How to import goods from EU countries

Marcel and Chantal van Dam from Wicotex BV tell in this article how they import products from other EU countries with their wholesalers.

Market research and product requirements

First, you use market research to determine if there is a need for the product you want to import. For your market research, you use, for example, figures and statistics from CBS and Retail Insiders.

Wicotex BV is an importer of, among other things, table setting, door curtains and window film. The company picks up all products from abroad. Within the EU, Marcel and Chantal buy directly from producers in six Member States. “All products meet European product requirements. This is demonstrated by our suppliers, for example, with an OEKO-TEX certificate. In this way, we know that the products do not contain harmful chemicals and are safe for consumers.”

Collaboration with suppliers

You can contact suppliers in several ways. The couple got to know many of their suppliers at international fairs such as Heimtextil and Ambiente in Frankfurt, Germany. “Today, because of the corona, suppliers are increasingly turning to us digitally,” Chantal says. “And sometimes we contact ourselves when we come across a new product on the market.” They annually visit the suppliers with whom they regularly shop. Marcel mentions the benefits of this: “You notice that they run a little faster for you. And it also gives you a good idea of ​​the company, the production process and the production capacity. ”

Samples and offers

The entrepreneurial duo always ask for samples and quotes before placing their order. “A sample immediately gives an impression of the product’s quality level. We deliver to all segments of the market. That way we know who to buy from if we deliver to the higher or lower segment. And we use the offers to compare suppliers on price, delivery time and payment terms. ”


Chantal prefers to communicate with its suppliers via email. “Because of the language barrier, people do not always understand each other over the phone. We always communicate in English via email, which as far as possible prevents misunderstandings. You can drop back on your email exchange in case of problems with the order. “

Calculate cost price

Getting your product to Holland costs money. You include these costs in your cost calculation. Because then you know what price you should ask your customer for, so you also earn something on it.

To confirm an appointment

You can enter into agreements with your supplier in a contract or agreement. Usually you enter into a contract in writing; on paper or by mail. An oral agreement is also legally valid. However, if you have a problem with your supplier, you have little or no documentation of the agreements entered into. Accepting an offer is also an agreement.


Sometimes, as an importer, you get exclusivity from your supplier. This means that the supplier only supplies you with its products intended for a specific market. A specific market is, for example, the Dutch market or a specific customer base. Register agreements to this effect in a distribution agreement.

Marcel and Chantal do not work on an exclusive basis for suppliers. Marcel explains: “We want to have the freedom to sell similar products from other suppliers. You limit this freedom through exclusivity. In our trade you also notice that manufacturers prefer not to give you exclusivity. They also want to have the freedom to sell to other customers in your market. ”

arrange transport

The EU is an internal market without internal borders. With a few exceptions, customs operations are not necessary. Transportation usually takes place by road.
“We order at least two pallets for a full truck of goods,” says Marcel. “We prefer to have the transport arranged by the suppliers. They deliver the shipment to our warehouse. In the beginning, we often arranged the transport ourselves, but this sometimes caused problems. Then the driver would be ready to pick up the goods at three o’clock on Friday afternoon, but had to wait until the following Monday because the supplier did not get the order produced on time. “

Agree on an Incoterms® rule with your supplier. That way you know who is going to take care of the transportation and who is responsible for the cost of damages caused by the transportation.

Pay your supplier

If you subsequently pay on account, you run no risk as an importer. If you pay in advance, there is a chance that your supplier will not deliver your goods. Let your bank advise you on the payment method that best suits your transaction. Marcel and Chantal pay their European suppliers in euros. As a result, their business runs no currency risk.

Payment terms

Marcel and Chantal usually agree with suppliers that they deliver on credit. “Some providers want us to pay within 14 days, others within 30 or even 60 days. They then request a credit limit for us from their credit insurance company. There are also providers who give a discount of 2 to 3% if we pay their invoice within ten days.This is a bonus for products that we know we will sell quickly.The advantage of paying on account is that you can wait to pay if items are missing on your order.It “Fortunately, our suppliers always solve nicely. Either they send a credit note, or we receive the missing products free of charge at the next delivery.”

VAT on import

Suppliers always send Marcel and Chantal invoices with 0% VAT. Chantal enters the invoices, after which the auditor takes care of their VAT returns.

example VAT within the eu

If you buy goods from a company in another EU country and the goods are transported to the Netherlands, then for you as an importer it is called a Community purchase. For the supplier, this is an intra-Community supply. You will receive an invoice with 0% foreign VAT, and you will calculate Dutch VAT on your purchase. The VAT rules are different for some goods. Therefore, always use the tool on the Tax Authorities’ website.

You must submit a monthly statement to CBS if you buy goods for more than 5 million euros in other EU countries. This statement is called an Intrastat statement.

Documents on import

In addition to a consignment note from the carrier and a goods package list, you usually do not need any documents if you are importing goods from another Member State. Additional documents apply to certain products. For example, an EU certificate for endangered animals and plants or a wholesale license for medicine.
“The goods that arrive by truck contain only a CMR consignment note and a packing list,” Marcel illustrates. We receive invoices by email. We always check the incoming shipment with the accompanying packing list. It often happens that goods are missing. ”

Do you pick up goods from your supplier with your own means of transport? Make sure that you can demonstrate with an invoice and contract that you take care of the transport yourself. Otherwise, you run the risk that the police or a control service will see you as a transport company at a check on the road. As a transport company, you need special permits.

Import step-by-step plan

If you get a product from abroad, then there is more to it than with a domestic purchase. You can successfully start importing if you have sufficient knowledge of the import process. This step-by-step plan will help you with this.

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