Brexit is about to get very real for online shoppers. Despite COVID-19 pushing many people online, recent data from Revolut showed that Irish shoppers still spent most of their money with non-Irish websites. Just 43% of Black Friday shopping was with Irish websites while average spends abroad were significantly greater too. There’s a good chance that a fair chunk of change was spent with Amazon UK but because of Brexit, Amazon UK is about to start struggling in Ireland.
Virtual UK Addresses Shutting Down
For a long time I’ve used Virtual UK addresses. Companies like Parcel Motel, DPD and even An Post all offered you an option of routing your online orders from the UK to a UK address. They would then deliver to your Irish address for a small fee. It was a nice cottage industry while it lasted. There was savings to be add too on some Amazon Prime orders while other items were completely unavailable unless you opted for a virtual UK address. But now, because of Brexit that’s all changing.
Impact Of Brexit On Virtual UK Addresses
As a direct result of Brexit, courier companies offering virtual UK addresses are now ceasing the service or temporarily suspending them. The reason being that Brexit introduces new customs clearance requirements for items being delivered to Ireland from the UK.
Whether or not this is permanent remains to be seen, but here’s what each individual company has said.
Parcel Wizard by DPD
Parcel Wizard was my favourite of these services. The main reason for that simply being that DPD are reliable and that the courier came to my door instead of my having to go to a locker like Parcel Motel.
That’s why I’m gutted to say they are finishing up completely. In an email to customers, Parcel Wizard states “we will no longer be offering out Virtual Address Service from December 11th 2020. This is due to customs clearance requirements for parcels travelling into the Republic of Ireland from Great Britain which will come into effect post Brexit”.
Isn’t it mad that the term “Brexit” has actually become common parlance.
Anyway, DPD asks customers to ensure they update their delivery calendars and address books to remove reference to their virtual UK address. Also, any unused balance in your Virtual Address account will be refunded before the end of January.
Parcel Motel by Nightline
Parcel Motel, the long-standing favourite of many to offer a virtual UK address, has also confirmed that as a result of Brexit they’ll be suspending their virtual UK address service. From December 28th, the virtual address services in the UK will be temporarily suspended and Parcel Motel will no longer accept deliveries at 1a McKinney Road, Newtownabbey, UK.
Return shipments to the UK will only be accepted until December 30th.
Parcel Connect by Fastway
Fastway Couriers offer a similar service to DPD. Today, they emailed customers outlining that “effective Friday 18th December 2020, and until further notice, Fastway Couriers will temporarily suspend the UK Virtual Address service from Parcel Connect. This is due to custom clearance requirements for parcels being imported into the Republic of Ireland from Great Britain, post-Brexit”.
They recommend customers cease using the service completely right now due to shipping times often being delayed around Christmas.
The glimmer of hope they offer is that they plan on “reactivating the Parcel Connect UK Virtual Address service in the New Year”.
AddressPal by An Post
An Post have an interesting update too. From January 1st 2021, you can still use their virtual UK shipping address. They’ll still re-route your packages but you need to check that you’re using the correct address in your AddressPal account. The Post Office or Collection Point address will not longer work.
They do add that all UK items will be subject to Revenue customs from January 1st too and that they’ll be in touch to process additional payments as required. Sound fun doesn’t it.
Can I Still Shop On Amazon.co.uk From January?
Amazon has also contacted customers who have ordered from Amazon.co.uk to European delivery addresses to let them know they have some bad news. In an email to myself, the e-commerce giant said “as you have placed an order on Amazon.co.uk and selected an EU delivery address in the past, we wanted to let you know that from 1 January 2021, when the Brexit transition period ends, you’ll see some changes when you shop on Amazon.co.uk and select an EU delivery address”. These changes will include things like VAT, how you may be contacted to collect VAT after your purchase.
Rather significantly, Amazon is also changing how they handle returns which is a massive dent to the shopping experience.
Amazon says they “will continue to accept eligible returns. If the reason for return is the result of an error (e.g. if the item is defective / damaged / incorrect), any costs incurred for the return will be paid by Amazon. Otherwise, any costs incurred for the return (including transport costs, as well as any associated import fees or customs where applicable) will be payable by the person returning the goods”.
This massively reduces the likelihood of me shopping with Amazon to be honest and now, some good news.
The Opportunity For Irish Businesses
So, to use a business term, let’s close the loop.
I started out by saying off the back of Black Friday this year, or Green Friday if you like *shudder* Irish shoppers spent more money abroad. I can’t be sure, but I’d wager a lot of that was in the UK and not with Amazon.de. Why? Well, very simple. People like to buy things like electronics and German websites will send EU plugs. This is just one example of why the UK has been our biggest online market to compete with.
This is the opportunity for Irish businesses to make up for years of online neglect and invest in online shopping experiences. Brexit and COVID-19 is the perfect storm for Irish businesses to shift towards online selling and filling the gap left by Amazon UK not being so appealing. Failing to do so quickly will result is a massive missed opportunity.
Where Is Amazon.ie?
And this is why. Many are wondering if Amazon.ie is going to be a thing. Well, technically, it already is. If you visit Amazon.ie you get directed to the UK website. But will they offer an Irish website to buy products from Amazon? It remains unclear but you’d think likely. Amazon has offices here, customer care here and recently opened a distribution centre here too and started delivering packages with Zeus.
However, there’s been no announcement yet so this means there’ll likely be a window of opportunity for Irish businesses to show the marketplace won’t just be Amazon first.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Parcel Wizard has shut down, Parcel Connect is suspended and AddressPal has also changed. Parcel Motel has yet to confirm impacts but it’s imagined there’ll be something.
Yes. You can still order. However, you may have to pay customs on what you order and you’ll be liable for returns fees too in a lot of cases.
Yes. You can shop with all Amazon websites including Germany. However, remember that when buying from European Amazon websites you’ll likely buy electronics with EU plugs, not Irish plugs.
Yes. You’ll have to pay additional customs charges.