How to start dropshipping

Published by:
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK

Dropshipping is selling products online without owning a physical inventory. Starting a dropshipping business is relatively easy, but there are some points of attention.

What is dropshipping?

Dropshipping is basically selling products online without owning a physical inventory. Instead, as a merchant you are the intermediate link between the (dropship) supplier and the customer. If a customer decides to buy a product from your online shop, you place an order at your supplier, who then ships the product directly to your customer. Dropshipping sounds appealing, but it comes with some misunderstandings.

How does dropshipping work?

Starting a dropshipping business is relatively easy. You basically set up an online shop, in which you sell products. But you do not store or make those products yourself: you are an intermediary between the customer and the supplier.

The greatest advantage of owning a dropshipping business is not having to deal with a physical inventory. When you own a dropshipping business, all the products you sell in your online shop come from a (dropship) supplier, either a manufacturer or a wholesaler. This means you do not have to deal with storage costs. Other advantages of dropshipping are:

  • No procurement risk. You only pay your (dropship) supplier when you have sold a product to your customer. Your selling price consists of the cost price, order processing costs, and shipping costs, plus your profit margin.
  • You do not need to hire staff for packing and shipping the orders. Your supplier does this for you.
  • You can easily expand your assortment, since you are not bound to an expensive inventory. You also do not have to deal with overstock.

General rules for starting a business in the Netherlands

To start a business in the Netherlands, there are general conditions you have to fulfil. Read our checklist How to start a business in the Netherlands before you start as an entrepreneur.

Points of attention for dropshipping

  • You are responsible for solving problems that may occur with the shipment of the products. It could happen that, due to the fault of your supplier, the order does not reach the customer or the order is damaged. This could harm your reputation. Therefore, always make clear agreements with your dropship supplier about the warranty, the order return policy, the shipping time, and the availability of the stock.
  • You are also responsible if there is something wrong with the delivered product. For example, if it was damaged in transit.
  • Be aware that dropship suppliers often have multiple agreements with other online shops. This means more competition. As a result, competing online shops may decide to offer the same products with very low selling prices in exchange for lower product margins.
  • Check carefully that the products you sell do not infringe on the trademark rights of others. If you sell counterfeit products, you are liable.
  • Your customers are entitled to a cancellation period of at least 14 calendar days. This starts from the moment your customer has received the product. Your customer must be able to return their purchase through you. Therefore, ensure clear and simple return options. Also, arrange returns with your supplier.

    Working with international dropshipping suppliers

    Collaborating with international suppliers is also common. International dropshipping comes with possible obstacles, such as additional delivery time, higher shipping costs, agreements regarding order returns, and customs formalities with shipments outside the EU. It is important to find out if international dropshipping is commercially viable for you and your products.

    Is your dropship supplier located outside the EU? If so, the party importing the product will have to pay import duty and VAT. Most likely, your Dutch customer is not aware of having to pay customs clearance costs to the party making the delivery, having bought the product from a Dutch online shop. It is therefore important to make clear agreements with your international supplier about the transport, customs clearance costs, and the attached documents. Also, shipping times vary when dealing with international suppliers. If the supplier is located in Germany, this will not be a big problem, but if the supplier is located in China, it could take several weeks for your customer to receive their order.

    Be transparent about your services

    When you sell products online, you must adhere to online sales rules. It is important that you are clear about your products and services. For example, by clearly displaying your contact details on your website. You must also state what rights your customer has regarding payment, delivery, service, and cooling-off period. As a dropshipper, you must also state that it is not you, but another supplier that delivers the products. Transparency towards your customers about the shipping time can prevent unpleasant surprises.

    Import VAT in international dropshipping

    Make sure you know which VAT rules apply to the products you sell. There are different scenarios applicable when it comes to VAT in international dropshipping, especially if you are dealing with suppliers and/or customers outside the EU. Many suppliers outside the EU include import VAT in their selling price, so that the customer does not have to deal with unexpected costs. Usually, you have to register for VAT in the country of the costumer.

    VAT and import duties depend on the country of arrival, what the applicable rules are in this country (such as exemption of import taxes for shipments with a limited value or import prohibitions of certain products), which ICC Incoterm® is agreed on, and who the actual importer of the product is: the supplier, the webshop, or the consumer.

    Do you deliver to private individuals in the EU?

    If your turnover in another EU country is higher than €10,000, you calculate the VAT rate of that country. You also have to pay the local VAT of the country of delivery. You can register as an entrepreneur in that country, or use the one-stop-shop system (in Dutch) of the Netherlands Tax Administration. You use this system to declare the VAT for other EU countries. Log in as an entrepreneur (in Dutch) to use this system. The Tax Administration passes on the declaration and payment on your behalf to the tax authorities abroad. The threshold for distance sales differs per country.

    If you need help, you can get assistance from a tax representative. Read more.

    You can seek advice from the Dutch Tax Administration to find out which VAT rules apply to your shipments.

    Questions relating to this article?

    Please contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK