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Hardware products renovate with packaging

Packaging seen at the National Hardware Show ranged from consumer-friendly packaging for data comm products to innovative film cubes for potting soil. The softer side of hardware was seen in a trend toward products packaged for females and light do-it-yourselfers.
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At the National Hardware Show packaging helped differentiate adhesives electrical outlets paint batteries (see story page 38) grout potting soil and dozens of other products from their competition.

From clear thermoforms for data communication electronics to colorful flexible film cubes for dirt packages at Chicago’s McCormick Place in mid-August showcased different plays on packaging. Including several products that recognized the importance of reaching female consumers through friendlier graphics and squeeze packages.

In short there was something for everyone at NHS for professionals handy men handy women and do-it-yourself (DIY) wannabes.

‘Smart’ packaging educates DIYers

Amid the growth of home PCs and offices Pass & Seymore/Legrand Syracuse NY launched this summer a “Home Network Wiring How-To Center” of data communications products such as outlets and phone jacks. The packaging and the point-of-purchase display attract and assist DIYers. Many of the line of more than 40 products are packed inside two-piece friction-fit thermoforms made of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) from Blue Ridge Packaging (Simpsonville SC). Manually inserted inside the thermoforms along with an instruction sheet is an informative icon-heavy 18-pt C1S SBS graphics card insert. The colorful inserts which emphasize the company’s logo are printed in six colors by Snyder Packaging (Concord NC) located a short distance from P&S/Legrand’s packaging operations in Concord. From a production standpoint the strategy was to minimize tooling and labor costs says P&S/Legrand manager of packaging Brian Abbott. The solution was to use two easy-to-assemble friction-fit thermoforms for each product. He tells Packaging World that RPET provides a thermoform cost lower than polyvinyl chloride and with clarity nearly the same. “We try to be environmentally conscious when we can” he adds.

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The packaging was designed by Sage Marketing Communications (Syracuse NY) and included key input from Eau Claire WI-based Menard’s a major Midwest-based chain of home improvement centers where the products were launched at 150 stores in June. The effort involves a repackaging for contractors as well as a launch into consumer channels. Plastic-bagged products carry a similar graphics scheme.

“Do-it-yourselfers and new-to-network contractors will find this packaging particularly useful since the ‘how-to’ is built right in” says vp of data communications Sue Smith.

Packaging includes step-by-step fully illustrated instructions while large icons on package fronts and backs help customers learn how to maximize product performance. The package back is printed with component lists to help consumers determine what they need for their project.

Film cubes unearthed

The Fafard Co. Agawam MA in June rolled out colorful space-efficient cube packages made of flexible film as an alternative to pillow bags and large stand-up pouches for its potting soil and seed starter products. It marks the second commercial example worldwide of the patented Lincube® from Linpac Packaging Solutions (Austell GA). The first was a bird seed launched early this year in the U.S. by Preen®-maker Lebanon Seaboard Corp. Lebanon PA says LPS (see PW March ’00 p. 10.)

A semi-rigid polyethylene ring welded inside the cube to each of the four walls gives the cube stability during filling. “Otherwise it would squish like a pancake during filling” offers Fafard sales/marketing associate James Kenney.

The 4-mil proprietary laminated Lincube structure uses an outer layer of Dow’s (Midland MI) metallocene PE resin flexo-printed in eight colors. The two top-end folds provide convenient hand-hold grips for carrying.

The premade Lincubes are supplied flat to Fafard. When filled each measures 8”x8”x6’’ and 9”½ x 9”½ x 8 ½’’ and hold 8- or 16-qt of product respectively. Fafard was set to install a 12 cube-bag/min custom filling/sealing machine in September at its plant in Anderson SC to upgrade from manual filling and semi-automatic sealing.

The Fafard brand is sold to greenhouses as potting soil and seed starter in 8-qt sizes; Majestic Earth® potting soil is sold in retail chain stores in a 16-qt size.

“Retailers love the shelf efficiency” says Kenney noting that a standard 4’ shelf facing can display nine pillow packs or 20 cubes.

PW has learned that the Lincube which has been six years in development is expected to be used before year’s end for other products including detergents and pet foods.

A softer appeal

In a presentation made at the show Home Improvement Research Institute shows that females are buying more products and becoming involved in more projects at a faster rate than males while the number of DIY products purchased by males is declining. In 1999 the percentage of women purchasing products reached an all-time high of nearly 38% vs 62% male.

Not coincidentally several companies were debuting packaging that showed that hardware didn’t have to be “hard.” The idea is to appeal to what Columbus OH-based Elmer’s Products’ hardware category manager Donna Sue Ayouba refers to as the “softer” side of the market. This group comprises the “DIY challenged—people fearful of complicated or hardware-looking types of products” she tells PW. “Typically they would not consider going to a hardware store or home center.”

In response Elmer’s launch of 20 new items included those it describes as easy-to-use solutions for projects. Indicative of this approach is Elmer’s fix it myself™ quick repair line of four products.

With the help of Beakbane Marketing (Toronto Ontario Canada) the standard Elmer’s product design that Ayouba describes as the “top one-third white with a big Elmer’s logo and orange closure” has been replaced by a look that she says is more descriptive and impactful. “We wanted a three-second bright and colorful appeal not dissimilar to those that jump off the shelf in the beauty aids aisles.”

The “fix it myself” products are sold in 3-oz low-density PE tubes including products repackaged from 6-oz LDPE tubes. Although not targeted specifically at females Ayouba emphasizes “female hands are smaller so it’s easier for them to handle and squeeze the 3-oz size. The simplicity of the design enables easy product identification so that consumers can instantly see that it’s grout or other product.”

Priced at around $2.49 the products would potentially fit in as well in a Lowe’s home center as at an Albertson’s grocery store or CVS drugstore notes Ayouba.

Late last year Elmer’s also repackaged its “gun-less” Squeez N’ Caulk from an opaque 75/8-oz HDPE bottle to a semi-transparent LDPE bottle of the same size that the company blow molds itself. Priced at the same $2.99 the caulk has been joined by a Squeeze N’ Grout unveiled at the show.

“Like our tubed products the product is much easier to control in the [LDPE] bottle. As a female I had not been able to evacuate that HDPE bottle of product” she points out. “This is a nice squeezable bottle.” Other than equipment adjustments Ayouba says the resin switch was transparent to Elmer’s blow molding machines.

Colorful tubes

Another company taking a softer tack for product packaging is GE Sealants & Adhesives Charlotte NC a div. of GE Silicones. The company will launch in early 2001 an eight-item line of “Home Solutions” sealers sealants glues and caulk. The colorful 5-oz squeeze tubes eliminate the need for a gun or other dispensing mechanism. And the design offers consumers quick project identification selection and competitive differentiation on retailers shelves. A shelf display the company previewed for PW ahead of the launch was a rainbow of tube graphics in colors including pink and purple atypical in these types of products. The LDPE tubes are supplied by Cebal America/Pechiney (Norwalk CT).

Company spokesman Steve Peace terms the nontraditional graphics as “female friendly.” The company describes the approach as a “softer consumer-friendly packaging that directly targets light DIYers and women.” GE cites a U.S. Census Bureau report showing that more than 57% of single women now own their own homes leading more women to take an active role in home-related purchases.

“There is a huge segment of the population not being addressed through current products and packaging in the market” says product manager Jim Meagher. “We think Home Solutions will be successful in the DIY arena because of the overwhelming response that [we] received after a variety of focus groups.”

The National Hardware Show & Building Exhibition is sponsored and conducted by the American Hardware Manufacturers (Schaumburg IL).

See sidebar to this article: Lenticular: Imagery in motion

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