Monday, August 01, 2011

Change Ain't Always Good

The biggest thorn in my side in this business is packaging. Or changes in the containers and doo-dabs that I use to package my products. Just when you think you've got it all figured out and stream-lined, something goes belly up.

This week it's those dang slidey lip balm tins. Something on the manufacturer's side changed, and the new batch of tins I got last week was different. I noticed it was a little harder to slide the top on while I was making up a bunch of new flavors for the Bellevue show (on Thursday afternoon just before I headed out the door to set up for the show). So I knew something was afoot, but I had to take them out on the road anyway.

Almost everyone who tried to slide them open to get a sniff of the flavor had trouble with them. It was awkward. And not fun. Because most of my flavors are the older style tin and are so easy - they just glide and snap like a breeze. But the new ones don't "pinch and pull" the same way. They have to lift and slide. I've opened like a hundred now and even I still can't quite get it open easily. Imagine it in the hands of the little girls who want to try the Raspberry Soda or Root Beer. Lids are on the pavement. Little fingers are in the balm. And I'm standing there trying to explain it all, feeling foolish. Bleh.

So now what? It's the same old question. Do I spend a lot of time trying to find new ones just like it that work better? Do I change the container altogether? I've had those things for years and years. Customers won't recognize a tube-like thing. And I've got all those darn labels made up already. Changing them means throwing out money on the labels. And there's no guarantee that another supplier will have something better. They probably all come from the same place.

It happens constantly. The (fill in the blank - ribbon, bottle, label size) suddenly isn't available any more. Or out of stock for months at a time, during the whole busy summer season, because a container from China is lost, stuck in customs or whatever. The manufacturer went out of business. The supplier discontinued carrying them, and nobody else has them. It's all the same. A headache.

I'm taking them out to Anacortes this weekend because I have to. People expect them. They come to stock up. They recognize them instantly - I've had those same tins for a dozen years now. And if it's like last weekend and they struggle with the lid, ultimately tossing it back instead of deciding to buy it because it's just too darn hard to open? then they are toast, people.

I added the lip balms to my line mostly so that all the young girls who come to sniff the soap, but don't have enough allowance money for soap bars, will still have an affordable little something to buy from me. Girls just lurve them some lip goop too. They can never have enough. So it's been all good. But it's a lot of work to make all those flavors and not a lot of profit in it.

I'll just have to think about it another day. My brain hurts right now, going around and around. It's MONDAY. This kind of stuff is too much for a Monday after a long 3-day show weekend.