© Zalando

© Zalando

Growth in online trading benefits packaging industry

Lots of cardboard, not much content – for good reasons!

April 2015 – The online trade is booming, and the rising demand is also benefiting manufacturers of paper and cardboard packaging. After all, large numbers of products are shipped in cardboard boxes. Quite often, however, packaging seems far too bulky and disproportionate in relation to its content. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund believe that there are good reasons. First of all, there is the stackability of packages during shipment, secondly money can be saved by producing large quantities and by using packaging machines for standard-sized boxes, and thirdly, it is to the consumer’s benefit if products are well protected.

Cartons – packaging of the future

A representative survey has shown that packaging in online trading is, on average, twice as large as the goods it contains, and it often happens that the proportion of air is as high as 80 per cent. However, the resulting space is not left empty. To ensure that the consumer receives an impeccable product, the space is filled with crumpled newspaper, high-quality foam, polystyrene chips and wood shavings.

Quite a few industry insiders believe that cardboard boxes are the packaging of the future. They can easily be folded, they are lightweight, yet they are nevertheless extremely robust and indeed recyclable and therefore highly sustainable. However, the competition is not far off. Clothing and, quite often, also food is increasingly wrapped in film and bags. PE flat bags, for instance, provide protection, while also being lightweight and easy to dispose of, which makes them ideal for the shipping of textiles. Moreover, they are freeze-resistant and thus also popular for use with frozen food.

Perfectly packaged © Zalando

Almost 50 per cent returns rate

A large proportion of shipping cartons in Germany contain returned products. The fashion mail order company Zalando – according to its own figures – receives back four fifths of its shoe boxes with their original content, Otto has a returns rate of about 50 per cent, and experts believe that Germany’s nationwide share for textiles is over two thirds. Nevertheless, online traders are finding this business worthwhile, particularly in view of new requirements that have been in force for cancelled mail order deliveries since June. Customers in Germany now need to comply with EU directives and are required to state in writing why they are returning a given product. Moreover, they must also bear the cost of postage, even if the goods value is above EUR 40.

Yet some online traders only insist on this right if they suspect fraud, e.g. if the security tag is missing or if there are signs of wear and tear. Not surprisingly, therefore, the returns department at Hermes runs three shifts six days a week, as more than 50 million products pass through the hands of 1,200 employees at their Hamburg facility alone.

Shipping cartons are popular advertising media

Nevertheless, measured against Germany’s nationwide sales total in the packaging sector, the proportion of pure packaging as such was relatively low last year. The industry has therefore set itself the aim of further improving cardboard boxes – by increasing its load-bearing capacity even more and particularly also by using its surface as advertising space. Just under a third of all traders have already recognised the marketing value of shipping cartons and are printing logos or advertising messages on them.

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