I was scrolling through some Amazon Seller Central forums recently, and I stumbled across a polite request from one seller who asked to “see some dummies guides (if Santa is listening)” to various questions they had on how Brexit affects Amazon sellers.
While I might not be Santa, I hope this blog helps you to understand the recent Amazon Brexit changes and how they might affect you and your business if you sell through Amazon.
Remember: The situation with Brexit is constantly changing, so while the below information is true at the time of writing, it’s subject to change. Keep an eye on relevant government websites for the latest updates and always seek legal advice where needed.
Phew! Okay, that’s my boring—but exceedingly necessary—disclaimer out of the way. Let’s dive into what you need to know about selling across Amazon’s European websites and on Amazon UK after Brexit.
How will Brexit impact Amazon sellers?
There are six key ways that Brexit affects Amazon sellers—from customs and shipping to Value Added Tax (VAT) laws and even trademark registrations. Here’s what you need to know about each of the changes.
1. Amazon UK has split from the EFN
Amazon’s European Fulfillment Network (EFN) and Pan-European Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) programs enable European FBA merchants to sell their products across Europe while only needing to hold stock and pay taxes in one country.
Say you hold your stock in Amazon’s warehouse in Germany. You can sell your products across all of Amazon’s European websites, including Amazon.de, Amazon.es, and Amazon.fr, among others, and you’ll only pay taxes in Germany (i.e. the “host country”).
While the UK was part of the European Union and its single market, Amazon UK sellers also had access to the EFN and Pan-European programs.
Following Brexit, Amazon’s UK FBA operation has split from the programs, which means if you store your goods in Amazon’s UK warehouses, you won’t be able to sell those items to customers in Europe—and vice versa.
You’ll now need to split your stock between the UK and an Amazon warehouse in mainland Europe if you want to continue selling to those countries, and you’ll pay tax to each country that’s holding your stock for you, which means additional fees for tax, customs, and shipping.
Note that you can still distribute inventory that’s already sitting in any of Amazon’s European warehouses to other mainland European warehouses, but you can’t send the products back to the UK.
While Amazon’s given its sellers separate inventory storage limits—one allowance for the UK and one for the EU—Amazon merchants selling large volumes of stock may find it difficult to stick to these limits while also staying within new VAT thresholds, which are based on total consignment values, rather than per-unit values.
If these changes don’t work well for your business and volume of sales on Amazon, then you’ll need to decide whether you want to keep selling into the EU or vice versa via Amazon.
Remember that your decision here might also affect your chances of winning or keeping the “Buy Box” as fewer sales or customer reviews could mean losing out to a competitor who keeps selling successfully between the two regions.
2. Separate EORI numbers
An Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number is a unique identification code, which is used to register and track imports and exports into and out of the EU. EORI numbers also allow businesses to reclaim VAT in countries where they’re VAT-registered.
Today, you’ll need a separate EU EORI number to import any goods to the EU and a GB EORI number to import into the UK, which will also cover any imports and exports related to moving your stock between Amazon’s UK and EU warehouses.
3. Changes to customs and shipping
Just like when selling via your own ecommerce website, you’ll need to complete customs declarations when importing and exporting your Amazon orders to and from the UK and the EU.
You can either complete these declarations yourself or hire an agency to do it for you.
Amazon has also told its marketplace sellers that parcels going from Great Britain (GB) to Northern Ireland (NI) will also need customs declarations from April onwards.
Commercial goods going from GB to NI already require declarations, but a current three-month exemption will cover most parcels right now.
4. Changes to VAT registrations
Apologies, I’m about to write another boring—but very necessary—disclaimer: I’m not an accountant. So while you may find the below information useful, always seek advice from your accountant to be 100 percent sure of tax laws.
To move goods from one country to another, and to store inventory locally, you may need separate VAT numbers for any countries you’re storing your goods in.
When Amazon UK was part of the EFN, you needed just one VAT number to sell across all of Amazon’s European marketplaces.
Now, you might need one VAT number for the UK and separate numbers for wherever else you’re storing your inventory.
5. Separate trademarks
Similarly to needing separate EORI and VAT numbers, you’ll also need to register separately for trademarks if you want to be covered across both the Amazon UK website and all of its European websites.
Before, you would have been covered with just one successful UK or EU trademark registration.
Post-Brexit, you’ll need to register for a UK trademark via the gov.co.uk website and for an EU trademark via the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
Don’t forget to update your Amazon Brand Registry account to show you have trademarks in both regions.
6. Import Fee Deposits and selling into the Republic of Ireland
Many shoppers in the Republic of Ireland might now see Import Fee Deposits as an extra line item at checkout when buying from Amazon UK merchants.
In case you’re not yet familiar with these fees, they’re a combination of Irish VAT and any customs duties that are due.
Amazon automatically deducts UK VAT, so while many customers won’t see a price difference, they will when buying from a third-party Amazon seller who isn’t VAT-registered in the UK. As these sellers aren’t paying VAT in the first place, Amazon can’t deduct anything on the customer’s side.
This could mean it’ll cost more for your Ireland-based customers to buy from you than before, so consider whether you’ll pass this additional cost on to your customers or adapt your prices to account for the additional costs.
This likely depends a lot on your profitability and margins, so only you’ll know what’s right for your business.
The lowdown: Amazon’s advice for FBA merchants after Brexit
Amazon confirmed you can continue to ship merchant-fulfilled orders across the UK-EU border, but you won’t be Prime-eligible anymore. Because of this, you may see a decrease in sales, potentially also affecting whether the Amazon “Buy Box” appears next to your listing or not.
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll also need to confirm with your courier how they’ll help you ship goods between the two regions and what you need to know about the new processes.
Amazon has different advice for FBA merchants, though.
If you want to continue selling into both the UK and EU in 2021 and beyond, then you—just like Amazon—will probably need to split your business to keep your processes efficient.
This means storing some inventory in the EU and some inventory in the UK, so you can fulfill your orders from within each respective region, and have enough stock on either side of the border.
Multiple warehouses and sending inventory across the border to keep each warehouse stocked up will mean extra costs, protocols, and processes, so this might not be a viable option for every business.
This is why now—more than ever—owned marketing channels like your website, email, and SMS are crucial for long-term business success.
What these Amazon Brexit changes tell us about owned marketing
With over 150 million Prime subscribers worldwide, it’s understandable that ecommerce businesses often turn to selling their products on Amazon.
With so many active customers using the platform every day, and a reputation for fast shipping, Amazon can be a great way to help launch new businesses and kick-start brand awareness campaigns.
But as your business grows, consider how dependent you are on this competitive third-party platform.
When change is afoot, you’ll usually have no choice but to accept the changes or stop selling via that particular platform.
You also can’t gather and store customer data for future marketing opportunities, and—let’s face it—your customers probably don’t even realize they’re buying from your brand, which means it’s more difficult to create strong, lifelong relationships with those purchasers.
So while Amazon can help with brand awareness to an extent, it’s still limited given how far removed your brand is from the customer’s shopping experience.
Instead, growing your business via your owned marketing channels (aka your website, email, and SMS) allows you to have more control over your marketing, customer data, and the entire end-to-end customer experience.
But don’t just take my word for it.
Beardbrand, a popular men’s grooming brand, stopped selling on Amazon several years ago, so they could have more control over their marketing and customers’ shopping experiences.
“We exited Amazon in January 2018. Being off Amazon is great. I go to bed with no worries and I’m not worried that someone with great tactics or black hat tactics goes and tries to shut down our products, or our listings, or the reviews are all fake or whatever. All that stuff that Amazon sellers are too familiar with, I don’t worry about,” explained Eric Bandholz, Beardbrand’s founder.