One of the biggest changes to hit the retail industry in the last couple of years is the growth in online sales. Time-poor, cash-rich consumers are turning to eCommerce for speed of delivery and convenience. Even relatively conservative forecasters predict two-figure percentage growth of online sales in the UK. Interestingly in the light of Brexit, the UK seems to be leading the way in Europe. The change in sales of ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers has fallen faster here than on the continent.
As buying patterns change, so too must the packaging that protects and promotes the product. Packaging for eCommerce has to achieve a different functionality in a new supply chain. Individual despatch and delivery requires packaging that is easy to open and resealable in case the product has to be returned.
EXPERIENCE & EXPECTATION
In addition, today’s customers expect to experience the wow-factor when their new purchase drops on the front door mat. Gift boxes offer attractive and colourful printing on the reverse of the outer postal packaging and the opportunity for additional brand promotion. This innovative use of the outer protective wrapping to make an impact takes corrugated packaging into new territory. In effect this new eCommerce packaging is Retail Ready Packaging relocated from the shelf to the front doorstep!
On top of that, the online marketplace is a global one, so its packaging must be sufficiently robust not just for posting to Newcastle, but also to New Delhi!
The economic crisis of recent years has resulted in an increase in self-employed entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, and much of the growth in online retail will come from smaller companies using the internet to boost sales around the country and around the world. These small or medium-sized companies need packaging suppliers with the flexibility and the willingness to accommodate their individual needs. Inevitably they will have to look to the independent manufacturers for this level of service and commitment.
OUTSIDE THE BOX
Following a series of take-overs and buy-outs, the UK corrugated market today is dominated by five giants of the industry – DS Smith, Rigid VPK, Cepac, Saica and Smurfit Kappa. Together they supply over 75% of the corrugated market. These multi-national paper-making groups may benefit from economies of scale and therefore be able to provide more economical services to their customers– assuming they pass on their cost savings, of course!
But size does have a tendency to create complacency – and then service can easily become a casualty. There are now only five significant independent corrugated manufacturers left in the UK equipped with their own corrugator and the ability to both manufacture their own corrugated board and convert it into packaging. The Weedon Group is one of them. We and the other independent corrugated manufacturers offer something that the big five cannot – a different sort of approach.
Because every customer matters to us, we put a great deal of effort into cultivating – and maintaining – relationships. For example, we take time to understand our customers’ concerns and the pressures under which they operate. Our independence also makes us more flexible. So, we can adjust our procedures to meet a tight deadline or change a design at short notice. Many buyers appreciate this individual level of service.
As online purchases make up a growing proportion of all retail sales, corrugated packaging manufacturers must gear up for a new type of packaging. In the Weedon Group we have launched our own brand of corrugated packaging for the eCommerce market – ePac. We draw on the strengths of the whole Group to provide this service, with the in-house manufacture of specialist eCommerce board grades on our own corrugator, expertise in packaging reduction, including ‘right-sizing’ to reduce the use of unnecessary packaging, innovative design capabilities in both graphic and structural design, and top quality print capability, including printing on both sides of the box.
To support this initiative, we have recently completed major restructuring of our Weedon PSC factory in Hednesford, making one large space to accommodate new production equipment and to streamline logistics to deal with increased turnover. We have established a new eCommerce sales and marketing team, which includes design experts, to deal with enquiries. And we have invested in new specialist equipment including a revolutionary new taping machine which can apply different types of sealing tape offline, including ‘peel & seal’, enabling us to manufacture bespoke packaging for the online retail market.
There is no denying that size does bring economic advantages and security, but the independents can offer a better service to attract customers which, in the long run, will help them withstand the inexorable march of the titans.