When you’re shipping clothing purchases to your customers, there are several considerations that can impact postage price. You’ll need to make some decisions about the presentation of your products, your brand image, how quickly you want products to arrive, and other key factors.
All things considered, retailers can make an effective plan for shipping their products quickly and affordably by doing a little research and looking for the right customer experience.
Quick Answer: The Cheapest Way to Ship a Shirt and Other Small Clothing Items
Comparing different shipping methods for the same basic item allows you to start comparing prices and methods. Let’s start with a quick example.
How much does it cost to ship a shirt? For FedEx and UPS, a small shipment like one T-shirt may exceed the envelope rate that is designed for letters, so these pricing comparisons assume you’re using a small box.
- USPS First Class Mail (generally 2 to 3 Days) large envelope under 1 pound: $2.66 to $5.54
- USPS Priority Mail 2-Day Flat Rate 12 1/2 inch x 9 1/2 inch envelope: $7.35 to $8 retail rate
- USPS Priority Mail 2-Day Flat Rate 8 5/8 inch by 5 3/8 inch by 1 5/8 inch box: $7.90 retail rate
- UPS Ground (4 Days) for 8 5/8 inch by 5 3/8 inch by 1 5/8 inch box: $11
- FedEx Ground (4 Days) for 8 5/8 inch by 5 3/8 inch by 1 5/8 inch box: $11
In this example, we’re sending a shirt from downtown San Francisco to downtown Chicago. USPS First Class Mail is cheapest overall at around the $5 mark, or even less depending on weight. Using an envelope or small box with USPS is roughly equivalent in price. In this case, either the envelope or the small Flat Rate box would get you postage at around $8. The envelope is still slightly cheaper, so If you’re shipping a large number of packages you may save some money using envelopes.
That said, there’s a lot more to consider when you’re planning your shipments.
What’s the Cheapest Method of Shipping Clothing to Customers?
Since there are several mail carriers delivering packages throughout the U.S. and internationally, it may seem tough to choose one for your shipping. There’s no one right answer here. Your costs depend on a variety of factors, one of which is the type of apparel you’re shipping. There’s a big difference between heavy, bulky items and lightweight, small items, for instance.
That said, it’s a good idea to choose example items and consider what the shipping process would look like for them. For this discussion, we will focus primarily on the three major U.S. carriers, USPS, UPS and FedEx. If you are shipping internationally or to parts of the country where other carriers are of interest, you may want to do more comparison shopping for your shipments.
How to Save Money With Your Packaging
Your brand and customer experience are another important consideration. For some apparel retailers, part of the buying experience includes receiving a package with thoughtful touches, personalization, and delightful extras. Others pack purchases carefully but with a preference for cost reduction and efficiency.
Consider the following 12 tips and pack your clothes with shipping costs in mind:
- Avoid extra cushioning
- Choose rigid packaging to protect delicate clothing items
- Pack inside inexpensive poly mailers
- Ship items together
- Weigh your packages as you pack to help you make adjustments
- Fold clothes carefully before packing
- Email receipts instead of including printed materials
- Ship using the smallest package possible
- Compare “by weight” costs with flat-rate services
- Consider USPS Flat Rate Priority shipping for distant destinations or heavy packages
- Look for volume discounts
- Offer a distinct premium experience as an add-on
Even if you do everything in your power to control costs and standardize the packaging process, you will probably still find a great degree of variance in your shipping expenses. This is why you may want to use a shipping service or multiple carriers, depending on your sales volume.
Shipping Clothes Through USPS
USPS can be more affordable for shipping some items, particularly lightweight items. If your packages are under one pound, you can probably use First Class Mail for your shipments. Your costs may be higher if you send to a more distant recipient or send heavier packages. If you can, look for opportunities to use Flat Rate shipping and get volume discounts.
First Class Mail and Shipping Clothes
USPS offers a First Class Mail service as an economical alternative for small and light letters and packages. If your clothing orders are small enough, you can probably use First Class for most shipments. Pricing is determined by weight and distance, so keep a small scale handy for weighing your orders before sending them out.
Expect to pay more for shipping to a distant “zone.” That’s Post Office parlance for destination distance.
To determine how much you’re charged based on shipping distance, the USPS considers the “shipping from” and “shipping to” zones. The furthest possible distance that’s still considered domestic is zone nine, while zone one distances are close to you. You can use your zip code to determine how this is calculated by using the USPS Domestic Zone Chart.
If you’re shipping a package that weighs at or above one pound, though, you should consider Flat Rate or alternative carriers instead. USPS only allows First Class shipping for packages up to 15.99 ounces. So if you’re shipping two shirts, weigh the package first.
Flat Rate and Shipping Apparel
For clothing retailers, there are several big advantages to USPS. It may offer more options and different ways to plan your shipping costs.
Flat Rate boxes allow you to ship using Priority Mail and get items to your customers quickly and for a reasonable rate. You have a consistent postage cost for orders and could pass along a discount or incentivize shoppers to order more with the same rate. These rates may compare favorably with UPS and FedEx.
How to Get the Lowest USPS Rates on Shipping Apparel
Rates may be the lowest with USPS if you’re using the carrier to ship packages that weigh less than three pounds or if you use a volume discount. Using an envelope, you may be able to ship small apparel orders without much of an issue.
Volume discounts of up to 40 percent off may be an option if you use a shipping management platform such as Shipping Easy or Pirate Ship and qualify for USPS Commercial Pricing. These prices are normally only available to retailers who send a large volume of packages every year, but small businesses can access these discounts if they use a third party for shipping.
Additional Considerations With USPS Shipping
However, although USPS does have a wide range of services and rates for shipping, you do have to think strategically about how you use USPS shipping. One example of this is Flat Rate service. The fixed price is a bigger benefit if you’re shipping heavy items than if you’re shipping lightweight ones like apparel.
Shipping Clothes Through UPS
Another carrier worth considering for shipping clothes is UPS. Their UPS Ground service takes 1 to 5 days to ship a package within the U.S. for what is usually a reasonable cost. You have a wide range of shipping options and pricing, too, if you need to ship internationally or change your shipping speed.
UPS can also be a good option for shipping more unusual apparel needs, such as large boxes containing elaborate wedding dresses. Since USPS has specific limits on sizing and weight, and may not offer as many choices on when your items arrive, you may get more flexibility with UPS shipping that may make it easier to provide customers with a unique experience.
When you ship clothing items, UPS recommends that you use their Time and Cost tool to help you determine the best level of service for your shipment.
Shipping Clothes Through FedEx
Shipping through FedEx is another option, particularly if you want your items to cover a greater distance or arrive quickly. Like UPS, FedEx provides a wide range of shipping options and offers you the choice of having the carrier assist with packaging. Their custom shipping solutions may be worthwhile if you have unique shipping needs.
Pricing depends on weight, distance, and the type of shipping service and options you choose.
Estimate your shipping rates with FedEx to see how much you can expect to pay.
How Should I Pack Clothes for Shipping?
Clothes don’t usually require much special handling or packaging consideration. In fact, you can probably pack a lot of your orders in envelopes and keep costs low. That said, there are packing strategies that can help you keep your items more presentable, help you control costs, protect sensitive items, or make the most of your shipping.
Packing clothing is largely dependent on the type of item you’re selling. Consider the fabric type, decorative additions, and other details before you pack.
Packing Casual Apparel
Lightweight, casual fabrics may not require much protection at all. Keep them neatly folded to minimize wrinkles and provide a positive first impression upon arrival. You could use the KonMari Method. If you’re packing several items together, use a box.
To pack individual shirts:
- Carefully fold the shirt to fit the packaging you’re using. You can roll the shirt to prevent wrinkles.
- A plastic bag should be enough protection for a single shirt. Place it inside the bag.
- Seal the plastic bag. Tape works well.
- Place the plastic bag inside a poly mailer.
- Place a shipping label on the outside of the mailer.
To pack jeans or other pants:
- Fold the pair of pants at least three or four times and make sure you’re not wrinkling them in the process.
- Use a plastic bag to protect the item during transit.
- Place the plastic bag in a poly mailer. Choose a poly mailer that’s large enough to fit the item and suitable for the item’s weight. For some products, you may need a box instead.
- Place the label.
Packing Formal Clothes
Formal clothing items may require some special handling and protection. Wedding dresses, formal gowns and tuxedos are all apparel items you may need to pack more carefully to ensure they arrive in excellent condition. Expensive items may also need high-touch treatment when packing. In these cases, you’ll probably have to use a larger package with good cushioning.
To pack a formal item:
- Choose a box large enough to contain the item without squishing decorative details or specialized fabrics. Avoid using such a big box that the item has a lot of space to move around in and become damaged.
- Place the item inside the box. If you fold it first, wrap it in tissue paper.
- Add packing and cushioning material to protect decorative details.
Improve the Customer Experience Behind Your Shipping
Free shipping is an increasingly popular promotion for online stores to run, but that doesn’t mean it’s free for you as a seller. If you’re offering free shipping, it’s absolutely imperative that you save money wherever you can.
Even if you’re not offering free shipping to customers, it’s important to reduce shipping costs for your clothing items. After all, you don’t want to see customers add your products to their carts, only to abandon the process when they see shipping costs. At the very least, going through the process of researching affordable shipping will ensure that you’re giving customers accurate estimates of what it will cost to ship their purchases, saving money for everyone involved.
By shipping quickly and keeping your items in good condition during transit, you can improve your customer experience and keep shoppers happy. Experiment with different packaging, methods, and shipping carriers to see what works best for your brand.