Over 25 actionable festive packaging tips
Tactics, ideas, and other considerations to ensure your festive packaging is up to the task
If your business is banking on a successful Christmas trading period, these 25-plus festive packaging tips can help you gain a competitive advantage.
So, let’s cut to the chase. At the time of writing, Christmas is less than 100 days away. And with the nights drawing in and attention turning to the upcoming Black Friday, your Christmas preparation at your business should be well underway.
But what role can your packaging play in this?
Festive packaging tips include ensuring you have enough stock for increased demand, creating impactful promotional packs, and considering the unboxing experience of your customers. You should also focus on how your staff packs, logistics, and returns processes. You should not overlook the sustainability of your festive packaging either.
This guide provides over 25 festive packaging tips to help your business prepare for Christmas, including:
- The planning you should be undertaking.
- How packaging ties in with all aspects of your business.
- The critical interaction between
Consumer activity in the run up to Christmas
Although many businesses – particularly larger retailers and eCommerce sellers – focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this can be a mistake. Although these are typically the busiest two days of the year (although Amazon Prime Day is fast catching up), the extended run-up to Christmas is consistently the busiest for overall sales (reflected in these Christmas packaging facts).
Yet, whilst some Christmas shopping for gifts takes place on Black Friday, a large percentage of items purchased are for the individual buying them (particularly big-ticket items such as TVs, fridges and sofas, as well as fashion and clothing).
Christmas, in contrast, sees consumers buying gifts for family and friends – meaning they purchase multiple items rather than one-off (often impulse) purchases.
Data from The Telegraph suggests that the average British family spends as much as £800 on Christmas presents. This behaviour is why December is consistently the month with the highest sales figures each year.
The bottom line?
Your business must be ready to take advantage of the significant increase in sales volume during this period.
Preparing for Christmas as a retailer in 2023
Preparing for Christmas as a retailer in 2023 is particularly challenging, yet remains crucial. It is vital to review last year’s performance, assess and plan inventory, ensure a cohesive marketing strategy, consider staffing levels, trading hours, returns and much more. Ultimately, preparing for Christmas as a retailer provides the best chance of a successful holiday trading period.
Yet UK retail growth is expected to be as little as 3.4% in 2023. This increase is just over half of the 6.2% jump seen last year. Most analysts indicate this slowdown is due to consumers facing a 9.3% hike in retail prices. This inflation will actually see consumers spending less in real terms this year.
GlobalData lead retail analyst Nick Gladding, who conducted the survey, said:
This year’s growth in retail sales is driven by inflation. Sharply higher prices mean shoppers will spend less in real terms than last year, choosing either to trade down or trim the number of presents they buy.
Last year’s sales growth was supported by shoppers spending savings built up during the lockdown. But with those savings now depleted by cost-of-living increases and mortgage rate hikes, consumers are likely to shop more cautiously and more savvily.
It all adds up to another potentially challenging – and competitive – festive season for businesses that rely on seasonal trade.
Christmas packaging boxes
Advice for business during Christmas
Arguably, the most crucial advice for a business during Christmas is to be prepared. Once your inventory, processes, staff and fulfilment are in place, it is also vital to consider your sales, marketing and promotional strategy. Winning customers – and sales – is ultimately the difference between a successful Christmas period and a lacklustre one.
But how can your Christmas packaging (and packaging in general) help with this? And how does it fit into your overall plans?
Frequently neglected – or sometimes ignored altogether – your packaging can play a massive part in your success during the festive period. And this isn’t just your printed, retail packaging – it applies to your transit, postal and eCommerce fulfilment boxes, too.
The remainder of this guide provides a checklist of 25 points that you must consider if you want your packaging to not only meet increased demand but also to help drive sales and customer satisfaction.
The guide splits these into several categories and topics, including the following:
It is essential that you consider the following when planning for Christmas:
- Awareness of timings and planning.
- Competitor analysis.
- Stock levels and management.
- Cost considerations.
Points to cover when looking at your Christmas promotional activity include:
- Notable delivery and promotional dates.
- Brand awareness.
- Promotional packs.
Packaging supplies and products
To ensure your packaging provides a competitive advantage during the festive period, you must consider:
- Transit damage.
- Ensuring packaging fits the product.
- Avoidance of overpacking.
- Ensuring packs are easy to open.
- The unboxing experience.
- Christmas packaging supplies.
Staff play a vital role in your success, making it essential that you consider:
- Staff training (including temps).
- Staff efficiency (packing).
- Packing bay setup.
- Order picking and fulfilment.
- Holidays and staff absences.
- Reward team.
Without your logistics operating smoothly, Christmas trading can be seriously impacted. As such, consider how you:
- Handle extra stock.
- Manage transport requirements.
- Your returns policy.
When and how to plan Christmas packaging
Many argue that the best time to start planning for Christmas is December 27th. Whilst this is unlikely to be possible if you are reading this (at the time of writing at least), the next best option is today (or as soon as you reasonably can).
If you have been in business for over 12 months, you should have historical data on the products and promotions that saw increased sales during previous Christmases. This data is hugely important.
It allows you to see when packaging usage began to increase, which lines you used most of, what secondary packaging (such as tapes, void fill, etc.) was required and – crucially – the typical increase you are likely to see.
Whilst the last three years (2020, 2021 and 2022) were somewhat of an anomaly due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the cost of living crisis, using previously gathered data can help you make educated decisions on precisely what packaging you will likely need.
Whilst the data you collected in previous years is invaluable, it is also essential to consider what your competitors are doing.
Do they launch their sales events early? Have they had success with customised packaging, two-for-one offers, free shipping or other similar promotions? This activity affects not only their packaging requirements but potentially your own (if, for example, you are losing sales due to being undercut on price or outperformed in marketing and awareness).
Remember what successes you had with your own promotions and how quickly you saw the impact of these. Remember to allow some leeway should you see opportunities that arise due to your competitors’ actions (or if you need to respond to their sales tactics).
Stock levels and management
Of course, both of these points lead to you determining how much extra packaging you should need for the festive period.
But where does all of this extra packaging go? Especially as you are holding more stock, too?
It is vital to consider how to optimise space in your warehouse to accommodate the extra packaging you hold (these bitesize tips can help with warehouse efficiency), but there are other options, too.
For example, if your packaging supplier offers a “Just in Time” service (JIT), it is essential to speak with them regarding changes in volume you expect to see during the run-up to Christmas. A service such as this also helps you minimise space requirements in your warehouse.
And finally, regardless of whether you have a JIT agreement in place, lead times for cardboard boxes may still be longer than in previous years (due mainly to material shortages). Plan ahead to avoid being left without any (or unsuitable) packaging for your requirements.
The final part of your planning should also look at costs and cash flow.
Whilst using more packaging obviously means you are selling more products, the months leading up to Christmas can see your costs increase as you start to build up your packaging and product inventory.
Ensure you prepare your business for this and that your finances can handle the upfront costs of a successful trading period.
Important delivery and promotional dates
It is crucial to have your packaging in place before your sales start ramping up. But when is this?
While there are well-known landmarks in the run-up to Christmas (Black Friday and Cyber Monday being two already mentioned), when exactly do your sales take off? Do you see a steady increase or a sudden surge? When do your various marketing campaigns or advertisements go live? What impact do these have?
As detailed before, looking at your historical data can help here. But it is vital that all elements of your business are joined up. It is no use going live with a promotion (especially if it turns out to drive significant sales volumes) if you don’t have the capacity or packaging to fulfil the increase in orders.
Whilst this is largely the focus of your marketing campaigns, it is wise to consider how your packaging can help increase awareness of your brand and products during the Christmas sales period.
Particularly important in retail environments (where your packaging must grab consumer attention), you can even use your eCommerce packs to start tempting customers with upcoming seasonal offers.
This consideration also feeds back to all areas of your business being fully aware of critical dates and expected peaks in demand.
The design and style of any promotional or festive packaging you use for Christmas typically garner the most attention. But this shouldn’t be at the expense of the points listed here (particularly in the next section).
Saying that, seasonal or Christmas packs are vital to drive impulse purchases in-store, grab attention, add value, and delight your retail and eCommerce customers.
You should ensure you do not under or over-purchase promotional packs. Doing so can potentially limit successful campaigns or see a large amount of cost wasted on packaging that you cannot use after the promotional period.
As such, it is often wise to consider generic packs you can reuse the following Christmas or to customise packs with sleeves, stickers or other less costly items.
Preventing transit damage
Whilst this may sound obvious, you must ensure that your packaging (including special festive packs) is up to the rigours of the transport and courier networks you use.
Your packs must be able to withstand being dropped, crushed, moisture (i.e. getting left out in bad weather) and general mishandling – particularly with the increase in deliveries over Christmas and ongoing driver shortages.
Make sure you use appropriately sized boxes, protective inserts or void fill and that your packaging is of suitable quality in the first place (cheap packaging is typically a false economy when factoring in returns and refunds).
Ensure packaging fits your products
One of the key ways that products suffer damage in transit is by rattling around inside large outer packs or by multiple items colliding with each other.
One fix for this is to include void fill, but this can quickly become expensive if your boxes are too large for the products you are shipping in them.
Equally, for retail applications, whilst large packs can often be eye-catching in-store, the disappointment that follows when consumers reveal the smaller-than-expected contents can harm consumer loyalty and affect repeat purchases.
Following the previous point, many people have experienced receiving small products in ridiculously oversized packs when ordering online. Yet this is still highlighted as one of the biggest annoyances by consumers.
With a massive influx of boxes and packaging during Christmas, consumers want to avoid the additional hassle of disposing of excess void fill and large amounts of cardboard. This problem is particularly acute for items that can only go in the bin (such as air sacks, bubble wrap, etc.).
As well as the annoyance factor, it also looks (and is) bad for the environment, increases transport costs, and can lead to rearranging deliveries if you are out (and the product itself would have fitted through the letterbox were it not for the packaging).
Packs are easy to open
Another gripe for consumers is receiving packaging that is nigh on impossible to open.
Whilst it is essential that your packaging protects your products on their way to the retail outlet or consumers’ delivery address, frustration at not getting into the exciting new purchase can reflect poorly on your brand and products.
However, numerous options exist to resolve this, including tear strips and clever locking mechanisms that can improve the unboxing experience.
Speaking of unboxing, the experience you provide to your customers can add some real magic to your brand and products.
At the very least, consider internal print on your eCommerce packaging. But you can go much further than this.
Consider packaging inserts to display the products upon opening or recessed foam for a luxury appearance and feel. You could even develop the pack so consumers retain it for storage of the products on an ongoing basis.
When used alongside your company branding or a seasonal theme, this can delight your customers and drive loyalty moving forward.
Having already touched on how consumers dislike receiving packaging that is too big for the products within, your packaging can exacerbate this further if it is not easy to recycle (or has to be split into its component parts before doing so).
Consumers of all ages and demographics now demand much more sustainable packaging and products. This expectation is particularly true at Christmas (which many consider extraordinarily wasteful and excessive).
If consumers perceive your brand as not environmentally friendly, it is highly likely to harm your sales in the long run. Yet showing your concern for sustainability – for example, using FSC-certified packaging – can be a real plus for many customers.
It happens. Even with the best will in the world, products can arrive damaged, not be exactly what the customer was looking for, or even be completely different from what they ordered (although hopefully only on rare occasions!).
Whilst many businesses now have robust returns policies, many overlook that shoppers usually send back unwanted products in their original packaging. But can this survive another trip through the transport network?
If not, you may end up with many damaged items that are no longer fit for sale, resulting in significant costs to your business (and undoing the gains you may have made over the festive period).
Christmas packaging supplies
Christmas packaging supplies include your limited edition promotional packs, eCommerce boxes, postal packs and other retail packaging. Secondary packaging must not be overlooked either, including tapes, void fill, labels, document wallets, bags and so on. You may also need cardboard POS stands and other promotional display items.
It is vital that you pay attention to every area of your packaging.
It is surprisingly common for businesses to have sourced plenty of boxes for the festive rush, only to run out of tapes or void fill. Both of these can have disastrous effects on how well your packaging performs in transit – especially if you use any available substitute you can source at the last minute.
Ensure you purchase all your packaging supplies in suitable volumes for your forecasted sales performance.
Staff training (including temps)
How your staff use your packaging can have a significant impact on its success.
Selecting the right sizes. Using the correct void fill. Packing the products correctly. Even knowing where to find supplies if they run out.
Put simply, comprehensive training for your staff helps your packaging operations run as smoothly as possible.
It is also essential for any temporary staff that you employ to benefit from at least some basic training too – something which many businesses often overlook.
Staff efficiency (packing)
Following staff training, you can also assess how efficiently they pack your products. Making gains in efficiency before the rush of orders can help the entire process be much more successful.
It is worth considering packaging that can aid your staff, too. For example, you can use crash lock boxes to eliminate taped closures (vastly speeding up packing times). If you must use tape, is gummed or self-adhesive tape quicker? Could you use self-locking boxes with tamper-evident labels?
You should consider all these points well before the Christmas rush highlights any inefficiencies in your packing processes.
Similarly to how your staff use your packaging, you should also consider the environment in which you ask your employees to work.
Well-thought-out packing bays – with all of the items required at hand – can make packing times significantly quicker. Having extra supplies stored nearby (rather than on the other side of your warehouse) can also help, as can a comfortable environment that does not cause excessive fatigue.
Order picking and fulfilment
Taking the efficiency of your packing a step further, the organisation of your stock – and how you store it in picking bins – can significantly impact how quickly you can process orders.
Whilst not strictly packaging, stacking pick bins, pick walls and other similar storage can help better organise stock and minimise the time spent retrieving items ready to be shipped. And the addition of temporary picking bins can help add extra storage capacity for peak season.
Successful order picking is a topic all of its own, however. If this is an area you feel you can improve, you may find this guide on tactics to improve your picking performance useful.
Holidays and staff absences
Understandably, people want to spend time with family and friends at Christmas, so your business may face staff shortages despite being the busiest time of the year.
What is critical, however, is that those responsible for packaging – ordering it, monitoring stock levels, selecting the right lines, quality checking, etc. – are not out for periods that can affect your operations’ success. Or, if they are, you sufficiently train their colleagues to pick up these tasks.
Reward your team
And finally, remember to reward your picking and packing staff.
Setting sensible and achievable targets can help motivate employees and lead to surprising gains in productivity. Couple this with activities that can boost morale (such as free food or drinks, Christmas events, and competitions) can all motivate employees to work harder and more accurately.
A happy workforce is a productive workforce.
Handling extra stock
As mentioned right at the beginning of this guide, an increase in orders around Christmas also means a requirement for handling and storing more stock. Both products and packaging.
One way to mitigate this challenge is to use temporary picking bins.
These can be manufactured from a material such as Correx® or cardboard and positioned on aisle ends and other areas where you have spare floor space. You can then use these to store additional stock or to reorganise your inventory so that popular items are quicker to pick.
Managing transport requirements
Due to inflation and the resulting fuel prices, transport is likely to be costly this year. As such, it is essential to maximise its efficiency wherever possible.
Strategies include using packs that are size-optimised for transport (i.e. avoiding sending large packs which take up unnecessary space) or even considering standard sizes such as Royal Mail PIP boxes, which can help minimise costs.
It is also essential to manage customer expectations concerning delays and ensure that your picking and packing are not a factor in causing extended fulfilment times.
And finally, another factor to consider is handling the amount of your packaging that customers may return to you.
Can this be reused for additional deliveries? Where should it be stored? Do damaged or tatty-looking boxes just need to be recycled?
Basically, it is vital to have an end-to-end strategy for your packaging supplies – all the way through your supply chain and back again.
Getting help with your festive packaging and preparing for Christmas as a retailer
There are many factors to consider regarding your business preparations for Christmas, even when just focusing on packaging alone.
And whilst it may be cutting it fine, if you are struggling to source your festive boxes, promotional packs, retail packaging, eCommerce supplies or even point-of-sale stands, please get in touch with us at GWP for assistance if required.
And finally, everyone here at GWP wishes you a merry (and busy) Christmas (trading period) and a happy new year!