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International shipping

Shipwire is optimally built to help brands expand globally and fulfill international customer orders. In addition to having fulfillment center locations close to major consumer markets globally, Shipwire also ships products internationally from any of our fulfillment centers. This page covers important topics related to shipping your products internationally.

Where can Shipwire ship my products?

Shipwire ships internationally from any fulfillment center to any location accessible by carriers anywhere in the world.

Shipping products in-country or inside free trade zones eliminates the hassles and delays of cross-border commerce, so brands shipping a higher volume of merchandise to a particular location will usually benefit from having inventory closer to their end customers and should use multiple fulfillment centers.

International customs and duties

When shipping internationally it is important to know that your end customer is importing the product, and will therefore likely have to pay duties. Each country has its own set of rules which change often and are assessed at the port of entry by a customs officer.

Duties are typically paid by the end customers so each international customer will have a different experience purchasing your products and should be made aware of the increased end price of the product.

Keeping your customers informed is important to build a positive relationship. If a customer receives a product and the import duties are much higher than expected, they can opt to refuse to receive the product. Depending on the destination country and the product shipped, this may mean that the product has to be sent back or abandoned, which may leave you with an unhappy customer and a lost product.

Best practices for international shipping

  • Let customers know you ship internationally or to a particular country. Saying right on your site that you offer shipping to their location increases the chance of them purchasing from you and being comfortable that you are experienced in shipping to them.
  • Inform customers that they will likely have to pay duties on the product. Most people know they will have to pay additional duties on international orders, but making sure there are no surprises makes for happier customers.
  • Include an HTS code for each of the products entered in your system. These codes are used in classifying goods for international customs and are required for international orders. Even if you have not shipped a particular product internationally, it is helpful to be prepared in case you receive an international order. Learn more about HTS codes.
  • Familiarize yourself with the commercial invoice. Shipwire automatically generates commercial invoices for you based on your product information for international orders. The preparation charge per commercial invoice is $1.50. Read more about the commercial invoice.


Keeping international shipping costs down

Here are some ways to consider to keep your international order spend down.

  • Using a government carrier helps keep additional fees down because they do not charge customs brokerage fees unlike private carriers. Government carriers include USPS, Canada Post, Royal Mail, Hongkong Post, etc.
  • Retail cost defined in your product catalog determines the total value which is used to determine customs duties during import. Make sure that your retail values are accurate so that you and your customers are not overpaying for duties.
  • Use the Shipwire global warehouse network to minimize delivery costs. If you ship a lot to a certain country, use shipwire warehouses in this country. This model has many advantages for both small and large brands:
    1. You only pay customs & duties only once, upon delivery to warehouse
    2. When you ship to customers in that same country (or free trade zone) they do not pay customs duties, and their order is not delayed due to customs processing
    3. You manage all your inventory from your one Shipwire account
    4. Shorter transit time for orders


Choosing a carrier for international shipments

Both government and private carriers have advantages and disadvantages. The table below illustrates some of these for government carriers (such as USPS, Canada Post, Royal Mail, etc.) and private carriers (such as UPS, DHL, etc.).

Pros Cons
Private carriers

  • more reliable tracking
  • all done by the same carrier from pickup to delivery
  • dedicated carrier support team for that shipment

  • charge a brokerage fee for customs clearance
  • end customer generally has to pay more upon delivery
  • if customer refuses to pay delivery charges, carrier will charge a return fee

Government carriers

  • cheaper customs clearance for end customer
  • doesn’t charge brokerage fees (customs clearance fees still charged)
  • if customer refuses to pay delivery chargers, carrier will return the package back to warehouse at no cost (though may take longer)

  • not all under the same roof because it ships government post to government post (i.e. USPS to Royal Mail)
  • less reliable than private carrier


Many merchants prefer government carriers because there are fewer incremental charges, such as the brokerage fees charged by private carriers. Generally, customers dislike paying brokerage fees because they are hard to predict and are unexpected by the customer.

International shipping terms

  • Commercial invoice: A document prepared by the exporter or freight forwarder, and required by the foreign buyer, to prove ownership and arrange for payment to the exporter. Includes information such as description of goods, address of shipper and seller, and well as delivery and payment terms. Read more about the commercial invoice.
  • Customs: The government service in any country responsible for assessing import and export duties and administration of other laws and regulations that apply to the import, transit, and export of goods.
  • Duty: A payment or tax. See Tariff.
  • Free trade zone: A port designated by the government for duty-free entry of any non-prohibited goods. Merchandise may be stored, displayed, and used for manufacturing within the zone and re-exported without duties being paid.
  • Tariff: A duty (or tax) on goods transported from one customs area (such as a country or free trade zone) to another. Tariffs raise the end price of imported goods, making them less competitive within the market of the importing country.


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