How can I Import Items From China To The UK?


How Can I Import Items From China To The UK? 

A complete guide to getting the stock that you want into the UK, safely and as risk-free as possible. At the end of this post you really will be able to answer the question- How Can I Import Items From China To The UK?

I get it. 

Really I do, there was a point in time where I just searched and searched for simple answers to get more and more confused about import duties tax, shipping codes, contacting suppliers, and really I just wanted someone to hold my hand and show me how I could buy things from China and sell them. 

It’s easy, So How Can I Import Items from China to the UK?

First thing, let’s get this straight. It’s easy to get things into the UK from China. There are some difficulties in getting certain things and getting quality things. But actually getting things, in general, is extremely easy. 

Importing Items

Let’s start off understanding the items that you want. So, let’s say that you have done a decent amount of market research. We spoke how you could do this here: 

How to build a powerful product through market research

And you have a product in mind. The first job is to look at your products HS code. 

What is a product HS code, and how to calculate duty? 

H.S. stands for harmonised product code, don’t worry, there is nothing too special about it. You need to know it to ensure that you can tell the shipping agent what your product is. They will attach this information to the shipping documentation so that the customs authority can know how much duty to charge on your shipment. 

If you are importing into the UK then you can find the HS code here:

If you are fortunate to find that your products do not have any duty applicable to them, then this is great. If there is a duty to be paid, its good to know as you can factor this into your target sale price to ensure that you still have a viable product.

Below is an example of a plastic bath’s HS code and applicable duty:

What is a HS code 

Seen from the above screengrab, plastic baths showers and basins are liable for a 6.5% duty; the HS code is 3922100000. 

The VAT is a flat rate and needs to be paid regardless. But we will be talking about that a little later on in this post.

As simple as that, no clever calculators, no underhand customs tactics, no special agents. 6.5% is the fee that applies to 3922100000 and 3922100000 is a plastic bath, shower bath, sink or washbasin.

Am I allowed to Import these items?

A few components require further legislation. You can pick up quite a few different household items, flip them around and see that they will have a CE marking on them. This CE mark is proof that your component is safe to sell in the EU.   

The difference between CE and UKCA markings?

You may have heard about a small inconvenience called Brexit (or convenience depending upon which side of the fence you sit on). The UK is leaving the European Single custom area. The CE marking was used in the EU to ensure that components sold in the EU were to a certain standard and conformed to the regulation around a certain number of components.

As the UK is leaving the EU, the UK port authorities will now be looking for a new marking to ensure safety in the UK. This is known as the UKCA marking. 

UKCA Marking, How Can I Import Items From China To The UK?
How Can I Import Items From China To The UK?

The UKCA mark

Will be to the same rulings laws and legislation of conformance as the original CE marking was. A list of components that need the CE and UKCA mark include: 

  • active implantable medical devices
  • appliances burning gaseous fuels
  • cableway installations designed to carry persons
  • eco-design of energy-related products
  • electromagnetic compatibility
  • equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres

A full list can be found here:

Ensure you check this list of components before you start to import. As it can be a costly mistake getting stock turned around at the border. 

Get in touch with us here and discuss how we can check your stock conforms to legislation: 

Contact Us 

Now you have a good idea of your classification of goods its time to calculate your landing costs: 

From China to the UK

Now we have understood what we need, what our HS code is and how much of it we need we should be able to start to put together our landed costs. 

This is where we need to start talking to freight operators. But before we do, we need to ensure that we understand the different freight options that are available to us and also the different freight options that suppliers may provide us with. By far the easiest, and hence the most expensive is buying stock from a supplier that has delivery and duty paid all contained within the price of the components. Ad indeed this is ubiquitous. 

However, it’s widespread for the individual items that you are getting sent straight from a manufacturer. You are paying a premium for this, and the majority of the profits are going to the seller. 

This is not so common when you are trying to source entire containers worth f stock though. We have written about the various types of delivery options that suppliers offer here:

The real cost of shipping from China

The 3 most commonly offered are

  • CIF- which is where transport and insurance is included in the cost
  • FOB- Free on board, whereby the stock is delivered onto your chosen vessel
  • EXW- Ex Works, this is where stock is dropped outside of the manufacturing facility, and it is your responsibility to get it into the port of exit, clear the stock and clear it into the UK

Each has their own benefit of cost vs work, if you do indeed need help getting stock out of the market, please get in touch with us to see how we can assist if your supplier has changed your shipping terms.

It would help if you now had your cost of shipping. 

As you know your stock size, dimensions, shipping terms and what is going from where to the UK. Then it’s now time to work out all your costs; this is to ensure that you have put aside enough cash to pay the VAT rate on your stock. 

VAT is added to your products, shipping, port fees and the duty. Be sure that you don’t get caught out here.

If you are not VAT registered and do not have an EORI number, then it may be worth looking into becoming a VAT registered company and applying for an EORI number to be able to claim this VAT back. 

All your costs should now be understood- Do you still have a viable product for import? 

It may be a good time to ask yourself after you have considered all these costs if your product is worth importing into the UK. 

Are you able to make a profit, or even break after all the costs have been accounted for? 

If it is, winner, go for it, import and see your commerce dreams come true. If it’s not, or the margins are impossibly tight, then it may not be the correct product for you to put all this effort in. Remember to be objectively true to data. Ensure that you are really asking yourself the real questions. Don’t lie to yourself here; look at the data.

You have a product, you know how much it will cost to get into the UK, you know your shipping, duty and VAT rates. It’s almost time to hit the button. 

But wait, how do I know if this supplier is good enough to supply my customers my product.

Well, that’s where we can really help out. 

Do I need a quality inspection in China? 

We discuss quality A LOT. We have an entire blog page on quality from Asia. It’s quintessentially what we do as a company. We ensure that you get the stock that you want.

I would advise anyone to have a look at the quality systems that we implement, not so that we can sell you our services, but merely to show you there is a robust way, through due diligence whereby you can massively reduce the risk of quality defects and the defective product being received in the UK. 

A good place to start is our quality-control blogs, to see how you can implement some of the quality checks we employ to get the best quality products from suppliers. Topics can be found here: 

Quality and how to get it

And that’s about it. If you want to discuss any items of our post, follow on with our tips and tricks of import and export in our sourcing tips here. That are sent directly into your inbox weekly. 

Add us on Linked In if you want to discuss any importing requirements. Or get in touch with us here

You really should be able to answer: How Can I Import Items From China To The UK? If not, just drop us a note and we will be sure to help out.