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Sales Trends That Make Independents Shine

By Joseph M Palmeri

June 4, 2019

width=225This issue of BoxScore is focused on sales, design, and marketing trends affecting our industry. There are certainly many, because sales opportunities change every day with the fickle ways our customers’ customers demand their products. In this letter, I want to look at two trends that I have noticed over the past few years that give us independents a leg up on our competition.

The first is a renewed demand for environmental sustainability. We saw the first salvo of the sustainability battle a dozen years or more ago, when Walmart issued its first sustainability manifesto. Our customers flocked to Bentonville, Ark., to fill the retail giant’s demands—and our industry followed, buoyed by the knowledge that our products were renewable, recyclable, and reliable in Walmart’s vast supply chain.

As Walmart ruled the retail environment then, Amazon does now, and we’re seeing a renewed emphasis on being environmentally conscious. Though overall sustainability has always been a concern, we used to have much more leeway regarding protective packaging. That meant if you needed to use other packaging materials such as foam to get the job done, that was fine. Today, more and more customers are requiring the packaging to be 100 percent recyclable, outside to inside. We have been told by many customers, and by all that sell via Amazon, that foam is no longer an option. Everything must be 100 percent recyclable, which is great for our industry and a new challenge for our designers as they focus on inner packing and protective elements of the interior of the box. Better designs mean increased sales.

The second trend we’re seeing is a continual decrease in order quantities customers are requesting in the quote and in the order size being produced. Customers want smaller quantities with more frequent deliveries. You can handle this the traditional way by filling up your warehouse with finished boxes and releasing smaller quantities to your customer, or by getting better at running small quantities more often. We have tackled this in our Jamestown Container Cos. system by focusing on our setup times and the efficiency of our material handling, moving work-in-process through the plant more quickly, or redesigning items to limit the number of moves among machines in the first place.

Both of these trends—the renewed focus on sustainability and the reduction in order size—play to independents’ strengths. While our larger competitors focus on longer runs to feed the demand posed by the Amazons of the world, it is we independents who will be redesigning and running the more sustainable corrugated inner packing that online consumers are demanding. And those smaller order quantities? Well, we’ve been doing that for our customers ever since our company was founded in 1956, and we’ve been improving on that model ever since.

Look at your business mix in light of these two trends, and I wish you higher profits as a result!

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Joseph M. Palmeri

President, Corrugated Packaging, Jamestown Container Cos.

Chair, AICC