But as consumers, what we really want to know is whether clothes will become more expensive and if the clothes we buy will ever arrive on British shores. Here’s a quick guide to what to expect:
How long will it take for clothes to be shipped here from Europe after January 1st?
Much like last year, expect delays for the first few months while Border Control and brands adapt to new rules. And they could be lengthy – don’t buy anything from the EU that you need urgently as delivery could take up to six weeks. After that, delivery times will hopefully shorten. Although shipping will inevitably take longer than it did before, as goods and paperwork now need to be stringently checked.
Will European brands keep refusing to ship to the UK?
Many small European brands may once again pause sales to the UK, but this is mostly a temporary measure put in place until they have filled out the relevant customs declaration forms and worked out how to cope with VAT-related issues. Due to more regulations with France, small French brands are likely to be the hardest to access, as they will be worried about costs incurred by customers returning goods – once these issues are ironed out, trade should resume for all but the smallest companies.
Will I have to pay import duties on clothes from Europe?
It’s… complicated. If you buy something from a small EU brand with part of their supply chain outside of Europe, then yes, but no more than last year. Although thankfully, as they adapt, most brands have started absorbing these prices so clothes can be delivered duty paid – hence the price being higher on UK websites than domestic ones. Bigger brands such as Zara, Sandro and Mango, which have warehouses in the UK, won’t be as affected and are unlikely to pass costs onto the customer.
Can I claim EU VAT back?
Yes, and many brands will remove it at source, which will take some of the sting out of online purchases. The biggest savings, though, will come from travelling to Europe to shop (once Omicron has faded, of course). If you wait in a VAT queue at the airport, you can claim back £1,000 on a big-ticket item like a £4,000 wedding dress or handbag.
Is there a silver lining to all this?
Yes. Many UK brands have been forced to focus on domestic customers – who have in turn seen the importance of buying locally. ”I think this has shown the wider public how much we rely on imported goods and in doing so, there seems to be a thirst for locally sourced and locally made goods,” says Tabak. “However, until we have the manufacturing industry to support making more here, it will remain an upward struggle for costs as materials still need to be imported for our incredibly creative fashion industry.”