Your SME Guide: How to Ship and Export Goods Internationally


If you’re the owner of a small business looking to grow your brand, and make a big impact international markets, as well as your own, it’s important that you’re savvy when it comes to exporting internationally.

Benefits vs. Risks

Before you make the decision with international exports, your business ideally needs to be doing well already in the UK in order to hold up financially. Investigate demand in international markets and competition. The government has some great resources here.

  • You need to protect your business against late or no payments if there are charges involved – this will depend on the country you’re shipping to.
  • Ensure your product is not on a banned or restricted goods for export list – certain countries have different rules.
  • Invest in marine insurance to cover potential loss or damage to your shipment while it’s in transit.
  • Languages could be a barrier to trade; if you have copy or marketing materials, they should be provided in the destination language to make the trade more effective and show your business commitment to trade with that nation.

Many countries in Europe welcome new business from the UK, Germany for instance welcomes start-up businesses and trading partnerships from Britain. World leading couriers like TNT* deal with any customs declarations and offer rapid delivery overseas, so they make it easier to avoid the pitfalls that come with business exports.

Understanding Customs

You may find yourself up against different business cultures and postal procedures when exporting internationally; customs and ways of working will vary greatly from country to country, even within the EU.

For example, Ireland doesn’t have postcodes, apart from in Dublin. You’ll find more different business customs outside the EU; some countries, like Brazil, are difficult to trade with as their business dealings require face to face liaison, and spoken English isn’t highly prevalent.

Inside the EU

Moving goods within the EU has its advantages, as currently the UK still resides in the single European market, meaning customs documentation is not required – it’s not technically an import or export, but rather a dispatch or removal of goods in free circulation.

There are situations where VAT needs to be charged, such as when exporting to an individual not registered for EU VAT in their country. Excise Duty is imposed by HMRC on alcoholic products, fuel and cigarettes produced, acquired or imported in the UK.

Making B2B connections as well as expanding your client base are just a couple of benefits from trading internationally, and international exports might be the step that catapults your business to success.

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