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15 ways for resellers to reduce shipping costs
Photo: Liza Summer/Pexels

15 ways for resellers to reduce shipping costs


One of an online vintage seller’s most expensive line items is shipping. Here are 15 reseller-provided tips for keeping costs in check

If the word “shipping” sends shivers down your spine, you’re not alone. For both vintage sellers and buyers, the cost of shipping and logistics can turn an online shopping transaction sour.

Price is the number one concern for resellers and their customers when it comes to shipping, according to a recent informal survey of our Instagram followers. “Even knowing what I know [about rates], I hate how expensive shipping is,” one respondent said.

And expensive it is: Sellers told us they currently are spending anywhere from $50-$500 per month on shipping. Some pass those fees back to their clients through fixed or variable shipping rates; others offer free shipping but build the costs into the final price of the item.

When we live in a world where consumers are used to free shipping from retail giants like Amazon and Walmart, how does a small business compete?

Educating your customer base on why shipping costs what it does is an important first step. Be as transparent as possible, and regularly reevaluate your shipping process to ensure you’re providing the lowest-cost option that you can.

Read on for some reseller-provided tips to reduce the cost of shipping:

1. Use a shipping calculator and a scale.

Fifty-six per cent of our survey respondents use an online shipping calculator to help make accurate estimates for calculated/standard shipping.

Canada Post’s Find a Rate is just one — many other couriers employ their own calculators. Estimates are given based on a package’s width, height and depth, as well as its weight. If you don’t offer flat-rate shipping, a calculator can help you prepare the most accurate shipping quote for your customer.

To record a package’s weight, you may want to invest in a shipping or postal scale. There are a range of scale options available at various price points.

In addition to making more accurate estimates, knowing the exact size of your parcel and how the rate may change depending on its size can help you make more educated decisions over the long term on what kind of packaging you’re using.

2. Consider flat-rate shipping.

One respondent to our survey likes flat-rate shipping, which doesn’t rely on a package’s final size or weight, because “it limits what comes out of my pocket and it’s not confusing for customers.”

Sellers enjoy the benefit of stating a flat rate for shipping and having buyers know that no matter what they buy, shipping is that one set price.

But flat-rate shipping may not work for the size and scale of your inventory. If you sell clothing or accessories and the parcels are often around the same size, flat-rate may be a good bet.

Less so if you have a wide range of item sizes and weights, including larger products that may not fit conventional prepaid boxes or that may require a significant amount of packing material to prevent breakage.

There are two ways to offer flat-rate shipping. The first is to pass on the flat-rate fees offered by Canada Post or other courier services and put your parcels into the shipper’s prepaid boxes. These boxes have set rates depending on their size, and you can fill them as much or as little as you’d like up to a certain weight.

The second is through a flat fee that you as the seller set based on the geographic zone of your customer. You’ll pay for shipping through your carrier, and the total amount depends on the dimensions of the parcel you’re sending, but you’ll always charge your customers the same rate.

Be sure to account for all the various surcharges that may be implemented by carriers, such as delivery-with-signature fees.

One seller notes that with the usual cost of shipping clocking in around $12-$25, a $15 flat rate covers both ends of the spectrum. You need to be moving enough volume to make any rate fluctuations worth it, though.

A man with an afro and a beard wearing a blue long-sleeved shirt and jeans leans over a pair of boxes packed with clothing and shoes on a bed.
Photo: Valentino Barreto/Stocksy

3. Shop around and compare carrier rates.

Cost is the primary consideration when choosing a carrier, of course, but also research the services each offers. Some provide pickup at your door, or have a network of convenient drop-off locations. If you already use a built-in shipping option via e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and Etsy, they’ll have chosen the best rates for you.

Some courier companies, such as Chit Chats, use the volume they move through Canada Post and United States Postal Service to offer discounted rates. They’ll also do the work of clearing customs for you, so if you ship a lot over the border, using a third-party service may be worth it.

Depending on the urban centre you are in, there may also be local and regional carriers that are available to you.

A non-exhaustive list of carriers/service providers:

  • Canada Post
  • United States Postal Service
  • FedEx
  • Purolator
  • DHL Express
  • UPS Store
  • Canpar
  • Loomis
  • Chit Chats
  • FlagShip
  • netParcel
  • ShipNerd
  • SecureShip
  • Parcel Monkey

4. Employ more than one carrier.

“We have six shipping profiles we use, and then we estimate which will be best for the specs,” said one seller in our online poll.

Some carriers are more competitive on cost, international shipments, or domestic transport of goods over long distances. Pick and choose the ones that work for you depending on where your shipments are going.

And get to know your logistics partners: if you eventually reach the point where you’re moving a lot of inventory, your carrier may be willing to offer you discounted shipping.

5. Pack smartly...

“Learn to pack like a ninja,” advised one seller. “Pack as flat as possible,” said another. Packing flatly can reduce rates because the parcel will have a lower dimensional (DIM) or volumetric weight, which represents the amount of physical space a package will occupy on the truck or aircraft.

Couriers use DIM weights to calculate rates. If the parcel fits through Canada Post’s letter slot, the rates are lower still.

Most of our survey respondents also suggested being smart about what you use to pack your parcels, too: reuse boxes and packing materials to cut down on the cost of shipping. “It jives with vintage and saves money,” said one seller.

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6. ... but pack safely.

“No one cares about packaging if the item arrives broken,” shared one seller. Vintage items especially are irreplaceable, so ensure they are well protected and secured so they are less likely to break in transit.

It’ll save you countless headaches in the long run — refunds, unhappy customers and collateral damage to your brand. If you’re shipping breakable items, remind customers that there is a cost to ensuring their products get to them safely, and write it into your shop policies.

Another tip: Be sure not to overstuff your package to the point that your customer may actually damage what’s inside when they slit open the box.

7. Lighten up.

Use the lightest packaging material you can find, such as bunched-up kraft paper or shredded paper, to cut down on parcel weight, which will lower your shipping rate.

Paper is a renewable and recyclable resource — remind your customers to recycle it once they’ve opened up your parcel.

There are also lightweight, eco-friendly protective packing material options available that mimic plastic bubble wrap but are recyclable and compostable.

In terms of the box itself, corrugated packaging is lighter than cardboard boxes and can help reduce weight.

8. Encourage repeat buying.

One survey respondent sets aside items from repeat customers so that they can add to their shipment over a period of one to two months.

If you have a parcel being delivered to a smaller city, use social media to encourage other sales so that customers can bundle their shipment together.

You can also offer a few standard box sizes, and then it’s up to the buyers whether or not they want to keep filling the box.

9. Right-size your packaging.

Ever received an Amazon order with a tiny item in a big box? Seems self-explanatory, but right-sizing your packaging will help to save on shipping costs. Using the boxes provided by your carrier may also trim costs, because it avoids a “dimensional fee” that can be incurred by using your own boxes.

“If it’s just a small clothing or soft item, poly bag it and then pay using stamps,” said one seller. There are lots of poly mailer options available that are made from compostable or recycled materials.

10. Take advantage of special offers.

Canada Post Solutions for Small Business is a free program that offers resources and discounts to its members, such as parcel pickup. Signing up means you can save up to 34 per cent on domestic shipments and up to 57 per cent on international shipments, particularly if you pay online.

Being a member also gets you discounts from other retailers, including a five per cent discount at The Packaging Company and a 75 per cent discount for the first three months of Sage Accounting.

Throughout certain periods in 2021, Canada Post was also offering free shipping on any size order as part of a giveback program for small businesses.

Keep an eye out for coupons at other carriers, too. If your clients are flexible about when they receive their purchases, you can take advantage of promotions for reduced shipping rates at certain times of year.

Closeup of hands securing a square brown-paper package with black and white twine.
Photo: Jennifer Bogle/Stocksy

11. Calculate the ROI of free shipping.

This one is counterintuitive to reducing shipping costs, we know. But free ground shipping can actually lead to more conversions and ultimately increase sales. There may be a tipping point for your business where the benefits of free shipping actually outweigh the cost.

If you’re in a position to offer free shipping — i.e. if you are selling a lot of inventory or you are selling goods at a high enough price point to be able to absorb the packaging and courier or shipping fees — you may want to consider requiring a minimum order amount to help offset the cost, or a small price adjustment on your products.

12. Keep tabs on postal rates and adjust accordingly.

Review your courier and postage rates annually — price increases are usually announced at the beginning of the year. These increases are often steep, and can be anywhere from one to seven per cent. If you offer calculated shipping at checkout, the rates will be adjusted automatically.

You know your customers best. If you think an increase in shipping rates is going to be a make-or-break situation for them, you could consider reducing your product prices slightly to lessen the burden — if you’re still able to make a profit, that is.

13. Offer tiered shipping rates.

You can offer different shipping rates based on volume or size of orders, so that customers who want to spend less on shipping have options — either by putting through a smaller order, or by increasing their order size to unlock free shipping.

“I’m always wondering whether I should up the price [of shipping], but I'm also so scared that people are going to be like, ‘oh, that's not worth it,’” said Kadeeshia Solomon, owner of Hello Moon Vintage, in a recent interview with The Vintage Seeker.

At her shop, shipping is automatically calculated at checkout by Shopify based on the item(s) ordered and delivery location, but she offers free Canadian shipping on orders over $90.

14. Write shipping policies.

If you don’t already have a shipping or shop policy, putting one in place to clearly state your terms can save you money in the long run. Communication is key: Let customers know explicitly what the shipping costs are so that they aren’t hit with additional expenses at checkout time.

If you have different rates for domestic or international shipping, or if they can buy additional insurance, make sure that information is clearly posted, too.

You may also want to consider adding a footer to every product you post, reminding buyers to check your store/shipping policies before they buy.

And contemplate the possible outcomes if a parcel is lost or broken by the courier service. Who is responsible? Sometimes, a courier will not reimburse for breakage even if a seller thinks it will be covered by insurance.

Make sure you read your courier’s policies thoroughly, and reflect them in your own shipping policies to your customers.

15. Keep it local.

The ultimate way to save costs on shipping is to not do it at all. “I spend my money and time developing a local clientele,” shared one seller in our Instagram survey.

Whether you choose to ship, or do local pickup and delivery all depends on your business goals, and what makes sense for your shop.

For more tips on shipping, check out our post Shipping 101: Six Things to Know When Online Vintage Shopping.

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