Shopping Direct For Craft Supplies From Overseas – and the B Word And Most Likely the F Word Too

Some of the links that I have posted over the last few years have been for retailers based outside of the UK, most often from the United States.

As most of you that follow me reside in the United Kingdom you often raise postage and taxes as a confusing and expensive reason for not shopping direct.

In this blog post, I would like to share my knowledge of shopping from overseas with you, it can sometimes be well worth it – but will it remain so?

Let’s just get one quick thing out of the way though. I am writing this in March of 2019. Things may change – there is Brexit of course and then there are the governing bodies and shipping handlers that like to keep us on our toes that will be affected by whatever changes may come too.

I won’t be updating this every single week and will most likely set it and forget it once I hit ‘publish’ so please, if you visit this post in the future, do a quick double check to verify the info. I will try and provide relevant links to help make that easier.

Ok, so, ordering from overseas is very similar in many ways as ordering in the UK.

It is likely that you will order via a website. You have visited a website before. In fact, you are doing it right now so I don’t need to cover that bit.

It is most likely that you have also ordered from an online store in the past too. One in every five pounds is now spent online so someone must be.

So, that just leaves getting your stuff to you so, let’s take a look at those.

In short, there are three things that you will pay on top of your basket/cart total in order to get your goods to your home.

  1. Shipping and handling charge from the store.
  2. Duties and Taxes to the UK government.
  3. Processing and handling fees by the postal service in the UK.

Let’s look at each of those a little more in depth.

Shipping and handling charge from the store.

From the EU, these vary considerably but are usually on an even keel or may one or two pounds more than if we were ordering from the UK.

From elsewhere, and in particular the US, sates vary but often you will find that most US stores will offer a flat rate international postage as long as they can cram your order into a certain sized cardboard envelope or they base it on your order value.

This shipping and handling fee is usually somewhere between $15 and $25 – approx £10 to £15. This might seem a lot however if the exchange rate improves, this can work out less so it’s worth keeping an eye on trends where the value of the dollar is dipping.

When you also consider that some UK companies charge a flat rate of around £7, it’s actually not that much more and you get the advantage of being able to order things that may not make it to the UK.

Taxes and Duties

Taxes and Duties are currently charged according to these guidelines

  • In the United Kingdom you can spend up to 135 GBP (approx 175 USD) and not incur any duty on your order. Duty of 2.5% is due on items with a value of £135 to £630.
  • VAT is due on any order above 15 GBP and is charged at the prevailing rate, currently 20%.
  • You are responsible for the duties and taxes upon delivery, not during the checkout process.

More info on taxes and duties for goods sent from overseas to the UK can be found here.

Processing and handling fees by the postal service in the UK.

In order to collect the taxes and duties, Royal Mail etc operate a tax/duty collection service for which they charge us a fee of £8.

If any fees are due, you will most likely receive a grey postcard through your door advising you of what is payable and when to pay it by.

More information on this process can be found here.

This may look like a lot and you may feel that it’s not worth it however do keep in mind that you already pay most or all of these charges within the current purchase price or total order price of your shopping in the UK already.

The difference is that it is often already rolled into the price, or absorbed in other ways, rather than us having to pay each part separately.

So, what does all of that mean in real terms?

Well, let’s take a look at a couple of recent overseas orders that I have placed. Both were from the US and placed with the same company at different times.

The majority of each order were clear rubber stamps and small metal components.

Example One.

ChargeUSDGBP (approx)
Basket Total (3 items)19.97£14.99
Shipping & Handling14.99£10
Duty£0 as order below £135
VAT (on basket total)£0 as order below £15
International Processing via Royal Mail£0 as no duty/tax due
Total inc fees and postage.£24.99 for 3 items.

Example 2

ChargeUSDGBP (approx)
Basket Total (5 items)60.96 £46.50
Shipping & Handling19.99£14.99
Duty £0 as order below £135
VAT (on basket total) Approx £9.30
International Processing via Royal Mail £8
Total inc fees and postage. £78.79 for five items.

So the average cost of each item, despite being of similar value originally changed from approx £5 each to £15 each.

As you can see, submitting lower orders DOES help keep the international processing fees down.

My advice, shop the sales. It’s the best way to get the most in your basket to justify the costs involved.

Having said that, the average of £15 was not bad as the price of the stamp was $14.99, so approx £11.50 plus £3.50 postage each.

I didn’t mention delivery times as these were not a ‘cost’ however these can vary considerably depending on where you order from. Europe can take up to an extra 5 working days. USA can take anywhere from 10 to 30 days and orders placed with China can take anywhere up to 40 days.

Anyway, REAAAALLY LONG story short, it’s not as bad as you think and can often make a good idea to shop direct.

As a bit of a downer on that though, if Brexit goes ahead with “no deal”, the VAT limit will decrease to zero meaning that all incoming orders will be liable for VAT regardless of value, including those orders we place with our current European neighbours that currently slide through our letterboxes without hindrance, so, let’s see how that affects us in the near future!

What are your experiences with international orders? Good/bad/ugly?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Bye for now.

J :)

7 thoughts on “Shopping Direct For Craft Supplies From Overseas – and the B Word And Most Likely the F Word Too

  1. John I wanted to sign up for your class. When I downloaded the app Udemy I tried to set my account and it said I did not have the right password..Do I need to purchase it first? I was going to purchase it on Udemy. I did the reset password but it never showed in my emails.
    Get Outlook for Android


  2. I have managed to find a few UK based companies that stock some US brands. I try not to use US companies for the reasons you have mentioned as well as being impatient. I have used them though and found the experience to be fine just a bit of a wait for delivery due to location.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are indeed many companies in the UK that import however they too are subject to duties and taxes and this cost is usually absorbed into the purchase price for us. Not all items and brands make it to the UK either.


  3. I have ordered 3 times from US. The first time was on Etsy, I didnt realise they were from US so the extra £20 tax and Royal Mail charge was a surprise and also made the items cost far more in total than I would have thought them worth. The second time, I ordered the Hero Arts Monthly kit costing £35 plus postage, taking it to about £50 which I thought was still worth the contents, then got the additional tax/RM charge on top – now at £75 it was no longer worth it. Third time, I ordered from Simon Says Stamp and arranged for it to be delivered to my friends villa in Florida as she as coming back to UK in a few days time. I got an email saying the courier was unable to deliver the item as “address unknown” – despite it being a very public villa. I got a refund on the items but had to pay for the shipping charge despite not getting any items. So that was me done with ordering anything from USA!


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