We’re far from political experts here at Outdoors Magic, but the reasons behind these issues are clearly complex and multi-faceted. The BBC has reported that new VAT rules, additional paperwork and customs complications have prompted online retailers from all sectors to ditch the UK market, if only temporarily. Border closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as shipping and haulage delays, have added to the difficulties and confusion too. It’s a perfect storm of paperwork panic and admin aggravation.
But, putting brands’ Brexit woes aside, how will the average consumer be affected? The honest answer is no-one really knows. In the short-term, the flow of outdoor clothing and equipment into the UK – particularly from EU-based brands – is obviously hindered. But is this a big deal? Perhaps it is if you’re utterly desperate to immediately get your hands on a handcrafted wooden Spork from a specific Scandinavian bushcraft brand. But, considering no-one can really go on any adventures thanks to lockdown version 3.0, most people will be unaffected.
The long-term outlook is uncertain too. It is unclear whether these Brexit-related issues will reduce the overall availability of outdoor gear in the UK, or increase the price of goods in the UK. Certainly shipping costs are likely to increase, with major couriers such as UPS and DHL increasing charges to cope with Brexit border admin, as the BBC has reported. We also know that many brands are hoping to renew UK sales once they’ve had time to adapt to the new landscape.
A statement on the Haglöfs website, for example, reads: “Due to Brexit, we are currently unable to ship to the UK. This means that you cannot place an order with us right now. We are working on a solution and hope to have the site up and running again and take orders by the end of January.”
Meanwhile the Silva website has a similar statement: “For the time being we can no longer accept orders from UK customers due to the upcoming Brexit implications. We are working on a solution but until we have it in place we cannot take any new orders at silva.se from the UK.” And online retailer Scandinavian Outdoor mirrors this stance as well: “Due to Brexit, we have temporarily closed our store from UK-based customers. Ordering will be possible as soon as our UK VAT-registration and the overall process of selling to the UK post-Brexit has been sorted out!”
The brinkmanship of the Brexit deal has certainly contributed to these overall problems. Tom Oswald, founder of gear retailer WildBounds, tells us the “last-minute confusion” and “lack of clear information from the government” has been a significant challenge.
“Sorting through this confusion has been time-consuming and a bit frustrating”
He explains: “The biggest immediate, but hopefully short-lived impact, has been confusion about what the eleventh-hour deal means for cross-border retail sales. The rules for customs fees are complex – it depends on order value, type of item, and the manufacturing country of origin. For us and our customers, sorting through this confusion has been time-consuming and a bit frustrating.”
He added that several of his EU-based suppliers have decided not to deliver goods to the UK until February at the earliest, due to the time required to sort through the new rules, understand the impact, and make adjustments to their internal processes.
The whole thing sounds like you need an accountancy degree – and a PHD in patience – to get through it all. But, what is clear, is that the outdoor industry is trying its level best to cope with an unprecedented situation and it would be fair to cut the affected brands some slack.
How each outdoor brand is affected will depend on numerous factors, including supply chains, whether they manufacture in the UK, EU or further afield, how much stock they hold, and whether they sell direct or use retailers and distributors. It’s a complex picture. But, ultimately, what stands out is a determination to get through this and move forward positively.
“Others are hoping the Brexit confusion could force an environmentally-friendly shift in consumer behaviour.”
The Outdoor Industries Association (OIA), a non-profit membership organisation representing the outdoor industry, which has been running a ‘Get Ready For Brexit’ project for its members, says: “Whilst the UK has left the EU we are still a part of Europe, and the European Outdoor Group are also very supportive and keen to ensure trade continues between all our members.”
Others are hoping the Brexit confusion could force an environmentally-friendly shift in consumer behaviour. Zoe Hewitt, of UK manufacturer Nikwax, suggests the Brexit confusion is a good time for consumers to change their habits, to shop British and to focus on extending the life of their existing kit, rather than buying new stuff. She suggests: “Now is a really good time to take stock of the gear and equipment you already have and look after it. Nikwax are big believers in the make do and mend philosophy – and we help consumers to get the most from their existing kit.”
That’s all we have for now on Brexit anyway (phew), but we’ll aim to keep you up-to-date as the picture progresses.
Brexit statements from other brands
Other brands which have temporarily halted UK sales (or are facing delays and some suspensions of service, particularly in Northern Ireland) are listed below, including details of their statements. These are just the ones we’ve spotted, so there might be more.
Columbia – “Please note that due to Brexit, deliveries will take at least 10 additional days and deliveries to Northern Ireland won’t be possible until further notice.”
Hydro Flask – “Following the Brexit announcement, Hydro Flask made the decision to shut its UK webstore temporarily in the run-up to Christmas and into January to avoid risking an insufficient customer experience due to the delayed logistics in the first couple of weeks of the transition. Our retailers based in the UK can offer a great service on and offline.”
Icebreaker – “Brexit: Delays for all deliveries to the UK and suspended service to Northern Ireland. Shipments to Northern Ireland: Due to customs clearance issues caused by Brexit, the shipment of orders to Northern Ireland is suspended from December 28, 2020 until further notice. We aim to get up and running again soon. We’re sorry for the inconvenience. Shipments to UK: Due to government Covid restrictions and upcoming Brexit we are experiencing significant shipping delays to the UK.”
Klättermusen – “Please note that as of 1st Jan 2021 we unfortunately expect longer than normal delivery times into the United Kingdom. This is due to the extra congestion and longer transit times anticipated at the UK border following the United Kingdom’s initial, formal withdrawal from the EU. Due to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, deliveries to United Kingdom are considered DAP (Delivered at Place) and the product prices displayed are exclusive of all taxes and duties. Once your order arrives at its destination you will be required to pay all import duties, customs and local sales taxes levied by the country you are shipping to, in order to release your order from customs.”
Merrell – “Delivery update Northern Ireland: Brexit is impacting orders for delivery to Northern Ireland. We are working with our carrier to resolve. Potential delays: Due to recently implemented travel restrictions on goods travelling to/from the UK, orders may be delayed. We will continue to work closely with our shipping provider to monitor products processed from our warehouse based outside of the UK. Express shipping is temporarily suspended. We will provide further updates as they become available.”
Nordisk – “Due to border closures and congestion, we have temporarily disabled sales.
We hope to have this live again in the New Year.”
Salewa – “We are very sorry but the Salewa Web Shop for the United Kingdom is temporarily closed.”