January 20, 2017 by Andrew Minalto - 5 Comments

How to EXCLUDE Remote/Offshore UK Locations when Selling on Amazon!

Welcome Back!

It’s time for our weekly Reader’s Question post! Today we’ll be taking a look at a common problem many Amazon sellers face – dealing with excessive courier shipping charges when sending orders to remote UK locations, like Scottish Highlands and Islands, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands and British Islands.

Here’s the email Mike sent in:

Hi Andrew,

Here’s a question that may make a good blog post for you.

How do you handle delivery costs to offshore areas (e.g. Isle of Man) for orders on Amazon?

Amazon treats any address with a UK postcode the same, which is fine if you’re posting items using Royal Mail. But if your items have to go by courier, you usually get hit with a hefty surcharge for delivery to these areas.

Is there any way to automatically add a delivery surcharge on Amazon for non-mainland addresses (I couldn’t find one)?

If not, what’s the best thing to do? Cancel orders and take the corresponding hit to your seller metrics? Also, if you’re dealing with hundreds of orders a week, how can you spot which ones are going to undesirable addresses without reading through every individual order?

Or do you just have to dispatch these orders anyway, and take what can be a significant financial hit for every order going to an offshore address?

Thanks,
Mike

Thanks for your question Mike!

This is a big issue and an on-going problem for many Amazon Marketplace sellers, especially ones that sell bulkier items that need to be sent via courier.

Unfortunately there’s no easy fix/solution – at least not yet. Amazon requires all sellers to INCLUDE these offshore regions in your standard shipping settings. You can’t exclude them and you can’t charge higher shipping costs for these regions.

If you go to your Amazon account then to Shipping Settings, where you create your shipping rate cards, you’ll see that Amazon does not allow you to exclude these regions. If you do, you get an instant warning message:

Some regions do not have assigned transit times and shipping rates.

So there’s no way to exclude these regions from your shipping rate card.

By Amazon’s rules it is mandatory to include these 4 regions:

  • UK Mainland (England, Scotland, Wales)
  • Northern Ireland
  • Channel Islands, British Islands
  • Scottish Highlands and Islands

But you CAN exclude UK BFPO addresses if you want – Amazon allows that.

As for setting shipping prices – again, Amazon requires you to set the EXACT SAME shipping rate for the 4 regions I mentioned before.

So you have to offer the same shipping cost for all 4 regions, except UK BFPO addresses. For UK BFPO addresses, if you do decide to include them in your ship to list, you can set a different shipping rate than the other 4 regions.

So to sum it up – following Amazon’s rules, you have to ship to these 4 regions AND have to offer the exact same shipping price as well:

  • UK Mainland (England, Scotland, Wales)
  • Northern Ireland
  • Channel Islands, British Islands
  • Scottish Highlands and Islands

The only region you can exclude from the list OR set a differing shipping price for is UK BFPO addresses.

However, one thing you can change is the shipping TIME for each region. So this means you can leave 2-3 days or 3-5 days for Mainland UK deliveries AND set 3-5 days or even 5-10 days for offshore locations:

This will give you more options when you need to find the cheapest shipping method/courier possible as you’ll have plenty of time to fulfil and deliver the order.

I don’t know exactly why Amazon has these rules in place as logically speaking it shouldn’t be an issue to allow sellers to set different shipping prices to remote locations. Maybe they simply don’t want to discriminate customers living in these offshore regions? I don’t know really but it is what it is, at least for now. Maybe in the future Amazon will reconsider these rules and allow us to set different shipping rates for each region.

So what to do? How do you overcome this limitation?

First of all, cancelling orders is definitely not a good thing to do. It will screw your recent Customer Metrics Data and you can quickly go above the maximum allowed pre-fulfilment cancellation rate, which is 2.5%. That means just 3 cancelled orders out of 100 and your metrics go into the red zone.

One trick I have seen many sellers use is to put a list of postcodes they don’t ship to within the listing itself. BUT this is against Amazon’s rules and can get your account restricted if someone reports you, plus that of course doesn’t stop anyone from those locations actually placing an order and then you’re in the same dilemma anyway.

In my opinion, there are only 3 reasonable options to consider:

1) Just take a hit on those offshore deliveries!

If your margins are healthy and you don’t get that many remote orders, it shouldn’t affect your overall profitability that badly. This will of course depend on your individual situation – how many orders you get to remote locations, how much extra you spend on shipping etc. So you really need to get your numbers down to see exactly how much these offshore deliveries cost you each month.

2) Slightly increase shipping rates for ALL UK orders!

This means that UK Mainland customers will subsidise those offshore deliveries. Not perfect, I know, but if your margins are very slim, this may be the only way to stay profitable. You know what % of your orders go to offshore locations and how much extra they cost to deliver. So simply spread that cost across ALL orders by increasing your shipping rates slightly.

3) Use Fulfilment by Amazon for items that are very problematic!

If the first 2 options are not viable, you could consider using FBA, at least for the items that are causing you big losses. As when you use FBA, you let Amazon handle the shipping and you don’t have to worry about losing money on delivery costs. Plus there’s the added benefit of increased sales from Amazon Prime customers and the fact that people in general prefer to buy items that are dispatched by FBA (especially European orders).

Yes, there will be the added cost of storage and fulfilment fees so you need to do careful calculations to see if it’s a viable option for your products.

Lastly, if your items are not overly big/heavy, you can consider using Royal Mail for some of them. Yes, RM prices on parcels are generally very high but don’t forget that it includes delivery to Northern Ireland, Highlands and Islands, Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Man (It does not include Channel Islands though).

So sometimes it may actually be cheaper to use RM instead of a courier.

OK, that’s it for today. As always, I would love to hear your opinion/feedback! If you have some insights you want to share, please feel free to leave them below this post in the comments block.

And if you want your question to be featured in an up-coming Reader’s Question post, please send it in via my help desk here and I will personally get back to you within 24 hours, Monday-Friday, even if your question isn’t selected for a blog post.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Andrew

5 Comments
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  1. Hi Andrew,

    Really good informative article however I’m a bit uneasy about the direction it’s leaning toward. My understanding is that Amazon Marketplace is a national virtual concept but you seem to be suggesting it’s based in the south of England.
    I’m based in the north and when I sell to the south of England my delivery charge is the same as if I was selling to someone in the next town.
    If you want to introduce delivery surcharges that discriminate on postcode you should rename this excellent shopping phenomenon to Amazon (England)

    Rgds

    Mike

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mike,

      It’s not about North and South where shipping costs are same.

      It’s mostly about remote Islands where shipping costs ARE much higher compared to mainland – why would sellers have to subsidise those shipments???

      In fact – if we do subsidise them, it means that we’re discriminating all other customers as they will pay MORE in shipping/higher prices to cover those remote locations.

      I just think it’s fair that seller can charge exact shipping fee it costs them to deliver a package to customer.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  2. Andrew Stodart

    Great advice in the article. We offer a standard 2-3 day service on Amazon but ship using a next day courier. The customer receives their order earlier than expected which often results in positive feedback. In addition, we also offer an expedited shipping option for customers who want to guarantee a 1-2 day service and as we are using the same next day courier there is no additional cost on our part. The results are happy customers either way and a pot of money to cover the Highlands and Islands. Everyone’s a winner!

    Andrew, Derbyshire

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Great to hear that Andrew & Thanks for sharing this with us! 🙂

      Delivering BEFORE the expected delivery window always is a BIG plus!

      Andrew

    2. Mark Hewgill

      Hi Andrew,

      Is it possible to set up standard delivery rates on Amazon at rates that cover the most expensive location to ship to and then set up express delivery rates specifically for the UK Mainland at much reduced rates? Would that work….is that what you are doing?

      Regards

      Mark

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