The economic downturn of recent years has once again generated the so-called ‘lipstick effect’, where consumers treat themselves to little luxuries to cheer themselves up – a phenomenon that first emerged in the US during the Great Depression of the 1930s, where between 1929 and 1933 industrial production halved but sales of cosmetics rose.
Luxury still has an important role to play in the retail sector even during a recession – but at a time when people are more careful about their purchasing decisions, it is even more vital that brand image and expectations are reinforced at the point of purchase. This makes the selection of the right packaging critical to a product’s success.
Packaging for a luxury brand is very often more focused on experience rather than convenience. Consumers expect the pack to look and feel exceptionally good; buyers need to be enticed to make their purchase. As a result, well-designed and beautifully manufactured packaging is not just desirable but absolutely essential.
And while the term ‘luxury’ will make one think typically of fashion items and high-end cosmetics and drinks, it can be applied to a wide variety of more everyday products – everything from chocolates to hair straighteners – in order to help create a premium image and product differentiation.
OPEN TO NEW IDEAS
Given all these requirements, it is not surprising that the rigid box – for a long time synonymous with quality and luxury – continues to be a favoured pack format. The variety of different grades of board means that a solution can be tailored to the precise specifications of an individual product and its marketing and brand objectives.
A choice of high class decoration can be used to individualise packs and this may be further enhanced with a variety of memorable finishes and detailing such as hot foil stamping, off-line spot UV varnishes and embossing. And as well as these established techniques new multi-sensory technologies are also emerging to further enrich the consumer experience and deliver effective added value. These include the combination of different textures for contrasting touch and feel, or the use of scents.
The ‘opening’ experience is also an important part of the pack design. This is particularly true today with the strength and continuing growth of the online market. Purchases made by computer are inevitably a more sterile and unexciting transaction, which makes it vital that the receipt and opening of the product excite and are able to confirm the appropriateness and value of the purchasing decision.
Therefore, as well as beautifully printed and crafted boxes, we are seeing increasing use of ‘layering’ where a product is revealed in a series of carefully-managed stages – for example, untying a bow, opening the lid, removing another layer and then some tissue paper to finally find ‘the treat’.
Plus, of course, internet shopping involves mail or courier delivery and this is another important factor in the creation of luxury packaging – while convenience will not be a major consideration when the purchase is made, it will still be necessary that the pack delivers on practical requirements as well, such as effective product protection and easy handling and opening, particularly if the products are being sent through the post.
Indeed, the growing popularity of online retailing adds another challenge to ensure the efficient selection and packing of products and on-time delivery to the consumer. This has opened up opportunities for box manufacturers to extend their range of services to include not only the design and manufacture of the packaging but also a complete fulfilment operation.
At Pollard Boxes, for example, we have recently opened a 25,000 square foot secure facility within our factory to extend our ‘End to End’ service that covers design and production, packing of product into the boxes, and onward supply to the customer, which can either be in bulk to retailers or individually-addressed to end consumers.
The consumer’s relationship with a brand begins with the packaging – and nowhere is this more critical than with luxury goods. A brand’s premium image can take years to be established but can be devalued overnight as a result of a poor or ill-judged pack. And perhaps this is a key reason why many brand owners are now seeking their packaging solutions closer to home rather than far eastern markets. Luxury is not only about quality of product and pack but also about quality of service and supply, and this is where the UK is able to demonstrate home-grown talent – from design and manufacturing skills, innovative product development, fast sampling and local on-press approval to the ability for quick replenishment which reduces the pressure on stock holding.