When a company's offerings are valued as much for the containers as the products inside, undamaged delivery takes on added importance. Add discriminating customers and the problem is compounded.
Dallas-based Lady Primrose produces a collection of more than 200 bath and home products that are favorites of celebrities, heads of state and royalty. The products were initially developed by hotelier Caroline Rose Hunt and business partner Vivian Young as guest amenities for Hunt's Rosewood Hotels and Resorts properties.
The lotions, soaps and gels proved so popular, Lady Primrose began selling them at retail. Today, Lady Primrose's seven product lines are carried by approximately 2,000 retail locations nationwide, including exclusive boutiques and gift shops in other hotels as well as high-end department stores like Neiman-Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. The products are also available by phone and online.
A distinguishing feature of Lady Primrose's products is how they are packaged. The products are contained in beautifully designed receptacles made from exquisite crystal, imported glass, silver plate or other fine material. Each item is a gift within a gift. Because the containers are costly and fragile, Lady Primrose pays extra attention to how items are packed for delivery. The challenge was to create transport packaging comparable to primary packaging.
"Some of our products are so small,” says Rose Sturdivant, warehouse manager, Lady Primrose, “we could have several hundred dollars of product in a box. I've done everything I can to get our product to the customer in one piece."
Lady Primrose packs each canister in a case box, then a master carton. With most shipments consisting of multiple pieces of different sizes, the need for effective void fill is crucial.
The company started using expanded polystyrene (EPS) for packaging. In a small facility, however, there wasn’t enough room to store packaging material. "We weren't able to store the [EPS] peanuts. The material was all over the place,” says Sturdivant. “It took valuable time to clean, and we were always cleaning. In addition, our customers didn't like the mess created by EPS."
The company also tried encapsulated air type wraps. As the number of shipments increased, however, wrapping products became too time consuming. Managers also noticed an increase in product damage during shipment.
Packaging material distributor Crown Packaging introduced Lady Primrose to Ranpak and its patented three-ply paper packaging system that converts rolls of Kraft paper into protective cushions. The entire packing job is done on the packaging floor, thus reducing the need for storage space. The system also eliminated the cleanup associated with other dunnage material. Ranpak's PadPak cushioning pads can be recycled along with corrugated or newspapers.
As a test, Sturdivant asked Ranpak's package engineering group for help with one product that had proven particularly prone to damage -- a crystal candle on a pedestal. She also had some concern about whether the paper packaging would be acceptable to her discriminating customers.
"Ranpak shipped the pedestal candle without damage," says Sturdivant. "The paper pads protected the product and made a nice presentation on the receiving end. We did more testing on some other pieces and contacted customers who really liked it. Ranpak did a cost analysis that showed us how we would save money as well."
Lady Primrose initially installed two Ranpak AutoPad systems and later added two more. The AutoPad units are compact and flexible enough to be adapted to any plant environment. The machines met the company's space and throughput requirements. As the business flourished and performance expectations increased, it became clear to management the company's 17,000-square-foot warehouse would not be adequate. The company moved to a 70,000-square-foot facility. Since space was no longer an issue, management reviewed its packaging options.
"We contacted customers and they really liked Ranpak pads better," says Sturdivant. "Many of our customers are small, high-end boutique stores. The last thing they want is loose fill all over the floor. They tell us the pads are much easier to handle, and they like the fact that they can be reused to ship products on to their customers."
Today, Lady Primrose has four dedicated operators using six AutoPad machines to process about 3,000 shipments per month. The overall operation works so well, Lady Primrose now does contract fulfillment for other companies.