Technical and design skills are attracting buyers back to UK manufacturing, says PETER CONNOR, Commercial Director of Pollard Boxes…
Much has been written lately about the slowing of economic growth in China (albeit to levels of which Western nations can only dream) but there has been less examination of the reasons behind this. While our experiences at Pollard are purely anecdotal, we have certainly seen a recent upturn in enquiries from potential customers who currently source their rigid box requirements from China.
Of course, cost is a vital consideration in the selection of a new pack, particularly in markets that are becoming increasingly competitive. Nevertheless, that same competition means manufacturers have to fight even harder for every sale, and that process begins on the retail shelf where there are many products vying for attention. Pack quality – in terms of both the initial appearance and also how it feels when it is handled for the first time – is therefore vitally important.
The quality of the pack is almost even more important in the still-growing area of e-commerce. Purchases over the internet are inevitably a somewhat sterile process. Consumers have to part with their money before receipt of their goods. When the item does finally arrive, they need fast reassurance of the appropriateness of their purchase. The right pack will ensure that the product is well-presented and also that it has been well protected on its journey, both of which will help to create the right buying experience. This is particularly vital for luxury products and gift items.
TECH THE LEAD
It is this ability to deliver a rigid box solution which matches brand image and consumer expectations that has enabled UK manufacturers to
fight back against what are perceived as lower-cost alternatives. That is not to say that price is no longer an issue – naturally customers are still seeking the best deal possible. What we have done therefore is to continue to invest in technology that is now able to deliver extremely high standards of finishing at a very competitive cost. This has enabled many more complex box designs and shapes to be produced on machines where previously they would have had to be completed by hand.
At Pollard, for example, we have recently invested in new technology to create windows in boxes, which can help to enhance a wide variety of luxury, gift and presentation packs. The process allows automatic cutting of the window shape combined with a special pick and place system to position the film between the board and the paper. This provides a neater finish than can be achieved by the more usual hand finished method, ensuring that the window sits flush with the rest of the box, with neat edges both on the inside and outside. This means there is less likelihood of the pack being damaged during transit or in use. The technology also enables different shaped windows to be produced.
Meanwhile, our latest investment will see us able to produce a box that is extremely narrow yet also exceptionally tall, again pushing the boundaries of what is possible in order to meet a specific customer requirement.
GET THE LOOK
New decoration techniques have also been developed, for example a range of unique finishes that can be achieved via the silk screen process,
or the use of specialist materials such a natural finish rayon cloth with a sparkle effect, and a unique paper with a soft velvet finish that is highly resistant to rubbing and finger marking. Another technique to create excitement and expectation around a gift or luxury purchase is the use of layering, which allows a product to be revealed through a series of opening stages. And in all these examples, it is the combination of design knowledge supported by the latest CAD software, and technical expertise using the best state-of-the-art equipment that is enabling UK manufacturers to achieve this type of innovation, which increases the possibilities for greater shelf stand-out.
Add to this the much shorter lead and response times of a UK-based supplier, and it is little wonder that more and more manufacturers are now seeking their rigid box solutions a little closer to home.