Let’s face it: packing a point-of-purchase display is often an afterthought. However, packing can make or break the success of a POP display program. In this blog, we’ll discuss the importance of packing retail displays and offer some lessons we have learned.
Invest in the Right Packing Solution
Most of our customers don’t spend much time thinking about packing requirements for their point-of-purchase displays. Making sure your display is properly packed is one of the most important elements of a successful display program. Failure to ensure safe packing can be very costly and can result in program delays and retailer dissatisfaction.
Packing materials can be expensive, and in our experience most customers prefer to have their limited budgets allocated toward the POP display rather than the packing. That makes sense, but a beautiful display that gets compromised in the shipping process is likely to be less effective in selling your product.
Key Packing Questions
In thinking about what packing materials are necessary, there are a number of important considerations:
• Will your display be shipped fully assembled or knock-down?
• How will your display be shipped- on pallets via LTL or in boxes via UPS or FEDEX?
• What materials were used to construct your display?
• How heavy is your display, and what does each box weigh?
Shipping Displays Fully Assembled vs. Knock-Down
If your display is shipping assembled there is a greater likelihood of damage and therefore it is important to make sure all parts are immobilized and there is adequate protection on all sides of the display. Knock-down displays also need to be carefully packed, but generally parts of a knock-down POP display can be packed in such as way that the risk of damage is less. It also tends to be less costly to ship knock-down displays since they can be packed with greater space efficiency than assembled fixtures.
Shipping on Pallets vs. Regular Ground Service
Shipping your display on pallets is the safest option in most cases, and it’s not always as expensive as you might think, particularly when you factor in possible oversized box charges. When your display is packed on pallets, it is important to ensure that there is no overhang beyond the footprint of the pallet since forklifts and other material handling equipment may cause damage. We recommend corner protectors since the corners are the most vulnerable part of the packing (This is also true for boxes that are not shipped on pallets.).
If your display is shipping assembled on a pallet, you can cover the entire display with a large box, but we sometimes find it more effective to forgo the box and wrap it with shrink wrap while ensuring that the vulnerable parts of the display are well protected. If the people handling the pallet can see the contents of the pallet they tend to be more careful than if they have no idea what is on the pallet. Furthermore, if an assembled display is boxed on a pallet and the pallet is cross-docked, it is more likely that the transportation company will try to double stack the pallet which could result in damage.
If the display is shipping in boxes to a retailer’s distribution center and will subsequently be delivered to store locations on company trucks, you may be able to get away with a little lower quality box and possibly less protection inside the box. However, if your display is shipping via UPS or FEDEX, it is important to make sure your packaging is battle-ready.
Over the years, we have had significantly more damage with UPS than FEDEX, which could be a result of the type of material handling equipment they employ. Both FedEx and UPS have strict guidelines for packaging in order to qualify to make a claim (for example, click here for FedEx’s guidelines). Prior to a big shipping program, we recommend that you get FedEx or UPS to approve the packaging in advance to ensure it qualifies for making a claim. You can do this by simply contacting your account rep. Also, be sure you are aware of the time period within which claims have to be made.
Consider Display Materials When Determining Packing
Your packing appro packing-(3)ach will be determined in part by the types of materials that were used to make your display. For example, acrylic displays or displays which have high acrylic content need to be packed very carefully. We typically recommend foam on all 6 sides inside the box. Unless you are using large blocks of foam, it is important to separate the acrylic from the foam with plastic wrap since the foam tends to stick to the acrylic which causes frustration and added time during the unpacking process. Display fixtures made of MDF can succumb to shipping abuse if not properly protected, particularly on the corners. Injection molded parts and metal parts tend to require less protective packaging, but metal parts should always be separated by plastic or corrugated material inside the box so that the powder coating finish is not damaged by metal parts rubbing together. If metal and acrylic are shipped together, it is important that they are separated inside the box so the metal parts do not damage the acrylic. Most damage to wire and sheet metal happens on the ends, and lighter gauge wire can easily damage with inadequate protective packaging.
Why Weight is Important in Packing
It is also important to consider the weight of your display and the weight of the boxes. We recommend limiting the weight of any box to 65 lbs. Boxes that are heavier than 65 lbs. tend to incur more damage since they are too heavy for most people handling the boxes, and they tend to get thrown and set down a lot harder as a result. Another very important consideration related to weight is the dynamic load of the box or the pallet. In determining the right packing materials and approach, most people do not consider dynamic load. The dynamic load is the load that is put on a box or a pallet when force is combined with weight. So, for example, if a truck is carrying a heavy box and stops quickly, the force combined with the weight creates significantly more stress on the box than just the weight of the contents of the box. The principle of dynamic load is routed in physics and can be responsible for a lot of shipping damage if it is not accounted for in packaging. Light-weight boxes are far less vulnerable to dynamic load, but if they are not packed using strong enough boxes they can be easily damaged if heavy boxes are stacked on top of them.
Selecting the Right Corrugated Box
To ensure your display arrives safely, it is also important to pick the right type of corrugated material. You don’t want to spend too much on a box, but you also want your fixture to arrive undamaged. There are 3 factors to consider in selecting the right corrugated material:
• The bursting strength
• Edge crust test
• Flute type.
Based on our overseas manufacturing experience, the quality of the boxes coming out of China is inferior to US-quality boxes. Moreover, during ocean transit boxes can absorb moisture so a lot of boxes that leave China in good shape ultimately get compromised after a 2-week ocean journey. For fragile items, we recommend either over-packing the units in China or repacking them when they arrive in the U.S. or the destination country. It is possible to get higher quality boxes in China so we always specify U.S.-quality boxes if we know the units are going to be shipped via UPS or FEDEX.
Helpful Packing Tips
There are a number of other tips related to proper packing to ensure your point of purchase displays arrive safely. A few examples include:
• Use “Fragile” and “This Side Up” stickers for added safety.
• Conduct a drop test on your packed unit prior to shipping to see if there is damage.
• Perform a test shipment to your furthest destination to see if your unit arrives safely.
• Use bright stickers or custom box printing to help retailers identify your boxes in their distribution centers or stores. For example, Toys R Us has typically required bright green stickers on the outside of their fixture boxes. Similarly, we printed custom candy cane-striped boxes for a Kimberly-Clark display project to ensure Wal-Mart store employee employees could easily find the display.
We can’t stress enough the importance of proper packing. When selecting a POP display company, be sure they have the right packing experience and are taking a thoughtful approach to packing your display. If you are bidding a display project to several POP suppliers, be sure to compare quotes on an apples-to-apples basis by understanding each firm’s proposed packing solution.