So, you are worried about a Canada Post lockout or strike (get updates here), but you don't know any other affordable shipping companies to fill the gap? Don't want to shut your ecommerce business on eBay or Amazon until Canadian mail is moving again? Fortunately, there are some established options out there, including several services that will truck packages across the American border to ship via the United States Postal Service.
Note: The following lists do not mean I am endorsing any of these companies, and I have not received any compensation to link to any of them. I am sharing this list because I spent some time compiling it for Canadian Etsy sellers I know, and thought it might be useful to others too.
National Courier Companies
Most large courier companies in Canada have locations in most provinces, and provide national and international services. However, coverage can be minimal to nonexistent in many remote or rural areas, and prices are all over the map. One company may be cheaper for mailing between points A and B, while another company gives the best rates between cities C and D. Also, courier prices are often more in line with Canada Post rates for a larger package, but small items are several times the cost of regular mail. The following list shows the cost to ship a small bubble envelope with a $50 value from Calgary to St. John's, Newfoundland on July 6th, 2016 (tax not included, cheapest rate selected, no customer discounts applied):
- Canpar - $46.58
- DHL - no service
- FedEx - $28.16
- Greyhound - $45.96
- Loomis - $48.33
- Purolator - $51.45
- UPS - $48.28
Signing up for an account may make you eligible for discounts (e.g., UPS is giving me a small business rate of 20% off the price listed above), as can a high volume of packages. Note, however, that there are rumours that Canpar is limiting new customers until any Canada Post disruption is over, and FedEx may be limiting volume for some clients. You will need to contact each company to make sure they will be able to cover your needs.
Regional Shipping Services
There are numerous businesses that provide shipping and freight services within a city or region; therefore, I have restricted this list to those who ship outside of Canada (although some also provide in-Canada service as well). Do check with each company for more details on their current service levels and time frames, and other details regarding requirements, as most request a spreadsheet detailing each of your parcels being shipped.
Chit Chats Express - the most national and established alternative that ships via the United States Postal Service (USPS). Opened in 2001, they now have offices in Toronto and surrounding cities, plus Halifax and Richmond (BC). Fees are 65 to 85 cents per package, plus the US postage cost. They also have courier arrangements to ship within Canada and internationally. Print US postage at home or in their offices; check with your nearest location for details, as services vary by city. Ontario offices have arrangements for within-Canada shipping in the event of a Canada Post work stoppage.
DYK Post: shipping via USPS from their main office in Calgary, with pickups 3 days a week in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. Costs $1 and up per package to ship via USPS, FedEx or UPS in Montana on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Print your own USPS postage or do it at their office. Contact them to set up a billing account if you are not shipping from Calgary. They also provide a Montana address for deliveries and will bring any packages to you for just $10 (and up) plus taxes due.
Parcel for Less: southern Ontario shipper with main offices in Hamilton and Mississauga, with some services in other surrounding cities. Their fees start at 60 cents per package. Print postage labels online or at their offices.
Canvus Express - located in Vancouver, shipping six days a week to USPS for delivery in the United States and other countries. You can bring in prepaid packages or print USPS labels at their office.
Do It Yourself Shipping from the United States
Live close to the border? You may want to try shipping via USPS (or other American service providers) on your own. Make sure you do your research first, including contacting your closest border crossing to get their advice on the quickest legal way to bring your packages into the US. There is a per-crossing fee (or you can pay for a yearly pass), and border agents generally prefer any parcels remain unsealed so they can be inspected if necessary. While many USPS offices allow you to use a Canadian return address on their packages, some online merchants prefer to set up a PO box in the US to avoid any issues. An American address is also necessary to use some online label services.
If I have missed any useful tips, or if you know of any other companies that should be included here, please send me a message or leave a note in the comments. This post will be updated as required.