Parent & Variant Products

Parent and Variant products are a way to group and track products that are similar or related such as a t-shirt that has size and color options. All these products share attributes like weight and are likely shipped using the same methods. But instead of making a stand-alone product for each size and color variation, you create a Parent product with the options set as variants.

  • Parent: A non-sellable  reference product that acts as the primary product for reporting purposes and contains the variant products that belong to it.

  • Variant: A sellable product that belongs to the Parent product and inherits any product defaults set in the Parent product details.

Let's look at an example. You have a Hotdog T-Shirt in various colors and sizes. Currently, ShipStation treats those shirts as individual Standalone products for reporting purposes. 

If you group all the different shirt sizes and colors available as Variant products under a Hotdog T-shirt Parent product, your Product Sales and Item Demand Summary reports can tell you how your new Hotdog T-shirt is doing overall. 

Below is an example of a Parent/Variant hierarchy for our example Hotdog shirts:

White Hotdog Shirt parent product at top. Below, 3 red arrows point to black, blue, and green product variants.

Additionally, some product-level settings (like Product Defaults or reporting categories) get passed down from Parents to their Variants. So you can manage shipping and reporting more conveniently.

Here's a screenshot of a Variant product's Shipping details:

Product details shipping defaults highlighted domestics drop-downs.

This shows the Domestic shipping information has been inherited from the parent.

Inherited Shipping Settings

You can override any inherited shipping settings by setting the Variant's Defaults in the Product Details screen.

Enable Parent-Variant Types

You can now create new Parent products and add Variants to Parents.

Create Parents and Add Variants

Ideally, your Products tab in ShipStation will already contain your existing product records. If not, review the article about importing products into ShipStation.

These product records will be Standalone products. Standalone products cannot be converted into Parent products (remember, Parent products are non-buyable products that have a unique SKU). You will need to create the Parent product in ShipStation, to which you can then add Variant products.

Combine Products to Create Variants

If you wish to create variants of products that already exist in ShipStation, you can also use the Combine Products option.

If you have many Variant SKUs to add, do a Product CSV import to create them all at once.

In the CSV, set a product as a Variant by adding its Parent SKU to the ParentSKU field, as shown in this example:

Sample CSV file with ParentSKU column filled in with HotDogTS for 5 rows.

If the SKU you enter into the ParentSKU field in the CSV does not currently exist in your ShipStation account, a ParentSKU will be created for it when the CSV imports, as long as that SKU does not also occupy its own row in the CSV.

Standalone productsParent products