23 May 2010

Gift packaging – important and appreciated, or plain wasteful?

This subject comes up on craft selling forums on a regular basis and there are as many differing opinions on it as there are posters responding.

It seems to be an age-old and perpetual dilemma between creating a good impression, getting items safely and securely to your buyers, not adding to the cost for your customer and in also being mindful of the planet’s limited resources.

Some sellers feel that creating a good impression when buyers open their goods is vitally important and the presentation of your goods is one of the stages that just needs to be done right, along with prompt communication, good products and excellent customer service. Which is my view too. I feel that if you are proud of your work, it should be presented with care and I take that a stage further by hand making all my presentation materials too.

My jewellery is presented, wrapped safely in 2 wraps of tissue paper, inside my own made gift envelopes. I make a variety of sizes and colours and dress each one individually.

I think that people buy artisan made and hand crafted goods because they want something special, that bit different and I think that personal attention to the customer should be a part of that experience. After all, if they just want a pair of earrings to match an outfit, they can easily pick something up with their grocery shop and I’m sure that many people do just that every day.

I make my gift presentation materials myself. There is a downloadable tutorial below for the envelopes and a tutorial for the ribbon rosebuds was added later here on the blog.

But if they bother to look on-line and want something a little more unique, they probably expect to pay a little more for it too. But they also expect quality, craftmanship and when buying from an independent artisan, probably do so because they enjoy that direct connection with the artist that created the piece – and expect a little personal service. And as such an artist, it’s important to me to give it too. I want to give the type of service I’d like to receive.

I make my own small swing tickets to hang on each piece with the materials used and my logo and web address. They’re linen textured card and each one has a string of natural coloured glossy linen thread.

But for every seller that wants their customer to have a thoroughly pleasant experience, there is another who claims to throw everything away that comes in the parcel and say they won’t buy from you as you’re clearly wasteful and inconsiderate of the planet. I think each seller just has to do what they think is right for their business – the approach that sits most comfortably with them and is appropriate for their product and their chosen niche in the marketplace. I have carefully designed my packaging materials to give my customers a safely packaged item, that looks nice, is considerate of the planet’s resources and doesn’t add excessively to the cost of the item for the customer.

My outer mailing boxes – shown here assembled, but not taped – once they are sealed, they are very rigid and protect the contents well. They are thin enough to be posted as a large letter.

In fact, my current system, of packing pieces in flat hand made envelopes, then putting these securely in rigid box mailers, actually saves money as it ensures they go as large envelopes, not packets, a postage saving on each parcel of £0.76 from the outset – much more difficult to control and predict with padded bag mailers. The boxes themselves cost only a few pennies more than a bubble mailer, so save a worthwhile amount on every item I send out. I further save by making most of my presentation materials myself, which I think is appropriate for the hand crafted experience customers expect and appreciate. The feedback from my customers endorses my approach, the quality of my packaging is mentioned often.

Most of the material in my parcel is paper based, so can be recycled – and some items in themselves contain recycled material. Many of the ribbons I use are re-purposed from other packaging and I have quite a lot of vintage ribbon from a former family business and my own haberdashery shop. I actually only use a small length, per item and think my presentation strikes a good balance between achieving an attractive appearance without using too many wasteful materials – the resulting total weight of the parcel is also a factor when considering postage costs.

My items are wrapped in tissue to protect them in transit and inside a gift envelope. Each piece has a care leaflet outlining the materials used and how to care for them. I include my own made business cards and one of my photo greetings cards in which I always hand write a note. Where appropriate, I also include polishing and storage materials.

I think the product itself also strongly influences your approach – a large piece of glass or ceramics, or a large art canvas clearly has differing considerations from a pair of earrings and direct comparisons clearly can’t be made.

But as a jewellery maker, I fully appreciate that nobody needs my items. They’re not essentials, they’re a luxury purchase – and a luxury in difficult financial times. Whether the customer is buying to wear themselves, or as a gift for someone else, I think their trust in you should be rewarded with the best possible service you can give – across the board – from the quality of your workmanship, communication, speed of service and presentation.

I’m currently making my own full colour business cards as I can just print as many as I need and can vary the designs with what is current in my portfolio.

They want their items to arrive totally safely and in a timely manner, but also to feel suitably pampered by the experience. I love it when a customer says that opening their order felt like Christmas – that’s just how I want them to feel. That’s how I’d like to feel too.

So I make no apology for making the effort to present my work nicely. I’m proud of my work and take pride in presenting it to someone. I thoroughly appreciate all of my customers and it genuinely gives me great joy to think that it might just put a smile on their face when it arrives.

A selection of typical presentation materials I use when sending out orders.

Gift envelope tutorial to download:

I sell a tutorial on Etsy for an origami gift box and have always included a bonus section within this on how I make my own gift envelopes, as illustrated above. I’ve spent some time over the years in perfecting my methods to make them as efficient (in both materials usage and wastage-prevention and in time that they take to make) and attractive as possible, so thought I’d pass on this experience. They’re incredibly simple to make and only need a suitably heavy paper, scissors, a straight edge (or I use a scoring board and tool) and some suitable glue or double sided tape. I’ve included some tips on sizes and how to get the best results.

The tutorial has been extracted and expanded on a little from my single bonus page with the box tutorial and is available to download from here. It is 635Kb in size and available as a pdf document. If you click the link, it should open in your browser and you can save it to your hard drive from there. Please do not re-distribute this file (or printed copies of it) without permission or make it available to download anywhere else. Please direct people back to this post, so that they’re sure to get the latest version of the tutorial.

8 thoughts on “Gift packaging – important and appreciated, or plain wasteful?

  1. Thanks Kalorlo – I’m delighted to hear that it has been useful. I use the envelopes for most of my orders going out and perhaps could do with a making session soon myself.

  2. Just popping in to say I used this today! After having the tutorial sitting on my computer for quite some time… I needed some small packaging for a ring topper that was going to the US, I had some white heavyweight paper and fancy ribbon, and it came out looking rather lovely.

    Thanks, Boo :)

  3. Thanks for the info about the labels i will check them out, your cards are lovely, well done on making them by yourself.x

  4. Thanks Eve. I have Moo cards too, but I’ve done my own recently because I have materials on hand and like varying them with what’s current. My labels are from Able-Labels, but there are a lot of artisan makers on Etsy etc. for something a bit more stylish.

  5. Wow this all looks great, i love your cards, i order mine from moo, which i really like the quality of, but i have been looking for sticky labels,that print your name etc, which place to think is best?

  6. @ Fiona – the tutorial for the gift envelopes is free and linked at the end of the article. The one I sell is for folded gift boxes.

    @ BBB – thanks, the boxes have been smashing, they’re just perfect for the things I send out and once taped closed, very rigid and robust.

  7. I appreciate people’s concerns about packaign and I do re-use most of what I receive through the post in one way or another.

    I love to receive a beautifully wrapped package. Additionally i have to say I really really like the boxes you used. I was pleasantly suprised by just how much they can contain and that they also protect the contents.

  8. What a well thought out and inspiring post in many ways. It makes me a) want to buy some of your jewellery and b) package my own stuff better and c) buy your tutorial. I’ll be along later in the week to do that. many thanks.

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