a faceless warehouse, so each month we like to profile a member of the team. This month, we’d like to introduce you to our latest Human of Huboo, Alicia.

Meet Alicia Docherty

Passionate about surfing, Alicia is Head of Marketing at Huboo

As we’re a fast-growing startup we need to make sure we’re getting the right messages out to our target markets, which is why we rely on the great work of our marketing team. As Head of Marketing, Alicia is responsible for making sure the Huboo brand is always at its best, keeping customers well-informed on a regular basis, and creating the best content to attract new business, amongst many other things.

I am new to Huboo and I’ve had to hit the ground running, which is great. I love a challenge and no two days are the same here, so it’s never dull! At the moment, I am working on 2020 marketing plans and getting under the skin of Huboo’s customer management systems and processes.

As part of Alicia’s role, she ensures Huboo is communicating well to the outside world. We’re a really dynamic company and Alicia is keen to share this message through as many channels as she can, whether that’s newsletters, digital marketing or social media. Ultimately, she wants to position us as the go-to ecommerce fulfilment house.

Huboo stands out from the crowd. It’s not a warehouse full of people facing tough targets with an office versus ‘shop floor’ mentality. Far from it. This is one of the key areas that makes us so different and also what makes us successful.

To reinforce that point, Alicia is also responsible for internal communications and makes sure that everybody knows what’s going on and feels part of the team. Working for a startup is extremely fast-paced, so it’s important to ensure all staff and team members are fully informed, but, not only that, it’s also important to keep everybody motivated.

We do a lot at Huboo to help create a unified team spirit. we all muck in during busy periods and very much work on a collaborative basis. When we’ve had an amazing day, we reward people with pizzas, we’ve hosted a Halloween party, also known as Hubooween, and we recently had a Christmas jumper day. I haven’t been here long, but I’m really excited to be responsible for marketing such a great company.

Quick fire questions

What makes you irrationally angry? People being unfair.

Favourite Film: A guilty pleasure is probably Bad Neighbours, but it might have to be the Blues Brothers… or Super Bad… or Top Gun….. Can’t decide!

Best holiday: My honeymoon in The Maldives.

Dream dinner guest: Winston Churchill.

Biggest fear: Having regrets.

Something you really love:  My dog Dora, my cat, Pudding and my Husband…in no particular order, of course.

Fun fact:  An old cousin of mine was the first and fastest person to sail single-handed around the world.

Who would play you in a film of your life? Probably Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

What would your super-power be? Breathing under water and swimming really fast – Aqua man style.

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Finding the right fulfilment centre can make a dramatic difference to your business and your life. Finally, your business can run day-to-day without depending on you.

No longer will you spend your days worrying about picking, packaging and sending out orders, because that will all be handled for you.

Instead of working in your business, you can work on your business. And even take the occasional holiday knowing that your customers are being looked after.

“If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business — you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!”

-Michael E. Gerber

Is there a minimum business size for fulfilment?

You may not think your business is large enough for you to be able to use a fulfilment service, but there will be a provider out there that’s right for you no matter the size of your business.

Specialist fulfilment providers can service all types of businesses – from those that only sell a few products a month to those selling thousands.

Even if you are currently running a small business from your home, selling just a few items per month, using a fulfilment service is not only possible, it can transform your business and create the opportunity for you to grow.

A fulfilment provider will free up your time, allowing you to focus on other areas of your business. In addition, with an unlimited amount of space, your growth will not be limited by your ability to store items.

You will also have added peace of mind from knowing that your items are being stored in state of the art warehouses, so the risk of loss or damage is greatly reduced.

To get the best out of your potential fulfilment partner, check that they can tailor their service to your business no matter what stage of growth you are currently at. In addition, ensure they have the capability to grow with you.

At Huboo, we have the ability to cater to any size business, from SME’s to Large Enterprises. Our team are dedicated to you, meaning you have as little, or as much control over your stock as you want, and enables us to tailor to you and your business.

How much does fulfilment cost?

If you run a small business or a side business, you may think that having your orders fulfilled by a third party provider would be prohibitively expensive. But this not the case.

Surprisingly, prices for fulfilment can be around the same as sending an item via Royal Mail.

In addition, subscription costs can be low, as little as £8 per month in some cases. With some providers also offering free storage for up to two months, you can actually save on storage costs, too.

To get the best out of your fulfilment centre check that they provide a cost-effective solution for your business no matter how large or small.

For more information on this, talk to our team at Huboo who will be able to help and advise on what fulfilment solution would suit you: 01722 444 025

Is fulfilment easy to set up?

Using a fulfilment provider will save you time on picking, packing and posting. However, if the service requires complicated labelling systems this can still take up your valuable time.

So, to make the process as easy as possible for you, choose a provider that has a system that is easy to set up and use. Many can work with the existing bar codes on products, or even just having all the same items in one labelled box.

Huboo has the ability to intergrate with your software, providing real time stock management and giving you total peace of mind.  We offer a huge number of integrations including the obvious platforms such as Ebay and Amazon, but if we don’t currently integrate with your chosne multi-channel management software, we will build the integration free of charge.

What about customer service?

No matter how good your product is, your customer will only be pleased if they receive it on time and in perfect condition.

Using a fulfilment provider can ensure this happens 99.9% of the time.

With customers expecting faster delivery, you also want to check that your provider offers a fast turnaround on orders to give your customers the best experience possible. Many fulfilment providers offer same day dispatch on orders received before a certain time of day.

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.”

– Kevin Stirtz

If for any reason a customer is not completely happy with either the product or service, then they will want the returns process to be simple and quick.

You should check how your potential fulfilment centre handles returns. Some offer a returns service where they will check the item to see if it is suitable for reselling. However, you should check the fees for this service to make sure it is the right route for you. Alternatively, you can often choose to have returns sent back to you.

To get the best out of your fulfilment centre check their accuracy rate, delivery times and how they handle returns to ensure your customers get the best experience possible.

Huboo provides you with a live dashboard so you and your Huboo team can manage your stock holding and orders, and see up-to-date information about shipments plus itemised information regarding charges. For more information on this visit our website: www.huboo.co.uk

Choose the best fulfilment service for you?

Ultimately, when choosing a fulfilment provider, you want a good relationship with communicative people who will guide and advise you in your business goals.

In addition, your provider will have system in place in the event that something goes wrong. Your partner should deal with any complaints in a timely manner and ensure they are not repeated. In addition, your provider should be happy to compensate you for any money lost if they make an error.

Always ask your fulfilment centre what systems are in place if something goes wrong. You should know who to contact and what you can expect them to do about it.

Using outsourced fulfilment can make a huge difference to your business allowing you to expand and grow at the best pace for you. However, to ensure this runs smoothly, you will want to find the best fulfilment provider for your business.

At Huboo, we can handle any size of business dealing with two orders a week to thousands. In addition, we are often cheaper than sending items by Royal Mail.

Our team can create the right plan for your business to ensure you get the best solution possible. In addition, with our 99.9% accuracy policy, you can relax knowing your customers will be happy.

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If there is one thing we can confidently predict, it is that consumer behaviour will continue to move in one clear direction and that is they will demand better service.

Whether it’s free shipping, more delivery options or simply a wider range of goods available to buy, customers want what they want, and those businesses that are able to meet those needs will reap the benefits through, greater brand loyalty and increased engagement through their digital channels.

With so much competition out there, customers are becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to how they want they goods delivered, and when.

However, there are factors that growing ecommerce businesses need to be aware of as they expand. As all entrepreneurs know, the path to growth is rarely smooth and predictable. Demand can peak and drop for any number of reasons, putting strain on the company’s ability to manage its fulfilment successfully.

Meeting expectations

Having a growing business is a great place for any entrepreneur to be. By driving better customer engagement, retailers are able to outgrow competition, adding not only volume but also loyalty and engagement.

But there are also downsides to rapid growth and if your business is a seasonal one, with clear peaks and troughs of demand, then there is always a danger of disappointing your customers as the ecommerce wheels begin to turn faster. A busy month can very quickly turn into a logistics nightmare, as orders pile up as the business struggles to cope. Lead times lengthen and customer satisfaction drops.

At the same time, if demand slows, ecommerce companies face the danger of overstocking and tying up vital resources and cash, without the necessary momentum to move product on.

Levelling off

So, clear in the knowledge that customer experience is king, how can you as an entrepreneur be sure that your business is responding in the right ways?

One way to address this concern is to use a fulfilment company as a partner to take on the tricky tasks of ensuring your customers receive a flawless, uninterrupted service even as orders and demand begins to soar.

Fulfilment companies offer a perfect way to warehouse goods to balance out periods of heavy demand, along with slower times when orders may not be as high. By using their expertise in warehousing and logistics, they are ideally placed to manage the flow of customer orders and can react to sales peaks quickly and make sure customers receive their orders on time.

For Huboo this extends from not just simply delivering on time, but bringing much more to the table: good connections with the ecommerce ecosystem, cutting edge tech platforms, transparent pricing and a genuine commitment to flex to customer needs.

Why use a fulfilment company?

At Huboo, we know that entrepreneurs understand how their business works better than anyone. They have built their businesses from ground up, so they know what works and what doesn’t. And they know what their customers want. We also know from experience that the best ones know where their skills lie and recognise the value of getting experts in to help.

The savvy ecommerce operators know that managing the intricacies of fulfilment can represent a real drain on vital management time that could be better spent identifying new markets and developing new products.

 

Managing inventory levels to ensure customers get what they need is what Huboo excels at. They know exactly what is important for a growing business: orders arrive on time, correctly packaged and exactly to the customer’s expectations. They know that the demands of buying online have shifted from hope and apprehension to the sure belief that they will receive what they bought, on time and in top condition.

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Have you come to that crunch point where you are fed up with your home or office looking like a post office? Have you made a decision to outsource your fulfilment to facilitate growth, but not sure what to look for when choosing a fulfilment house?

If so, there are a few things to consider and take into account. One point of indecision we often hear is the dilemma between choosing a large fulfilment house or a company that can grow with you.

We’ve put some tips together to give you pointers on what to ask and what to look for when choosing a multi-channel fulfilment company.

Tip one: Customer Service

Just as you need to give your customers the best service, so should your fulfilment partner. If this is a new area for you, then you will have a few questions to begin with. Don’t be afraid to ask them and make sure you have a regular and reliable point of contact.

Things to look for include a call centre or warehouse contact number, as well as a human-monitored email address – not automated, scripted or AI responder. Ask about typical response times – when you’re running an e-commerce business you don’t want to be slowed down by your fulfilment company being uncontactable or sluggish to respond to help requests.

To prepare yourself, in case there are any tech issues, clarify who your point of contact will be. Don’t be afraid to ask how they handle situations such as misdeliveries or packing problems. Any downtime could lead to a loss of business, so it’s a highly valid and important question.

For example, at Huboo you have direct contact with your Huboo warehouse team and continuous control and support from our Huboo office. This enables you to have as little or as much control over your stock, giving you the freedom to relax and reap the rewards of your business.

Tip two: Pricing

This may sound obvious but always look very closely at pricing. Ask about hidden costs and clarify if that monthly charge is actual or a baseline figure that could change according to sales activity.

If your business has seasonal selling spikes, then look at how the fulfilment house works with these fluctuations. Ideally, you want the flexibility to pay more at busy times with the option to scale down during quieter periods.

No matter what pricing model you choose, always ensure it is clear and transparent. There should be no guesswork on what you will pay. The last thing you want is a budget-breaking invoice that you weren’t prepared for, which can, and does, happen if you’re not prepared.

At Huboo our costs are simply the lowest, and often by quite a margin. We make it possible for every company to use fulfilment. To find out more about pricing, give our team a call on 01722 444 025.

Tip three: Scalability

Hiring a fulfilment partner will undoubtedly free up your business to grow. It’s really important to factor this growth element into your decision-making process.

We recommend treating fulfilment as a cost-of-sales expense from the minute you start your business. This allows you to focus purely on growth instead of logistics. However, it’s sometimes seen as something you only invest in when your business gets to that sales tipping point where packing takes up most of your day.

If this is your situation and you’re just about to start up or you are reaching the next stage of growth, then choose a fulfilment partner that can grow with you. Think about your growth strategy and look at whether they can grow with you.

A lot of fulfilment houses may have a one set approach for their customers, no matter what their size, and could expect you to fit with a service level that suits them more than you. Make sure you find a fulfilment company that suits you.

Huboo has no minimum order requirement and we have a dedicated client success team to help on board and grown customers allowing them to gey the most out of their fulfilment. Huboo also do not have a fixed cost model, it’s variable to your revenue, letting you get as much or as little out of your fulfilment needs.

It’s also worth looking into how they can and will respond to the growth of your eCommerce network. If you want to expand your sales channel from your own site to Amazon or Shopify, make sure your fulfilment partner can react quickly and seamlessly.

Tip four: relationships

Like any business, you want to work in partnership with your suppliers, so make sure you choose a fulfilment house who will take the time and effort to understand your business.

Fulfilment is one of the most important part of your business as it is directly customer-facing. From a fulfilment perspective, it not only means staff need to be motivated and happy in their role, but if somebody’s unwell or on holiday, then this shouldn’t have any impact at the warehouse; your deliveries should process as normal.

It’s also important to look at how proactive the fulfilment house is when it comes to a multi-channel approach. For example, we are a PayPal preferred SMB fulfilment partner as we want to ensure we are actively part of the eCommerce community and all that it offers.

This shows a greater understanding of this space and also highlights that offering multi-channel is not purely a box-ticking exercise.

Tip five: control

As we mentioned earlier, your fulfilment partner connects you to your customer. It’s such an important role, it could make or break your business. This is your business and you want it to succeed. You have got be in control.

For this to happen, you need a fulfilment house that is fully transparent, approachable and firmly on your side. If you’re unsure about anything, then arrange to visit the warehouse and meet the team, at Huboo we love it when our customers pay us a visit! Or, if you have any questions then you should feel comfortable asking them at any time.

Multi-channel fulfilment is such a fast-growing area with warehouses opening all the time. In fact, we believe most e-commerce operations will use a third-party logistics partner in the near future. But just like any business, they can close just as quickly. Always do your due diligence when creating your shortlist and check their credentials.

When all that’s done and you have a good shortlist in place, get those meetings in the diary, get them to really want your business and don’t forget to ask them why you should choose their fulfilment house.

Good luck!

 

For more advice on fulfilment and what it can do for your business call the team on 01722 444025.

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What makes us so different from other fulfilment houses is that we believe in putting our people first. Let’s face it, without them, the whole supply chain comes to a halt. They are vital to the success of your business.

As part of our Humans of Huboo series, we want you to meet the people who are helping to make your business a success.

This time, we’re turning the spotlight on James. Drum roll please…

Meet James Rich

A mountaineering mathematician, James is a Process Engineer for Huboo.

As a tech focused company, we’re always looking at ways we can use technology to make the fulfilment process even more effective, and this is where James comes in. His job is to look at all the ways the warehouse, picking and packing systems work and assess how best they can be improved.

At the moment, I am in the initial stages of analysing the whole process and looking at ways we can streamline and increase efficiency. We have great technology and can do so much with it that we’re always looking at ways to really maximise it wherever possible.

As a recently graduated mathematician, James has an analytical mind, which is what makes him so good at his job. But that’s not to say he’s sat at his desk all the time crunching and analysing data. He’s also really hands-on and alternates his time between the warehouse and the office, with a lot of his time spent on the warehouse floor, he helps staff and also supports the team on customer enquiries.

James also has previous with Huboo. While he was at University, he was a picker and packer at their warehouse, so is certainly best placed to understand Huboo’s systems and processes.

In fact, after the co-founders, I was their second employee and I really enjoyed my time there. After I graduated, Paul Dodd, a co-founder alongside Martin Bysh, gave me a call and asked me if I wanted a full-time role at the company. I jumped at the chance.

James is keen to have a long-term career at Huboo. As a start-up with a big future, he is keen to be a part of that.

What makes Huboo different is that we are all invested in business growth. There is a great atmosphere here and we all have a lot of respect for all that we do. As a startup, we are working at a fast pace, so we’re all in this together. That’s what makes it so good here.

Quick fire questions

What makes you irrationally angry: Being stuck behind someone walking slowly

Favourite Film: The Dawn Wall

Best holiday: When I went to New Zealand for 3 months

Dream dinner guest: Alan Turing

Biggest fear: picking, packing and sending the wrong order!

Something you really love: Rock climbing. In fact, James has scaled a peak in The Pyrenees, reaching 4,000 metres.

Fun fact: There are infinitely many different sizes of infinity (Mind. Blown.)

Who would play you in a film of your life? David Mitchell

What would your super-power be? Flying

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A big hello from Huboo fulfilment HQ; this month’s newsletter is an international expansion special, with tips on preparing for peak season and selling outside of the UK from our partners InterCultural Elements and SimplyVat.com.

We know all too well that the end of the summer can leave you looking longingly abroad to sunnier shores. Alas, but now is not the time for despair. The end of summer means only one thing for online retailers; the build-up to the holiday season, Black Friday, Christmas and the rest!  

Find the perfect excuse for a cocktail on the beach by growing your business with Huboo! 

Huboo fulfilment success stories 

We’re always hearing great stories about our client’s cool products and amazing brands; we’re now ready to start sharing them with all of you. With that in mind, this is an URGENT CALL TO ACTION!

Please get in touch with our marketing team at newsletter@huboo.co.uk to discuss sharing your success stories via Huboo’s social channels…let us help you to rack up even more sales! 

From here on in, we don’t want our social media to just be about Huboo – we want it to be about you, too. While you’re at it, please do give us a follow on to help us grow further the ‘Huboommunity’ ; just click on the icons below!

Client referral scheme 

We love client referrals here at Huboo HQ, so if you want to let us know about any other online retailers who you think might benefit from the best value fulfilment service in the UK, drop us a line at newsletter@huboo.co.uk to discuss, and start claiming your referral bonuses now! 

InterCultural Elements  

Huboo’s internal expansion partner, Intercultural Elements (ICE) have over 15 nationalities in house and a decade of experience helping online retailers grow. ICE combine their account managers’ expertise and their technologies to independently expand and manage clients’ sales from A-Z. They offer deep dive consultations, implementation services including account set up and launch, translation services, as well as support services such as multilingual customer service and returns collection. Not bad combination, all in all! 

Read more from ICE below in their super helpful blog made for Huboo:

How to prepare for the holiday season 

SimplyVat.com 

Need help with your international VAT obligations? Well, look no further. With clients in over 70 countries, SimplyVat.com specialise in VAT compliance services – including VAT registration, VAT returns and VAT consultancy – in all 28 EU countries, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. With fifteen different languages spoken in their UK office, they work with start-ups through to multi-national corporations from all over the world. Through education, support and practical industry knowledge, they make cross-border VAT simple. We’re thrilled to have partnered with them to help Huboo clients in the cross-border expansions.

Read more from SimplyVat.com below in their fantastic intro to International VAT

Intro to International VAT: What to know before expanding cross-border 

Partner network 

As ever, for more details on Huboo’s growing partner network and exclusive special offers, please email newsletter@huboo.co.uk to discuss further.

 

 

 

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In the second of our bi-monthly series in which we’re putting our fantastic fulfilment team at the centre of the action, we caught up with one of our Business Development Managers, Freddie Titcombe; the one who loves ping-pong

 

At Huboo, we’re lucky to be in a position where we have an innovative, market-disrupting technological solution that makes attracting top talent to our project a little easier than some fulfilment companies may find it. Freddie Titcombe is one such top talent we’re all grateful to be working alongside. Admittedly, not many people grow up dreaming of working in the fulfilment industry, but Freddie certainly always saw himself in an environment just like Huboo. It’s safe to say he’s enjoying himself since joining the team. 

“I like the fast-paced nature of a start-up and being able to influence strategy with my ideas. Working with a lot of like-minded individuals is what anyone would want and we all get-along great. The fulfilment industry is so far making me feel fulfilled on a personal and professional level! What more could you ask for from a job? 

Before joining Huboo, Freddie led a very different life:  

“I studied business at university and I always knew I was someone with an entrepreneurial outlook, but after graduation I wanted to first spend a little bit of time doing something completely different. I managed to land a role working as a carer looking after children and adults with challenging behaviours and learning difficulties; it came with its challenges, but it was really rewarding to be able to help other people in such a direct way.” 

Freddie also sayit’s helping others that keeps him motivated to keep on pushing at Huboo.  

“I’ve always been very selective about jobs I applied for, but what attracted me to the position at Huboo, and what makes this job different from a lot of sales roles, is being able to help small businesses and lifestyle entrepreneurs free up their time. I know that sounds a little cheesy, but it’s extra satisfying when you know you’ve made a genuine difference to someone’s life. It’s easy to forget that behind every business there’s people simply trying to make ends meet.”  

Freddie’s long held ambition is to be a lifestyle entrepreneur himself and working at Huboo gives him a lot of ideas and experience he hopes to take forward himself in future years. 

“I know at some point over the next few years I’d love to set-out on my own and start working full time on my own venture, probably in e-commerce. It’s genuinely inspiring getting to chat every day to people out there doing it for themselves. Plus, it’s great to work alongside some of our fantastic partners like eBusiness Guru and Frooition. It also helps knowing that once I do get set-up, there’s a great fulfilment company out there who I’m sure would be able to help me out…” 

It’s not all work and no play here at Huboo, and Freddie plays a crucial role in keeping everyone entertained in the office. He always helps us to relax; just like in any business, things can sometimes get a little stressful.  

We work super hard but it’s important to have some fun. I try to play my part in keeping everyone entertained and stress free. You need to have some fun and games in the office, too.” 

Outside of work, Freddie also has a new passion that helps to keep him occupied and relaxed at home: 

“I’ve recently bought a ping-pong table in my back garden and I can’t stop talking about it. If it takes 10000 hours to master a skill, I think I’ve only got about 300 to go. 

Between his gregarious nature and love of ping-pong, we hope getting to know Freddie a little more closely has helped you understand what goes on here at Huboo and how we’re always happy to help with any of your e-commerce fulfilment requirements going forward. Assuming the 2020 Olympics doesn’t come calling as he takes his ping-pong to the next level, Freddie is well set to be a vital member of the team for quite some time to come.  

And now for something completely different… 

We also put Freddie through his paces and got some quickfire answers out of him…go!  

What’s something that makes you irrationally angry? 
People putting salt and pepper on their meal before they’ve tried it.

What’s your favourite film? 
Fifth Element.

What’s the best holiday you’ve been on? 
Off-road motorbiking in the jungle of Indonesia…that was pretty cool! 

Who is your dream dinner guest? 
Brian Blessed.

What’s your biggest fear? 
Getting chased up the stairs. 

What’s something you really love? 
Ping-pong. 

What’s your favourite fact? 
There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches across the world.  

In an ideal world, how would you make your millions? 
Ping-pong…it’s safe to say I’m officially obsessed! 

Who would play you in the film of your life? 
Danny Devito.

What would your superpower be? 
I’d love to grant wishes like a genie.

 

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Expanding cross-border can be a great move for your e-Commerce business if you take the time to make sure you are fully prepared. Europe offers some of the biggest e-Commerce markets in the world and branching out could easily more than double, if not triple your customer base. However, there is a lot to consider when taking your first steps outside of the UK to sell in a new country. Localisation of listings, customer service in multiple languages, international returns, finding the right products for a different target market and so on. But there’s one thing that tends to get left out. And that’s international VAT. As a UK business you’ll probably be familiar with VAT and the joys of dealing with tax authorities, but you might not be aware of the differences when selling internationally. Before you take the proverbial leap, find out how your VAT obligations could change and how to protect your business to ensure its longevity:

How to tell if you have a VAT obligation

As an e-Commerce business looking to expand into the EU, here’s a checklist to help you figure out if you will incur a VAT obligation. If any of the following will apply to your business, you may be required to register. Are you:

  1. Holding stock in an EU country?
  2. Selling on an online marketplace within the EU?
  3. Crossing over a set EU Distance Selling Threshold within a calendar year?
  4. Dropshipping from a supplier in the EU?
  5. Importing goods into the EU for onward sale?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to VAT register! If you’re not clear on whether the above applies to your business – here’s a further breakdown of each trigger:

Holding Stock in an EU country

First things first, keeping stock for onward sale to private consumers in a European Union country immediately incurs a VAT obligation. This registration is required as the onward sale of your goods will become a taxable supply in that country.

If, for example, you ship your stock to Germany and hold it there, your VAT registration would be due from the date your stock entered Germany and may require you to backdate in order to be compliant. You don’t need to register for VAT in the countries your stock travels through as it journeys to Germany if you can prove Germany was always the intended destination, unless it is imported from outside the EU into a different EU country first.

Selling on Marketplaces in the EU

In a recent bid to crack-down on non-compliance, tax authorities across the EU have been putting the pressure on marketplaces to ensure their sellers are adhering to local VAT law. In Germany and France this has even prompted changes to their VAT legislation, making marketplaces liable for the VAT owed by non-compliant sellers. This, in turn, has caused some platforms like Amazon to require proof of VAT registration (in the form of a German VAT Certificate) from their sellers. Failure to provide this has led to some sellers having their accounts suspended or even shutdown. Further to this, marketplaces are also required to share your sales data with the tax authority. This means they will be able to assess your liability for themselves and hold to account any who are not compliant.

This trend is expected to be taken up across other European Union countries in the near future. With marketplaces now taking a share of the burden, sellers are going to have to prioritise compliance in order to run a successful business. Having your marketplace accounts suspended or fines levied on you will make profitability much harder to achieve.

Distance Selling Thresholds

When selling from one EU country to another, if you sell over the amount specified by the Distance Selling Threshold of the country you’re selling into, you will be required to VAT register.

So, for example, if you sell more than €35,000 worth of goods into France from the UK, you will need to register for VAT in France. If you’re selling high value items, you can cross these thresholds pretty quickly, so it’s important that you’re monitoring the volume of sales. Your registration will be required from the day you cross over the threshold, and whilst it is possible to backdate the VAT owed, it’s much better to be prepared before incurring this VAT obligation. It’s important to note that these thresholds reset every year, so forecasting your sales could be vital in keeping your business compliant.

Also of note, is that you will not be required to pay VAT in both countries. When you cross that threshold and have to register in another European Union country, you will pay VAT on those sales in that country and NOT in the UK. If you’ve crossed the thresholds without knowing it and have been paying VAT to HMRC when the VAT was due to the tax authority of the destination country, it is possible to reclaim that money back and pass it on to the correct authority. However, this can be a slow process and it would be much more efficient to track your sales and pre-empt the shifting of VAT registrations.

Drop shipping from a supplier in the EU

If you’re dropshipping, you might think you’d avoid any VAT obligations because you don’t ever handle your products. Unfortunately, this most likely isn’t the case. As a dropshipper, even if it’s only for a millisecond, you will own the products you’ve purchased from your supplier before ownership is passed on to your customer. In this time, if your supplier is in the EU, you will have triggered a VAT obligation through holding your stock in a European Union country. Also, the Distance Selling Thresholds still apply to drop shippers so exceeding these will result in the need for a registration!

What does compliance look like?

So, if you’ve incurred a VAT obligation, what does VAT compliance actually mean? You can contract with a VAT agent like ourselves who can handle everything and do the leg work for you. Or, you can handle the VAT yourself, though please be aware, there’s a reason (or several) most people leave this stuff to the experts.

If you need to VAT register, the first step will be collecting the relevant documents and providing them to the tax authority alongside the registration paperwork. Then, there will be the VAT returns that need to be filed periodically. Some authorities require these annually, whereas others request them quarterly or even monthly. The calculated VAT on each sale across your products will need to be included (remembering that the VAT rate can vary between countries and goods). Also, you’ve got to keep an eye on those Distance Selling Thresholds!  Normally, the paperwork will be requested to be filled out in the language of the country you’re registering in and some of it must be filled out by hand.

Hopefully this has helped to give you a clearer picture of what’s involved when complying with International VAT law and trading cross-border. Although there is a lot to consider, expanding your business into the EU can be hugely beneficial! Don’t let the VAT hold you back. With the right knowledge and some preparation, you can have your business ready for the next step and new markets.

 

You can read more of our blogs by following the link here! 

This guest post was written by Holly Hawes, Brand and Marketing Manager at www.simplyvat.com   – the international VAT services provider helping ecommerce businesses expand compliantly.

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