Although Europe is a mature market for eCommerce, online sales are still projected to maintain double digit growth in the coming years.

Additionally, the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) continues to be the largest online retail market in Europe in 2018. 

Considering the above, the UK should definitely be on your list of eCommerce destinations to ship to!

And even though the Brexit situation is in flux and the UK will have to renegotiate international treaties with 168 countries, the UK government may be more open to negotiating friendlier trade deals to make up for any losses that are a result of leaving the EU single market. According to Flow.io, the UK has been open to speaking with the U.S., Canada, and Australia to discuss trade, which may end up being beneficial for eCommerce sellers selling from these countries.

In this post, we'll share UK market trends, what consumers prefer to buy online, major sales holidays, and what you need to know about shipping to the UK so you can set your eCommerce business up for success. 


eCommerce trends in the UK

The UK has a 95% internet penetration rate, allowing eCommerce to thrive. Online shopping has a high rate of adoption within the UK, with 16.4% of total retail sales coming from eCommerce.

While 93% of online shoppers say they still shop in-store, many love to shop online because of more choices, the ability to compare prices, and lower costs. Therefore, an omnichannel approach could be a good way to be successful in UK retail. 

Here are some interesting trends:

  • 80% of consumers do online research before purchasing. 

  • Fast (same day) delivery and free delivery remain popular. In fact, one survey reported that 60% want delivery within a few hours.

  • Mobile commerce is becoming more popular, so ensuring your store is mobile-friendly should definitely be a priority. 

  • The next big thing in eCommerce will be shopping through voice commands, which already has been introduced by devices like Amazon Echo.



What do UK consumers like to buy online?

Online shopping in the UK caters to a wide variety of products, but clothing and household items top the list. Per statista, here are the categories that were popular in online shopping for UK consumers in 2018:  

  • 55% of households sampled bought clothes and sporting goods
  • 48% bought household items such as furniture 
  • 42% booked holiday accommodations online
  • 40% booked online for transport and other travel arrangements
  • 39% bought event tickets 
  • 31% bought books and magazine subscriptions 
  • 27% bought electronics online

What are the major buying holidays in the UK?

The following holidays are strong for sales in the UK:

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Valentine’s Day (February 14)
  • Easter (Variable)
  • Mother’s Day (Second Sunday in May)
  • Father’s Day (Third Sunday in June)
  • Black Friday (Fourth Friday of November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)
  • Boxing Day (December 26)

Duties and taxes when shipping to the UK

It's worth noting that VAT (value added tax) is applied to many shipments going to the UK, as the tax threshold is fairly low at 15GBP. Currently, the tax percentage is 20%. The import duty threshold is a lot higher at 135GBP, with categories such as fashion and watches eligible for additional duties.

According to Flow.io, while there are Brexit concerns about VAT changing after the UK leaves the EU’s Customs Union, the UK has stated that the goal is to continue closely mirroring the EU, which could mean “business as usual” for e-commerce providers.

For a more in-depth look at what to expect, you can visit our UK Country page.


Delivery preferences for UK consumers 

According to KPMG's Annual Retail Survey in 2018, "customers expect a range of delivery options based on different product groups."

When it came to women's fashion items, 48.3% preferred next day delivery. 43.4% also preferred next day delivery for electronics, housewares, and furniture, while another 20.4% didn't mind the delivery timeframe for these categories.

While free delivery still remains a popular promotion, 46.6% of respondents for qualified for free delivery mentioned that charging for delivery wouldn't have stopped them from completing their purchase. 

This could potentially mean that as long as delivery remains affordable and good quality, offering paid delivery options can be the best way to maintain your margins.

Another interesting insight from KPMG is that 66.1% of respondents said their home was their preferred delivery location, and of these respondents, 37.5% said that delivery time slots were important. This means that choosing a reliable courier that delivers on-time can help you build trust with customers.


What are the different options for shipping to the UK?

The good news is that if you are shipping to the UK from the US, you have many options.

Depending on where you're shipping from, check out our Rates calculator to get an estimate of what's available. Better yet, sign up for a free account to get a more accurate rate based on what you're shipping and the exact shipping destination!


Items that are prohibited to ship into the UK

The following items are not allowed to be shipped to the UK:

  • Plants
  • Drugs
  • Money
  • Firearms
  • Seeds
  • Explosives
  • Tobacco
  • Animals
  • Alcohol
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Chemicals


Conclusion

eCommerce sales continue to stay strong in the UK, making it a destination worth targeting. 

And although Brexit continues to loom over the UK, there could still be hope for eCommerce sellers in the US, Canada, and Australia as the UK government appears to want to be friendly in trade with these allies.

While Brexit is still under negotiation at this time, it may be to your advantage to start shipping there now before new regulations kick in. Remember, you can stay competitive on your shipping costs by using Easyship to find the best shipping solutions to the UK!

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