This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Getting your products to customers in one piece is essential for building customer relationships and fostering trust, and a successful delivery starts with your shipping supplies. Here we have narrowed down a list of the best shipping supplies based on price, product selection, user experience, reviews, reliability, and overall quality.
- The Packaging Company: Best overall, including for customizable options
- Amazon: Best for free shipping and returns
- PackagingSupplies.com: Best for wholesale pricing
- ULINE: Best for fast and reliable shipping
- ShippingSupply.com: Best for customer service
How We Evaluated the Best Sources for Shipping Supplies
When evaluating the providers in this article, we looked for features that would make your supply ordering process seamless and ensure you receive the best quality goods. Additionally, we looked into budgeting considerations like pricing and shipping fees to make sure you understand the whole picture when drawing up a budget.
Overall, The Packaging Company was our top scorer, with a 4.65 out of 5. We found that The Packaging Company offers the most comprehensive services, the unique branding and customization features, a wide product selection, competitive pricing, and a strong customer service department to help make your life easier.
Click through the tabs below for our full evaluation criteria.
30% of Overall Score
We looked at overall price point as well as shipping fees, return fees, and bundle options.
30% of Overall Score
We looked at product variety, color selection, customization options, and size availability.
20% of Overall Score
We looked at ease of website navigation and customer service quality.
20% of Overall Score
We looked at overall quality, reliability, and user reviews.
The Packaging Company: Best Overall Source for Shipping Supplies
The Packaging Company is an excellent resource for your shipping supplies needs. It has everything from your classic cardboard box to custom tapes and tissue paper. At The Packaging Company, it also offers a competitive price point and allows you to customize every aspect of your shipping materials. You get to set your exact dimensions, colors, and can even add branding to your packaging; this is the only provider on our list with these branding features. With all this to offer, The Packaging Company was our top scorer with a 4.65 out of 5.0.
In addition to its custom products, The Packaging Company offers all your standard shipping materials—without any of the bells and whistles. It also has an excellent customer service department with 24-hour messaging support and doesn’t tag on any additional shipping fees. The Packaging Company lost points for its lack of price scaling for custom products and for its 10% restocking return fee.
The Packaging Company Pricing
For both its standard and custom materials, The Packaging Company offers competitive pricing. For standard materials, your minimum order is set at 10-50 and increases from there by set amounts, with the unit price dropping as you increase your quantities. For custom products, on the other hand, you buy in increments of 25, but the unit price stays the same.
The Packaging Company Features
The Packaging Company is most remarkable for the breadth of its supplies and customization options. It offers custom sizing, adhesives, stickers, boxes, and mailers of all kinds. In addition, it has standard packaging materials for every type of product, from food and perishables to posters and clothes. Almost as impressive, The Packaging Company uses eco-friendly materials and can keep its prices down simultaneously.
What the Packaging Company Is Missing
While it does offer a lot of great services, The Packaging Company does have a return restock fee of 10% and requires you to pay the shipping cost to get any unwanted items back to its warehouse; this means that returns can get expensive, especially if you order in large quantities, as shipping rates are based on size and weight. (Amazon, on the other hand, offers many free shipping and return options.) Additionally, while on non-custom merchandise the unit price decreases as the bundle sizes increase, for custom items your unit cost does not go down as your order quantity grows.
Amazon: Best for Free Shipping & Returns
Amazon is an online marketplace where sellers can list their goods for consumers to shop. With thousands of suppliers to choose from, Amazon is sure to have the materials to satisfy your shipping needs. Not only that, but if you are a Prime member and work with a Prime-eligible seller, you are guaranteed free shipping and returns—something that really sets Amazon apart from your other options. Amazon’s major drawbacks are its inconsistent price point and quality standards as well as its limited customizations options. All in all, Amazon earned an impressive 4.13 out of 5 for its score.
Due to the number of vendors on Amazon, its price points are quite varied. This means that you can find both amazing deals and high prices on the Amazon marketplace. My best advice would be to base your price point on a supplier like PackagingSupplies.com or ULINE and then look for Amazon listings that can compete.
In general, Amazon will require a little more digging and research to make sure you are getting a fair price, but it all might be worth it to save on shipping and return fees.
Like ULINE and The Packaging Company, Amazon offers a wide variety of products for shipping in addition to janitorial and other supplies you might need for your business. Amazon could really be your one-stop shop for setting up your entire store. Additionally, it offers free shipping and returns on eligible products.
To ensure that you are getting free shipping and returns for Prime orders, you must become a Prime member for $12.99/month.
Amazon itself is also your point of contact for customer service. Rather than dealing with individual sellers, you can take any issues you might have to Amazon’s customer service reps and they will work with the seller on your behalf. You can rest assured that Amazon is a well-oiled machine, and it will be able to assist you.
What Amazon Is Missing
Amazon has a lot to offer; however, bundle sizes tend to be limited for individual listings so it can be difficult to find the quantities and sizes that you need in single orders. Additionally, unlike ULINE, unit prices do not typically decrease as order quantities grow.
PackagingSupplies.com: Best for Wholesale Pricing
Our only wholesale provider, PackagingSupplies.com is dedicated to bringing you the lowest prices for your goods. It has a wide variety of products and is constantly expanding its collection. PackagingSupplies.com is also well regarded for its customer service and for providing an easy shopping experience. With all this, PackagingSupplies.com ended up with a score of 4.13 out of 5, losing points mainly for some color and size limitations in its product selection, as well as return authorization and shipping fee.
PackagingSupplies.com guarantees that it has the lowest prices on the market. With wholesale pricing and a price-match guarantee, this is your place if you need quality budget supplies. Like ULINE, PackagingSupplies.com charges shipping based on the size and weight of your order, but it doesn’t tack on any additional handling fees. Plus, your price will scale down as you increase your quantities—there is really no shortage of money-saving opportunities.
PackagingSupplies.com’s best asset is its pricing. Not only are prices low, but they continue to decrease as your quantities grow. Additionally, PackagingSupplies.com offers some of the largest order sizes available. Unlike The Packaging Company, which offers small orders perfect for budding businesses, PackagingSupplies.com provides orders for up to 2,000 units.
Under its Retail Packaging product category, it offers in-store packaging supplies. Think bagging bags, candy and jewelry boxes, and takeout containers—all the packaging materials you could need for your in-store operations.
What PackagingSupplies.com Is Missing
Typically, PackagingSupplies.com is best for larger businesses simply because of the large orders it expects you to place with them. Most products can be ordered in bundles that range from 500-2,000 pieces, and PackagingSupplies.com does not allow you to split cases or order custom quantities. Additionally, there are limitations to its customization options (check out The Packaging Company for extensive customization), and it requires a return authorization for any return requests and charges return shipping fees, unlike Amazon.
ULINE: Best for Reliable Shipping
ULINE is one of the most used and trusted shipping supplies resources in the country and received a 3.95 out of 5 in our evaluation. It offers a large variety of shipping materials in an array of bundle sizes. It also has eight warehouses across the country, and, while not free like Amazon, ULINE can reliably get you your materials in a rush. For most places, it can guarantee a two-day shipping window. ULINE primarily lost points due to its mid-tier product price range and limited customization options.
While it does not run many sales or offer wholesale pricing, ULINE offers consistent midrange price points (along with its fast shipping). All of its products come in various bundle sizes, and unit prices decrease as your quantities increase.
While it does not offer free shipping, it does not add a fee to what USPS charges for your shipping. All shipping and handling costs are based on the weight and size of your materials, so be prepared for larger orders to incur some high but fair shipping costs.
ULINE’s greatest assets are its reach, the expansiveness of its product and bundle size selection, and its fast shipping times. Additionally, ULINE offers office and janitorial supplies, so you can get your businesses stocked and ready in one shop. Further, ULINE provides a free catalog if you want to see the newest products and make orders over the phone or via mail.
What ULINE Is Missing
Unlike Amazon, ULINE requires that you pay return fees in the case of a return. It doesn’t require a restocking fee like The Packaging Company; however, larger orders can incur high shipping costs, which will be your responsibility. Additionally, its prices are not wholesale (unlike PackagingSupplies.com) and you might be able to find better deals elsewhere.
ShippingSupply.com: Best for Customer Service
ShippingSupply.com is a smaller shipping materials supplier especially well regarded for its dedication to customer service and providing an effortless experience for its shoppers. As a small company, ShippingSupply.com prides itself on being able to offer a more personalized experience.
With a competitive mid-tier price point, ShippingSupply.com has a more basic selection of shipping supplies with fewer of the flashier or higher-tech packaging materials (unlike some of the larger companies like ULINE). It also charges return shipping and restocking fees. Overall, ShippingSupply.com earned a 3.14 out of 5 for its offerings.
While its prices are not as low as PackagingSupplies.com’s or some you might find on Amazon, in most cases, ShippingSupply.com offers competitive pricing. However, unlike PackagingSupplies.com, ShippingSupply.com does not offer price matching and not all of their goods scale their pricing with bundle size.
ShippingSupply.com offers a wide selection of standard shipping materials in a wide variety of sizes. It also has an easy-to-use website and prides itself on a strong customer service department (as highlighted in user reviews).
What ShippingSupply.com Is Missing
ShippingSupply.com is a good resource for small quantity orders; however, not all of its goods’ prices scale with bundle size, making it less competitive for larger-scale needs. Additionally, ShippingSupply.com charges a restocking fee of 10% for all returns, and you also have to pay return shipping and handling. Another drawback is that ShippingSupply.com tends to have longer shipping times, unlike Amazon or ULINE, which offer one- or two-day shipping on many products.
Alternative Options: Free Shipping Supplies From USPS, UPS, FedEx
FedEx, UPS, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) all offer free shipping supplies for your business—that’s right, even free shipping. While free really can’t be beat, there are strict quantity limitations, so this option is only going to be best for microbusinesses or companies just starting out. Overall, you can’t order over 500 pieces from any of the suppliers, and for certain types of shipping containers, your quantities might even be capped at just one unit. There are also extremely limited types of supplies, keeping it mainly to the basics with boxes, mailers, and tape in standard sizes.
In terms of returns, you can ship your pieces back at your own expense, or you can drop them off free of charge at their respective post office (USPS supplies get returned to a USPS location and so on). Another caveat for using one of these free options is that you have to ship using your supplier’s courier. So, if you get free boxes from FedEx, you then have to use FedEx as your courier for those packages.
There are lots of good choices for shipping supplies out there. Finding the suppliers that will help your business grow and meet all your needs can be a daunting task. With the list of websites that we have provided here, you are equipped with the knowledge of the best providers on the market, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they will function in your business’s operations.
Taking them all into account, we think that The Packaging Company will be your best bet for reliable and customizable shipping supplies at a good price point. Check out our top pick and start ordering your shipping supplies today.