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Air shipment for offshore promo orders

By Li Zhang

Air shipment is a secret weapon to being fluid in fulfilling your promotional product orders.

Large portions of orders in the promotional product biz are sent from China via air shipment. Did you know that for a certain type and large portion of promotional orders, air shipment is more economic and efficient than sea freight?

Let’s start out by covering some basics on air shipment

For the purpose of this post, when we’re saying air shipment or freight, we’re talking via an express courier. We’re talking a shipment that goes via FedEx or UPS or even EMS, that you can track via a tracking #.


Air shipment frequently makes more sense

Imagine you’ve got an order of 500 scarves, 1000 ball caps or any non-bulky item.

Sending these scarves via air express makes more sense than sea freight.

• Scarves or any light weight product are good to go via air shipment.

• Send an item via air shipment when something is light weight, small (non bulky) and the quantity is not huge.

• Light weight items, whenever the quantity is not huge has fewer export cartons.

• The same order via sea LCL (light container load) includes the same base charges. You still have the same trucking charges, the same LCL fee, the same unloading fee.

• The item via air shipment express is delivered to door. Very little dealing with shipping agents and arranging transportation. At most you may have to answer some questions via phone and green light the delivery. This is assuming that all export documents have been properly filled out either by you or the supplier.

• To go from the factory to the sea port and to Los Angeles port, takes about 15 to 18 days. That doesn’t include clearance and inland transportation. Generally an air shipment takes approximately 5 days.

For light-weight low quantity orders, calculate your cost savings. The edge on timing speaks for itself. Timing control and a promotional product campaign go hand-in-hand.


Why don’t more promo product distributors take advantage of this?

Distributors don’t take more advantage of air shipping orders when it makes sense, because many times they’re unaware of the possibilities and wrongly assume that they don’t have the ability to effectively put all the pieces into place.

• An inexperienced distributor or importers tells their China vendor this will go by air, the China vendor, if not well-versed in air shipments, doesn’t add the additional support needed.

• Some vendors who are not experienced in air shipment, may even discourage their clients from exploring this option because of the perception that all air shipments for all orders are astronomical in pricing.

• Inexperienced buyers also approach the possibility of sending their shipment air express with trepidation. More times than not, the possibility of air express doesn’t cross their minds. Distributors contact importers and suppliers (especially domestic ones) and are given a flat 60 days total mass production and logistics time…and the vendor didn’t even offer the possibility of air!


Practical mindset for air shipments via express courier

• Don’t expect your vendor to line it all up, until they get to a point of experience in helping you do so!

• Either spend time training your vendor or do it yourself. Either way, until all parties start getting in-synch with your processes, you should be hands on.

By the way, that’s another reason you want to gain traction with the same vendor. So they learn your. routines and shipping expectations. Always switching vendors, always relearning the logistical ropes.

• You’ll need to have a freight forwarding office in the USA or your home country, that you form a relationship with and can easily reach. Focusing on express courier air shipments, you’ll want to have easy access to your express company. Know the office to call. Grow a relationship with the reps.

We’ve only started to touch the surface on logistics from the FOB post to this on air shipment. Stay tuned and there will be more to come.

Li Zhang has worked in international manufacturing and exporting since 2003. She has served global brands such as Bayer, Coca Cola and Warner Bros. Her background is in design and engineering. Li is a native of Jiangsu Province and currently finds herself back and forth between Suzhou, China and the USA. Contact Li at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find her penning manufacturing thoughts at her blog

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