Shipwire, which sells international e-commerce order fulfillment solutions and services, is expanding to allow U.S.-based small online businesses to execute orders from European customers. The company announced its new UK-based warehouse and pick-pack fulfillment facility June 9.
"Since the reduction of Chinese trade barriers in 2005, there has been a surge of small U.S. businesses buying merchandise from Asia, bringing it through the Port of Los Angeles, and becoming part of the import/export world," said Damon Schechter, founder and CEO of Shipwire. "Fulfillment is the last piece. You need someone to handle the hassles of storing and shipping items and reducing the friction of cross-border storage shipping."
Schechter said Shipwire tries to bring the "PayPal experience" to storing and shipping.
"Give us an e-mail address and we give you an address to ship your merchandise in bulk," he said. "You flip a switch in your online store and you're done."
With the weak U.S. dollar making goods from U.S.-based online retailers an attractive buy to European customers, Schechter said Shipwire's UK facility allows small U.S. business to take advantage of what he termed a "unique opportunity."
"It's the beginning of the Holy Grail," he said. "You can get merchandise across the ocean, stick in your credit card number, and go."
Using a Shipwire account, U.S. merchants can outsource inventory, receiving, picking and packing, shipping, returns, freight, customs, and taxes for international shipments into and out of the United States. Working as a hosted solution, it automatically connects with and adds order fulfillment and international shipping to eBay, Yahoo Stores, PayPal, Google Checkout, Zen Cart, NetSuite, Intuit Checkbooks, and other shipping cart and inventory management systems.
According to Schechter, small businesses in the United States spend about $80 billion a year bringing merchandise from Asia through Los Angeles, and then storing and shipping it to customers.
"Small businesses are specialists in sales and marketing," he said. "They can plug right into storage and shipping with Shipwire. There's the -you shouldn't be doing this' factor. It's cost- and knowledge- prohibitive."
Greg Sterling, founder of consulting and research firm Sterling Market Intelligence, said Shipwire appears to be a valuable service in principle.
"This is very much like the eBay drop location program," he said. "But it's for slightly larger, more serious entities. Fulfillment is a big logistical hassle."
Sterling said entrepreneurs, small companies and traditional stores lacking e-fulfillment bandwidth that operate at the "low end of the e-commerce spectrum" would probably benefit most from utilizing Shipwire.
The cost of on-demand Shipwire services start at $30 per month and can then increase or decrease, depending on volumes of storage and shipping.
Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.