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Brexit: Lessons Learnt Two Months On

Posted on March 11, 2021
by Emma Burgess

“The retailers that have taken the time to get the right guidance will be at the front of the queue going forwards. The EU is a huge market that can’t be turned off, you should keep that door open and continue to do your homework.” 

Early this week, our friends at Fruugo, the online trading platform that makes it easy to buy and sell products from around the globe, hosted an hour-long webinar to discuss how the first two months of Brexit have affected international trading. Our Chief Commercial Officer, Mark Elward joined industry experts, Fruugo’s Chief Revenue Officer, Hakan Thyr and Matthew Clark from PwC.  

How did you prepare for Brexit? 

Mark began, “at Huboo, preparations started in September. We made internal amendments to the dashboard and platforms to incorporate drop-down fields to include HS codes, countries of origins and information for the new rules beginning Jan 1st. Beginning in October we also initiated conversations with our portfolio of six international parcel carriers.”  

Did anything surprise you? 

“The impact of the delays in January! These were huge delays, some courier’s businesses shut down 

for a week or two with no shipment to the EU and just an email to us. We were left with thousands of parcels waiting to go to the EU, no fore planning could 

have prepared us for that.” 

How did your clients prepare? What did they do or not do? 

Mark explained by firstly sharing the unanimous shock felt by the UK in January was in stark contrast to predictions made in months previously.  “What was felt by us and our clients alike was as long as the UK achieved Brexit, we would trade as normal, however, that wasn’t the case at all.”  

Huboo saw our first wave of challenges in, “inaccurate information like incorrect commodity codes and vague goods descriptions which lead to delays and confusions with shipment carriers.” 

And now? 

“Going forwards retailers have had to understand HS codes, accurate product descriptions, 

country of origin etc, all the relevant information to enable a smooth process. The understanding of shipping goods in the EU has helped because clients are aware of, for example wanting to offer a DDP service, they know what they want, and they have the knowledge to voice that.”  

Mark praised our clients’ efforts, “their increased knowledge in a small space of time has been phenomenal, we’re in a much better place now.” 

What is the short future of carrier pricing? 

“In January we initially saw price increases and surcharges. We tried to compare like for like 

and as we use a range of carriers, we’ve seen different charges depending on DPP and DUU. These charges are reflective of the uncertainty in Brexit regulations. Luckily, some have now been levelled out and reduced, especially 

administration charges.” 

Have you seen any changes in your client’s sales figures? 

Encouraged by the latest results of an upwards trajectory, seen at Huboo in this month, Mark replied. We saw a dip in sales volumes in February. Lower-volume sellers pressed the pause button on selling, due to surcharges. However, we’re currently seeingan upward trend.” 

 Do you think people will be put off trading internationally?  

“For me no, I don’t think so. It’s more about education, which we aim to do with your clients. 

Luckily once you grasp the basics, it’s not as tricky as it seems. Do the workshops, do the open days. Global marketplaces need to be opened, we’ll push forward and get over this and the rest of the year we’ll be in a really good place.” 

And long term? 

“The boom in eCommerce is set to stay. With audience conversion, whole new generations of people will begin to and have been, shopping online. We’re watching eCom go from strength to strength.”  

 Naturally, an upsurge in online purchases go hand in hand with a rise in items being returned. 

Tell us about returns in logistics? 

“Returns is where Brexit has forced us to do something drastic! Ecommerce and fulfilment are all about creating a seamless experience for our clients, therefore we’re currently implementing returns software where duties and taxes are being calculated.” 

“Our priority as an eCommerce/ fulfilment business is to offer a seamless process for our clients where they can bring orders back into the UK.” 

Mark also noted an interesting point that many fulfilment centres in mainland Europe are desperate to have UK based warehouses for local customers, showing that there is huge demand there. 

 To round off the webinar, Fruugo’s Hakan posed a question calling for advice or sellers. 

What have we learned over the last few months that sellers can use to prepare for the next set of changes?  

“My key advice is always to seek professional guidance. Ensure you’re aware of charges and tax requirements, we know this will increase in the upcoming months. At Huboo we’re trying to help steer our clients through this process so they can get to the front of the queue and into that huge market growth going forward.”  

You can watch the full panel discussion here.