The antiques trade throws a myriad of shapes, sizes and materials onto the packaging table. So, how would you package these two pieces of ceramics for shipping?
Packaging. Not the most riveting of topics, but I have been surprised that there isn’t a bit more information to be found about it online. In the past couple of years, as we have been building our e-commerce antiques shop—Parade Antiques—it has brought a whole new set of challenges with regard to getting a wide variety of items from our shelves in Southern England to customers all over the world.
The main obstacles to balance are package security and cost. You want to ensure your parcel arrives safely and undamaged, but going overboard on protection can lead to heavy parcels. This in turn can dissuade customers from paying high International shipping costs. Getting this balance right leads not only to happier customers and better feedback, but ultimately a fine reputation for delivery standards.
The antiques trade throws a myriad of shapes, sizes and materials onto the packaging table. Our website spreads them between antiques, art, china and glass, jewelry, militaria, toys and silver. The majority of this can be treated similarly, so I will begin with our standards.
Small items may not need a box, but they do still need protection. Mount the item on cardboard covered in bubble wrap.
Small items may not need a box, but they do still need protection, if you plan on sending a gold necklace or Albert watch chain, do not simply stuff it into a padded envelope. Instead, mount it on cardboard covered in bubble wrap. This keeps it together, ensures it will not get tangled and, when opened, the presentation is pleasing to the customer. That is just as important as anything else.
Bubble wrap is a cheap and effective protector of everything. Indeed, it is rare an item is sent from our office without a coating of it. Not only does it provide a soft cushion, it keeps items from rubbing and stops any of the additional packing materials cluttering the piece. It also gives the recipient something to play with when the item has arrived safely. This, used in conjunction with “wotsits” or void-fill peanuts, should be sufficient in almost all cases. There will, inevitably, be exceptions, and I will try and tackle these by example, giving an option for most challenges. Perhaps a general overview of what you want to protect against may be useful.
This will not apply to hardy items such as woodenware or metalware, but could easily ruin the arrival of a precious Georgian silver teapot or a Chinese blue and white bowl. To avoid this, it is often best to use a slightly over-sized, sturdy box and ensure it is always snugly full of peanuts. This is a staple and, in fact, should always be adhered to. If your item moves when the box is shaken, you need more stuffing. The item should be suspended in a polystyrene matrix with no room to move. There is a simple reason for this, if the item can move, it can be broken. If the box has the opportunity to be compressed it will invariably take it. A rigid box is a safe box.
Bubble wrap, used in conjunction with “wotsits” or void-fill peanuts, should be sufficient in almost all shipping cases.
Make sure to make the package as “Fragile,” even though the only person who pays attention to it may be the customer.
Include promotional flyers to encourage repeat business. This is a customer you already know is interested in your wares.
This is surprisingly difficult to protect against and bubble wrap alone is not sufficient. I suppose this is most relevant when sending art or glass and ceramics. If a box is mishandled, heaven forbid, and thrown onto the corner of another box in the back of a van, you want to ensure no damage can come of it. The simplest solution to this is more cardboard. Yes it means more weight but when your package is fragile, the added weight is worth it. Wrap your item in bubble wrap as you would and then fold in cardboard before bubble wrapping again. I have tested this on cheap bowls and it can be dropped onto a hard edge without damage, even without its box. Put this in the normal peanut-filled box and you should be covered. Artwork is always a slight thorn, as you can be assured finding a box to fit will take more time than painting it, but it is important to apply the same rules. Making sure it does not move inside the box, making sure it is protected from puncture and crush damage and making sure its value is worth the time and effort you have to put into the packaging of it.
Also, you might consider a few unnecessary but aesthetic additions:
• We use a final wrapping in craft paper; this weighs next to nothing but gives neatness to any box;
• An address stamp with the sender’s details and the use of “Fragile” stickers. I say this last point is merely aesthetic, because I’m fairly certain the only person who pays attention to it is the customer.
• The inclusion of promotional flyers. Promote yourself to customers you know are interested!
There are simple steps everyone can achieve to ensure a safe parcel, at minimum cost. Spend on the bubble wrap, it doesn’t cost the earth, but try to save on recycling boxes. Every business recycles the boxes they receive for deliveries, but instead of it going into the green wheelie bin out the back, try to get them into your storeroom. All boxes will have a use and the more you have the more likely it is you will find a good fit for your item. This is what you want: a well-fitted box, full of wotsits around a snugly bubble wrapped item.
Rob Morrish is the Online Sales Manager at Parade Antiques in Plymouth, Devon, England. Since launching the website two years ago, he has had to pack and send more varied items than he would care to remember. Keep up with the goings on at the shop and around Plymouth on the Parade Antiques Blog.
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