Explore the market: United Kingdom
If you’re thinking about expanding your business and scaling your sales to maximize income, build a brand, or whatever, sooner or later you will consider entering cross-border sales.
Nowadays, when foreign markets are easier to enter, and there are plenty of companies offering various services to make this process seamless and smooth, eCommerce companies have a huge opportunity to grow. We believe in this strategy as well – this is why we’ve created our fulfillment network all around the world.
Today, we bring to you a guide series, that will give you some insights into how eCommerce look in different countries.
Episode 1: United Kingdom
The UK has long been a pioneer in e-commerce. In terms of turnover, the country has the third-largest e-commerce market in the world, topped only by China and the US. Among British survey respondents, 95 percent state that they shopped online, which is one of the highest rates in Europe. Brexit has made things more difficult, that’s for sure, but there are many solutions that can help your business deliver to your UK customer and not be forced to resign from its potential.
Let’s have a closer look at our latest UK market research.
UK basic information
- Population: 67,886,011,
- GDP per capita in 2019: $42,330.1,
- Official languages: English,
- Purchasing power: Gross domestic product per capita based on purchasing-power-parity in current prices. In 2020, GDP per capita based on PPP for the United Kingdom was 44,288 international dollars.
UK E-commerce market
- Average basket value: (monthly €140.00 per capita),
- Most popular marketplaces: Amazon, eBay, and Wish (international), ASOS, Argos, and Next (domestic),
- Returns/complaints – legal regulations: 56% of British online shoppers believe that the online retailer should arrange and pay for the return shipment. 22% think that responsibility should lie with both the retailer and the customer. This generally matches the European average.
- Most popular industries and product categories: clothing and footwear, books, groceries, home electronics, cosmetics and skincare, and furnishings.
Permits, licenses, certificates by industry
Before setting up business in the UK, you should always contact your local authority to find out if there are any area-specific or industry-specific permits or zoning restrictions that could limit your activities. That being said, there are a few major permits that many businesses operating across all local authorities in the UK will need to be aware of before they open their doors. There are for example public space surveillance (CCTV) license, discharge of trade effluent permit (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland), pollution Inventory reporting (England and Wales).
Preferred payment methods, trusted payment providers
In the United Kingdom, PayPal was the most used online payment method in 2020, but also popular are direct debit and bank transfer.
Expected delivery time
Orders placed with Royal Mail Standard delivery are expected to arrive within 3-5 working days. Usually, this option is FREE for orders from accounts that have a Delivery Pass or on orders with £25 or more of full price and/or promo items (excludes sale).
The most popular courier company
Royal Mail is, with a respectable gap of 36% to the second place, the most popular carrier in the industry. However, the most commonly used parcel delivery company in 2018, among leading online retailers in the UK, was Hermes. Often used are also Amazon Logistics, DHL, and UPS.
Most popular delivery method
Home delivery in the daytime, in the mailbox, or home delivery in the evening.
It’s not considered a must-have for online stores. However, it’s highlighted as one of the strongest drivers for consumer interest in e-commerce, which many people find to be far more convenient than visiting physical stores.
Shipping package regulations
After Brexit new border infrastructure will mean more security checks for your freight. More security means border delays for your freight as drivers will need to show more documents related to customs clearance. With Brexit and more border controls approaching, this also means more paperwork and additional time spent for you and your business. changes are inevitable and will concern, among others, customs clearance and VAT.
Running a business in the UK
The legal form of business
Sole traders are individuals who run a business on their own with no legal separate legal personality or limitation of liability and no legal formalities or administration or filing requirements.
Companies have a separate legal identity from their owners and can be:
- Private limited companies – limited by shares or by guarantee.
- Private unlimited companies – which can be registered with or without share capital and whose members have unlimited liability.
- Public companies – limited by shares.
The CA 2006 is the main source of law regulating companies incorporated and registered in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Private companies limited by shares and public companies limited by shares are the most popular forms of business vehicle.
A private company can be limited by shares or by guarantee and is governed by CA 2006. Private companies limited by shares are much more common than private companies limited by guarantee, which are more typical forms for charities and non-profit organizations.
The most common options for an overseas company to establish a business presence are by:
- Incorporating a new company as a subsidiary.
- Purchasing an existing local company.
- Opening an establishment or branch.
- Appointing an agent.
Some EU entities can no longer be registered in the UK. These are:
- European public limited liability companies, known as Societas Europaea (SE)
- European economic interest groupings (EEIGs)
- SEs and EEIGs that did not make alternative arrangements before 1 January 2021 have been automatically converted into new UK corporate structures. This means they still have a clear legal status from 1 January 2021.
Bank account, banking regulations
You’ll need two documents: one to prove your identity and one to prove your address. Your home bank may be able to set up an account for you if it has a correspondent banking relationship with a British bank.
Many major UK banks also have so-called ‘international’ accounts. These are designed specifically for non-residents, so they’re a great option if you don’t have the documents to prove your UK address. In fact, you can even apply for an international account online. Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, and NatWest all offer international bank accounts.
Tax rules, corporation tax
Companies are subject to corporation tax, which is levied on corporate profits and other forms of income, as well as on chargeable (capital) gains made by companies. Corporation tax is an annual tax imposed by the annual Finance Act and the financial (corporation tax) year runs from 1 April to 31 March. The main rate of corporation tax is currently 19%. A surcharge applies to the prescribed profits of banking companies. The surcharge is 8% of the excess of the banking company’s “surcharge profits” over a “surcharge allowance”, as defined in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2015. The surcharge is treated as an amount of additional corporation tax payable by the banking company.
Corporation tax returns must be filed annually and the filing deadline is 12 months after the end of the accounting period.
Penalties apply in the case of late filing of corporation tax returns and interest charges apply in the case of late payment of corporation tax.
Special rules apply to companies deriving profits from North Sea oil and gas exploration and production activities.
There is also an optional beneficial tax regime for shipping businesses, by which profits from the operation of qualifying ships and connected qualifying activities, within certain limits, are exempt from corporation tax, and corporation tax is levied instead on a deemed tonnage tax profit, computed by reference to the net tonnage of ships operated by the company in question.
For now, the UK corporate rate of 19% continues to apply to NI company profits.
There are no state or local taxes on corporate profits.
- EORI number. You’ll need an EORI number that starts with GB to transfer goods between the UK and the EU. If you already have an EORI number you will need to check that it starts with GB and get a new one if not. More info: https://www.gov.uk/eori
- Import/export license. You’ll need to check if the goods are controlled and thus whether you need an import/export license. Such goods include food, livestock, and medicine.
- Tariffs. From 1 January 2021, the UK will apply a UK-specific tariff to imported goods called the UK Global Tariff (UKGT). The UKGT will apply to all imported goods unless the country you’re importing from has a trade agreement with the UK.
- CHIEF system. If you chose to complete customs declarations yourself (as opposed to engaging a customs intermediary) you will need CHIEF compatible software and a CHIEF badge.
- Customs declaration. https://www.h-m.co.uk/uncategorised/brexit-import-export-changes-from-1-january-2021/
- VAT registration threshold. For more than £85,000
Willing to buy from foreign sellers
The U.K. falls under the average, with only 45% of British consumers saying they ordered from an international store in the past 12 months.
Most popular countries for import of gods
The United Kingdom is the fifth-largest export market in the world for U.S. goods and ranks as the largest European consumer of American imports.
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