‘Tis the season to be way ahead of the game

In shops and supermarkets across the country, shoppers can often be heard grumbling about how quickly seasonal gifting lines switch from one significant date on the calendar to another. No sooner has Christmas been cleared away than Valentine’s Day appears, quickly followed by Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day, Halloween and back to Christmas again.

It’s a hamster wheel we’re very familiar with here at Herbert Walkers, because we deliver a lot of gifting projects, including confectionary, drinks, biscuits and cosmetics. And if consumers think lead-up to these gifting opportunities starts well in advance of the date, they ought to see our schedule!

For us, Christmas is done and dusted in the summer, and Easter is through the door by December. We are meticulous about ensuring we have the brief in plenty of time to allow options to be discussed, samples to be produced and signed off, and full production to be delivered, including all quality control processes. It’s vital that we work to strict deadlines like this because, for every day a seasonal product is not on shelf once its competitors are in store, the brand or retailer is losing potential sales.

The lead time required for seasonal products depends on what’s involved in the project. If the customer is launching an entirely new line with a new pack format and design, we need to build in additional time for developing and testing the carton and agreeing the board and finishes that will be used. Even if the product is using an existing pack format with new artwork, the development time can often be counted in months not weeks, as we work collaboratively to agree the right board and finishes, bringing fresh ideas to the table for how to balance the required aesthetic and quality with commercial and supply chain considerations.

For example, a recent Christmas confectionary line involved a holographic foiled snowflake. Using holographic foil would have been cost-prohibitive for the product so we developed an alternative approach using textured dies, custom-cut and CNC engraved in-house by the Herbert Walkers team, to replicate holographic foils using standard foils. This is just one example of the need to factor development time into the critical path for seasonal projects, to ensure the product still appears on shelf in time for the peak sales period.

Of course, as a packaging print specialist with joined-up, under-one-roof delivery, one of the key advantages we can offer customers is accountability for delivering within the scheduled time frame. Because we can bring multi-disciplinary expertise to the project early, we can factor in any design or technical challenges and work around these. We also have more control over each process, in terms of both workflows and quality assurance, avoiding the potential for any delays due to outsourced services, transportation or quality control issues.

Our expertise also means that we are able to advise customers on cost effective options for achieving their seasonal products on time and within budget. One of the challenges that every brand and retailer faces when planning a seasonal line is predicting sales volumes to ensure that they neither run short, nor are left with an expensive surplus of seasonal items after the season has passed.

There are two key ways in which we can help with this. The first is to provide an agile approach to responding to requirements for additional orders of a completed seasonal pack project, using board and materials that have been pre-ordered for contingency. In this way, customers can reduce their risk of unsold seasonal items while ensuring they do not miss out on potential sales.

The other approach is to create a sleeve that can be used along with a standard box or carton.  This enables the same core packaging to be maintained all year round with a variety of seasonal additions that can be added or removed from packs as seasonality moves on. It is a strategy that reduces financial risk and provides a cost-effective upgrade from standard line to seasonal favourite.

Ultimately, the success of any seasonal pack or gifting item is all about early engagement with our customer. If we know what they want to achieve and identify any technical or supply chain challenges early, we can factor them into our design development, quality assurance and project delivery timeline to ensure our customer benefits from every single day of potential seasonal sales.

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