Thursday, 6 September 2012

George Osborne spoils all my fun

I buy a LOT of fabric and it always depresses me how much fabric costs in the UK. Although you can get some reasonably priced fabrics here, most of the fabrics I love are from America (eg Michael Miller and Alexander Henry) or Japan (Kokka, Cosmo) and they usually cost a minimum of £12 per metre whereas the same fabric in America costs around £6.50 (albeit slightly smaller as sold as a yard rather than metre). I do prefer to buy in the UK if I can as there are some gorgeous UK fabric websites now and I like to support small British businesses. There are also advantages such as the fabric arriving quickly. I do, however, also buy fabric from America sometimes because the fabric is so much cheaper over there.

The reason I don't do it more often is that I have previously been stung by high import duty and VAT charges when the fabric arrives. I don't have a problem with paying import duty and VAT but its always been very difficult to find a definitive answer as to how much it will be and how it is worked out so that I can calculate exactly how much I might save and decide whether it is worth ordering from America. I have spent hours trawling through the UK Customs & Excise website to try and find out more about Import Duty and VAT but lost the will to live was never sure whether the charges included postage costs, whether there was a limit above which you had to pay and whether there were extra postage charges as The Royal Mail always seemed to charge me an extra £8 on top of everything else!

Today all my questions were answered when I found this fantastic website called Duty Calculator. You just type in the value of the fabric you want to buy including the postage costs in the local currency and it tells you exactly how much Import Duty and VAT will be payable in the UK. YEY!! For the record its 8% Import Duty and 20% VAT. You only pay the Import Duty on orders over the value of £135 (not including post). The Royal Mail do charge an £8 handling fee. I think this is because they pay the duty for you. You pay the duty and their charge when you collect your parcel from the post office.

This has been very useful as I have been looking at American fabric websites recently because I want to make this quilt.



I LOVE the fabrics used so much that I want similar ones for my quilt. Its Lecien Flower Sugar Range (thanks to Lynne at Lily's Quilts for the info). Some of the fabrics are available to buy in the UK but they are all around £14 per metre. Most shops unfortunately only seem to stock a few designs from the range and I need a few different ones (I want to buy 10 yards in total). I ended up searching on etsy where I found a lovely quilting shop called Whimsy Quilts and Fabrics that seemed to stock lots of Lecien fabrics in the colours I was looking for. A yard is only $10 so its much cheaper!







Using the calculator I was able to work out that the total cost of the fabric would be $117.50 (fabric + postage) = £73.78. This would incur £0 duty (under £135 limit) but £14.76 VAT. Total £88.54. Add £8 Royal Mail cost = £96.54. If we divide this by 10 the true cost of the fabric is £9.65 per yard as opposed to £14 per metre in the UK. This would save me £43.46 for the 10 yards! USA here I come! (Although I am very excited about ordering my lovely new fabric, I do love UK fabric websites and will be posting a list of the best ones I have come across very soon!)


Go and check out Duty Calculator! You appear to only get 10 free calculations before you have to sign up and pay a monthly subscription but now I know what the rates are, I can work it out for myself! There is a free app too. I'm off to see how much fabric costs from Japan!!

20 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh you star! You know I have the same problems as you with buying fabric abroad - I only really do it now if I can't get hold of particular lines over here, mostly discontinued ones that are still available in the states. It is so confusing trying to work out when I will and will not be charged so will be trying the calculater for sure. By the way these are the exact same fabrics I am looking at for my next USA purchase - love Flower Sugar range and these would make gorgeous mirrors and buttons wouldn't they! xxx

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    1. Thanks Jenny. Its such a beautiful range of fabric. Have completely fallen in love with it! x

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  2. Hi Louise. Thanks for sharing this. Every penny saved is a penny that can be spent on more fabric isn't it? :-)
    Hugs,
    A x

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  3. Thank you! That's such a useful thing to know. I too have given up on buying US products for this reason - which is especially disappointing when it's something you can't get over here. This will open up a whole new world! I agree it's best to buy in the UK when possible - especially as a small business owner myself! But, it's good to know how to work out the best deal too. Love the blog by the way - just off to follow you on Twitter and have a closer look at the pillowcase dresses! xxx

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    1. Thanks Naomi. Thats great! I can see lots more fabric arriving on my doorstep now!!

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  4. Haha, it's a tough choice, love to support local but fabric from the US wins - especially with the sales they do, the last delivery I had everything was $4 per yard! And there is a particular store I use that puts on the customs declaration form that the value is only $15 so no duty is payable! So no customs charge. I don't always get hit with one, twice in approx 15 orders.

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    1. Fab!! A few have marked parcels as 'gift' for me for the same reason! Its so annoying that fabric is so expensive here. I would love a shopping trip to America with big empty suitcases!

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  5. Gorgeous quilt. Look forward to seeing yours. X

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  6. "lost the will to live"..... I love that line!! I've lost count of the times I've trawled through the HMRC website then given up. We have some brilliant UK online stores and we must support them (and do support them), but it would be nice to have comparable ranges and prices!
    I have a big project coming up, so thank you for the link.
    Sarah x

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  7. For future reference, Creative Quilting in Hampton Court always have a great selection of flower sugar but they are pricey. They have a website but the store holds far more fabric so best to phone them.

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    1. Thanks Tammy. Thats great. Will check it out. x

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  8. thanks for the info on duty. it is all a bit random - i have had to pay duty and costs for a handmade quilt mum sent over for my first son - (£25!) from australia. and there doesn't seem to be any recourse/ avenue for arguing your case. i do support local shops and websites but those us ones are a bit too seductive.

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  9. Hi, thankyou so much for all that info! I have just started my own fabric and dressmaking shop on Etsy and came across this by accident, I'm still not aware of all these little things I need to know, so will be getting that app for sure, and I hope it's ok but my new shop is Clarepc on Etsy, had my first customer last week whoop whoop! And would be so grateful if anyone will have a look and share with friends! Happy quilt/ Dressmaking to all! Convoy me on Etsy if you'd like to connect with me love n light fabrics Clare In UK x

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    1. Hi Clare, Lovely shop! Congrats on first sale. Good luck with everything. x

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  10. Hi Louise,

    thanks for this I've been thinking of importing larger quantity of fabrics for my shop and still trying to work out whether it'll be worth it so this is a huge help.
    Kerri
    Fabridashery - fabric, haberdashery and craft supplies

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  11. best post on the matter, I hope the calculator works 4 years later!!

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  12. Great post about buying from the US, hope the calculator works 4 years later!

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