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When once a simple trip in a van could be completed with very little hassle for a dealer, now the planning involved has meant many traders are reducing the number of trips they make.

The cost of shipping has doubled, the time it takes to complete the forms is now many hours rather than 40 minutes or so and the administrative burden is causing increasing headaches.

Many dealers are still able to complete buying trips themselves (or travelling with their stock to fairs) but it has taken a lot of extra time and resource to understand the new requirements.

So will prices reduce, even if the admin does not?

Price implications

The price of shipping is expected to remain high and even increase further. Edouard Gouin, co-founder and CEO of Convelio, says: “Covid brought a period of high freight prices due to higher demand and lower capacity.

"While we’re seeing the beginning of a decrease in air freight prices, courier and sea freight prices remain significantly higher than pre-Covid. Capacity has still not returned to pre-Covid levels and general courier companies are expected to increase their prices by 7-8% in 2023.”

However, there was one reprieve during 2022: the rule requiring a customs declaration to be made in advance of import (known as an ‘entry summary declaration’ or ENS, concerning the safety and security of goods) has been delayed and will now not be needed until the end of 2023 (the UK government is due to publish a new target operating model of border controls soon).

But it is still difficult to navigate and the changes have impacted both the low and high end of the spectrum of art and antiques shipping. It is no surprise that many buyers (private collectors or dealers) are turning to logistics firms for help.

Brexit and Covid impact

Jeremy Parnham at Postit4me, which works with 100 delivery companies worldwide, says: “The last couple of years has thrown up a number of significant challenges for both businesses wanting to ship items internationally or customers overseas wishing to buy from the UK.

"Brexit, Covid, the introduction of the EU’s Import One Stop Shop [for VAT see link at atg.news/IOSS], the US exit from the Universal Postal Union and the war in Ukraine driving up fuel costs have all impacted on the access to and cost of viable delivery solutions.”

Parnham adds: “Having access to a comprehensive choice of carrier options is key to being able to offer reliable and cost-effective cross border delivery. It offers alternatives where carriers are too expensive, not available or the shipment type dictates a different approach.

"A customer in one country may prefer to use UPS over DHL because their experience of customs and clearance has seemed smoother. In another country the preference may be DHL or FEDEX for similar reasons, so being able to offer customer the choice of carrier would seem sensible.”

Simple solution

Duncan Hypher of Mailboxes Etc agrees and says logistics firms are also able to “reassure buyers who have concerns about how Brexit has affected exports from the UK to EU countries. We also do a lot of consolidation work.

"Dealers or collectors can bid and buy at any number of sales throughout the UK and we will collate and consolidate customer purchases to simplify the process and provide a single logistics solution.”

UK exports boost

Even if it is tougher for UK customers, there are others potentially benefiting.

Graeme Rhodes, head of marketing at Pack & Send, says: “Although rising fuel, packing material and freight prices have undoubtedly increased costs for secure bespoke shipments, the movement in the value of the pound to dollar has countered this for many international buyers and we have seen overall volumes of international shipments of quality art and antiques from the UK increase.”

And where there is will there is a way.

Gouin adds: “Our offices in Paris, London and New York have provided us with insight into how the landscape has changed for art businesses since Brexit was finalised almost three years ago. Our global shipments, auction house and individual clients all continue to grow in terms of order numbers and average shipment size.

“There is still market confidence despite the end of frictionless borders for the UK-EU art market.”

More EU red tape

Among the swathe of new EU regulation is the requirement from March 1 next year to be more specific when filling out customs forms on packages sent to Europe.

The new requirement for a Harmonized System tariff code on customs forms for all EU-bound goods means vague item descriptions on customs forms such as ‘artwork’ or ‘antiques’ will no longer be acceptable. More detailed descriptions will be required.

Read more at: atg.news/EUdescription