Holiday Series: Prep Your Shipping Plan

holiday shipping seriesIf you’ve ramped up your inventory and added new products recently in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season, be sure to have the right packing materials on hand! Yes, you want to prepare now (before orders start coming in) to avoid a last-minute scramble.

Here’s What You’ll Need

The type of packing materials you use depends largely on how fragile your products are.

  • Poly mailers: Poly mailers are unpadded plastic sleeves meant for products that can withstand the shipping process on their own. Use these for clothing, which generally doesn’t need any other protection, and for products that are already in sturdy packaging.
  • Padded envelopes (also called bubble mailers): These are perfect for products like jewelry, certain electronics (like charging cables), and phone cases—products that may have their own packaging and need a little added padding but not the strength of an exterior box.
  • Boxes: Available in a variety of sizes, boxes are best for shipping your breakable products or larger items. Think coffee mugs or shoes. Pair boxes with padding like packing paper or bubble wrap to ensure safe delivery.

You can get most of your shipping supplies in bulk online, but another option is the free shipping materials provided by USPS. If you ship via Priority Mail through the U.S. Postal Service, you can order envelopes and boxes straight from the USPS website. Your mail carrier will even deliver them for free!

Please note: These free materials must only be used for packages sent via USPS Priority Mail to avoid violating federal laws.

Other basics to have on hand include packing tape and a tape dispenser, packing fill like Styrofoam peanuts, and plenty of paper for printing out shipping labels and packing slips.

Invest in Some Equipment

One easy way to de-stress the shipping process is to purchase a shipping scale and weigh your products before you even publish new listings. If you offer free shipping, this allows you to build an accurate shipping cost into your prices. If you charge for shipping, this helps you avoid over- or under-charging your customers.

You will also want to invest in a good printer. Toner for inkjet printers gets pricey, so consider purchasing a black-and-white laserjet printer. While initially more expensive, you will save money in the long run with the cheaper toner costs. And don’t forget to pick up a spare ink cartridge so you aren’t caught short!

Location, Location

As they say in real estate, location is everything. After you’ve gathered all your supplies, you’ll want to set up a dedicated area for setting up your shipping station. Whether it’s a corner of your office or a section of your garage, you’ll want a nice flat space to lay out everything you need. Some tips:

  • Make good use of vertical space with tall cabinets or wire shelves to store packing materials and spare supplies.
  • Work through your shipping process several times to figure out what you’ll need to have handy. Things that are less obvious like scissors, a utility knife, business cards, or markers might be essential to your flow and you’ll want to have those nearby.
  • Have a dedicated area where outgoing packages are always placed to ensure no products get left behind.

The key to staying on top of the busy holiday shipping season is being prepared before the orders start rolling in! For more information about how to handle your OpenSky sales, check our Shipping, Returns and Fulfillment tutorials.

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