Staying competitive as an apparel retailer isn’t just about selling great clothes.
Fashion retailers also need to master the logistics ecosystem of shipping clothes and understand how factors like box size, item weight, as well as speed and distance of travel affect shipping costs.
Many clothing retailers operate on razor-thin margins, which is why you need to know the cheapest way to ship items to customers efficiently.
In this article, you’ll discover how to ship clothes, learn more about the major shipping options, and get a look at the intricacies of international shipping.
Factors to consider when shipping clothes 👗
Clothes are easy to ship, and below are the factors you need to master to ensure your shipments will always get to customers without a hitch.
Packaging and marketing
Packaging protects the product and helps in identifying and promoting your brand. Effective packaging can also reduce costs and enhance the unboxing experience.
Packaging and marketing work hand in hand because the customer's unboxing experience influences how your brand is perceived. Clothes must be neatly folded before they are packed into mailers. Use packaging inserts and an attractive presentation to set your brand apart and create a pleasant experience for customers.
You’re likely already familiar with the major carriers: USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Shipping options and pricing vary from carrier to carrier.
To select the right one, consider the following:
- Destination address: do you ship clothes to customers domestically, internationally, or both?
- Package weight: what is your most common package weight? What are your minimum and maximum package weights?
- Delivery speed: what is your ideal speed of delivery? Do your customers require weekend delivery?
- Service options: do your customers require tracking and delivery confirmation? Does the carrier provide free supplies like boxes, envelopes, and labels?
- Insurance: what’s your average order value? Will you need insurance? Does your carrier’s included insurance cover it? Will you need additional insurance?
You should evaluate each carrier within the context of the factors listed above to select the best option for your store.
Your shipping rate is how much you charge to customers for shipping costs, and your pricing strategy will influence your shipping rates. There are three options you can choose from:
- Real-time carrier rate: you can let your customers choose and pay for the exact shipping option they want by setting up real-time carrier rates.
- Flat Rate: this is a popular option and here you charge a flat rate for all shipments. This may not be effective if you sell a variety of clothing, but it works when you have a standard product line.
- Free shipping: customers love this, but someone needs to pay for it. You can increase product prices to cover the cost of shipping or pay the full price from your margins. You can offset costs by limiting free shipping to an order amount.
How to package clothes for shipping
Clothes are not fragile products, so you don't have to worry about breakage during transit. Standard mailers will do fine for single, small-piece clothing, and padded mailers are best for delicate clothing with trinkets or buttons attached.
You will need cardboard boxes or corrugated boxes for large clothing shipments to the same destination. Seal each cloth with a plastic bag to prevent them from getting wet in transit and use high-quality packing tape.
Stick with smaller boxes as much as possible to reduce shipping costs. For clothes like jeans with a package weight heavier than others, use flat rate shipping to ship your clothes, since weight won't factor into your shipping costs.
You can use your own branded packaging or order free packaging from your carrier. It's a good idea to use recycled mailers and label your packaging as such in this age of eco-conscious buyers.
When packing clothes for shipping you must consider the clothing type and other details to ensure neat product presentation, control costs, protect sensitive clothing, and make the most of your shipping. Here is how to package different types of clothing:
Packing a single shirt:
- Fold it neatly and place it face down with the sleeves folded backward.
- Place it in a bag or wrap it with tissue paper and seal it with a piece of tape or ticker. Then place it in the poly mailer.
- Finally, add the shipping label and input all relevant information.
Packing multiple shirts:
- Stack the shirts and use a box or mailer that’s larger than the volume of the clothes to prevent wrinkling
- It's best if you use packaging that’s made with a material that can prevent wrinkling
- Add the shipping label.
Packing single pants or jeans:
- Fold the pant legs on top of one another, then fold once from the knees to the pockets. Next, fold the jeans in half one more time.
- Place the jeans in a bag or wrap it with tissue paper then seal it. Place it into the poly mailer.
- Add the shipping label.
Packing multiple pants or jeans:
- Stack the jeans and use a bubble wrap mailer to prevent wrinkling
- Seal the mailer
- Add the shipping label.
Packing delicate clothing:
- Use a box that is slightly larger than the volume of the clothes to contain it without squishing
- Place the item inside the box and wrap it with tissue paper
- Add cushioning material to further protect the delicate details of the fabric
- Add the shipping label.
Saving money with your packaging
You should pack clothes with shipping costs in mind, and here are a few tips to help you lower costs:
- Fold each cloth carefully before placing it in your mailer
- Always try to use the smallest package possible
- Weigh packages as you pack to adjust and ensure accuracy
- Avoid extra cushioning unless when shipping delicate fabrics
- Use inexpensive poly mailers
- Ship items together
- Look for volume discounts on large shipments.
How to determine shipment weight
The weight of your package, among other factors, determines shipment pricing. You must always get the package weight right to avoid overpaying and reduce costs. Here are two easy ways you can determine package weight:
- Use a cooking scale for smaller items like single shirts
- Use a bathroom scale for larger items like multiple jeans.
How to ship clothes to customers
Below, we will explain the process of shipping items using the major carriers and the options available to you.
USPS is the best option for shipping lightweight items. You can leverage volume discounts and use flat rate shipping when you are delivering heavier items or sending to a distant recipient.
USPS offers multiple shipping options but the most relevant are First Class Mail and Priority Mail shipping.
First Class mail shipping
This is the cheapest option, and it is for light packages that weigh 13 ounces or less. If the standard package weight of your clothing orders falls within this range, it's very cost effective to use First Class mail for most shipments.
The amount you are charged is determined based on the shipping distance. Use your zip code to understand how it is calculated using the USPS Domestic Zone Chart.
Priority Mail shipping
This is flat rate shipping for packages over 13 ounces, and shipments are delivered within 1-3 business days. There is a maximum package limit of 70lbs.
Shipping cost is determined by package dimensions and package weight or shipment distance.
USPS also offers variable pricing for time-sensitive shipments. Use the rate calculator to determine your shipping costs.
Shipping through FedEx is another option. The shipping company offers a wide range of shipping services including flat rate shipping, freight shopping, same-day delivery, and overnight shipping.
Pricing depends on package weight, distance, and the shipping option you selected.
- Flat rate shipping: this applies to packages that weigh 50lbs or less. It is the cheapest option and your package weight will not influence pricing as long as it's under 50lbs.
- Freight Shipping: this applies to packages above 150lbs
- Same-day delivery: for delivering time-sensitive packages across the country within hours.
Use the FedEx shipping rate calculator to get shipping cost estimates.
UPS is another carrier worth considering and the shipping company is a very good option if you want flexibility with your shipping.
UPS offers variable pricing and you can set package weights, distance, speed, and other parameters to determine shipping costs. This is particularly ideal for shipping special items like wedding dresses that do not have standardized package weights.
Flat rate shipping from UPS is limited to 50lbs per box and takes 1-5 days to ship. You will use your own packaging and there are five different options based on package weight.
Use the UPS Time and Cost tool to calculate shipping cost estimates.
What is the cheapest way to ship clothes?
To determine the best way to ship clothes to customers, you must examine how many items you plan to ship, as well as the speed and distance of travel. Compare prices from different carriers using rate calculators to discover the best option.
USPS First Class Mail is the cheapest option for shipping clothes if you are shipping a lightweight package. The downside is that there is no customer tracking and time-frames can be unpredictable.
For larger packages, use flat rate shipping options. Package weight can be moved up to as much as 70lbs and there are often discounts on large shipping volumes.
Shipping clothes internationally
To get international shipping right and grow your business, you need to have an effective strategy that works for your business in place.
Here are a few factors to consider when shipping clothes internationally:
The destination of your shipment
The world is a big place and you must first identify the countries you want to ship to. You can ship only to North American countries like Canada and Mexico that have free trade agreements (FTA) with the U.S. which makes it easier to ship to those countries.
Countries like Australia, Singapore, Costa Rica, and others also have free trade agreements in place. This will simplify custom clearance and lower duty rates. If you are shipping to countries without an FTA, you need to familiarize yourself with the countries regulations and duty rates.
Country rules and regulations
The rules and regulations of the destination country are important when evaluating if your product is eligible to be imported. Clothing is rarely prohibited, but it's worth checking out whether the clothing type you are exporting is allowed.
Use the government site of the host country to get information on prohibited items, and you can also use the UPS Import/Export Country Regulations tool for your research.
Commercial Invoice and Export Packing List are typically the two documents required. Commercial Invoice is used for shipment classification by custom authorities and to assess whether controls are imposed on the product.
The Export Packing List details extensive information about the product, including the shipper, buyer, invoice number, shipment date, and more.
FedEx has an International Shipping Assistant Tool that can help to put together the correct documentation to clear customs.
You can upload and submit the paperwork electronically on the platform of all the major carriers.
Duties and taxes
If you are shipping to a country without an FTA with the U.S., duties, and taxes are usually imposed on exports. It is determined by the value of your item, your country of origin, and the type of item you are shipping.
By default, the customer pays the duties on the package you are shipping, but you can choose the shipper (you) or another third party to pay the charges when creating your shipment on the platform of your carrier.
Use an online duty calculator to get a cost estimate of the duties and taxes that apply in the destination country.
International shipping label
You must prepare an international shipping label for your shipment.
You can complete the international shipping label when uploading other custom paperwork on the platform of your carrier. Add an accurate description of the type, quantity, and value of the clothes you are shipping to ensure easy custom clearance.
International shipping options
All the major carriers offer international shipping with flexible shipping services for time-sensitive shipments.
- USPS International Shipping: offers First Class Mail International, Priority Mail International, and Airmail M-Bags shipping services.
- FedEx International Shipping: ship easily from FedEx locations and use the many tools on the company’s website to make your shipping process accurate and efficient.
- UPS International Shipping: the company offers standard and time-critical international shipping services. Check the website to create your shipment online.
Wrapping It Up
Mastering how to ship clothes can be a challenging aspect for any online clothing store. The information in this article will help you work through the needs of your store and determine the best shipping strategy for your ecommerce site.
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