How to reduce postage and packaging costs

For small items, Royal Mail undoubtedly offer the best postage costs. While they get a lot of bad press (and have a few archaic quirks) they actually provide one of the cheapest and most reliable postal services in Europe. For larger items it’s generally cheaper to use a courier service such as ParcelForce or DHL.

If you take the items in person, you’ll pay counter rates which can be very expensive, so look at getting an account (either direct, or via a franking machine). With couriers, it can also be worth shopping around online for a consolidation service such who offer more competitive postal rates.

Thinking about weight

As a general guide, anything under 2kg is likely to be cheaper with Royal Mail than with a courier, unless you require it signed for or tracked. Since Royal Mail’s prices are weight based (both for counter service, franking machines and account holders) then reducing the packed weight can also provide some savings. For instance, some items that could go out in a small box, might be just as well protected by bubble wrap and a strong Jiffy bag. Even if the difference is only 40g, over 100s of orders this can add up. As an account holder with a courier company, postage costs are generally not based on weight, so this is less important for larger items than it is for lighter ones.

Another option for reducing weight (and increasing protection) is to use a lightweight void-fill. Those based on air are usually the best, though the equipment can be expensive (we don’t like loose fill chips or ‘peanuts’ as they make a mess when you pack, make a mess when the customer unpacks and aren’t environmentally friendly). A small machine might cost around £1000, but will produce a ribbon of air filled bags from a roll. This means you can reduce your storage space too, as you only need to produce what you need for the day.

We use commercial machines – not only does it produce a lighter fill, but also reduces void fill costs by up to 50%.

Protective packaging

While we all like to think our parcels are handled with the utmost care on their journey, there is always the chance of some rough treatment along the way. At James and James, we recommend that any package should withstand a drop from 1 metre onto a concrete floor, and so that’s what we pack to for our clients. Surprisingly, the heavier the item, the more likely it is to be treated carefully.

Sending a lot of the same thing?

If you’re regularly sending a lot of the same item, it’s probably worth getting a quote for custom sized packaging to fit your item. Many people don’t even consider this, but if you’re sending more than 200 units every few months, then the cost of a customised box can actually be less than a standard one as it’ll use just the right amount of cardboard. It’ll also reduce the amount of time to pack and the amount of void fill required.


Outsourcing to your order fulfilment is another option for reducing postage costs. We have large accounts directly with Royal Mail and ParcelForce to get the very best rates for our clients, which can save a considerable amount of money – in many cases this is more than the order picking fee. If you’re looking to grow your business and would like more free time then outsourcing to a 3PL is an option worth considering.