Must-Have Packing & Shipping Supplies for Your Business

by Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

When packing and shipping are big part of your business, you don’t want to waste a second running around looking for supplies. From boxes to tape to protective materials, what you need depends on what you’re sending. Keeping a stockpile of the shipping and mailing products your business relies on is key.

Let’s start with the basics:

Labels & Envelopes

If you send only standard correspondence, you can probably get by with standard #10 envelopes. Select security envelopes for sensitive documents like checks or legal paperwork, and padded mailers for items like printed materials or books. Use shipping labels for bulk mailings, larger envelopes and boxes. Speaking of envelopes, don’t forget to stock sturdy, stick-on envelopes for packing lists and invoices, and include special handling instructions.

“As part of your brand strategy, invest in integrating your name and logo across all marketing materials — including your mailing envelopes and labels,” suggests Veronica Kido, president of Kido Communications, a marketing communications firm in Medfield, MA. “It’s a consistent way to differentiate your company and show your clients and prospects that they are worth the extra investment.”

Packing Fill

“Internal packing materials such as packing paper, air pillows or peanuts can be used to ensure that products inside the box are separated from each other and from the corners, sides, top and bottom of the box, allowing the box to absorb shock and vibration during shipping rather than the box’s contents,” explains Rachel Kenyon, vice president of the Corrugated Packaging Alliance.

Bubble Roll and foam sheets offer top-of-the-line protection that wraps around pricey or fragile items. A multi-purpose 5/16-inch bubble roll is good for the initial protective layer, says Charles Alvino, product specialist with the mail and ship team at Staples. Then “void fill with 3/16-inch Bubble Roll or packing peanuts,” he suggests.

Finally, you’ll need lots of filler — at least 2 inches between all six sides of the carton to provide additional protection, according to Anthony Caviness, china fulfillment operations manager for Replacements in Greensboro, NC. So load up on heavy corrugated paper, newsprint, peanuts or other padding.

Shipping Tape

Put down that desktop tape dispenser and pick up  packaging tape made to stand up to the stress and strain of shipping and handling. The last thing you want is for your carefully packed item to bust open in transit. Heavy-duty shipping tape comes in a variety of sizes and colors, so consult your shipping professional for the best product for your specific needs. If you do a lot of volume, save time — and your hands — and invest in a shipping tape dispenser, too.


“Make sure you try out different sized boxes before selecting one for your shipment,” Kenyon says. “Choosing a box that’s too big could cause your contents to move around during shipping and increase the risk of damage before the shipment arrives at its destination. Choosing a box that’s too small can also cause damage if there’s not enough space between the outer box and the inner contents.” Purchase the most rigid box possible “to withstand the rigors of different types of shipping distribution systems,” she says. “Corrugated boxes have a very high strength-to-weight ratio, making them the best choice for mailing and shipping.”

And a quick word about reusing boxes: “The more a box is used, the more it loses its original protective qualities and may not be able to protect your shipment,” Kenyon says. “If the box you’ve chosen for reuse is punctured, torn or ripped; has crushed corners; is missing one of its flaps; or is damaged in any other way, then it’s best to choose a new box. Remove or cross out old labels or markings on used boxes and always include a complete return address.”

Shipping Specialty Items

Certain items require special shipping products:

  • Baked goods and perishables: Pack baked goods in sturdy interior packaging first, like a bakery box or plastic container, to hold the item(s) in place securely. Then place that package in a larger box with more padding. Items that need to be chilled require special packing, like sturdy Styrofoam boxes, insulated liners and cold packs.
  • Bikes: Bikes ship best when broken down as much as possible. Put carefully labeled disassembled parts in a tear-resistant bag or envelope, and attached via cable ties, stretch wrap or packing tape to the body of the bike. Place fragile parts in the middle of the package, and add lots of padding to keep the bike from poking through the cardboard.
  • Blueprints and other large-format documents: Avoid damage to these documents by sending in square or cylindrical mailing tubes.
  • Clothing: Take your cues from the major brands. To reduce wrinkling, wrap items in tissue paper before folding and packing. Choose a hue that matches your branding. Tyvek® envelopes are popular alternatives to the standard box and provide tear- and moisture-resistance.

The pros at your local pack and ship center can help you choose the right packing supplies. And don’t forget to check with industry associations for their recommendations, especially if the items you’re shipping require special care.

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