By Andrew Woollard, CEO, BoxWay Packaging Group Ltd
The pandemic has surprised us in so many ways. Who knew we’d have such an extended Lockdown? In his predictions for 2021, Nostradamus doesn’t mention the death of hospitality or the ecommerce boom. If he had, nobody would have run out of materials for wrapping, protecting and presenting the goods.
We can say, with some confidence, that lockdown’s ecommerce boom begat an unprecedented demand for packaging, creativity, and the rise of challenger brands.
A third of all retail sales took place online in 2020 and 60 per cent of Britain’s 18-24 year-olds chose to get their food delivered. The packaging shortage got so drastic that our materials were dubbed beige gold – which is quite an upgrade in status for recycled cardboard.
Like any gold rush it’s both a huge challenge and an opportunity that we must seize with both hands.
You should never judge a book by its cover, but book publishers know that’s exactly how consumers gain their first impression when taking a book off the shelf in a shop.
In the equivalent online retail experience, the packaging gives the customer their first ‘feeling’ about the goods and therefore has an important psychological role. The level of protection of the hard shell and the aesthetic colours of the wrapping help to affirm that these are quality products. All good marketing will aim to make an impact by stimulating as many of our senses – sight, sound, touch, fragrance and taste – as possible.
That is why online traders, especially challenger brands, are prioritising the aesthetics of the packaging and upping the ante to deliver a piece of branding to the doorstep. Packaging offers them a chance to be creative. It is our job as packaging manufacturers to innovate and evolve shoulder to shoulder with these entrepreneurial businesses, with new design concepts, and alternative immersive brand experiences that tells a story about the brand.
Take the example of a typical challenger start up business, Little Imagineers. This is one of many lockdown ‘babies’ – a company whose invention was mothered by the necessities of enforced struggles of lockdown.
Tom and Helen Harper were forced into home-play by the lockdown and used their imaginations to create Pirate ships out of their mattresses and upturned sofas with their 2 children. Having developed the idea from those early beginnings, they sought to build their solution and satisfy the daily need for imaginative, physical and role play craved by children.
Little Imagineers will be launching this summer with a summer product release, a modular children’s play sofa, The Padoo. The final packaging design reveals the product in a majestic way by also unfolding into a suite of discovery board games.
The packaging and unveiling of the product definitely delivers the Wow factor and embodies the essence of their brand – the mission to help kids discover their natural instinct to play, explore their environment and grow creatively.
Though great packaging can make an impact, that advantage can be instantly neutralised if lead times and availability get in the way. So we need to be more creative in how we solve these problems. We should be ‘thinking out the box’ in more ways than one.
Packaging Manufacturers have been grappling to deliver efficient lead times. It’s hard not to sympathise. The big players in our industry have tough choices to make. Some have multinational customers and many sheet plants are struggling with capacity. Some suppliers labour under the burdens of high demand and low return Amazon orders.
The good news is that Independent sheet plants like us have more freedom for flexibility and adaptability and capacity to step up to the game and seize the beige gold opportunity for the benefit of entrepreneurial businesses, new challenger brands and established businesses wanting to get more creative to attract new customers. It is our versatility and flexibility that makes the sheet planter strong. Watch this space.