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Fewer claims, more profit: 6 peak-season packaging tips

Use these steps to ship smarter.

Keep costs and claims down with this expert advice.

The holidays are fast approaching. Businesses everywhere are gearing up for what they hope will be a record-breaking online shopping season. Are you ready? Have you considered the container you'll be using and how to best pack your products? Are you sure you have the right packaging to stretch your shipping dollars?

The experts at the UPS Package Design & Test Lab near Chicago offer six often-overlooked, yet key packaging tips to help you prepare for the peak shipping season.

1. Use the right container. Unpadded packaging, including envelopes, may be perfect for apparel or bed linens, but it's not the best choice for jewelry. If your product requires a box, select one large and strong enough to protect the contents when surrounded by at least 2 inches of cushioning. A new corrugated box is best. If you're reusing a box, make sure there are no weak spots such as a crease or tear. Keep in mind that corrugated cardboard loses 50 percent of its strength after each use.

2. Less is more. When it comes to shipping, using the proper amount of packing material saves money. Using too much and overpacking adds expense and can even lead to damage. If the sides of the box are puffing out, it's overpacked. If you packing material spills out of the box as you're trying to seal it, it's overpacked.

3. Avoid toxic surprises. Some common retail items – such as cosmetics or batteries – may be considered hazardous materials and legally require special arrangements and packaging to be shipped. Make sure your product, including its components, isn't considered hazardous. Before you ship, check out this list of common items that may be hazardous. It's a good first step in avoiding a potentially costly surprise.

4. Separate multiple items. Every business wants online shoppers to purchase multiple items. Including all the items in one box can save on shipping costs. You can reduce the risk of damage by wrapping the items individually and separating them from one another and the walls of the box. Interior cushioning such as polyethylene or polyurethane packaging foam may be worth the expense when shipping multiple (or fragile) items. Use packing material to fill in air spaces. Shake the box to make sure the items don't move. When all the items are immobile, you should be good to go.

5. When in doubt, ask the experts. UPS engineers pack, drop, crush and manhandle all kinds of packages at the UPS Package Design & Test Lab. You probably can't do anything to a package that they haven't already tried. Take advantage of what they've learned by using the free online tool, UPS Packaging Advisor. Simply input the product dimensions, the estimated weight and the type of product. The Advisor will give you step-by-step packaging instructions, recommendations on containers, and packing material options.

6. Consider The UPS Store®. Staff members know how to package items properly. They offer packaging materials, packaging services and shipping services right from the store. And, they offer a Pack and Ship Promise. Find the nearest location.

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