San Diego 3PL: The Pros and Cons of Coastal Fulfillment

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The port of San Diego is among the top cargo ports in the U.S. More than 800,000 containers pass through the port every year from across the globe. If your products arrive in the U.S. via this busy port, a San Diego 3PL might seem like the perfect warehouse to handle your eCommerce fulfillment. However, San Diego shipments and San Diego-based businesses are often better served by consolidated third-party logistics services. 

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Three ways that third-party logistics companies serve San Diego businesses

There are three ways to handle national fulfillment for products made in or delivered to San Diego:

  • Truck containers to a San Diego 3PL for order fulfillment.
  • Use multiple coastal and national fulfillment centers, including a San Diego 3PL.
  • Transport products to consolidated fulfillment locations for national and coastal fulfillment.

There are reasons to ship orders from a warehouse located in San Diego or to choose more centrally located fulfillment facilities. The right choice for you will depend on the needs of your eCommerce business and the distribution of your customer base.

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The advantages of a San Diego 3PL

Coastal fulfillment with a San Diego 3PL has several benefits, particularly if all your products originate in San Diego or come through the port.

Faster transportation from port to warehouse

When using a San Diego 3PL, your transit time from port to warehouse is quick. While you won’t be immune from supply chain delays, you may find it easier to get your containers delivered on the short haul from the port to the warehouse. So local logistics solutions may simplify your supply chain management.

Start shipping orders quickly

Fast transport from port to warehouse reduces your overall lead time from the factory, sometimes by several days. That helps you get products through receiving and ready to pick more quickly to start filling orders fast.

Lower freight costs for transit from port to warehouse

The cost to transport your containers from the port of San Diego to a local 3PL will be lower than transport to a warehouse location closer to the center of the country. Likewise, if your business and manufacturing are based in San Diego, a Southern California 3PL will reduce your overland freight costs within the U.S.

Proximity to your business

If you run your business out of San Diego, access is another appealing aspect of a San Diego 3PL. With a local fulfillment partner, it’s easier to visit the warehouse. If anything goes wrong, you can go in person to try to resolve the problem. 

But these benefits may be more than offset by the downsides of coastal fulfillment.

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Why a San Diego 3PL isn’t always the best choice

For many eCommerce companies, coastal fulfillment from a San Diego 3PL is not the best choice. Coastal fulfillment has drawbacks for your business and your customers.

Longer delivery times to customers across the U.S.

If you fill orders nationally, a third-party logistics provider based in San Diego will add to your order delivery times. A customer who lives in the Northeast, for example, might have to wait a week or more to receive their order or pay extra for expedited shipping. That extra delivery time can make your business less competitive. If your customer can get the same or a similar product from another vendor with half the shipping time, you could lose sales.

Higher order delivery costs 

Order delivery from a San Diego 3PL will also add to your shipping costs. The more shipping zones a package crosses, the higher the cost to ship it. That can make it harder to offer free shipping, and high shipping costs can discourage sales.  

Higher warehousing costs

California real estate is expensive, particularly in areas close to the coast. A San Diego 3PL will have higher costs for warehouse space. And, since Californians’ cost of living is high, it will probably have to pay higher wages to its warehouse associates. The money you save in freight charges may be wholly or partially offset by higher fulfillment costs.

The best fulfillment company for your products may not be a San Diego 3PL

All fulfillment companies are not the same. There are specialties within the eCommerce fulfillment industry, and it’s critical to choose a 3PL with expertise in shipping products similar to yours. 

For example, suppose you sell bulky, heavy, or high-value items. Then you should use a 3PL like Red Stag Fulfillment, which specializes in shipping large items and is a better choice than a San Diego-based 3PL. 

Choosing a 3PL that isn’t a good fit can have catastrophic consequences. Your products can get damaged or lost in a warehouse that’s not well equipped to process the types of goods you sell. If you can’t find a local 3PL that fits your eCommerce business, you’ll do better by widening your search for a fulfillment partner. 

direct fulfillment

Which businesses benefit from coastal fulfillment

Weighing the pros and cons of a San Diego 3PL, some eCommerce businesses benefit from coastal fulfillment, including:

  • A company that sells mainly to a local audience. For instance, if your business sells UC San Diego clothing and gear and most of your customers are in Southern California, a regional 3PL might be perfect for you.
  • A niche business where delivery times aren’t critical. If your eCommerce business sells custom items and patrons are accustomed to waiting weeks or months to receive an order, the extra delivery time from a San Diego 3PL might not be an issue. However, if you ship orders nationally, you might benefit from the lower shipping costs of a central location.
  • A business with many warehouse locations. Established companies with high sales volumes can benefit from using many warehouses to be close to their customers for fast delivery. In that case, you will probably have warehouse locations to serve the major population centers on the coasts and in the interior United States. So a San Diego 3PL might be an excellent element of your fulfillment operations.

However, most eCommerce businesses don’t fall into these categories. If you want to grow and scale with national and international fulfillment, you should consider the best locations for your fulfillment warehouses.

San Diego 3PL

The advantages of consolidated third-party logistics

A consolidated third-party logistics partner is an alternative to coastal fulfillment that serves most eCommerce companies better. For example, a warehouse in Salt Lake City can serve the whole West Coast and the western states better than a San Diego 3PL could.

Some of the benefits of consolidated logistics include:

  • Easier inventory management. You get greater reach with fewer warehouses when you ship from centrally-located warehouses. That keeps you from spreading your inventory too thin and simplifies your inventory planning. It can also reduce inventory carrying costs because you don’t need to hold safety stock at many different warehouses.
  • Reach more consumers faster. A small number of warehouses in strategic locations can serve customers on both coasts and throughout the U.S. well. For example, Red Stag Fulfillment can ship to 96% of U.S. households in two days or less from just two warehouse locations. Our Salt Lake City fulfillment center provides fast, efficient West Coast fulfillment, and our Knoxville warehouses serve the East Coast.
  • Lower shipping costs. Proximity to your customers also means cheaper delivery. You can offer free shipping on qualifying orders without destroying your profit margin. That gives customers an incentive to buy more and builds brand loyalty.
  • Get the fulfillment services you need. When you limit your fulfillment choices to a local 3PL, you might be cheating yourself out of access to specialized services that can help your business grow and scale. If you need kitting, hazmat shipping, food products handling, or other special services, you will have more options in national fulfillment.

Another considerable benefit of national rather than local fulfillment is quality. Accurate, high-quality fulfillment services are essential to eCommerce business expansion. Find an industry-leading provider for your product category rather than limiting yourself to a San Diego 3PL. You’ll see the results in your next P&L statement.

How Red Stag Fulfillment serves San Diego businesses

Red Stag Fulfillment can provide services for businesses in San Diego, Los Angeles, and throughout the West Coast. We have received numerous awards for operational excellence, and our fulfillment guarantees provide our clients with superior third-party logistics with low error rates.

Our value-added fulfillment services include:

  • Kitting. We can create kits to reduce dimensional weight charges, create bundled products, or pull together subscription boxes.
  • Same-day fulfillment. Our service levels include two same-day options that get your orders out fast, reducing order cycle time.
  • Full-service onboarding. Our dedicated onboarding team ensures a smooth transition when you switch fulfillment companies. The onboarding specialists work with you until every detail of our fulfillment services meets your specifications.
  • Shipping consultation. As a 3PL specializing in oversized eCommerce, we can help you reduce dimensional weight charges and safely ship heavy products. And, we’ve got just as many partners selling lightweight, specialty, and smaller products, too.

We’d be happy to work with you on the solutions to your fulfillment problems. If you’re looking for excellent national fulfillment services, talk to us.

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