Freight 101 Library

How To Ship Clothes: Cheapest and Best Way To Export Clothes

Majd Shuman

With the rise of online retail, shipping clothes has become increasingly popular. 

Looking to get started importing or exporting clothes? Already experienced and want to make sure you’re maximizing the service of your clothes shipping providers?

Read on to learn all about shipping clothes safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

Looking to ship clothes internationally?

Compare freight quotes from vetted providers and get your goods moving.

How does shipping clothes work?

When you import or export clothes, you’ll collaborate closely with your supplier to make sure packaging is safe and compliant. Then, you’ll work with your freight forwarder to move your goods.

Your forwarder will help with: 

  • Freight transportation, overseeing logistics from origin to destination
  • Packaging and labeling as needed
  • Loading, unloading, and consolidation if shipping LCL
  • Arranging warehousing, storage, and distribution 
  • Customs compliance
  • Freight insurance
  • Shipment tracking 
  • Paperwork and documentation
shipping clothes

Speaking of paperwork, here’s a quick rundown of the documents you’ll typically need. Make sure to check with your freight forwarder to see if you require anything additional: 

  • Commercial invoice: provides information about your clothing shipment, including description, quantity, unit price, total value, payment terms, and HS code
  • Packing list: also referred to as a shipping list or packing slip, this document offers an inventory of the clothing items, delineating quantity, description, and packaging specifics for each item.
  • Bill of lading: acts as proof of the contractual agreement between the importer and the carrier. It contains information about the clothes, including quantity, description, packaging, and destination.
  • Customs documentation: tailored to the origin and destination, these documents encompass import/export declarations, certificates of origin, permits, licenses, and any other requirements mandated by customs authorities. 
  • Freight insurance documents: vital for safeguarding clothes against loss, damage, or theft during transit, these documents may consist of insurance policies, certificates of insurance, or any other pertinent insurance documentation.
  • Export license: issued by governmental or relevant authorities, this license grants authorization for exporting specific clothing items from one country to another. 

How to package clothes for shipping 

Clothing requires careful packaging to make sure it arrives in optimal condition. Use the following tips when working with your supplier to ensure your clothes are packed for success: 

Select appropriate packaging

For small, durable items like T-shirts, opt for soft packaging to minimize shipping costs. Delicate or formal wear should be placed in sturdy hard boxes for added protection during transit.

Use extra cushioning when necessary

If clothes have decorative elements or are made of fragile fabrics, use additional cushioning, such as bubble wrap or tissue paper, to safeguard them from damage.

Use compact packaging for multiple items

When packaging multiple items, consider vacuum sealing to compress the package, reducing its size and potentially lowering shipping costs.

Avoid excessive cushioning

While protection is crucial, avoid excessive cushioning, as it can contribute to higher shipping rates. Find a balance to protect items without overpacking.

Pack items together

When sending several items to the same destination, pack them together to minimize individual shipping costs.

Neat and compact folds

Fold clothes tightly to minimize volume, as sloppy folds can result in larger packages and higher shipping rates.

Optimize package size

Use the smallest package suitable for your clothes to avoid spending extra for unnecessary shipping volume.

Get rates from experienced forwarders

How much does it cost to ship clothes?

The cost of shipping clothes internationally can vary based on factors such as destination, shipping mode, and package size and weight. 

You can use our free freight calculator to estimate your freight costs. 

Here are some very general estimates for shipping from China to the United States:

To minimize shipping costs when sending clothes internationally, consider the following strategies:

  • Avoid extra charges: avoid common preventable charges by weighing your goods accurately, having the correct export license, arranging prompt pickup from the port, and palletizing correctly.
  • Shop around for the best offer: freight rates can vary widely between freight forwarders, so it’s best to compare quotes from multiple forwarders.
  • Ship by ocean freight when you can: while it is faster, shipping by air is typically more expensive than shipping by sea. However, if your goods are seasonal, the additional freight charges are likely worth it.
exporting clothes

Common types of clothes that are shipped internationally

Here are some of the most popular types of clothes shipped across borders:

  • T-shirts: versatile and lightweight, T-shirts are frequently shipped due to their popularity and ease of packaging
  • Jeans and pants: Denim and other trousers are another commonly shipped type of clothing, due to their durability and widespread appeal
  • Dresses: from casual sundresses to elegant evening gowns, dresses of various styles are shipped to meet fashion demands worldwide
  • Shirts and blouses: formal or casual, shirts and blouses are wardrobe staples, making them common items in international shipments
  • Footwear: shoes and boots, ranging from athletic sneakers to stylish heels, are frequently shipped to cater to diverse fashion preferences
  • Outerwear: jackets and coats for various climates are shipped internationally to accommodate seasonal needs
  • Activewear: with the growing popularity of fitness and athleisure, activewear items like leggings, sports bras, and workout tops are commonly shipped
  • Undergarments: underwear and lingerie are often shipped, with varying styles and designs meeting different preferences.

Who should I export my clothes with?

Selecting the right freight forwarder is crucial for the smooth and cost-effective transportation of your clothes. Here are valuable tips to guide you in making the best choice:

  • Evaluate forwarder services: before choosing a freight forwarder, understand the range of services they offer, including transportation, packaging, labeling, route optimization, insurance coverage, and customs compliance
  • Pinpoint your shipping requirements: determine your preferred shipping mode (air, LCL, FCL, or express), the type of clothes you are shipping, your origin and destination, any special requirements, and your delivery timeline
  • Consider location: choose a forwarder with expertise in your shipping route, considering their experience and networks in your origin and destination areas
  • Check reputation: look for positive reviews, seek feedback from your network, and ensure you have confidence in the forwarder’s ability to meet your needs

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