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Getting Shipping Supplies Becomes a Challenge for Online Sellers

Fastpast Packaging
Fastpast Packaging

BC (Before Covid), obtaining shipping supplies was a routine chore for online sellers. Now it has become a challenge, as Jason Archambault can attest. His company, Fastpack Packaging, has been offering boxes, mailers, bubble wrap, and other shipping supplies to online sellers for over two decades. But last year was unlike any other, he told EcommerceBytes.

“We offer over 15,000 different Shipping related sku’s, and over the last year, we have had more issues receiving product from suppliers than ever before,” he said.

Prior to 2021, 1% or less of all the orders he placed would be affected by out-of-stock issues – and even then, those orders might be delayed by only two to three days until the item was back in stock.

In 2021, that number was in the double digits, Archambault said. Some products were out-of stock – and therefore unavailable to Fastpack customers – for days, weeks, or longer.

“This has not been unique to us or even our industry,” he said. “We have seen even the largest of our competitors have similar issues, and sometimes we have been able to help their customers looking for stock, and vice versa.”

What’s behind the problem? His suppliers have cited numerous issues: quarantines and illness causing staff and supply shortages; delays in receiving raw materials to produce the goods; and dock delays at the ports.

In October, Business Insider reported that the US was running out of cardboard and packaging materials as the supply chain crisis dragged on.

Even the Post Office may be experiencing supply chain issues with the free shipping supplies it offers to customers. Sellers recently noticed they could no longer order USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate padded envelopes on the USPS website; the product page returned after our inquiry, with a spokesperson confirming the disappearance and return of the padded envelopers but offering no explanation.

While Archambault has continued to see higher than normal delays in receiving orders from suppliers, he’s starting to see signs that things may be starting to stabilize.

Online sellers face a lot of challenges, but getting basic supplies to ship orders isn’t supposed to be one of them.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

3 thoughts on “Getting Shipping Supplies Becomes a Challenge for Online Sellers”

  1. I’d be willing to pay a minimal price for those USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Padded envelopes. They are critical to my business for SHIPPING. I sell a soft product that needs no packing material and I can stuff those envelopes really full. And USPS needs a deterrent for those using them as inside packing material

    People used to use a lot of newspaper to pack merchandise with, but it’s actually become a rare commodity.
    Air bags are the best–but something similar for small businesses hasn’t become available yet.

    I absolutely H A T E Styrofoam of any kind. Melt-a-ble peanuts are OK.

  2. When I heard about the issue with the PM Padded Envelopes I ordered (and got) a whole bunch of them. Try it, they might have some left. As far as boxes go, I ask all my friends to save their mail order boxes and packing material for me. I ship a lot of AMZ boxes for not selling on AMZ! Uline has been a good source for shipping supplies too. I buy my packing peanuts locally because the DIM pricing makes it expensive to do otherwise. Dumpster diving at mall dumpsters can yield a lot of bubble wrap that isn’t dirty.

  3. I do not use USPS packaging. I used to use their triangle tubes, but when they decided to destroy 30% of my shipments sent in those tubes, I gave up and went with UPS instead. Now I use the cardboard cores that my paper comes on for shipping tubes. No additional cost to me, except that I have to purchase end caps every so often.

    I am not experiencing any issues with shipping supplies. I use stay flat envelopes and various boxes. My supplier has them here in 2 days. If delayed, then 3. Never an issue.

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