The difficulties you may encounter when exporting parcels to Switzerland

23 August, 2017

Swiss flags on a bridge.

The UK is an important trading partner to Switzerland and 7% of overall UK exports make their way to the country famous for its chocolate and mountains.

Given the very high levels of wealth per adult, as well as the large numbers of online shoppers and its landlocked position, Switzerland offers a very broad spectrum of opportunities for British businesses looking to reach a new market. Careful handling of logistics and sales can enable a brand to build strength in Switzerland without being held back by some of these common obstacles.

Problem: language

Although English is spoken across Switzerland, it’s not the official language so British exporters may need to be able to communicate with Swiss customers in German, Italian and French too. There is also a requirement for some goods to come with locally appropriate explanations, for example electronics products must have manuals in language a local customer could understand.

Solution: you may need to have documents such as manuals, as well as delivery information, in German, Italian and French.

Problem: customs value declarations

It’s easy to overlook the customs information that is required for exporting parcels to Switzerland but it’s crucial not to do so. For example, if a delivery is shipped to a customer in Switzerland but the box doesn’t show the value of the item – and there is no invoice to provide this information inside the box – then a process of establishing value must be completed. This entails X-raying and unpacking the box and questioning the customer, which can delay delivery by 2+ days. It can also push up what your customer pays overall, as value clarification can incur a charge of CHF 13.

Solution: make sure you complete the paperwork.

Problem: restricted items

It’s not just the obvious items – arms, ammunition and animal products, for example – that are restricted. If you’re exporting plants or therapeutic products you may also find red tape in the way.

Solution: check with the Swiss Customs Administration before sending any exports you’re not sure about.

Problem: returns

Swiss e-commerce consumers generate a high rate of returns – in the fashion market, for example, rates can be as high as 40%.

Solution: as long as items are not altered by the customer you can reclaim any duties paid on your goods once they are re-exported out of the country. Swiss consumers don’t necessarily expect free returns, as there is no legal right to return for consumers in Switzerland. So, the cost of returns can at least partially be passed on to customers.

Problem: poor overall logistics

With any international exports to global customers, if the quality of the logistics service after customs leaves a lot to be desired this can really damage your brand.

Solution: choose a reliable logistics partner that offers a service with key features you can tailor to customer needs, such as international tracking, a range of delivery options, insurance and free email notifications.