The art to choosing the right packaging for your business

choosing the right packaging
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When you’re setting up a new business, there’s a lot to think about. Quite apart from making sure your product is ready to be sent out to your customers, you’ve got to actually let them know that it’s there and explain to them exactly why they need it in their lives. Then you’ve got to get on top of the paperwork and the accounts, because it doesn’t matter how many perfectly good excuses you’ve got for not doing it (setting up a new business can usually take more than the allocated 24 hours in a day), HMRC won’t give a hoot when the time comes for them to take their cut.

At some point, amidst everything else, you’ll suddenly realise that you need some packaging to send your orders out in. Visit the average online packaging store (and you will get better deals from such operators rather than anything you’ll find on the high street), and it can be quite intimidating, with literally thousands of products to choose from. Where on earth do you start?

How much protection does your product need?
If the answer to the above question is ‘none’, then you could be okay with a polythene mailing bag, which is good news, because they’re very cheap and incredibly light, which means they can also help keep your postage costs down.

But, before you run off and start ordering some, if you put it in a mailing bag, will your product still arrive in a good condition? After all, items of clothing technically don’t need a lot of protection, but if you simply put them in a polythene bag, they’ll almost certainly arrive in a dishevelled state.

Other postal packaging solutions you might want to think about are Jiffy bags or padded envelopes, cardboard postal tubes, book boxes and protective envelopes – all great ideas if your product is the right shape or size.

If none of the above will work for you, then it’s time to start looking at cardboard boxes.

What sort of box do you want to use?
Even when you’ve narrowed down your options to cardboard boxes, there are still a bewildering number of varieties. What you choose will be dependant mostly on the size, shape and weight of your product, although there is some space for personal taste as well.

Most products will be best mailed in a postal box or a standard carton, known in the business as an 0201, which is the number assigned to it in the FEFCO-ESBO guide to all styles of corrugated boxes. Both types will usually be supplied flat packed (which makes them a lot easier and cheaper to deliver and store than if they were ready made!) – the postal box folds into shape and has a hinged lid, while the 0201 has flaps which meet top and bottom and need to be sealed with packaging tape.

Postal boxes are usually a good choice for smaller items that aren’t too heavy, although this is not to suggest that they aren’t tough. The way they fold together usually means you end up with several layers of board on each side, and although they’re made using thinner board than most 0201 cartons, the fact that the fluting is packed tightly together makes the board much more rigid than it looks.

Because of the way they fold into shape, postal boxes are usually relatively small, but the hinged lid makes them a popular choice, as many consider it a nicer thing for the customer to open than a box that has been sealed with tape.

Don’t forget when choosing your box that the external size can affect the postal charge you pay. Suppliers will usually quote internal sizes for their boxes, as that is the amount of room you have to pack in, but a forward thinking one should also clearly let you know whether it counts as large letter or small parcel without making you guess!

If your perfect postal box isn’t available off the shelf, many packaging suppliers will offer custom sizes, but be aware that postal boxes require a special tool to be made to cut the board into the right shape, and that can cost £200 or £300 on its own. For this reason, you’ll be looking at a minimum order of about 500 to make it viable.

Single and Double Wall Boxes
The strength of an 0201 carton is determined by a number of things, but the best starting-point is the number of ‘walls’. Naturally, this could vary from supplier to supplier, but a good guide is that boxes with a single wall can hold up to 10kg, and double wall (or double skin) boxes up to 30kg. (There are triple wall boxes as well, which are super strong, usually used for export and for heavy machinery and the like, and outside the remit of this guide.)

If your supplier isn’t making the load capacity of their boxes clear on their website, make sure you check, because you don’t want to be finding out that they’re not strong enough for your product when one falls apart en route to your customer.

Custom sizes can usually be easily arranged, unless the height is under 100mm, when, as with the postal box, a cutting tool would be required. Almost any quantity can be done reasonably economically, but of course the unit price will be less the more you buy. It’s a case of finding the right balance between what you can afford or feel confident to order upfront, how much space you have for storage, and getting the best unit price you can.

Of course, if you want something a little more eye-catching than a plain brown box, white boxes are also usually readily available, or you can always opt to have your company logo or branding printed on your packaging, always a good idea if you want to start building your brand and improving your chances of making a real success of your business.

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Rick Stanford

Rick has been a salesman in the packaging supplies business for more than thirty years. Now semi-retired, he divides his time between tending his allotment in north Devon, getting depressed at the continuing travails of his home-town football club Macclesfield Town, and sharing his considerable experience and knowledge with the readers of the Davpack blog. Davpack

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