How to ship candles: packaging, shipping, and calculating the cost
Starting a new business—exciting! Realizing you have customers across state lines who want to order your candles—also exciting. Figuring out how to get your candles there without losing a profit? It may not be the most exciting part of starting a business, but getting your products to customers outside your local market is an important part of growing your business.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed before you get started. In Part 1 of this series, we’ll walk you through the logistics of how to ship your candles: the supplies needed, how to package your candles, the most popular shipping services, and how to charge for shipping. Let’s get into it!
Supplies and packaging
It’s essential to figure out how to package your candles to prevent breakage during their journey to your customer. We’ve all received broken items in the mail—it’s not a fun experience! Luckily, there are a few different ways to help ensure that your candles make it to their destination safely.
Making sure there’s as little room for movement as possible in the box is the best way to prevent breakage. There are lots of different options for filling empty space in your shipping boxes–here are some of our favorites.
- Bio peanuts: It’s no secret that we love our biodegradable packing peanuts! Bio peanuts contain compostable materials like cornstarch or wheat instead of styrofoam. They’re a great eco-friendly option to fill the extra space in your packages. (We encourage saving and reusing the bio peanuts that come in your CandleScience shipments!)
- Crinkle or kraft paper: Crinkle or kraft paper is another option for filling empty voids in your packages. Kraft paper can also double as a wrap for your candles or other products—we love a multipurpose product!
- Corrugated or honeycomb cardboard wrap: In addition to filling empty voids in your packages, you also want to ensure that you wrap your candle with a shock-absorbing material. Corrugated cardboard wrap and honeycomb cardboard wrap are two recyclable materials that do a good job of cushioning candles during shipping. You can also wrap candles in bubble wrap to absorb shock.
- Boxes: Look for corrugated cardboard when sourcing shipping boxes to ensure the box is sturdy and protective. Or, take advantage of free Flat Rate boxes. USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL offer Flat Rate boxes at no upfront cost.
- Packing tape: You’ll want a nice supply of packing tape on hand once you begin shipping orders. There are many different options, including customizable and recyclable products, but be sure to use tape specifically designed for packing or shipping to avoid breakage in transit.
Keep track of recycling information for your supplies and make it easily accessible to your customers. Using shipping supplies to cushion your products is necessary when shipping fragile objects; however, we can minimize the amount of waste we produce by reusing and recycling products whenever possible and encouraging our customers to do the same.
Packaging to prevent breakage
Wrap your candles with shock-absorbing material, then select a medium to fill any empty space in the shipping box. Use the smallest box possible to save money on shipping charges and minimize the amount of cushioning needed.
Once you’re happy with your packaging and your candle seems secure, test your package at home before sending anything in the mail. As a first step, throw it around! Unfortunately, not everyone will handle your package with the same care you do, so get some anger out and throw it around to ensure your candle is safe and secure. It’s a good idea to test your packaging in a real-world setting after it passes the at-home throw test. Ask trusted friends or family members to give you honest feedback and ship them a few candles. Try to find people who live far away to give your packages the most time to be thrown around by strangers!
Flush Packaging: Our favorite shortcut to packaging like a pro
While it’s totally possible to safely ship your candles using the above supplies and techniques, you can save a lot of time and stress by utilizing a product specifically designed for that task.
Our official packaging partner, Flush Packaging, offers boxes designed to ship fragile items safely, and many of their boxes are designed specifically for CandleScience containers. So, whether you need to ship Straight Sided Tumblers, Square Mason Jars, Jelly Jars, or something else, they likely have a box designed for your specific container. Made from 100% recyclable cardboard, this is also a great eco-friendly option because it eliminates the need for excess shipping supplies.
Keeping candles from melting in transit
Shipping in the summertime or a warm climate can be stressful, but following a few fundamental rules will help keep your candles, and you, from having a meltdown.
- Ship candles towards the beginning of the week. Shipping packages early in the week, ideally Monday-Wednesday, will help prevent them from sitting in a hot warehouse or truck over the weekend. Be upfront with your customers about which days you send packages to help avoid them wondering about any waiting period. Chances are, they’re excitedly anticipating their tracking information!
- If it’s sweltering, use ice packs. Ice packs help prevent candles from melting in transit in extremely hot climates. They’re usually unnecessary if you ship at the beginning of the week, but they’re a great option if you’re concerned about your candles melting. Searching “ice packs for shipping” online will yield many different options. We recommend using one-two ice packs per box and wrapping them in paper to prevent sweating from damaging other items in the shipment.
- Use a fast shipping method so your candles spend less time in the heat. Many shipping options deliver in three days or less, but it’s always a good idea to double-check that the shipping speed you select is appropriate for your climate and season. Test ship candles to friends or family members who live in warmer climates to ensure success.
We speak to hundreds of small candle businesses weekly and have found that, as with many other aspects of business, the best shipping method may be a little different for everyone. Don’t be afraid to experiment and figure out what works best for your individual business needs.
The best way to ensure you’re shipping your candles in the most economical way possible is to utilize online shipping software. Various online platforms streamline the shipping process and walk you through each step. We’ll list a few of the most popular options we’ve heard candle makers rave about below, but keep in mind that these are not the only available services.
- Pirate Ship: This online shipping platform is the one we hear mentioned most often, and for good reason! Pirate Ship walks you through the shipping process, offers discounted USPS and UPS rates, and integrates with popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Etsy, and Squarespace—to name a few. Their easy-to-use interface is great for beginners and free to use.
- Shippo: This platform also integrates with the abovementioned e-commerce sites and offers a few more carrier choices. Because Shippo offers discounted FedEx and DHL rates in addition to USPS and UPS options, it’s a great option for candle makers who want a larger selection of carriers. Shippo offers three different plan tiers, including a free choice.
- Directly through your e-commerce platform: In the early stages of your business, shipping directly through your e-commerce platform is a great way to quickly get orders out without needing to learn a new platform. Both Etsy and Shopify offer shipping integrations and discounted rates. Etsy offers USPS and FedEx, while Shopify offers USPS and UPS.
Shipping directly with carriers is always an option as well. USPS offers Flat Rate boxes at no charge, and you can schedule packages to be picked up from your home or drop them off at your local Post Office. This is a great option if utilizing an online shipping platform feels overwhelming or unnecessary for the volume your business is currently shipping. UPS and FedEx also offer Flat Rate boxes and shipping rates.
How to calculate the cost of shipping and what to charge for it
Calculating the cost of shipping and figuring out how to charge your customers for it can be difficult. No one likes having to pay extra for shipping, but small businesses need to recoup at least some of what they pay to ship orders to customers.
Finding a balance between not losing your profit and not losing sales is tricky. Charge too much for shipping, and you’ll notice customers leaving their products in their carts at checkout—otherwise known as an “abandoned cart.” Charge too little, and you’ll realize that the profit on your sale is minimal or, worst case scenario, you lost money from the sale.
Calculating the cost of shipping
Figuring out how much you spend on shipping is the first step of figuring out how to charge for shipping. First, record the cost of your shipping materials. Then, take note of the materials used in each package.
After calculating your shipping material cost, you’ll need to figure out how much it will cost to ship your packages to your customers and determine your average shipping cost. Online shipping platforms help calculate this cost for you, but you can also calculate the average cost of shipping by using the shipping calculators below.
Using your carrier’s shipping calculator, input information for the most common packages you’ll be sending to customers in different areas of the country, record the results, then take an average of the shipping cost.
It takes a bit of trial and error to determine the best model for your business, so if the initial method you try doesn’t work out, keep tweaking it until you see results!
Determining how to charge for shipping
Businesses use different strategies when charging customers for shipping. There’s no right or wrong approach; it simply depends on what works best for your business. Below, we’ll outline some of the most successful strategies we’ve seen small businesses utilize. The goal of your shipping strategy should be to recoup the cost of shipping supplies and charges without deterring customers from completing their purchases. We strongly encourage taking the time to research different strategies and how they might work for your business—undercharging or not charging for shipping will quickly start draining your profit.
- Charge customers a flat rate: This is a popular strategy for many small businesses because it minimizes the profit lost on shipping and is fairly simple to calculate. Because you already know your average shipping cost, you’ll charge a flat rate close to the average cost per package for each order. Some businesses charge the exact average while others round the average up to the next dollar. Many customers are willing to pay a shipping fee when ordering from small businesses because they understand the need to avoid losing profit on shipping costs. Still, some may click away from a purchase when they see the additional shipping charge. This is a great option for businesses that typically ship similarly-sized orders, but may not be the best strategy for you if the size of your packages varies greatly.
Free shipping for a minimum spend: It’s no secret that in today’s world, many shoppers expect shipping to be free. With so many large businesses offering free shipping, this precedent is difficult to escape. Businesses that offer free shipping typically embed the shipping cost into the cost of their products. While raising the cost of your products to offer free shipping is certainly an option, it can also deter customers from purchasing your products at all.
With this in mind, many small businesses opt to offer free shipping for orders above a minimum spend, most commonly $30, $50, or $100. This strategy encourages customers to spend more, minimizes the number of customers who abandon their carts due to shipping charges, and can expand your customer base to include customers who only purchase from businesses that offer free shipping.
The downside of this strategy is that it can be tricky to calculate. You’ll need to determine the flat rate to charge for orders that don’t meet your free shipping threshold and the best threshold to set to qualify for free shipping. The free shipping threshold should be higher than the typical spend per order, but not so high that customers aren’t willing to reach it. This strategy can take a bit more trial and error than others; however, it’s a great option to try if you find that other shipping strategies don’t seem to work for you.
- Charge the exact cost: Many e-commerce platforms can calculate the exact shipping cost of each order, so passing on the exact cost of shipping to your customers is an option as well. Small businesses like this option because it’s the safest way to guarantee that you won’t lose profit by shipping your products, and it’s simple to set up through your e-commerce platform or shipping software. The downside? Customers wanting to place large orders may be deterred by higher shipping costs and may spend less or abandon their cart completely. However, this may be a good option if you find that other shipping strategies result in a profit loss.
That's a lot of info, but you can do this! If you're at the point where you’re ready to ship your candles, you've already accomplished a lot, so don’t forget to give yourself credit. Shipping your candles will become easier with each order, and seeing customers throughout the country enjoying your candles will make all the hard work worth it.
Part 2 of our shipping series will focus on creating a memorable unboxing experience and navigating common customer service challenges that arise when shipping products. Do you have any shipping queries we didn't cover? Be sure to let us know!
*Products and services recommended in this article are simply suggestions, not endorsements.
Looking for more help?
Got a question about shipping? Need some other advice on launching your business? We love helping candlemakers on their journey to entrepreneurship. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with us on Facebook or Instagram.