By Christine Bockelman
NEW YORK-- Textiles companies are rethinking how they present their products, with many stepping away from the standard vinyl bag and more closely examining consumer needs.
Welspun USA has come up with three new packaging design innovations, all designed as practical solutions to problems encountered by the typical textiles consumer. There's sheeting, for instance, that comes in a book-fold-style package, which opens up to offer lots of surface space for inserts and product description.
Part of the motivation for the redesigned packaging came from consumer focus groups, said Bob Hamilton, director of marketing for Welspun.
"There's a mystery around bed linens," Hamilton said. "Women don't know how to fold a fitted sheet or what thread count is. We as an industry do very little to address what isn't known. We tell consumers it's 250-count, supima cotton-good luck. If you bought a home appliance, you'll find a booklet comes with every single one, explaining how it works, when not to plug it in."
Welspun's packaging inserts are pragmatic, using simple, straightforward language to explain issues with the product, such as laundry instructions, and featuring small icons to introduce customers to attributes with the product's trim and finishing.
Hamilton said the book-fold style is only slightly deeper than traditional packaging, and the added bulk is largely due to the additional layers of plastic and cardboard.
Welspun also developed new packaging for bagged bedding.
"We reviewed what's available in the marketplace, and realized that it's difficult for consumers to determine pattern and color if the bedding is folded into a small cube and then covered with a big piece of paper," Hamilton said. "How can you show the product in a better format?"
Welspun's answered that question with its new Hang Ups and Down Unders bags. Both are taller and narrower than standard packaging, allowing the consumer to see more of the product. Both also help consumers deal with storage issues in their homes.
Hang Ups can be hung in the closet; Down Unders slide beneath the bed.
Eco-friendly products are another reason companies are taking a closer look at packaging. Sleep Studio, which makes a mattress pad that replaces many chemicals with natural renewable ingredients, is trying to stop using large cardboard in favor of smaller vinyl bags. The idea is that not only will people reuse the bags, and toss the boxes, but that "the bags also take up less shelf space, and can be shipped more compactly," said Chris Ann Ernst, co-founder and vice president of the company. Also, consumers can reuse the bag to hold sweaters or other bedding, but would most likely just throw away the box.
Columbine Cody has been shipping its organic Nurture bedding in a fabric drawstring bag, modeled after the cotton flannel bag the company did years ago for its cotton flannel sheeting. "We're creating options to help us differentiate with the customer," Lemansky said.
Homestead is also taking a serious look at green packaging, especially for it's eco-friendly textiles. The company conducted a major survey of packaging alternatives, and is investigating greener options, said David Greenstein, chief executive officer.
At the retail level, Kmart's relaunch and redesign of its Martha Stewart Everyday products included some heavy consideration of how consumers shop for textiles. Guiding customers through the attributes of the line's three collections was important, said Jennifer McGran, divisional vice president, Kmart. Each collection has different colored labels and data strips on packaging that clearly explain product features and benefits.
"We're thinking the way the customer is thinking," McGran said. "We wanted to put it all together so she didn't have to think so hard."