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How an online interiors business took action on new import rules

Credit: Gilly Nicholson Ltd
Credit: Gilly Nicholson Ltd

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Over the course of 13 years, Gilly Nicholson Ltd has earned a reputation as the online destination for interior designers looking for bespoke table linen, bedding and towels - their products can now be seen in some of the most luxurious homes in the world.

The company is based in Edinburgh but imports materials from Portugal to sell online to customers from around the globe.

To keep her customer base supplied in the timely manner they’re used to, founder Gilly Nicholson has adapted to the new post-Brexit rules on imports and exports that came into effect on 1 Jan 2022.

“I wanted us to get organised and be in control of things from the start,” she tells Yahoo Finance.

“We have always imported from Portugal. We used to work with just one mill but now we have an agent over there and work with a number of different suppliers.

“We've essentially established an office there because of the close relationship we have with this agent. If we're exporting directly it's mainly to Ireland and a little bit to Dubai.”

New regulations came into force on 1 January of this year that apply to businesses trading with the EU. It’s vital to understand these new rules to keep your business moving.

One such rule is the Rules of Origin.

Rules of origin determine the national origin of a product, which in turn could mean they can be imported or exported at preferential rates under the UK-EU trade agreement.

In order to access preferential rates, you must have proof that goods you bring into the UK from the EU originate there, and that goods you export to the EU originate in the UK.

Credit: Gilly Nicholson Ltd

“It's basically a bit of a tick list,” says Nicholson. “We have to make sure that everything is included on all the documents. Every order that comes through just has to have the same information.

“Everything is essentially exported from Portugal rather than imported from here. By having that relationship with our supplier, it's kept things simple for us.

“Everything comes through them and we've got a really slick process. We know we've got it right.”

Remember - if you cannot prove the origin of your goods, you or your EU customer may be liable to pay the full rate of Customs Duty and could face penalties.

The government has a wealth of resources on how to navigate this process, including blogs and webinars that are available to everyone.

You’ll also need to find out the commodity code for your goods, their value and then if you can either reduce, or delay the amount of Customs Duty you owe due to the trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

If you’re dealing in more specialised goods rather than shoes and clothing – perhaps high-risk, dangerous or potentially hazardous materials such as (but not limited to, see the full list here) medicines, animal and plant products and waste – then you may need additional licences and certificates.

Your next step is to ensure everything is labelled correctly and you’re then ready to bring your goods from the EU through customs.

Nicholson has advice for anyone navigating the new rules for the first time. “My constructive advice would be to really build up your relationships with your EU suppliers, that's what has reduced any challenges for us,” she says.

“I feel it’s about good communication and organisation. We’re lucky that our European partners have been so helpful.”

There is one more potential process you should be aware of – businesses can apply for authorisation to use simplified declarations. This allows the movement of some goods into a customs procedure without having to provide a full customs declaration, simplifying the process dramatically.

But be warned – it can take up to 60 days to complete all the checks needed to qualify, so factor this into any import plans you have.

The information in this article was correct at the time of publication