The State of Shipping and Logistics
With a little more than two months left in 2022, it’s time to revisit the state of shipping and logistics for business owners who rely on sales from the holiday shopping season to achieve their annual goals. Here’s the latest outlook:
China, Other Countries, Ocean Freight
If you’re planning to fulfill holiday sales, at this point it’s too late to get something on a ship from China and get it across the ocean, through customs and logged in to a warehouse before BFCM (Black Friday Cyber Monday). You can still air ship, however. Depending on your volume and profit margins, I would recommend looking into this. A lost sale is $0 revenue if you don’t have stock to fill it. The exception being pre-orders of course.
A great solution can be working with warehouses that have a presence in China and can ship directly to customers from there. It may take a bit longer and be slightly more expensive than shipping domestically but if you can’t fill the order at all, you can’t make the sale. These warehouses also take advantage of Section 321 for tariff savings for direct-to-consumer orders.
Ports are opening up! Last week I was in Tacoma, WA watching container ships waiting to be loaded. One of my favorite website/apps is www.VesselFinder.com. You can track any ship in the world, see which ports are busy and crowded and which have lighter loads. It’s a terrific way to keep your customers updated on shipments and fun to watch at the same time.
The best thing you can do for faster movement of your products or containers is to make sure all your documents are in line and that you have an excellent customs broker. Clearit, a customs broker for the U.S. and Canada, have excellent client communications and are efficient in getting shipments cleared and onto a truck.
Prices, however, are still high. Although not at the levels they were six months ago, it’s still more expensive than it was a few years ago. We don’t anticipate that getting any better.
Trucking is all about networking! Make sure you have a solid relationship with your freight partners. To see who is moving and at what cost, visit www.Freightos.com to check on routes and pricing.
Much like Clearit, they have a great portal and communication is good. Knowing where your products are in transit and potential blockers is critical at this stage.
If you are shipping into the U.S. over the ocean, time is running short. Check air freight rates, network with other merchants through LinkedIn, Slack Groups, Facebook, and Reddit. You are looking for someone with whom you can share space. It’s less expensive to move an entire container than a small portion in one. If you’re working as a team with other merchants, you can fill containers. Tracking is better as well; you can track the movement of containers from ship to port to customs to truck or train.
Knowledge is power. Stay in touch with your logistics partners…and be patient! They are getting pressure from all sides; a representative will be more likely to help you if you have a respectful working relationship.
Lastly, going into the holidays, make sure the warehouse integration with your sales channels or ERP works seamlessly. Run tests and check for order exceptions (e.g., stuck orders). Have a backup warehouse, whether it’s your garage, a storage unit, or another warehouse partner.
Profitability doesn’t happen without the effort.