Will there be a cardboard crisis this Christmas?

It may be the height of summer but we’re already thinking ahead to winter. If you’re an online retailer, the chances are, you’re doing the same. But rather than focussing on what you’ll be selling, your thoughts may be turning to how you’re actually going to get your products to your customers. We still find ourselves in the grip of a cardboard crisis and the latest information suggests that the next six months are going to be just as tough. So what can be done?

Did how we shopped last Christmas contribute to the cardboard crisis?

As you would have guessed, we all took to the internet for our festive shopping in 2020. UK Finance said that 33.8% of the value of ALL credit and debit card spending was online. This was an increase from 28% the previous year. To put that into perspective, Christmas online spending totalled £27 billion in the UK, and interestingly 43% of global online purchases were made from smartphones. This was against a background of continuing uncertainty as we headed towards a ‘segregated’ Christmas.

Stunning silver Zigglefil - eco-friendly void fill

Stunning silver Zigglefil – eco-friendly void fill

What this meant was that the majority of gifts and presents found themselves delivered to relatives and loved ones in cardboard boxes and packaging courtesy of the retailer’s courier network boxes rather than in person.  Many consumers took advantage of gift wrap options where available and that’s something to keep in mind for this year if you’re an online retailer and not set up for this Christmas, you can see some gift wrapping and product presentation ideas here. Many were sent to the buyer, re-wrapped and then re-posted out again to relatives in time for Christmas. This kept cardboard out of circulation for recycling for even longer and the increased demand depleted already dwindling supplies.

The Recycling Association reported that there were an extra 200 million home deliveries over the festive period. All this additional activity and use of cardboard boxes have all played their part in the cardboard crisis we find ourselves in now. There are further reasons that contributed to this situation and resulting price hikes which you can read about here.

The cardboard crisis affecting and driven by eCommerce

Just looking at Royal Mail parcel deliveries alone, nearly 500 million parcels were delivered in the last quarter of 2020, an increase of 30% on the previous year. And as we head into 2021, there are indicators that this trend will continue with 46% of shoppers purchasing items such as clothing and accessories online, as well as electronics and beauty products. The way we shop and what we now shop for online has changed forever and this, in turn, means an ever-increasing demand for cardboard boxes.

When you throw sustainability and consumer desire for eco-friendly packaging into the mix,  corrugated cardboard and paper packaging ticks all the boxes with 66% of online customers preferring to see their orders arriving in paper packaging.  And a very telling statistic shows that the packaging used for online orders can make or break future orders with 44% stating they would consider shopping elsewhere if their chosen retailer was not actively reducing their packaging’s environmental impact by using cardboard and paper packaging.

And when you look at the recycling rates, corrugated boxes are recycled more than any other packaging material, it’s easy to see why this is the consumer’s top choice and will vote with their ‘online feet’ accordingly! Consumers want to do their bit and expect the brands they shop with to do the same.

What’s the cardboard crisis forecast for Christmas 2021?

Our suppliers had already warned us that getting hold of paper in this second quarter of this year is going to be more challenging than at any time before in this crisis. We were in rather a better position having secured plenty of stock of eco-friendly packaging in anticipation of launching our new NEST eCommerce packaging range. 

Christmas is such an important time for retailers and their customers and if you’re sending fragile items such as glassware or delicate gift items, you’ll want to know that they will arrive in perfect condition, especially if you’re looking at trying something new to send it in.  Asking for free samples is a great way to see the products and do some testing. Any good supplier will be happy to oblige and we have certainly completed our own testing to ensure our products perform, have good functionality and will become a real asset to the production line and the boxing-up process.

So what are the indications for cardboard box supply for Q4?

It would seem there will be no let-up to the current cardboard crisis and is predicted to worsen as we head through the final 6 months.  As we go to press, there is nothing on the horizon that indicates prices are due to come down.  This is the general consensus coming from the paper mills and suppliers we are in contact with and work with. This will obviously be a concern for online retailers who are looking for ways to mitigate losses due to cardboard packaging shortages with the double-whammy of price hikes.

Working collaboratively with a trusted packaging supplier is the best way to navigate this cardboard crisis. Ask them about alternative ecofriendly innovative products and ensure that they perform as well as their plastic counterparts.  Trying something different is a good way to find plentiful supplies of stock. It could make all the difference to your preparation towards successful Q4 sales.

You can take a look at our entire eco-friendly packaging NEST range here to see full pricing and usage ideas. And if you would like some free samples to do your own testing, please just pop us a request using the form below.

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