Getting Retail Ready: The Art of Presentation
This article first appeared on the Renegade Craft Blog here
Between product and customer, your packaging is on the front lines, the last layer in their line of sight before a sale. It’s natural that retailers get obsessive about packaging, an area that’s sometimes overlooked by emerging designers (getting the product right is hard enough, no?)
So what advice do top retail store owners have about packaging? At SKUE, our online wholesale marketplace, we invite indie retailers once a month to share merchandising insights as they source products. We’ll use some of the products from these buying rounds as examples.
Let’s start with an item most of us use: cloth napkins. What could napkins, like these adorable ones by Chloe Derderian Gilbert, be missing? And let’s compare our thoughts with that of Kerri Lee Johnson, artist and owner of Oakland’s Marion Rose Workshop a purveyor of well crafted, American Made, heirloom quality products.
“Your packaging looks cute,” says Kerri of these napkins, “make sure there are care instructions either on the napkins or on the packaging.”
Kerri started the Plaid Friday movement (in response to Black Friday) to encourage more people to think more about shopping handmade products.
“The number one question I get when people are buying napkins are how should I wash these?” says Kerri.
Good to know!
Soap and body products is a fast growing category in handmade. We’re seeing interesting use of ingredients. Like the unique fruit/plant AND fun word, Yuzu. Lauren Shun of Yuzu Soaps has kept the packaging simple and functional.
“Nothing wrong with the current packaging per se,” says Matt Bissinger, owner of Maker and Moss, “but Lauren might consider wrapping these in a beautiful high quality paper, or perhaps a box that doesn’t appear quite so machine produced. Customers respond strongly to packaging and what is on the outside should be as enticing as what is on the inside.”
That would certainly drive up the price as well.
Maker and Moss is one San Francisco’s finest home design stores selling artisanal wares with an organic modern sensibility. While running the current store and previously Bae Home Design, Matt has seen all kinds of packaging and what customers respond to.
“I would encourage Lauren to think about packaging that better reflects the hand made organic quality of the product,” adds Matt.
Lauren Shun of Yuzu Soap agrees, and has plans to work on the packaging once she runs out of her current inventory of boxes.
Kate Silver of Home Body Boutique in Brooklyn’s Park Slope has some practical advice.
“Maybe have some openings on the packaging so customers can get the scent without opening (perhaps damaging) the box,” says Kate.
It takes time and lots of trial and error for makers to get the packaging right. Take this gold leaf adorned print design by Lisa Hunt of Lisa Hunt Creative.
“The pop of colors, organic geometric shapes and gold frame will appeal to our customers looking for original decor in their homes,” says Matt.
Lisa has gone the extra mile to get the presentation right in areas that few customers may even notice, like this embossed emblem in the corner.
Then there are things that may that may not be so apparent to makers customer ask about. And may be a mystery about where to call out in the packaging.
Jennifer Gaewsky of Betty Alida got everything right with her product.
“I love the originality of this and the pattern play is also nice. I love that it has a “stopper” so that the person wearing the necklace feels secure that they will not lose it.” says Giselle Gyalzen owner of Rare Device, a gift store/gallery in Alamo Square and Noe Valley and a huge supporter of artisans.
“I know one thing our customers will ask right off the bat is if the plating on the beads will rub off,” says Giselle.
The idea for this would be to either print it as packaging on the jewelry box. Or perhaps a note card inside.
While thinking about the product, it’s good to invest just as much time into the packaging which can at times feel like an afterthought. It can be an iterative process just like the product itself.
According to David Kelley, founder of IDEO, once you bring something to the world that’s a real thing, people are emotionally involved, they can react to it. They can tell you what’s wrong with it, so all you have to do is go back and improve it.
A great inspiring thought to leave you with.
If you are going to be a vendor at the Renegade Craft Fair Wholesale Market, hope these tips help to get your packaging right. And if you wish to participate in our next online buying round (that we’ll do along with our booth presence at at the RCF wholesale market), apply here. We hope to have all our fabulous buyers join us!
Vinit Patil is the co-founder of wholesale marketplace SKUE, where designers do wholesale with the universe’s top indie retailers.