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Importing goods for Christmas: Tips for ensuring your goods arrive on time from Asia

Christmas import shipments 

 

With summer barely over (and even talk of it returning in the coming weeks with an ‘Indian summer’), it’s difficult to believe that Christmas is just a few months away.

However, here at Velta we are already shipping goods into the UK ready for Christmas and have been doing so since May!

This doesn’t mean you have missed the boat in getting your goods in time for Christmas though – As long as you act now!

If you are sourcing products from China, India or anywhere else in Asia, it will take roughly 4 to 6 weeks (not accounting for production time) for import into the UK via sea so there’s still time to get your goods by mid – October / November, enabling you to capitalise on your businesses profitability during the festive spending spree.

So what can you do to ensure you get your products on time?

 

Be aware of potential impacts on delivery times

There are various factors that could impact on your lead time from production to getting your goods on sale so, where possible, it’s always best to order early. Things to bear in mind include:

 

Lead / Production times

Whilst it may be possible to source goods that are pre-made, production can generally take anything from a couple of days, up to 30 days.  As you will experience an increase in sales in the run up to the festive season, so will your suppliers. This increase in orders means that production lead times can be extended to longer than you would normally experience.

 

Reliability of supplier

It is best to source your products from a supplier that you know well and that you know can meet the deadlines that you set out to them. If you are sourcing a new supplier for products (especially at this time in the year), it’s difficult to be certain that they will deliver on their promise and get your products shipped within your desired timescales.

And can you be certain of the product quality that a new supplier will provide?  Whenever using a new supplier, it’s advisable to source samples to ensure products are of the specification and high standards that you require. But all this adds to your overall lead time.

 

Location of supplier

Depending on where you are sourcing your goods from will depend on the transit time it will take to get them from origin to destination. For example, from Cambodia to the UK, it will take about 4 weeks via sea, whilst shipping goods from Taiwan to the UK will take about 5 weeks.

Even when sourcing products from different locations within the same country, transit times can vary. Shipments from North China generally take longer than those from South China.

Furthermore, depending on the location of your supplier, it may make the difference as to whether your goods can been shipped via a direct transit or whether they will need to be transhipped via another location, which will take longer than a direct sailing.

It’s not just shipping times that you need to take into account.

If you are sourcing goods from an inland factory, you need to take into account the time it will take to move goods overland from the factory to the Port of departure.

 

Increase in demand for transportation

Naturally, the build up to Christmas sees an increased demand in consumer goods, many of which are sourced in Asia. A peak in demand for everything from toys and clothing, to decorations and even furniture as people look to get their homes ready for the festive family break not only has the potential to lead to extended production times, but can also have a knock on effect on transportation times.

Due to the increased demands for moving goods out of the East, predominately to the West, space on vessels is at a premium during peak seasons, which may mean it takes longer to get a booking than you may hope.

 

Weather

We all know how unpredictable the weather can be at times. When it comes to the transportation of goods, the impact this natural phenomenon can prove to be a real problem for supply chains.  

Winter snow and high winds in the UK can cause Port operations to slow down, or in instances even halt whilst the weather clears, delaying arrivals, whilst monsoons and typhoons in Asia extending into late September – October can affect operations at the departure Ports overseas.

 

Factor in a contingency plan

For those unexpected delays, it is wise to put a contingency plan into place. Allowing for a few weeks leeway on your shipments in case of the unexpected can help to relieve pressure points in your supply chain and keep your business (and your profitability!) flowing.

 

Consider transportation methods

Air is quicker but more costly than sea freight.  As such, most traders sourcing goods from Asia opt to ship goods via sea. However, as we have already ascertained, this means availability for slots becomes tight as demand increases this time of year.

In instances of urgent shipments, or due to unforeseen issues, air freight can be of benefit for supply chain fluidity. To assist in maintaining availability of goods, you may wish to consider splitting your order from your suppliers, sending some via air, and the rest via sea.

Freight Forwarders are well placed to offer flexible solutions should anything affect planned bookings.  Relay your requirements to your freight forwarder and they will find the most suitable, cost effective answer.

 

Customs Clearance

Make sure you have everything in place required for a smooth Customs clearance. Have you got an EORI number? (Necessary to clear imports into the UK). Do you know the accurate Commodity Codes for the declaration of your goods? Have you got all the relevant documents or any licences required?

Appointing experienced Customs clearance operatives, such as our team at Velta, who can help to ensure that all the correct documentation is in place, makes it less likely that your goods will be put on hold.

It is advisable to look for a company that hold an AEO accreditation also, as this can help speed up the clearance of items through Customs, getting your goods to you even quicker.

 

Plan now for next year

Whilst you still have time to get your imports to the UK in time for this Christmas, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the following year. Why not get ahead of the game now?

Know you’re ahead of your competitors and capitalise on the benefits that pre-planning can bring to your company as one of the early birds who prepare for Christmas early.

Pre-planning for next year now could save you time, money and hassle.

Advanced planning can result in lower shipping costs. As we head into peak season, shipping prices will begin to creep up as space becomes limited.

By planning orders early you are also likely to be able to negotiate lower production costs with your supplier and will be less likely to experience any delays in production as they will have a lower level of orders on their books.

It is possible to look to bring your products in to the UK earlier in the year ahead of the Christmas rush without it costing you more (in fact, as we’ve just discovered, it could actually result in lower overheads!). It could help to store your goods in a Customs bonded warehouse and take advantage of not having to pay Duty & VAT until goods are released into free circulation. Doing so will enable you to take advantage of an increased cash flow without having to worry that your stock may not be delivered in time to capitalise on the peak season euphoria.

 

For help and advice in arranging your imports (whether that be for this Christmas, next Christmas, or somewhere in between!) please get in touch!

 

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