March 26, 2020
I feel funny writing an “important” message to you about the packaging industry as all of humanity wrestles with the reality of the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope that you're well, staying safe and finding joy during this strange time.
Now, let us move on to our regularly scheduled packaging message.
2020 has presented the retail packaging market with significant challenges, such as:
Extreme demand on paper packaging – especially shopping bags – as a result of plastic bag bans
Supply disruptions on foreign produced products
The ongoing and uncertain effects of the COVID-19 outbreak
I can’t tell you how often I write the words, “We’ll be here for you when you need us.” This message is written because you probably need us right now without knowing that you do.
Now, in case you decide to stop reading soon, I want to make one very important statement:
More than ever before, it is vitally important to pre-order your packaging. A time could come (and in some ways, already has) where your orders may not be fulfilled within a timeframe that is acceptable for continued steady operations.
I will openly acknowledge that forces are currently moving faster than ever and it is hard to keep pace. We really are in an unprecedented market situation. Things will settle, but I do not expect that to happen this year.
Please see the following recommendations as it pertains to packaging.
Order for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters now! We can take orders now and delay delivery dates. Think of this like making a reservation for a hard-to-book vacation destination.
The standard lead time for custom made, imported packaging is 13–17 weeks. It is wise to think of U.S.-made packaging as having similarly long lead times. I reiterate that you can place orders and assign later delivery dates. Conversely, you cannot require speedy delivery dates.
Know your state and community laws as it pertains to plastic bags. Know how your state and community defines a reusable plastic bag. Specialty Box does not favor selling plastic reusable bags over paper shopping bags. However, Specialty Box does want to make sure that all of its clients remain well supplied. Paper prices are getting higher. Paper lead times are getting longer. More importantly, the ability for U.S. manufacturers to meet this demand is going down. There are multiple U.S. paper bag suppliers that will not accept new business at this time. I’m happy to say that Specialty Box, with 60 years of service, has long established relationships with our paper suppliers. As long as orders are placed early, we are confident that we can continue to be a helpful paper packaging partner. That said, if you are comfortable ordering reusable plastic bags then you may enjoy some savings while lowering your likelihood of being disappointed by a very volatile paper market.
If you are ordering paper shopping bags, we highly recommend moving to simpler prints. There is a much higher capacity for one color prints than there are for multiple color prints.
If you are ordering paper, it is wise to attempt to consolidate bag sizes. This helps to lower prices and improve lead times.
If you are ordering paper, it is wise to order common sizes. Here are some of the more frequently produced sizes: 5x3x8, 8x5x10, 10x5x13, 10x7x12, 13x7x13, 16x6x12, 14x10x15.5, and 14.5x9x16.25.
If you are ordering paper, it is wise to order for 18 – 24 months. There was a time when I recommended ordering a maximum of 12 months at a time. However, ordering in higher volumes provides a double reduction in price (volume discounts, plus the avoidance of future increases that will come). Also, ordering in higher volume helps you to deal more easily with unpredictable lead times and a volatile paper market.
Specialty Box & Packaging considers it an honor to be your packaging partner. Please let us know how we can be of service. And more importantly, please be well, stay safe and find joy.
Please let us be there for you when you need us.