Nicholas Guy Plunkett founded Arc Creative Jewellery a decade ago and has been selling to the EU since its launch. In the last few years, he’s racked up thousands of five-star reviews on global e-commerce sites such as Etsy. But things took a turn shortly after Brexit took effect, as VAT and delivery charges for EU customers effectively wiped his European customer base.
One of the remarkable impacts Brexit has on Plunkett’s business is just how difficult it is to send parcels to countries in the EU.
One such example is Ireland, an EU member state with strong links to Scotland and the UK, and the closest EU country to Scotland.
The Glasgow businessman said since Brexit, it has been increasingly difficult to send parcels to Europe.
They often get sent back, and the new forms businesses need to fill out makes it overly complicated and time-consuming.
“I get all orders from all over the world,” said Plunkett. “Between the USA and the UK, it’s probably half and half. I get a lot of orders from Australia, and I used to get quite a lot from Europe.
“Every week I was getting orders from countries like Germany and France, and sales gradually improved, but since Brexit, with the new rules that apply to European customers, I am hardly getting anything at all now.
“In the last four or five months it has fell away totally.”
He said that while USA orders required a customs slip, it’s basic and easy to fill out. And European customs slips used to be easy too, Plunkett added.
“You would never have any problems if you send on anything over to Europe, you would never have parcels go lost – or very rarely – but over the last six months, parcels started coming back to me.
“That was since they applied the new rules where you have to put the custom slips on. They want quite more detailed information on the customer slips – plus customers are now being asked to pay VAT on all those orders online.
“So the whole process of getting a European order is a wee bit more detailed, and a wee bit more time and then and it’s not even guaranteed that the customer will get it – they’re still getting returned.
“I feel sorry for the customers of Europe now – they’re not getting their nice wee pair of earrings that they bought from Etsy.”
While Plunkett has kept his costs down, he said the VAT charges mean European customers are still paying more.
He continued: “Even in Ireland, it’s just crazy that an Irish person has to pay £3.05 in postage, plus they have to pay VAT on an item that they buy from the UK. That is crazy to me. That never happened before. The postage to the USA is about £4.
“I’ve had serious conversations with customers from France, Germany, Austria and Croatia and I have to refund them. Sometimes you don’t know what’s happening but you have to make sure the customer isn’t being left out of pocket.
“I’ve lost count of how many parcels I’m getting back from the EU. It’s a bit disheartening when you get something back and you have to tell your customer, or the customer contacts you saying ‘where is my jewellery?’
“Why should that have to happen? Now in the UK, if you want something, there are hurdles you need to get past. If we were part of the EU again, this would not be a problem, but looking at what is happening in the UK it’s just chaos.”
This article is part of The National’s series on how Scottish businesses have been affected by Brexit. If you run a business that’s been impacted by the UK leaving the EU, let us know. We would love to hear from you.
Get in touch at www.thenational.scot/my/ccn/assignment/csaxV6fx