Folksy Ltd

Overseas sales - Guardian Webchat

Hi!

We’re joining the Guardian on 23rd Feb as part of the team discussing “Your first international sale” in a webinar and we’d love to hear your feedback and concerns about selling overseas for a post we are writing on the subject.

Details here -

http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2016/feb/16/online-sellers-first-international-overseas-order#

We’d love to hear about any international sales you have had and whether you researched the trading regulations in the country of destination or just posted it.

What happened was it really easy, did anything go wrong?

Were the post office helpful?

Did you fill out a customs form if outside the EU and was it straightforward

We’d love to hear from you - questions and any experiences you have had, positive or negative when selling overseas.

Thanks

Hilary :slightly_smiling:

I’ve never really had any problem selling overseas - I guess one of the biggest obstacles with sales to America and Canada is the issue of insurance. For some reason with many insurers your PPL will not cover you for sales to these countries.

The only time I really had an issue was when someone in Australia commissioned me to make something. Many photographs/emails later it was sent but on receipt she decided it was not what she wanted and wanted to return it. I had no problem with this and the item was duly returned with return postage paid by the customer and a full refund given. Unfortunately UK customs decided duty was owed and I was charged duty + handling fee (amounting to £13+). Apparently to avoid duty the customer should have returned the item in its original postage envelope and written “unwanted item return” clearly on the package. Lesson learnt for next time!

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Have sold overseas to USA and Australia with no problems (fingers crossed) my local PO have been very helpful they gave me a roll of CN22 (customs declaration) stickers so they are all filled out and stuck on beforehand. Also gave me Air Mail stickers to use too. Trying to work out postage is a little trickier have downloaded a PO leaflet to refer to when pricing postage on Folksy, so far I have been spot on with costs.
It is a lot easier to post abroad than I thought it would be, so far so good. There’s a lot of potential customers out there. If you never give it a try you will never know if you can do it or not. If you come unstuck put it down to experience and change it for the better next time.

Gill

Hello,

I have made several overseas sales on the other site…

I had a few issues at Christmas with Royal Mail, they said it usually takes 5-7 days but some of my parcels took 4 weeks.

I’m only now using tracked services and I may close the deadline for US orders in the first week of December next year or even the last week of Nov (after Black Friday).

I had orders to the EU and that was much easier, and quicker with no delays.
.
I always fill out the customs form at the post office - as its stationery it’s pretty straight forward.

I hope this helps :slight_smile:

My only overseas sales have not involved the post office as mine were my knitting pattern sold in pdf form attached to an email all very simple tbh

I used to get occasional sales to the US, Canada and EU but for some reason they’ve dried up completely in the last year or so when my local sales have been quite strong.

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I’ve sold to America, Canada, Australia, various European countries, mostly without any hassle.

My biggest problem with a customer who placed an order for several of my personalised pet signs, and despite secure packaging the packet arrived at her place empty. I re-did the order, posted it again - so securely wrapped this time that it would take a loooong time to open…and it never arrived! I ended up having to refund the customer in full, I paid for two lots of materials, used two lots of time, paid for two lots of expensive postage (I must get round to filling the forms in to try and claim that back!) had the Folksy commission lost, also the Paypal commission, as it was over 60 days, so I couldn’t do a straight refund via Paypal so lost the commission I paid to them too, and the customer was really awkward about how she wanted the refund, as she didn;='t have a Paypal account and had paid via credit card, so in the end I suggested she contact her card company and do a chargeback for the payment…and then I got charged £14 by Paypal as I had a chargeback!

It hasn’t put me off posting abroad, but for higher value orders now I would use insurance when posting. I don’t usually as I hadn’t had much n the way of problems before, and wooden signs weight heavy for posting.

My first 2 overseas postings were to the USA and Australia respectively. They were very exciting to me I must admit! Both were very easy as my items are fabric. The lovely couple who run my local Post Office were very helpful and I just had to fill in a form to say what was in the parcels. I did underestimate the posting costs to the USA (my first posting) and so I would recommend looking at the Post Office website for posting advice and costs as it is really helpful. Other than that I would say it depends on what you make and post and always ask for advice at the Post Office (or on here) if you’re unsure :smiley:

I’ve sold to Spain and recently to the USA, the postage & packing worked ok. My local Post Office provided the Air Mail stickers and just posted them and as far as I know they arrived safe & sound. I never researched trading regulations, never even thought of it, because I was sending greeting cards. Must admit I was a little worried sending overseas but so far so good. :slightly_smiling:

I’ve only had one sale overseas as ,many of my items are large and the postage is too much. This particular one was a clock going to Australia and the customer had to beg me three times!!! The clock was about £18 and the postage was £14 ish. I’m pretty sure that would put most people off!! Also when I looked at the list of prohibited items to send to Australia it was a mile long and very confusing. In fact my customer had to research if it was ok or not!! Having recently realised that if a customer changes their mind and returns something we have to pay for the cost of outward postage as well as refund I’m afraid I won’t be sending any of my larger items overseas. I do have overseas options on my smaller things but so far no takers. To be honest I would prefer to sell to UK only as I just worry about things getting lost/damaged to much!!

Hi Hilary

Selling and posting overseas has been easier than expected despite I make & sell lampshades which are very fragile & as light as a feather.

I investigated first to see if my lampshades were not on any restricted list (as this is the case for my scented lavender bags as I use fresh organic lavender buds - I just sell these at handmade fairs now).

I have found my local Post Office in my town very helpful & always give me the best advice. don’t be afraid to ask questions if you aren’t sure about posting abroad. They know me quite well at mine & are always friendly and kind.

They have been sent to Europe, US, Canada & even Australia. US has been the top buyer out of all of them. Also I do not post over a certain size of lampshade (max. 30cm in diameter with a height of 21cm) to the US/Canada/Australia. I restrict posting lampshades to certain regions/continents too and state my return policies clearly in my shop especially when it comes to busy periods & or holiday seasons like Christmas etc

The post office seems to be better at handling my “fragile” boxes sent abroad than the national couriers that I use here for my UK orders.

I always track them and make sure they are signed for too!

I too keep custom labels at home as well as fragile stickers.

I actually feel giddy with excitement whenever I get an order from abroad.

These are golden opportunities that cant be missed especially if you want to make your business grow an make profit. As a small business you should not restrict oneself to their local market. The world is online which makes it so much easier with eCommerce platforms, Paypal and new selling technologies emerging all the time.If you have any more questions, am more than happy to help :slightly_smiling:

Tola
Designer / Maker
Detola & Geek

2 Likes

Hi Hilary

My first International sale was to Australia, and as it was a textile duck, it was pretty straightforward. My 2nd though wasn’t. A customer wanted 6 of my lavender birds, and looking up lavender for Australia I found it was in a restricted list as considered a biohazard. I contacted the Dept of Agriculture in Australia by email for clarification, they sent me standard reply and a link which was out of date but I managed to locate the website they use to analyse. After some digging on their BICON website I found that the lavender would need to be inspected and then either fumigated or radiated to ensure there was no risk! As my lavender was inside my birds, I had to inform the client I couldn’t add lavender, without risking the birds being opened or destroyed. I stated I could just do an order of birds without and although the client was happy with that, I was a bit disappointed as it’s one of the main selling points for my birds.
Customs forms were a doddle though after all that!

I now state in my listings that lavender birds can’t travel outside the EU.

Hello Hilary,

I’ve had a few sales to the States, Australia and the EU and, luckily, each has gone smoothly. I find the postage pricing booklet from Royal Mail is very easy to understand and so far haven’t had any issues with incorrect postage costs. My local PO is good at letting me have a few custom stickers to use and I always fill it out genuinely (ie not just put “gift”). I haven’t read up on trading regulations for destination country, but have included in my shop info page that any customs/tax charges must be paid by the customer.

The only thing that gets me a bit twitchy with posting overseas is how they write their addresses (often different to how the customer has entered the info on their order). I came across a good website yesterday stating exactly how addresses should be written for different destinations, which was a big help.

Elaine

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I’m too scared to sell overseas! I get asked all the time so I know I could have many more sales, but my orders for boxed invitations are very large and very heavy once boxed up and I’m too scared that something will go wrong. Also with last minute orders like place cards and seating plans etc I’m worried that they just wouldn’t arrive in time for the wedding or if lost in the post there wouldn’t be time to re-make and I’d be totally devastated if a customer didn’t have their order on their big day :cry:

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Thanks for all of your input in this

We’ve written up a guide which I hope will answer the main questions that people have about selling work overseas - I’ve also linked back to this discussion.

We’d love to see more sellers having overseas options as there’s a whole world full of customers and with everything on Folksy handmade and British, it’s a fantastic stamp of quality :slight_smile: