Shipping Part I - Parcel Shipping

Paul's picture

Shipping can often be the bane of new board game publishers. From fulfilling Kickstarter pledges to shipping cases of product to stores and distributors, shipping can be a tedious and expensive proposition.

The first type of shipping most people think of involves a small number of items shipped in cardboard boxes. Parcel shipping is almost exclusively the option used to send out Kickstarter rewards, and is the most accessible to the average consumer. If your company is based in the US, you have two options; you can either ship via USPS, or via a corporate parcel carrier, such as FedEx or UPS.

The advantage of USPS is that they are cheap. The disadvantage is that they are typically more difficult to work with, less reliable, and slower than corporate parcel carriers. Corporate carriers can be more expensive, but this can be mitigated if you do fairly regular bulk shipments, say from multiple Kickstarter campaigns and a web store. If you choose to go with a corporate carrier, you will definitely want to sign up for a corporate account; this will give you access to bulk discounts as well as an account representative whose job it will be to answer questions and generally help you out. For example, your account rep will be able to create pre-printed shipping labels from a spreadsheet of Kickstarter backers, and arrange for parcel pickups at your location.

The advantages and disadvantages of these two options is even more pronounced with international parcel shipment. Here, until you ship significant international volume, USPS is quite a bit cheaper, both in terms of overall shipping cost and in terms of the import fees and taxes charged to the recipient. However, they are also quite a bit slower and less reliable; in our experience, up to 4x the shipping time with a 1%-4% package loss rate, depending on the destination. In addition, much of the reduction in import fees is a result of your ability to more easily lie about the contents of your parcel with USPS - they are much less likely to verify your claims if you list the contents as a gift, or with a value of $1, etc.

Regardless of your choice of carrier, you will also need to obtain packing materials. For a small number of shipments, the items available from most office supply stores or big box retailers will suffice. However, for an order of any significant size (often a shipment of several dozen parcels and certainly a shipment of a hundred or more), you will typically be better off ordering supplies from a dedicated shipping supply company such as ULINE in the US. They offer a much better selection of items and sell in bulk, so your cost per box will be much lower.

The essential items for parcel shipping are:

  1. Boxes - Choose boxes that are large enough to fit your typical order and leave 1” to 2” on all sides for padding. Make sure you look at several different boxes around the size you need; some “standard” sizes are much cheaper than slightly smaller or slightly larger boxes.
  2. Padding - Never ship a board game without padding. Boxes get tossed around during shipping and regularly sustain minor damage. Bubble wrap is almost always the way to go for even fairly large parcel orders. Packing peanuts can be slightly cheaper, but are much messier and time consuming to use without a little bit of specialized equipment.
  3. Tape - Packing tape is cheap when you purchase it in bulk. Get 3” wide tape - it’s worth it.
  4. Tape Gun - Tape guns are amazing and incredibly time saving when packing a large number of parcels. If you haven’t used one before, take a look online for some videos. Best of all, suppliers such as ULINE will often send you a free tape gun when you order a case of tape.

As a general rule, any order up to around 150lbs will definitely be cheapest sent in one or more parcels. Stay tuned for next time, when we discuss larger order weights and the thrilling world of freight shipping!

Part II - LTL Freight Shipping

Part III - Full Containers and Other Fun Stuff


PlatinumWarlock's picture

You don't know how useful this info is to me right now, with my PDF about to hit online and print about to start...

Thanks for the info, Paul!

Paul's picture

I am glad I can help!