E-Commerce Returns – Tips to reduce costs

UPS reports high volumes of ‘holiday returns’ following 2016’s ‘unprecedented volume of online sales’.  E-Commerce returns present new challenges for sellers but in particular for Canadian e-commerce companies selling to U.S. consumers.

Even for U.S. e-commerce retailers it’s a struggle to find balance between often unanticipated reverse logistics costs and satisfying their customers’ high expectations for ‘an easy shopping experience.’  It’s especially difficult for Canadian exporters.  Canadians benefit by having a return address IN the USA – near the border, rather than discourage possible sales with a Canadian return address. (Related article: Return to Sender)

While each return is unique, some suggest including a pre-addressed, self-adhering ‘return label’ with each original shipment for easy return to your U.S. address with a suggestion to reuse the original packaging.  Recycling the original shipping box w/packing materials for reverse logistics purposes can reduce damage and shipping costs since most carriers ‘charge by dimensional weight standards’ (Related article: UPS / Fed-Ex Switch to Dimensional Weight).

TradeTips blog is published by UCanTrade, Inc., your cross-border experts since 1984.

Subscribe to our TradeTips Newsletter for the latest import/export events and trade news, and/or call us at (360) 380-6900.

UCanTrade
Website: www.UCanTrade.com
Phone: 360-380-6900
Email: info@UCanTrade.com
Twitter: @UCanTrade

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In Praise of the Lowly Pallet

By: Jim Pettinger, President of UCanTrade, Inc.

According to a recent article in Inbound Logistics magazine, “Some 80 percent of all U.S. commerce is carried on pallets, making them an indispensable part of nearly every supply chain.” They estimate there are over 2 billion pallets circulating around the United States of all sizes and makeup. The most common standard size of 40-inch by 48-inch is set by the grocery industry, but many other sizes are also used.

Many newer businesses using our third-party logistics services are not aware of the most common ramifications, including (1) fumigation requirements when receiving wood pallets from offshore, (2) the “art” of stacking wrapping and banding a pallet so it will withstand frequent handling and cross-docking along its journey, (3) the cost of pallets and shipping materials needed to properly palletize an outbound shipment, and (4) the issue of dealing with grossly oversize, cheaply stacked and non-reusable incoming pallets from suppliers trying to minimize their cost. As usual, pre-planning and consultation with experts is always a good idea.

TradeTips blog is published by UCanTrade, Inc., your cross-border experts since 1984.

Subscribe to our TradeTips Newsletter for the latest import/export events and trade news, and/or call us at (360) 380-6900.

UCanTrade
Website: www.UCanTrade.com
Phone: 360-380-6900
Email: info@UCanTrade.com
Twitter: @UCanTrade

Article Link: Inbound Logistics

Selling to big retailers? Beware of charge-backs.

By: Jim Pettinger, President of UCanTrade, Inc.

In recent years, most “big box” retailers have followed Walmart’s lead by introducing “Vendor Compliance” programs. While understandable due to the huge volume of goods being received, the practice has also come under criticism for becoming a “revenue stream” rather than a reasonable business practice. Typical reasons for “fines” of $250 or more can include: early/late delivery, ASN/EDI violations, improper labels, purchase order violations, pricing errors, overages/shortages, broken pallets and damaged cartons.

Our advice to Canadians entering the US market has always been, “build your distribution channel from the bottom up”. There are thousands of local and regional retailers with whom you can build a “win-win” personal relationship while learning the ropes. And when you do venture into deeper water, make sure you negotiate profitable pricing and work with a third-party logistics company that can help you minimize delivery issues.

TradeTips blog is published by UCanTrade, Inc., your cross-border experts since 1984.

Subscribe to our TradeTips Newsletter for the latest import/export events and trade news, and/or call us at (360) 380-6900.

UCanTrade
Website: www.UCanTrade.com
Phone: 360-380-6900
Email: info@UCanTrade.com
Twitter: @UCanTrade

B.C. Businesses Cut Cross-Border Costs

“Canadian companies want to consolidate several small shipments into a larger one to minimize customs clearance costs,” says Jim Pettinger, UCanTrade, Inc.’s president and CEO. “This is where UCanTrade can step in and provide cross docking services and work in conjunction with our client’s U.S. Customs Broker to expedite this process at a low cost.”

Further, UCanTrade’s state-of-the-art warehouse and shipping facility, conveniently located on I-5 only 10 minutes (24 km) from the border in Blaine, WA, is strategically positioned to help British Columbia businesses save money. Our cross-docking, ‘pick-and-pack’ and third party logistics (3PL) services, combined with years of cross-border experience, give our clients a competitive advantage. By eliminating the border, Canadian businesses lower their shipping and handling costs whereby increasing their profits.

Noteworthy, if you are making acquisitions in the United States, ask your vendor if they offer free delivery to addresses in the U.S.  If they do, call us for cross-docking services and you could save thousands on freight fees and international shipping charges.

Get in touch with the logistics experts at UCanTrade, Inc. today, and find out how your company can save money with cross-border cross-docking and 3PL services.

TradeTips blog is published by UCanTrade, Inc., your cross-border experts since 1984.

UCanTrade
Website: www.UCanTrade.com
Phone: 360-380-6900
Email: info@UCanTrade.com
Twitter: @UCanTrade

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Keeping USA Order Fulfillment Costs Predictable (Part 2)

Part 2: Choosing the Right Logistics Partners

By: Elliott Smith

This is part two in a multi part series on Keeping USA Order Fulfillment Costs Predictable. Click here to read Part 1: Dimensional Shipping, Residential Charges and Zones.  In Part Two, Trade Tips Blog continues the conversation with UCanTrade’s Operations Manager Terry Dickey on controlling the costs of order fulfillment in the United States. In this installment, we focus on the importance of choosing the right logistics partners.

It’s important to choose the right partners to keep your USA fulfillment costs predictable. One of the fastest ways for costs to escalate is a misplaced or mishandled shipment. If your customer doesn’t receive the item they ordered when promised, you could be on the hook for a refund, a replacement, or other expensive measures to keep your customer happy. It’s better to choose logistics options that provide certainty and accurate data, so that if there is a problem, you can identify the source quickly and remedy the issue.

The Postal Service vs. UPS/FedEx

For this reason UPS and FedEx are often better alternatives to the US Postal Service for business shipments. “It’s the tracking” Dickey explains. With US Postal Service Priority Mail, you get a notification that your shipment has been picked up, and a notification that it has been delivered. But in transit? Nope. The Postal Service is unable to provide data about a package in transit; data that could help you track where something might have gone wrong and solve a problem.

UPS and FedEx both provide significantly more data. Shipments are scanned at every location where they are handled in transit. If something goes wrong with a shipment, it’s far easier to identify what went wrong, and where the item is. Having that information means that should a problem arise, you can fix it faster and easier, saving you money.

UPS vs. FedEx

Another thing to consider when choosing your logistics partner is who you are really hiring. UPS is one central organization, every truck driver, pilot and package handler in the brown uniform is a UPS employee. FedEx, on the other hand, uses contractors to handle significant portions of their operation, including residential ground delivery. In some cases, these contractors are top-notch professionals. In other cases, not so much. The problem is, if you are sending a package across the country, you don’t know whether the contractor handling final delivery to your customer’s house is one of the best, or one of the worst. Choosing UPS, especially for residential delivery, can provide more consistent results.

UCanTrade’s Industry-Leading Low Fulfillment Error Rate

Hiring the right fulfillment house is another critical step in keeping your fulfillment costs predictable. Shipping errors can become costly customer service debacles in a hurry, so it’s important to find a trusted fulfillment partner that can get your orders shipped correctly, with the absolute minimum error rate. In the fulfillment industry, a 1-2% error rate is considered standard. With many fulfillment providers, one or two packages per hundred shipped are incorrectly processed. UCanTrade, Inc. has one of the lowest fulfillment error rates in the industry. In 2014, the company’s error rate was amazingly low and well below industry standard with an accuracy rate of 99.82%! You can rest assured that when you choose UCanTrade to handle your USA order fulfillment, you are working with the industry leader in fulfillment accuracy.

TradeTips blog is published by UCanTrade, Inc., your cross-border experts since 1997.

Sign up HERE to receive current cross-border news & upcoming BC / WA trade events.

UCanTrade
Website: www.UCanTrade.com
Phone: 360-380-6900
Email: info@UCanTrade.com
Twitter: @UCanTrade

Keeping USA Order Fulfillment Costs Predictable

Part 1: Dimensional Shipping, Residential Charges and Zones

By: Elliot Smith

Trade Tips Blog sat down with Terry Dickey, Operations Manager at UCanTrade, Inc. in Ferndale, Washington to talk about e-commerce fulfillment and international shipping, and how new entrepreneurs can avoid the common pitfalls that eat into profits when fulfillment costs aren’t properly understood and planned for. This post will be the first in a multi-part series that explains some of the common fulfillment costs that are often unknown to new e-commerce entrepreneurs developing a fulfillment plan. This post explores three of the most common ‘surprise’ fulfillment costs businesses encounter:  Dimensional Weight, Residential Charges and Zones.Order Fulfillment

Dimensional Shipping

Dimensional Weight, also sometime referred to as Dimensional Shipping, is a method of calculating shipping charges based on volume and weight, rather than weight alone.  UPS, the US Postal Service (USPS) and FedEx all use Dimensional Weight for shipments. In general, virtually all air shipments get “dimmed,” or charged dimensional weight while only larger ground shipments receive the charge. UPS, for example, charges dimensional weight on ground shipments only if they measure 16”x16”x16” or larger.

People are often surprised at the significant increase in cost between ground and air shipping because they are unaware of dimensional weight charges, says UCanTrade Operations Manager Terry Dickey. Dickey adds that as a general guideline, “you triple (the cost) when you go from ground to 2-day” shipping. It’s important for companies selling items to consumers online to know about Dimensional Weight, otherwise their fulfillment costs can skyrocket and eat into profits.

Residential Charges

Residential Charges are another common pitfall that new entrepreneurs need to avoid when budgeting and planning for order fulfillment.  UPS charges an extra fee for delivering to residential addresses. These fees can increase fulfillment costs by $3-4 per shipment.  Dickey explains that UPS’ system is geared towards serving business customers, with hubs and routes focused on commercial and industrial cores of cities. Residential addresses are typically further from the hub, and require more time and resources for UPS to serve. Hence, the residential charges are added. The fee can come as a surprise if the box for “residential” isn’t clicked when filling out price quote on the UPS website. It’s important to factor Residential Charges into your company’s fulfillment budget.

Zones

UPS divides the United States into zones. Pricing goes up with each zone crossed, so for example, a UPS shipment from Washington state to Florida crossing multiple zones will incur substantially higher cost than a shipment from Washington to Colorado. Understanding how these zones will affect your business and your cost to deliver to your customers is another important item to address when planning your company’s e-commerce fulfillment. The US Postal Service applies zone fees for many shipments as well. However, items under 70 pounds shipped in USPS-provided Priority Mail packaging do not incur a zone fee.

Click here to read Part 2: Choosing the Right Logistics Partners

TradeTips blog is published by UCanTrade, Inc., your cross-border experts since 1997.

Sign up HERE to receive current cross-border news & upcoming BC / WA trade events.

UCanTrade
Website: www.UCanTrade.com
Phone: 360-380-6900
Email: info@UCanTrade.com
Twitter: @UCanTrade

Interstate 5: Artery of Commerce in Western North America

By: Elliott Smith

Did you know: I-5 is the only road in the USA’s Interstate Highway system to run all the way from Canada to Mexico?

At the Peace Arch, BC Highway 99 becomes Interstate 5 and runs through Washington, I-5 Peace ArchOregon and California, passing through virtually all of the largest cities on the US west coast, before becoming Mexican Federal Highway 1 in Tijuana. Uninterrupted twin ribbons of concrete from BC to BC: British Columbia to Baja California.

With Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijanua all on the I-5 corridor, San Francisco is essentially the only large metro area on North America’s west coast that is NOT accessed via I-5.

The full proper name of the US Interstate network is the “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” It was conceived by President Eisenhower following World War II as a means to facilitate troop movements and national defense, as well as commerce. Contrary to popular myth, the Interstates were NOT designed to act as emergency airstrips in time of war. Although, small planes do sometimes make emergency landings on the freeway. One such landing occurred near Bellingham in 2012.

In Washington state, Interstate 5 largely follows the route of old US Highway 99, which connected to BC Highway 99 at the Peace Arch. The cross-border numerical continuity ended with the adoption of the Interstate numbering system.

In the US, mainline Interstates are numbered 1-95. North/South routes are assigned odd numbers, East/West routes even. For North/South routes, numbers start low on the West Coast and get progressively higher. For East/West routes, numbers start low closer to the Mexican border and get higher the closer to the Canadian border.I-5

As such, I-5 is the lowest numbered North/South route, and I-95, which links the East Coast from Maine to Florida is the highest. Interstate 10 is the southernmost East/West route, linking California and Florida. Interstate 90, which runs from Seattle to Boston is the second-highest numbered East/West Interstate in the US, only Interstate 94 reaches closer to the Canadian border.

A three digit interstate indicates a smaller route that links to a mainline interstate. On a three digit interstate, an even first number indicates a loop around a city, an odd first digit is a spur into the heart of a city. In Washington state, for example, Interstate 405 loops around Lake Washington, bypassing the urban core of Seattle. In Pierce County, Interstate 705 is a short spur into the center of downtown Tacoma.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, between 10,000 and 35,000 trucks travel on I-5 every day. The agency predicts that by the year 2035 average daily traffic on I-5 will include 22,000 trucks.

In addition to providing access to many of the West Coast’s major seaports, including Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, and Long Beach I-5 and its connecting routes also link most of the West coast’s large international airports. YVR, SeaTac, PDX, and LAX are all located in the I-5 corridor. Additionally, many smaller airports important to cargo operations are located right along the route, including Bellingham International and Paine Field.

Access to I-5 is a big part of the reason International Market Access, Inc. chose to locate in Ferndale, Washington. IMA’s facility is located only 500 yards from I-5, giving our clients direct access to Western North America’s artery of commerce. Trade moves by truck, and in Western North America, trucks move on I-5. IMA’s Ferndale facility with easy access to I-5 is ideally suited to handle cross-border shipping and logistics, with quick connections to all major sea and airports in the Lower Mainland and Puget Sound region.

Trade Tips Blog is published by International Market Access, Inc.

International Market Access, Inc.
USA Business Identity, Warehousing and Fulfillment Services
Phone: 360-380-6900
Email: tradetips@ucantrade.com