Wrap It Up
Although a catalog’s reputation often is based on its look and merchandise assortment, it can’t perform well without essential, behind-the-scenes assistance from the operations and fulfillment departments.
Finding a product packaging solution that’s dependable and cost-effective — as well as one that fits your merchandise — is an ongoing challenge. The following products are headliners with positive reviews from several catalogers. As you embark on a search for new packaging solutions, keep these in mind.
The Fill-Air Inflatable Packaging System, manufactured by Saddle Brook, NJ-based Sealed Air Corp., produces air-filled cushions for void-fill applications. In addition to protecting fragile merchandise, it also reduces material and shipping costs and maximizes warehousing space. Packers can inflate several sizes of reusable cushions — using a 110-volt outlet — with the exact amount of air necessary for a given space.
The Sharper Image, a multichannel specialty retailer, has used this system for about four years. In addition to using it for mail-order shipments, the company internally re-uses the cushions when receiving customer returns and when sending shipments to and from retail stores.
“We do this as both a smart economic move and to do our part in recycling,” says Barry Jacobsen, senior vice president of distribution at The Sharper Image.
“[Such a system] is easier for the customer to handle than peanuts or shredded cardboard,” he adds. “The Fill-Air cushions are convenient for us to use because they come out of a dispenser. They take a short time to insert, and there’s also not as much mess for us.”
Also, The Sharper Image has had less damage in shipments because the cushions are softer on the product.
Sealed Air also manufactures Cryovac vacuum shrink bags, which provide a sound solution for various food catalogers. Ideal for perishable food products, particularly meats and cheeses, these multi-layered bags are available in myriad sizes. An air-tight seal allows the product to quickly defrost in water.
For more on Sealed Air’s products, visit: www.sealedair.com.
(For more information, see “Focus on Food Packaging”.)
On a Roll
The new Geämi Roll, a bio-degradable, protective packaging material made entirely of paper, can be used for wrapping, cushioning or as void fill. Manufactured by Morrisville, NC-based Geämi, the Geämi Roll is based on expanding paper that has been die-cut with millions of small slits in a pattern across its length. This packaging product can be a cost-effective way to protect fragile items from rigorous handling.
“We have many catalog companies using our environmentally friendly packaging,” says Michael Suthard, vice president of sales and marketing at Geämi. Crate & Barrel, The Vermont Country Store, and Siegler & Co.’s Sovietski Collection and Treasures From a Bygone Era are just a few of Geämi’s customers.
“Our strategy has been to use Geämi for 80 percent of our items that in the past would have required bubble wrap,” says H. Knick Staley, director of operations at Sovietski Collection, a general merchandise cataloger. “The main advantage of this over bubble wrap is that it’s less expensive.”
Also, because the machines wrap automatically, productivity within Sovietski’s fulfillment operations have improved by about 15 percent from when it used bubble wrap.
Although the San Diego-based cataloger uses Geämi for merchandise such as porcelain, crystal and ceramics, it continues to use bubble wrap on items that are the most fragile, particularly products with thin glass.
“The only disadvantage we’ve found with Geämi is that its useful life is one shipment only,” says Staley. “In cases where customers wish to return a fragile item [in the same package], the item may be more prone to break than a similar item returned with bubble wrap — or new Geämi.”
For more, visit: www.geami.com.
Waterproof and Recyclable
High-end fashion retailer Nordstrom needed a quality, low-cost packaging solution that was both waterproof and recyclable, as well as compact for better shipping.
Tru•Tech, an Indianapolis-based packaging provider, offered a quick fix. Its Tru•Seal packaging met all of Nordstrom’s above-noted parameters. Additionally, Tru•Seal doubles as a return package, thereby costing less and reducing waste.
Tru•Tech also offers e-commerce packaging. It’s U.S. Postal Service-approved with a quality print surface that accepts high-end graphics, such as your logo, so you extend your branding strategy even to your packaging. For more, call (317) 879-4346 or visit www.tru-tech.com.
Focus on Food Packaging
With consumers hungry for more mail-order foods, catalog companies must continually be mindful of concerns about food safety, shelf life and distribution.
This is especially true for meat, poultry, fish and other perishable foods, such as cheesecake, that must be carefully handled in a timely manner to prevent food-borne illnesses.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers the following safety tips for food mailers:
1. Send perishable items frozen or partially frozen with ice crystals still visible. Pack with a cold source in a foam or heavy corrugated cardboard.
2. Deliver perishable products as quickly as possible — ideally, overnight. Label the items and the outer package “Keep Refrigerated” to alert the recipient.
3. When sending perishable items to an office, have your customer service reps (CSRs) ensure that delivery occurs on a work day when the office is open. When taking the orders, CSRs also should ask if refrigerator space is available for keeping the items cold.
4. When using dry ice, warn recipients of its use by writing “Contains Dry Ice” on the outside of the box. Don’t touch dry ice with bare hands or let it come in direct contact with food.
For more food safety information about meat, poultry or egg products, contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) 674-6854, or visit www.usda.gov.
For inquiries on any other foods, contact the Federal Depart-ment of Agriculture Outreach and Information Center at (888) 723-3366.
Information also is available from the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Visit: www.fsis.usda.gov and the FDA at www.fda.gov.