A Lot to Unpack: Managing Household Goods Shipping Costs 02.26.2021 | Kyriako Bouris

household goods shipping

Although considered to be the foundational relocation benefit, included in even the most basic policies, household goods shipping and storage (HHG) costs are perpetually under the microscope. Companies understand how critical these services are to their mobile employees — let’s face it, the safe passage of your stuff is paramount in any move — but they’re also forever seeking ways to lower their spend, from do-it-yourself moves with a household goods allowance to reduced shipments with furnishings allowances.

The pandemic hasn’t exactly made the situation any easier. In fact, it’s brought on more challenges:

  • Travel restrictions and border closings resulting in container shipment logistic issues
  • Stricter customs regulations impacting delivery timing and costs
  • Vessel sizes and cargo volumes restricting capacity for household goods
  • Many locations and key ports are experiencing delays and prioritizing shipments
  • Limited space on trains, chassis equipment rental issues, and licensed driver shortages to haul containers are creating a significant backlog in getting shipments out of ports

Of course, these issues are of little importance to an employee asked to relocate; he or she wants everything delivered in a safe and timely manner and a successful employee experience depends on it. For mobility managers, this only adds to internal pressures to contain spend. So where do you start?

Consider the Hidden Costs
Remember that providers are typically asked to quote on costs, not transit times. A less expensive ocean freight rate may come with a significantly longer sailing period, and the household goods arriving at the new home several weeks after the employee. This could lead to an additional month in temporary accommodation, and the unplanned costs that come with it.

Another misunderstood cost is related to “small shipments.” For example, HHG sent via sea in “Less than Container Load” (LCL) shipments consolidate your employees’ goods with other peoples’ LCL shipments in one container. The cost can be lower, but LCLs can slow down the process with delays while waiting for other peoples’ content to fill the container, and a potentially longer inspection at customs as goods are sorted by customer. It’s advantageous to work with a provider who is able to combine shipments within the same container, which results in a lower freight charge and an expedited transit schedule.

Cost Reduction Strategies
With the encouragement and assistance of their employer, relocating employees can reduce the size of their shipments in a way that will contain costs without compromising expectations for a positive experience:

  • Weichert’s Discard & Donate program provides a professional organizer to help assignees sort through their HHG before packing and identify items to be donated or disposed of. Organizations that have adopted such programs report a measurable reduction in the size (and subsequent cost) of shipments. One caveat: the success of this program is entirely dependent on how much of their stuff employees are willing to part with… which can be challenging.
  • Revisit your long-term storage policy. If given the option, employees may be more willing to store something they’d otherwise toss, resulting in increased costs.
  • Depending on the length of the assignment, it can prove less expensive to provide furnished accommodations and excess baggage instead of a full HHG shipment.
  • Utilize standard industry containers in lieu of weight when authorizing air shipments.
  • Consider a furniture rental or an allowance for temporary assignments, particularly if the employee is retaining housing in the departure location and doesn’t require furniture storage.
  • A lower household goods estimate doesn’t always result in overall savings. especially in the realm of household goods shipping, if the price seems too good to be true, it’s going to be more expensive in the long run.

Remember that planning and communication are vital to managing expectations. After all, you may be moving employees who are willing to wait longer for their belongings in order to keep costs low. Offering these employees options like pre-approval for extra baggage while they wait for their shipments can go a long way toward keeping tem happy and productive. It’s a small price to pay now for a better return on your investment later!

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Written by Kyriako Bouris

Rocko Bouris

Kyriako “Rocko” Bouris, CMC, is Weichert’s Vice President, Global Transportation Solutions. He oversees every facet of our integrated move management solution, strategizing with our household goods specialists and network partners to ensure superior point-to-point communication, cost control and accountability throughout the entire household goods shipment process. He has over 20 years of relocation move management expertise and earned the Certified Moving Consultant (CMC) designation.

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