I hate paying for shipping. There are plenty of things cloth diapering mamas disagree on, but I doubt there are many passionate defenders of shipping fees. Except… this post is kind of a defense of shipping fees, from the perspective of all the small businesses across Canada that feed our addiction to all things fluffy.
Online businesses have a couple of options when charging shipping. Many have a simple flat rate, which usually ranges between $5 – $10. Some businesses have a flat rate depending on the destination, for example, an Ontario-based business might have a lower flat rate for Ontario and Quebec parcels, and a higher one for provinces and territories that are farther away. Still others will calculate exact shipping depending on the order. Almost all online retailers offer free shipping with a minimum order, ranging from $40 to $200. Note that for rural areas, retailers are forced to have a surcharge to match Canada Post’s higher rates for these regions.
First of all, let me assure you that the Canadian small businesses that carry cloth diapers are not secretly profiting from their flat rate shipping. I’ve looked at the shipping policies of over 50 retailers Canada-wide, and I can assure you that most of them are footing part of the bill with their flat rates. Many promise to refund the difference if actual shipping is less than the flat rate you paid.
While running my second-hand diaper consignment shop online last year, I got a first-hand look at what it actually costs to mail parcels with Canada Post…
Let’s say, for example, that you order two diapers for a total of about $50, and the store only offers free shipping at $99. If you pay $8 in shipping, that will be pretty close to the exact cost if you’re in the same province. But, let’s say the retailer is in Quebec and you’re in BC. Most retailers take advantage of shipping via PayPal, which offers a slight discount on the expedited parcel rate from Canada Post (anybody with a PayPal account has access to this, by the way). Even with these savings, they’re still looking at about $15 to ship. And while there are lots of retail products that have a huge mark up, cloth diapers aren’t one of them. The manufacturer sets the price. Let’s assume that on a $25 diaper, the retailer makes 50% (and remember that if the diaper is discounted during a manufacturer-authorized sale, that percentage drops). So your $50 purchase is $25 profit to the retailer, minus the $7 they kick in for shipping, so we’re at $18. Then there’s the shipping they themselves may have had to pay to the supplier to receive the diapers in the first place and the time it takes them to pick and pack orders, etc.
These are, of course, the costs associated with doing business online. There are also savings when running a completely online storefront compared to a brick and mortar location, so retailers surely take that into account when they swallow the additional shipping costs not covered by the customer. And let’s not kid ourselves: a minimum amount for free shipping definitely encourages the consumer to buy enough to reach that free shipping amount!
So what’s my point? Well, for one, I’d love to see Canada Post offer more competitive rates for our dear, small fluffy businesses. Volume discounts exist, but they are minimal, and many small businesses don’t meet the minimum volume requirements. Secondly, as consumers supporting these small businesses, we should maybe grumble a bit less about paying for shipping. After all, if we want to buy something in a brick and mortar store, this usually means paying to get ourselves there (gas or transit passes), sometimes paying for parking, and of course taking up travel time. We don’t usually factor those costs into our purchase decisions!
What about letter mail? That’s cheap! I’ve written extensively about sending diapers via letter mail, so of course, we know that this is possible. While researching this post, I found that a surprising amount of businesses are willing to take the risk of sending an item letter mail as long as the customer understands that they cannot be held responsible for non-delivery.
Another thing that surprised me when researching this post was struck by the sheer volume of online boutiques out there trying to make their mark. It’s definitely a buyers’ market: the myriad cloth diapering retailers all carry similar products, and an AppleCheeks or a BumGenius is the same price no matter which store you choose. It’s going to be in their shipping policies, loyalty programs and customer service that retailers gain and retain customers.
I had the owner of Nature Bumz give me the following insight:
Shipping does and is impacting our business very largely! We try to make it affordable for everyone, however, we do soak up a lot of the cost having a standard shipping rate, and because rates climb, unfortunately we have to increase shipping rates accordingly, which sometimes consumers don’t always like. But as we are just a small business run from our home, we can’t afford to ship very cheaply and it does hurt us in the long run. With that being said, I hope we can provide optimal customer service, superior products and provide helpful information which will make people want to buy from us regardless of the lower shipping costs that other larger companies can provide. Plus the more personal touch when they order, attention to detail, and help can be an asset – especially with some natural parenting products : )
I’ve created a chart detailing the flat rate shipping, minimum free shipping amount, option for letter mail and presence of a loyalty program to help you choose where to shop. I will be keeping the PDF document as up-to-date as possible, so I recommend bookmarking or pinning the original post, which is where I will continue to upload updated versions of the chart.
So, who’s your favourite online retailer, and why? Are you loyal to one particular shop, or do you shop around for the absolute lowest price?