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Parcel-forwarding services

YouShop, a service from NZ Post, made US purchasing popular when it started in 2012. But it wasn’t the first – and isn’t the only – service to ship parcels from the US to New Zealand.

We put YouShop up against three other established US parcel-forwarding services with no set-up or ongoing membership costs: USGoBuy, Stackry and Viabox.

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Why use a parcel forwarder?

New Zealand is a small market by global standards. For many goods, our importers and retailers can’t compete with overseas retail giants like Amazon – they don’t shift enough stock or have the buying power. It means we don’t always get the choice available overseas and our prices can be comparatively expensive.

While many overseas retailers will ship goods to New Zealand directly, some charge a hefty price for this service. Some retailers also have agreements not to ship some goods to certain countries. In those cases, you might want to use a parcel-forwarding service.

Many parcel-forwarders will consolidate multiple parcels, which could come from multiple retailers, into a single shipment to save shipping costs. Some even repackage goods into smaller boxes to reduce dimensional weight and shipping cost. A shipping cost calculator is available on the Viabox, USGoBuy and Stackry websites. YouShop offers a flat-rate shipping cost of $12.50 per parcel, plus $4.75 per 500g (of actual or dimensional weight). The calculators are reasonably accurate, as long as you know the size of box you are shipping and understand the calculation for dimensional weight.

Our trials

Trial #1

We sent four identical products to a New Zealand residential address in Wellington, each via a different US-based parcel-forwarding service. All products were forwarded to New Zealand using the lowest cost option offered. We assessed delivery time, cost of shipping, and the service’s ease of use.

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Trial #2

All four parcel-forwarders offer a consolidation service. This saves shipping cost by combining and repackaging multiple purchases into a single shipment. We ordered three products from three different stores, sent to each of the parcel-forwarders: a Lego set, a baseball cap, and a set of bicycle brake pads. We instructed the forwarders to consolidate parcels and send them to our New Zealand address as a single shipment. We noted shipping cost, savings over sending the individual packages, and the amount of consolidation and repackaging.

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Our experience

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The results of our trial

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YouShop(nzpost.co.nz/youshop)

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USGoBuy (usgobuy.com)

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Stackry (stackry.com)

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Viabox (viabox.com)

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Our tips

  • US retailers often send goods domestically in oversized boxes. There’s not much you can do about it, but if possible, use a parcel-forwarder that repackages or see if the retailer can minimise its shipment size. For example, the single set of brake pads we ordered were shipped in a box that could fit a dozen sets of brake pads.
  • Use the calculators on parcel-forwarders’ websites to compare shipping options and prices before creating an account.
  • Be aware purchases from an overseas retailer won’t be covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act, and warranty may involve sending the goods back to the country of purchase.
  • You don’t need an account to use PayPal – it works with a New Zealand credit card just like any other online payment gateway.
  • Purchases from overseas may be charged GST and/or import duty. If the amount payable is more than $60, your parcel will be held up and you’ll need to pay an additional $49.24 in entry fees. Use Customs’ online calculator to work out if you’ll be charged, and how much.

Dimensional weight

Freight companies say dimensional (or volumetric) weight provides a more realistic cost to send large volume, lightweight packages by air. Dimensional weight is the package volume (length x width x height) divided by a “dimensional factor”.

The dimensional factor varies between freight companies, but 5000 for dimensions in centimetres and 139 for inches is common. When calculating shipping cost, the larger of the dimensional and actual weight is used.