ShipToHawaii pools small orders

The hobby table Kathy Kennedy had been eyeing in a catalog was finally on sale.

But the Midwest company wouldn't ship the 65-pound table to Hawai'i. And Kennedy, who runs a small sewing business in her spare time, couldn't find a similar table in the Islands.

She didn't know what to do. At first, she thought about ordering the table and having it shipped to friends in California and wait for them to bring it on their next trip to Hawai'i. But she hated inconveniencing them.

"It's so frustrating for someone in a small business," said Kennedy, a property manager from Nu'uanu, "especially for those who want to supply customers, and the cost of shipping is so great. It's horrendous."

Her boss had used a new service called ShipToHawaii, a locally owned service that combines the purchasing power of individuals and small businesses, enabling them to obtain discounted shipping rates for goods from the Mainland. Kennedy decided to try it.

She paid $1.05 per pound to ship the collapsible hobby table — a much lower rate than she could get anywhere else.

"I would never have been able to get it short of traveling to the Mainland and bringing it back as luggage, or inconveniencing someone else that way," Kennedy said.

ShipToHawaii is a members-only shipping service set up for catalog and Internet shoppers who wanted a more affordable way to ship bulky items to Hawai'i. But the concept has taken off with local small businesses as a cheaper way to get the supplies and goods they need from the Mainland. ShipToHawaii charges between 30 percent and 70 percent less than other freight companies, according to owner Andrew Riehemann.

Here's how it works:

You order something online or through a catalog. But the only way that company ships its products is through brand-name shippers such as Federal Express or UPS, which tack on extra charges to ship items to Hawai'i. Instead, you have the company send the product to ShipToHawaii's Phoenix warehouse, usually at no or low cost via ground service. Through Lynden Air Freight, ShipToHawaii then sends your product with other members' products in bulk to Honolulu, where you can pick it up in about a week. The cost is $1.05 per pound.

Membership costs $20 a year for individuals, who are limited to 150 pounds of air freight over a three-month period; $75 a year for small businesses or hobbyists, who are limited to 300 pounds over a three-month period; and $150 a year for large businesses, which are allowed unlimited shipping.

Since opening in December — and with little advertising — ShipToHawaii has enrolled about 120 members.

"A lot of residents and small businesses don't do enough shipping volume for Lynden to pay attention to — unless you bring them all together," said Riehemann, an engineer who started ShipToHawaii as a side business with his wife, Christina. "My job is to make it an easy process for (Lynden) in order for me to get that low shipping rate."

Riehemann started the business after trying to ship a whole-house fan from Massachusetts to Hawai'i.

"I found the exact fan I wanted," said Riehemann, who was remodeling his Kane'ohe home at the time. "It was a $400 fan, and the company was charging $135 to ship it to Hawai'i. The whole thing came out to over $500. I was just really miffed about that."

Initially, he thought about shipping the fan to his father-in-law in Utah and having him bring it to Hawai'i on his next trip to the Islands. The shipping cost to Utah would be just $8.

"That made me think," Riehemann said. "If I could ship it to him for $8 and bring it out here at a discounted rate, imagine all the money I could save. ... I figured I can't be the only one having this problem."

Small businesses and individual consumers also have the option of using freight consolidating services. The 70-year-old Honolulu Freight Service, for example, serves companies in the hotel, construction, retail and food industries.

But often customers need to ship a minimum weight of goods to get a discounted rate, Riehemann said. Otherwise, they have to pay more per pound.

What ShipToHawaii offers is a chance for individuals or small business owners who don't typically order a lot of goods from the Mainland a chance to pool their purchasing power. That way Riehemann is able to negotiate shipping rates with Lynden Air Freight that are normally reserved for large businesses.

Riehemann said as far as he knows, ShipToHawaii is the only company in the Islands that is able to do this.

"Our service is anti-establishment in some ways," Riehemann said. "I wanted to create an additional choice for Hawai'i residents and businesses."

But it's not for everyone.

Right now it doesn't ship anything perishable, artwork, antiques or museum articles, fragile items, jewelry, furs, precious metals, cash or coins, stocks or bonds, stamps, tobacco or alcohol, fireworks, hazardous materials or live animals or plants.

Other freight consolidating services, such as Honolulu Freight Service and DHX Dependable Hawaiian Express, can ship more of a variety of goods from around the world.

But Thayne Taylor didn't need anything special. Just a cheaper shipping rate for the light fixtures he ordered from Wisconsin through the Internet.

"It was a great experience," said Taylor, a 53-year-old investor who lives on the south shore of Kaua'i.

Source: Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on February 12, 2005