Personal imports and Brexit

car boot

A visitor to the shop one morning reminded me of possibly the only benefit of Brexit.  I use the term “visitor” rather than customer as she had no intention of spending any money.

The lady asked if we had any Pineau de Charantes, which we do.  Looking at the modest price she said “ooh no! I can buy it much cheaper in France”.

“Well, yes”, I thought,  “you may well save a few Euros but we have to ship it and pay UK duty and ours is here, now in the UK ready to drink tonight.”

She went on “I’m going to France soon so I’ll bring a case or two back”.  Well thank-you for sharing that with me on a slow sales morning!

I couldn’t stop myself saying, “You had better be quick because all that will stop soon”.  I got the impression that it had not occurred to her that once we leave Europe she will be limited to the same allowance as anyone else entering the country from outside of the EU; 4 bottles of wine and 200 fags at “duty free” prices.

I don’t for a moment expect that our sales will soar if unlimited personal imports are stopped but it will mean that people won’t come into the shop just to tell us they don’t need to buy anything as they have just brought back 200 bottles of plonk that only cost 1EUR a bottle, so that’s a plus.

On a similar theme, another shop visitor once asked why we didn’t go over to France and buy loads of wine as he’d noticed it was much cheaper – we could make a fortune!  “Where do you think our French wine comes from?”  Not taken aback, the chap went on to explain that he had bought loads back, so much that he had started selling it to his mates at a profit – “Um, let me stop you right there as you are confessing to a serious crime and if you tell me any more I will have no option but to have you arrested.”  He looked confused so I had to explain that you can bring stuff in for personal consumption or gifts but as soon as money changes hands that is what we call “smuggling”.  For merchants like us that means a £100,000 fine and all of our stock confiscated.  I suspect his fledgling business plan fell at the first hurdle.

At the bottom end, wine is certainly cheaper in France.  As you move up it makes little difference.  A 1EUR bottle of vin ordinaire at the vineyard gate becomes about £5 by the time it is shipped, the shipper takes their cut, UK excise is paid, it is transported within the UK, the retailer adds their margin, and an additional 20% VAT is applied to the lot.  There’s not much bulk discount you can apply to 1EUR.  A free bottle would not cost much less than a fiver.

A 15EUR bottle of wine bought at a roadside tasting stall will probably be not much more in the UK as the merchant shipping it by the pallet will get a much better price than a casual tourist and the duty and on-costs are the same as for a 1EUR bottle.   It also has the advantage of being shipped and stored in optimum conditions rather than in the boot of a hot and sweaty hatchback.

If you bring back gallons of the local wine you loved on holiday, well good luck to you, just please don’t expect us to to start stocking it.   That’s not how it works.

Our job is to provide a carefully chosen range of very good wines from all over the world which can be bought locally, by the single bottle as and when desired.  I don’t expect Brexit will change that much.