So how easy is it to import goods into Australia?
Are you one of the lucky people who is creative and willing to take a risk on your passion? Do you have a natural ability to understand what customers want, and you’ve found the perfect opportunity – but you just need to get the products from overseas and into Australia, and you need some help to figure it all out?
We wrote a similar blog about this a while back, although what you will read in this article is more suited to the basic preparation for importing, and those finer details that could make a difference to just how much the total cost of importing will be.
Setting up your import operation.
But first, let’s look at the basic steps of setting up your import operation. At One World Courier, we’re a bit different from the other freight management service providers, because our team has had a lot of experience not just in freight, but as business owners who have personally ran their own retail operations, importing goods into Australia. We understand the fears and challenges of importing and know how it feels when you’re on your own. We coined this phrase the ‘YOYO’, which basically means, you’re on your own, left to work things out for yourself – but that’s not our philosophy, quite the opposite. Our goal is to help our own customers to understand the rules and procedures of importing, to help make it easy and less frustrating than it would be doing it on your own.
A quick reference to setting up your importing business:
- Research the Market: Understand the demand for the products you want to sell in Australia.
- Identify Reliable Suppliers: Do your research and always get samples made or have delivered to you before placing a bigger order.
- Be precise about the products being imported: Always insist on written and/or visual confirmation of the goods which you intend to purchase.
- Understand the Regulations: Familiarise yourself with Australian import regulations and product standards.
- Get the Necessary Licenses: Ensure you have the required licenses to import specific goods.
- Negotiate Terms with Suppliers: Discuss pricing, delivery timelines, and payment terms for the products you’ll be importing. Lock this in and don’t allow any changes to be made.
- Choose a Shipping Partner: Consider partnering with import service providers who have partnerships and direct connections to DHL, UPS, and FedEx.
- Prepare Documentation: Ensure all paperwork, like the Bill of Lading and packing list,commercial invoice etc is in order.
- Partner with One World Courier: We can help navigate customs clearance and ensure duties are paid correctly.
- Plan for Quality Control: Consider hiring a third-party inspection company or local agent before the goods are shipped from overseas.
- Organise Storage: Find a warehouse or storage facility for your goods.
- Implement an Inventory System: Track your products using the latest technology you’re comfortable with.
- Plan for Returns: Have a clear return policy in place and communicate it with your suppliers and/or manufacturers.
- Stay Updated: Regulations and market demand can change. Stay informed and change your strategy when needed.
- Build Relationships: Build strong relationships with suppliers, shipping partners, and customers for long-term success.
Getting started with your import idea.
If you have a great idea, and you’re excited about importing into Australia, read on. No matter which type of products you want to import, Australia has a marketplace to suit – you just need to find the customers.
Before we get to importing, let’s go back to basics, a checklist for new businesses looking to bring small samples or test products into Australia. There’s no such thing as an Australian importer’s playbook, although there are some good websites out there, complete with all the information you need. The problem is, gaining knowledge on how to import into Australia takes time.
There’s so many different websites to visit, then you have to sort through the garbage and try to find the correct information on import licences, import duties payable on the products you’re importing. Not forgetting GST if the commercial value of the goods are greater that AUD $1000.
Common issues faced when beginning importing goods into Australia.
Everyone needs to start somewhere. We can’t all be experts in everything we do in life. Making mistakes is how we learn to become experts, by continually improving the way we go about things.
It’s the same when setting up a business, where the majority of the goods you’ll sell will be imported into Australia.
Having already looked at the steps involved in setting up the import business, let’s now look at some of the more common challenges faced when the goods are manufactured, packed up and ready to be shipped.
Challenges new importers face when shipping goods into Australia.
Lack of knowledge: Being unaware of the regulations, paperwork, and processes involved in the importing process.
Importing goods into a country is not just about finding a supplier and shipping the products over. It’s a complex process that involves understanding regulations, managing paperwork, and following specific processes. For new importers, especially those without a background in the freight sector, this can be a daunting challenge. The lack of knowledge can lead to costly mistakes, delays, and even legal issues. Let’s delve deeper into the intricacies of importing into Australia and offer some guidance for those just starting out.
1. Regulations: The Rulebook of Importing
Every country has its set of regulations when it comes to importing goods, and Australia is no exception. These regulations ensure that the imported products meet Australian standards for safety, quality, and compliance.
- Different product categories have different regulations. For instance, importing textiles might have different requirements than importing electronics, or furniture.
- Regulations can change, and keeping up to date is important, especially when starting out.
- Before you even think of importing a product into Australia, research the specific regulations related to that product category. Information found on websites such as the Australian Border Force can be good starting points.
- Consider joining industry associations such as a Chamber of Commerce in your local area, or a retail members organisation such as Leading Edge Group. You could even look at joining a local BNI group, where individual business owners meet once a week and discuss their own experiences and offer their products and services to other members and their customers.
2. Paperwork: The Backbone of Your Import Business
No one likes paperwork (digital or paper-based), although it’s a critical part of the import process, providing a formal record of the import transaction, ensuring compliance is met. Of course, the biggest reason to have the paperwork ducks in a nice little row is to make sure the import process and final customs clearance procedures are error-free. The last thing a first-time importer wants is to be at the mercy of Australian Border Force, although they do an amazing job of protecting our country, there’s a lot of hoops to jump through.
- Missing or incorrect paperwork can lead to delays in Australian customs clearance procedures, can incur additional charges, or even result in the confiscation of your imported goods.
- Understanding which documents are required for the individual products being imported can be confusing and stressful.
- Once again, get up to speed with essential documents such as Commercial Invoice, the Bill of Lading, Packing Lists, and Certificate of Origin. Each of these serves a unique purpose in the import process.
- Always double-check your paperwork for accuracy. Small errors can lead to delivery delays, extra costs and lost sales.
3. Processes: The Steps to Successful Importing
Importing goods into Australia is not a one-step process. It involves multiple stages, from identifying a supplier to getting the goods cleared through Border Force Australia (Customs).
- Each stage of the import its own unique requirements and potential pitfalls. For instance, you will at some stage have to pay duties and taxes before your goods are released from a bonded warehouse and ready to be delivered.
- Not understanding how it all works can lead to missed steps, doing things out of order, which can lead to bottlenecks in the entire delivery process.
- Map out the entire import process clearly. Start with identifying a preferred supplier. Next, start ordering samples, which can be sent quickly by international air courier. Air courier services from the likes of DHL, FedEx and UPS provide affordable and fast shipping services, with some offering next-day delivery. Once all samples of the goods meet your standards, the next step is placing a bulk order, arranging shipping (air or sea freight), customs clearance, and finally, receiving the goods.
- Importing products into Australia can be complex, and you might want to consider hiring a customs broker or an import consultant when first starting out. One World Courier partners with import and export service providers and brokers who can guide you through the process and help you avoid common mistakes. On top of that, our Freight Management Platform has in-built systems which caters for the needs of Australian importers and exporters, with easy upload of commercial invoices, packing lists, carrier-specific shipping label generation and printing, digital invoicing and customs documentation uploads.
The world of importing can seem overwhelming, especially when faced with the challenges of regulations, paperwork, and processes. However, with diligent research, careful planning, and seeking expert advice when needed, new importers can navigate these challenges successfully. Remember, every seasoned importer was once a beginner. With time and experience, the maze of importing becomes a familiar path.
Australian Border Force. Customs, Duties and Taxes.
Navigating the complexities of Australian Border Force (Australian Customs), and understanding what duties and fees are payable can be a challenge for most businesses, let alone a new importer.
Importing goods into Australia is not just about shipping products from one place to another. One of the most crucial stages in the import process is getting your goods through Australian customs. The Australian Border Force (ABF), commonly referred to as Australian Customs, watches over the movement of goods in and out of the country. For new importers, understanding the intricacies of customs clearance, and calculating the associated duties and taxes can be do your head in. Let’s break down the challenges, and provide some guidance on navigating this essential step of importing.
1. Understanding the Role of Australian Border Force
The ABF is responsible for controlling the import and export of goods into and out of Australia to ensure they comply with Australian laws. They check for prohibited goods and specific items, as well as ensure collection of the correct payment of duties (based on the HS tariff code), and verify the accuracy and truth of import documentation. As we would all be aware, there are times when imported goods have been under declared by the sender, in terms of commercial value, to minimise the amount of duty and/or GST which must be paid.
Customs and Duty Challenges:
- One of the first steps is to make sure, the goods being imported into Australia are not on the prohibited or restricted list.
- Making sure all declarations to the ABF are accurate and true to avoid penalties.
- Regularly check the ABF website for updates on prohibited and restricted items which are not allowed to be imported.
- Always be transparent in your customs declaration and associated paperwork. Trying to under-declare the value of goods or misrepresenting them can lead to severe penalties.
2. Duties and Taxes: The Cost of Importing
When you import goods, you’re often required to pay duties and taxes. These are fees imposed by the Australian government to protect local industries and generate additional revenue.
- Determining the correct amount of duty payable, as it varies based on the product type and its classification. Visit the Australian Border Force website for more information on tariffs.
- Understanding the rules around the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Always expect a GST charge if the declared commercial value of the goods to be imported is greater than AUD $1000.
- Familiarise yourself with the Harmonized System (HS) code for your products. This international classification system determines the rate of duty you’ll pay.
- Use the ABF website to get an idea of the different types of tariffs and classifications.
3. Customs Declarations: The Paper Trail
To get your goods successfully cleared through Australian Customs (ABF), you’ll need to submit a customs declaration, or commercial invoice. This document provides accurate details about the goods, their value, origin, and other essential information which allows ABF to assess the duties and taxes to be paid.
Customs Declaration Challenges:
- Ensuring the customs declaration is filled out correctly and comprehensively.
- Providing supporting documentation, like invoices or permits, if required.
- Consider using a licensed customs broker who are experts in importing and exporting. They can handle the declaration process on your behalf, ensuring accuracy and compliance. One World Courier works with experienced customs brokers, who can ensure all imports are managed using industry standard processes, ensuring compliant importation of goods.
- Keep all supporting documents organised and readily available should the ABF request for further verification. This can be easily achieved when arranging imports of goods and products into Australia via the One World Courier freight management portal. As a highly developed digital freight management platform, geared for import and export tasks, we developed precise processes for the uploading, storage and retrieval of digital documents which can be securely shared and made available to third parties.
4. Customs Holds and Inspections: The Waiting Game
Sometimes, the ABF might hold your imported goods for inspection, especially if you are an Australian first-time importer. This can be a random exercise by ABF, a targeted exercise by ABF who are blitzing imports from a certain country, or perhaps due to discrepancies in the paperwork. As a customer of One World Courier, our Freight Operations Team and Account Managers will personally review all documentation associated with the importing of goods into Australia, resulting in complete peace of mind for first-time importers.
- Delays in receiving your goods, which can disrupt your business operations and ultimately affect retail sales.
- Potential additional costs can be incurred if your goods are held for extended periods of time. Typically, goods held by a customs service will attract a storage fee per day, which can mount up if the goods are not collected. Another serious outcome of not collecting the goods in a timely manner, is that the goods can be confiscated by ABF and classified as abandoned. When this happens, the goods may be irretrievable, or if you are lucky, you’ll have to pay a high price for the goods to be released and delivered.
- Ensure every piece of paperwork is accurate completed to reduce the chances of holds, excess storage fees and additional charges.
- If your goods are held, cooperate fully with the ABF. Prompt responses and transparency can quickly prevent a simple process from developing into an expensive exercise.
Shipping Costs of Imported Goods.
Unexpected, and sometimes hidden costs associated with shipping imported goods into Australia can dramatically affect the final price of the entire project.
Shipping goods internationally, whether by international air courier or even sea freight, can be a complex for new shippers. As a new importer, the allure of cheap global product sourcing can quickly be overshadowed by unexpected shipping costs, that weren’t factored into your initial budget. As a provider of a comprehensive digital freight management platform, we’ve seen firsthand the challenges faced by first-time importers, and added many features to allow totally transparent pricing across freight costs and all associated costs. With this in mind, let’s shed light on the potential pitfalls and hidden fees associated with importing into Australia.
1. Base Freight Charges: The Starting Point
Along the way, there are many stages of the delivery process. Starting with transporting the finished goods from the manufacturing facility to a temporary holding warehouse, freight forwarder facility, port facility or airport. Considering the location of many manufacturing hubs in countries such as China, India, Bangladesh, Mexico etc, it’s not too unrealistic to imagine your goods moving 100’s of kilometres across dusty, congested roads before reaching their first destination. This is a good time to mention about insuring your goods from the time they leave the factory, to the time they are delivered.
Delivery costs in the country of manufacture are generally grouped into one price, which is generally referred to as Free On Board (FOB). This is one of the most common terms you’ll encounter in international shipping. As an importer of goods into Australia, it’s important to understand this term as it directly impacts the cost, liability, and responsibility associated with your shipment.
There are two FOB terms to remember,
- FOB Origin: Here, you, the buyer takes on all responsibilities, risks, and costs once the seller (manufacturer, supplier, or agent) has shipped the product. This means that if the goods are damaged or lost during transit, you the buyer is responsible. Consequently, as the purchaser, you should ensure the supplier, manufacturer has adequate insurance coverage in place from the point of origin.
- FOB Destination: In this scenario, the seller (manufacturer, supplier, or agent) bears all risks and costs associated with the shipment until the goods are delivered to your specified location. Only upon delivery does the ownership and risk transfer to the buyer. As a result, the seller needs to ensure the goods are insured during transit.
- Fluctuating costs of fuel (surcharges), based on demand, fuel prices, and other market factors.
- Insufficient insurance by the seller
- Insufficient insurance by the buyer (you)
- Use a reliable freight platform, like One World Courier, to compare shipping rates from multiple carriers and get the best service at the price you’ve budgeted for.
- Understand the factors that can increase the final price you pay for the goods.
2. Surcharges: The Add-Ons
Beyond the base rate, carriers may add surcharges based on various factors.
- Fuel surcharges, which fluctuate based on global oil prices.
- Fluctuations in freight rates.
- Shipment weight, volume and volumetric/cubic conversion factors.
- Peak season surcharges during high-demand periods.
- Public holidays in the country of origin can increase the price you may to move freight to the exit port location.
- Always insist on a detailed breakdown of costs – which is what you can expect from One World Courier. This will help you identify and understand any surcharges that may be applicable.
- Factor in potential surcharges when budgeting for shipping, especially if importing during peak seasons and holidays in the country of origin.
Logistics: The Art and Science of Moving Goods
Choosing the right shipping partner and understanding the whole logistics process from start to finish is the first step to successful importing. Choose 1. YOYO (‘you’re on your own’, style of freight management), 2. partner with One World Courier and let our Freight Operations Teams help you through the entire process, 3. hire a freight forwarder who has experience importing goods into Australia.
When we talk about logistics, it really just a term describing the management of the flow of products/goods and steps taken from one location to another. For new importers, understanding logistics is not just about moving boxes, pallets and cartons etc; it’s about ensuring that products, especially imported products, reach their destination without any issues, and in the same condition as when the products left the manufacturer/supplier.
Let’s dive into the world of logistics and make it easy to understand the stages.
1. What is Logistics? A Brief Overview.
Logistics covers everything from inventory management and warehousing, to transportation and delivery of the goods. Basically, it’s behind-the-scenes work that makes sure your imported goods move seamlessly through the supply chain. What is a ‘supply chain’? A supply chain starts with the delivery of raw materials from a supplier/producer to a manufacturer, and ends with the delivery of the finished product or service to you, the consumer. As an example, a clothing retailer or wholesaler wants to manufacture a new line of clothing. After finalising the design of the garments, fabrics and additional outerwear accessories such as buttons, zips, clasps, fusing etc need to be sourced from a supplier, and shipped to the manufacturing facility, where the garments are made. One the garments are finished, and quality control has been approved, the goods are packaged up and begin their journey to the final destination.
- Coordinating the multiple stages of the logistics process, from suppliers, manufacturers, carriers to warehouses, warehouse to port, port to customs, warehouse and customs clearance, delivery to the final destination.
- For new importers, ensuring timely delivery whilst making sure costs associated with moving imported goods from one country to another are kept as low as possible.
- Invest time in understanding the basics of logistics. Knowledge is your first step to making sure there are no excessive, hidden costs added to your shipment.
- Taking the time to set up efficient logistics. This will improve the delivery time frame, where critical products can read the shelves or be sold online in the shortest time possible. Happier customers mean better profit margins for your business.
2. Choosing the Right Shipping Partner: Your Logistic Ally
Your choice of shipping partner can make or break your importing experience. They’re not just carriers; they’re collaborators in ensuring your imported goods move smoothly and without any hiccups. The One World Courier freight platform exists because Australian businesses needed more choice and control over who they chose to pick up and deliver their goods. Our long-standing partnerships with international air courier companies like DHL, UPS and FedEx brought a new level of freight booking and service selection convenience, as well as transparent pricing and costs management.
Challenges and Solutions:
- Finding a reliable partner who offers the right balance of cost, speed, and reliability. Getting an air freight quote to calculate the cost of importing goods into Australia was suddenly easier than ever before. We made choosing the right shipping partner a matter of simply reviewing individual carrier quotes, then choosing the best price and delivery service which suits the needs of the shipper.
- Ensuring clear communication and tracking capabilities. One World Courier manages the entire shipping process via the freight management platform, and is manned by our team of freight advisors, who are considered to be the ‘flight traffic control’ officers for every piece of freight moving through our network.
3. Understanding the Logistics Process: From Start to Finish
The logistics process can be split into several key stages:
- Supplier Coordination: This involves working with your supplier to ensure the goods are ready for pickup and have all the necessary documentation to allow fast processing through Australian Border Force (ABF) customs processing. This includes accurate and clear Bill of Lading*, commercial invoice, packing lists and any other supporting documentation.
*A bill of lading is a contract issued by a transport company to a shipper that spells out the quantity, type, and destination of the goods being shipped. It serves as a receipt of the shipment and can help prevent the theft of goods being transported.
- Transportation: This is the actual movement of the goods, whether by sea, air, rail, or road. It involves choosing the right mode of transport based on your budget. When importing into Australia, depending on the type of products and volume being shipped, there is only air or sea freight to consider.
- Customs Clearance: As discussed earlier, this stage involves getting your goods through customs, paying duties, GST, and ensuring compliance with ABF regulations.
- Warehousing and Storage: Once in Australia, your goods will need to be transported and to be stored before they’re sold or distributed. This involves inventory management, storage solutions, and potentially order fulfillment through a third-party provider, commonly known as 3PL (third party logistics).
- Last-Mile Delivery: This is the final step, where goods are delivered to their final destination, whether that’s a retail store, distribution center, or direct to the customer. Freight management platforms such as One World Courier can arrange the entire delivery process, from country of origin, to the final destination. Avoid dealing with multiple providers, freight forwarders and transport companies, enjoy the convenience of having everything you need to successfully import goods into Australia on one website.
Quality Control, Packaging, and Shipping Labels: The Pillars of Successful Imports.
The journey of importing goods into Australia is filled with numerous steps. However, there are three critical aspects to successful importing we will look at next. They are: Quality Control, Packaging, and Shipping Labels.
Let’s delve into each of these topics, highlighting their importance, challenges, and best practices.
- Quality Control: Ensuring the products being imported into Australia match the quality you expect (and paid for).
- Packaging and shipping: Being clear on how the goods will be packaged to avoid damage whilst in transit – including detailed packing lists.
- Shipping labels: Making certain all shipping labels are correct and are legible.
Quality Control: Meeting Expectations and Standards.
Quality Control (QC) is the process of making sure that the products you’re importing into Australia meet with the quality standards and specifications you’ve set from the onset. As a business owner, you have vision and clarity on how your products should be presented to the customer – because you intuitively know what they want to buy and have designed these products to meet the market demand.
- Set Clear Standards: Before production begins, provide your supplier with detailed specifications for your product. This can include materials, dimensions, functionality, and even aesthetic aspects. When manufacturing or purchasing products from overseas, always inspect the sample goods yourself before going into full production. Make it clear of your expectations and even tell the supplier what you DON’T want to happen.
- Hire Inspection Services: Consider using third-party inspection services to check the goods before they’re shipped. Take photos of the approved samples, and when full production begins, or sampled products are being prepared for shipping, insist on random inspections be carried out. Using the technology available today, it’s better to use smart phones to take a photo/video of the finished goods, and insist on precise inspection of critical components. Remember, the responsibility of the goods being of a high standard lies on your head – after all, it’s your money and reputation on the line.
- Maintain Open Communication: If your budget allows, it’s best to hire a local agent who has experience dealing with suppliers and manufacturers. Someone at the local production facility, who can be your representative, speaks the local language and is culturally connected to the local people. An agent is a good investment, although it may come at a cost of 10% of the entire value of the goods.
Additional links on importing into Australia.
One World Courier – importing goods into Australia – additional information
International air freight door to door service 200 destinations
International Air Courier Freight
Warranty and Insurance – Which is Best For International Shipping
Shipping Lithium Batteries
A guide to shipping Dangerous Goods
Warranty or Insurance? Protecting your goods in transit
How to Calculate Chargeable Weight for Air Freight?
How to Pack Goods Correctly for Shipping
Tips and Hints for Trouble Free Importing and Exporting