5 Shipping Tips for Independent Retailers

01/08/2014 — Scott Frederick

For the typical independent retailer that's selling physical products and has an e-commerce presence, shipping is often an afterthought. While shipping is not as flashy or as sexy as creating marketing promotions and campaigns, it does directly affect your bottom line. Retailers that don't adhere to best practices run the risk of lost sales due to higher prices, or lost profits due to higher shipping costs. To ensure you're not leaving money on the table, here are five tips to consider:

  1. Manage your shipping supplies expense. Most of the small package carriers provide free, basic shipping supplies to encourage usage of their services. For example, FedEx provides free shipping materials and labels that can be ordered online. For specialized boxes and mailers, shop around a little to make sure you are getting the right quantities at the best prices. PartnerShip is another good source for low-volume, discounted shipping supplies.

  2. Consolidate orders to reduce shipping expenses. As a general rule of thumb, one big order ships for less than three smaller orders. That means retailers should consider consolidating multiple orders into a single shipment whenever possible, and always striving to minimize the number of packages it sends. All too often, shipments are arranged as they come in from sales or order processing. However, a little planning and visibility goes along ways towards shipping savings.

  3. Look at for multiple carrier options. Different transportation carriers specialize in different types of services, package sizes, and geographies. Selling mainly low-value, smaller products? A service like FedEx Ground or FedEx Express Saver might be the way to go. Selling larger or heavier products? Your best bet is probably to use a reputable freight carrier. Working with a third-party freight management company often allows you to look at multiple carrier and service options through one website. For example, PartnerShip.com allows retailers to compare rates and services across multiple freight carriers and options.

  4. Effectively handle customs documentation. International shipments require customs forms that can seem daunting to complete for retailers that only occassionally ship out of the country. Third-party logistics companies, like PartnerShip, can work with retailers that ship international shipments infrequently to ensure all of the needed paperwork is completed so that their cross-border shipments move efficiently and cost-effectively.

  5. Use technology to be more efficient. To remain competitive with large retail chains and other e-commerce retailers, online tools and services are available to help independent retailers manage their inventories, consolidate orders, track shipments, and even complete in new marketplaces.  Make sure you are talking to your peers or suppliers through an industry association or local business chamber to find tools and services others are using to gain efficiencies in their business. By leveraging technology, retailers can meet the fulfillment and shipping requirements of every market in which they compete.

Shipping will never be as exciting as product launches, cool promotions, or a new website, but it is a part of the core foundation of a successful independent retail business. Retailers that proactively take advantage of services, tools and technology can significantly lower their shipping costs, become more competitive, and enjoy higher margins.

To take advantage of industry-leading shipping services and discounts, take a look at The Independent Retailers Shipping Program managed by PartnerShip. With 25 years of experience helping retailers with shipping, we are confident we can help you too.

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