Antalis Packaging has worked with a leading British supermarket chain to develop an innovative packaging solution for TV returns saving the retailer hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.

With a number of customers returning TVs to store with minor product issues within the warranty period, the retailer was faced with the challenge of managing an incredibly costly returns process.  The onward process of sending faulty or damaged TVs to the returns centre, often without the televisions’ original packaging, meant that whilst some TVs left the supermarket for the returns centre as a high value re-saleable item, they would arrive as completely non-sellable due to further damage incurred in transit.  

Antalis Packaging, the leading supplier of innovative protective packaging solutions, began working with the supermarket chain to provide online packaging solutions in early 2016. The team became aware of the issue with TV returns and partnered with them to create a solution to protect the product in transit back to the return centre.

Scott Byrom, key account manager for Antalis Packaging, comments: “As part of our contract with our client, we supply packaging for a whole range of products, including TVs. After we came on board, the issue with TV returns was coming to a head. Both ourselves and the retailer knew there had to be a way to reduce the damage, and consequently the cost, through a better packaging solution.”  

Early investigations quickly identified that the boxes being supplied for television returns had been the same for a number of years. With five different size options, the boxes were designed for the old CRT TVs but were being used for today’s plasma screens. For the store, those boxes were the only means of packaging for the TVs to be returned to the return centre. This often resulted in four or five TVs being placed in one box which frequently smashed or damaged the screens. 

Scott Byrom continues: “The packaging brief very quickly became clear. The new packaging needed to fit individual TVs now being sold with sufficient internal protection for each model. We requested a breakdown of the smallest to largest TV dimensions, as well as annual sales of the range, to highlight where we first needed to focus. 50” was the most popular TV so that was our starting point - we created a standard packaging solution for that model and then adapted it to suit all other configurations.”

Four box sizes were determined to fit the range of TVs, within which the internal protection solution was a polyethylene foam - a dense foam product which can be used to make bespoke shapes to create end caps, protecting the product from any drops or other impact. As well as being able to cushion the TVs, a removable foam piece was designed to fit the plug as, all too often, a loose, exposed plug in the box has resulted in a smashed screen. Once outer box sizes were correct and foam inner fittings deemed suitable, a trial was launched in one of the store’s branches. 

Scott Byrom comments: “The trial was imperative and something we recommend with all customers who look at introducing a new packaging solution on a larger scale. It’s essential to see the product in action but also to engage with the people who handle it to understand the challenges and conditions within which the product will be packaged. We spent time with staff to understand the resources they had, how they currently did things and any ideas they had to improve the process. This sort of collaboration is imperative when trying to instil a change.”

Antalis worked with the in-store team to look at every step of the current process to send TVs back to the return centre including how they were placed on the pallet (face up or face down), other items being sent back at the same time and any potential impact this might have, for example, unnecessary weight bearing. These investigations revealed that, as part of their logistics network for food, clothing etc., they used a ‘comp’ in-store, i.e. a cage on wheels. The store had these in abundance and Antalis began to explore with the retailer’s employees if these could be used, instead of pallets, to transport the TVs. 

Scott Byrom adds: “The comps had three metal sides providing good protection, plus they wouldn’t get dropped or moved by a pallet truck. After a little trial and error we found that four TVs in their redesigned boxes were a perfect fit. Following our in-store trial, we also printed FRONT and BACK on the TV boxes in bold letters to ensure the screens faced forwards and towards the inside of the cage. Further reminder instructions were also printed onto the boxes to make sure all contents were enclosed and secured to the unit.”

After a six week project, the final boxes were supplied across stores nationwide. Feedback so far has been positive, and it’s win-win from the retailer’s perspective. The TVs are arriving at the return centre in the condition in which they left and resale volumes are considerably higher. Although the packaging is more expensive, it has the potential to save the company over nine times as much as the incremental spend each year. 

Since the roll-out, the team at Antalis has visited over 30 outlets across the country to continue looking at individual store processes and engaging the staff in the new packaging approach. A staff training video has been created to assist with the process, as well as a full support document to help trouble shoot during the transition. Unsurprisingly, the project has led to other areas of opportunity within electronics with the Antalis team now looking at microwaves, another source of concern for the retailer.      

A representative for the retailer comments: “Antalis has developed a robust cutting-edge solution that goes a long way in protecting our customer returns of TVs back through our delivery network.  The team were clear about our objectives and were sensitive around the costs to develop them.  The solution offers a significant reduction in associated damages and will set the standard in the future.  They were a real pleasure to work with and we’ve formed a relationship from which I hope further packaging solutions will evolve to meet the demands of our fast-moving business.”

Scott Byrom concludes: “The whole process, from identifying the issues together, understanding the root causes, designing a solution fit-for-purpose and, critically, working with the people affected to embed the solution into the business, is indicative of the way we work with many of our customers. Product damages are costly, from both a bottom line and reputational point of view. Investment to understand what is going wrong and why, with a resulting solution, bespoke if required, will always deliver value in the long run.”  

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