Ahhh, the smell of panic is in the air! Well, not quite yet, but it’s coming. If you were a seller during last year’s holiday season, you probably remember the chaos of last-minute changes, the struggle to get your shipment on the water by September, or the hand-wringing and pacing that occurs when you’re waiting to see your shipment appear as sellable inventory in Seller Central.
The Quarter Four (Q4) holiday rush is a time that every seller worth their salt lives for! This is when the majority of profits are made for many Amazon sellers. Most sellers will see a 3-4x increase in sales from Black Friday through Christmas, but if you sell toys/games or gift items you may actually 10x your normal daily sales! And now that the FBA program is at an all-time high, we wanted to take a minute and provide you with some suggestions that will hopefully make your Q4 rush less stressful.
When Should I Start Shipping?
Sellers that want their goods ready and active in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday should have their cargo on the water by no later than September! Remember, there is always a rush to book logistics during this time, so you’re better of planning ahead and getting your goods to their destination a bit earlier. Freight rates always go up during the holiday shipping time frame, so by getting everything done early you can avoid the rush and save some money.
Amazon’s Black Friday Shipping Deadline: SEA FREIGHT: By September 29th AIR FREIGHT: By October 27th
Amazon’s 2017 Holiday Delivery Cut-Off Date: N/A (usually announced late summer, in 2016 it was December 4th)
Don’t Forget to Plan Ahead for the Chinese New Year!
Another BIG shipping rush is just before, during, and right after the Chinese New Year (CNY). This is the biggest holiday in the entire country and you can expect all of China to be effectively shut down for anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks. And remember, booking shipping around this time is extremely difficult and usually expensive. Sellers are all trying to beat the deadline and have their goods shipped out before the CNY. Many of them miss the deadline and are then put in a queue to have their shipment depart right after the CNY ends. Combine this with the huge number of shipment backlogs that builds up because the country is shut down for a couple of weeks, and you can expect the same bottleneck for at least a week or two AFTER China returns to work!
Amazon’s Ever-Changing Christmas Deadline
For Amazon sellers used to the e-commerce giant’s seemingly constant changes and updates to policy, guidelines, and dates, it should come as no surprise that 2017 Christmas deadlines are not announced yet.
For now, you can use last year’s Christmas delivery deadline of December 4th to help you plan. Amazon usually announces the deadline sometime in late summer, so be sure to check their website for the exact date.
When planning for your Q4 logistics, it’s wise to account for possible delays and choke points along the way. Since you and every other competent seller in the world are trying to get their goods OUT of China at around the same time, there are bound to be delays.
However, most delays will occur after the shipment makes it into the destination port. This is where you’ll want to ensure that you have all your “ducks in a row”. ‘Tis the season to making a list, and checking it twice. So make sure you have all your compliance requirements, customs declarations, product documentation and any Amazon-specific mandates all in order. It would be disastrous for your sales if you weren’t able to get your shipment through customs because of some small detail that was missed. The following two areas are where most of the potential delays will occur:
1. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): Surprise Examinations
As every importer knows, the timeline for getting your goods through U.S. Customs can unpredictable. If you’re a new importer, make sure to allow a couple of extra weeks for your shipment to clear customs. While this is likely overkill, it’s far better to be safe than sorry when it comes to customs.
CBP likes to spring unplanned examinations on unsuspecting importers every now and then. Experienced importers know to pad their timeline a bit in case this happens. The maddening thing about this process is that it’s completely unpredictable. You never really know if your shipment is going to be flagged for examination. However, there have been some trends that may help to form an educated guess.
Less than full container load (LCL) shipments are often flagged for examinations simply because the container can be packed with such a “mixed-bag” of products. So if you’re sharing a container and having your goods shipped by sea, it would be prudent to plan for an extended stay in your friendly area customs hold.
And remember: Under 19 USC 1467, CBP has the right to examine any shipments imported into the U.S., and you, the importer, are required to pay the fee for any of these shipment examinations! Such is the risk you take when importing into the United States.
2. Amazon’s FBA Warehouse Freight Delivery Guidelines
FBA Sellers who have shipped to Amazon know that they are very strict when it comes to receiving your freight. They have a list of very specific requirements that must be followed when putting together your shipment. They also require that all freight forwarders login through a special portal and schedule the delivery time. And while your freight forwarder should know all of this, in the event that they don’t (which means you didn’t ask them if they had experience delivering to Amazon warehouses) you can send them the complete User Manual for Carriers that explains all of the requirements.
Keep in mind that these strict policies for delivery can cause major delays during the Holiday rush of your shipment is not properly prepared. Even during non-peak times, Amazon can delay appointments up to 2 weeks and there isn’t anything you can do about it! Make sure to plan for this when considering your Q4 shipping plan, as failure to pad your timeline for this could mean that you miss the holiday deadline! How bad would this be? Your goods wouldn’t be able to be delivered until AFTER the holidays!
3. The Chinese Holiday That May Foil Your Q4 Plans!
There are 2 Chinese holidays in the Fall that could potentially impact your shipping plans. The reason why you should be aware of these particular holidays is because they fall in early October. This is important because it acts as almost an imaginary line for sellers whipping by Sea who want their products to arrive before the Black Friday rush.
As was stated earlier, the cut-off date to get your goods to Amazon in time for Black Friday is September 29th (Sea Freight). Now it’s entirely possible to have your goods shipped out AFTER September 29th and still make it in time for Black Friday. Many factors come into play when you’re up against the clock on an international freight shipment, and there is usually a little bit of wiggle room with the deadline…
Because the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Chinese National Day (Golden Week) are combined this year, you can count out the entire week of October 2nd through October 6th. The official dates are actually Oct 1-8th, so theoretically you could have some people taking extra vacation and extend into the following week!
You see? This is exactly why you need to plan far in advance for the 2017 holiday shipping deadline. By now you know that most Chinese national holidays mean that the entire country essentially shuts down. Completely. And there is usually a mad rush right before, and right after the holiday to get shipments out. So again, plan for the worst, hope for the best.
Hopefully, this post provided an overview of how chaotic Q4 shipping can be, and how you can plan ahead to ensure success. The 2017 holiday shipping deadlines can be managed by solid planning and a proven partner. Guided Imports ships thousands of cartons during the Q4 rush, and if you want to ensure a place at the table, it would be helpful to book your shipments as far in advance as you can! We will handle ALL of the shipping and customs details to make sure your all-important Q4 shipment gets to Amazon on time and with no delays!
How to book your shipment with Guided Imports and beat the 2017 holiday shipping deadline
- Click the Services tab on top of the website
- Click Shipping on the drop-down menu that appears
- Once on the page, click Contact us for a Quote
- Fill out as much information as you can about your shipment
- We will contact you if we need additional info
- In MODE: you can choose whichever you prefer, but we will get multiple quotes for you on multiple modes of transport if you’d like. For example, if you’re unsure if you want sea freight or air freight, just type in a note to us in the fields as seen below and select OTHER:
- Make sure to specify an Incoterm (FOB or EXW). This is usually negotiated when you get a quote from your supplier.
- Check the radio button if you have an EIN (Employer ID Number) as we will need it for the Customs process. If you don’t have an EIN, don’t worry, our team will reach out to you and find a solution.
- And that’s it! Hit SEND! One of our rockstar Guided Imports shipping specialists will contact you to gather more info, or to deliver the quotes!
Remember: Failing to plan, is planning to fail! Especially when it comes to Q4 shipping!