Manage the risks of importing

Minimise the impact of import delivery problems

Guide

The further away your supplies are coming from, and the more fragile or perishable they are, the higher the risk that they could be damaged or lost in transit.

It's important to make sure you have a clear contract setting out who is responsible for transport at every stage. You can minimise the risk of confusion by using internationally accepted Incoterms to set out what the delivery terms are.

You should also make sure you take out the right insurance.

UK import procedures

Clearing goods through customs in the UK can be a problem if the right paperwork has not been provided. Depending on the contract you have agreed with your supplier, you may be responsible for this, and for onwards delivery to your premises. You may want to use an import agent and a freight forwarder to handle these on your behalf. Read more about the basics of international trade paperwork.

Depending on the goods, you may also need an import licence.

Dealing with problems when importing

It's not uncommon for imports to be delayed, or to find that when goods arrive the shipment is incomplete or contains damaged goods. It may be the supplier's responsibility, your fault, or caused by shipping or customs delays. In any case, it's worth agreeing in advance how deliveries will be inspected and how problems will be handled. In most cases, returning incorrect shipments and waiting for a new delivery is too expensive and time consuming.

You may want to consider holding extra stocks of imported goods, or arranging deliveries a few weeks before you need them. Although this increases your stockholding and financing costs, the knock-on effects of running out of supplies altogether could be more serious.

Read more about international transport and distribution.