Going Retail Raises New Problems
Being environmentally responsible is one of the fundamental goals of 6d6. Admittedly, we are in a business that involves working with metals and that carries a fairly heavy environmental cost but apart from that, we wanted to be as green as we could. Even if it made our products more expensive.
Our focus on online sales made this easy. We could reuse Jiffy-bags and use bio-degradable padding (popcorn or Rice Krispies). Our mail-order business was cheap and had a low carbon-footprint.
However, going into the retail market has change this.
When selling a product to a retailer, how it is packaged matters. Obviously a used Jiffy-bag packed with stale popcorn would not work. Retail packaging needs to be attractive but it also has to be practical. It has to provide protection against damaged during shipping and during display in the shop.
The packaging should also be distinctive because standing out in a shop packed with other products is difficult. There is also the cost to consider. Retailers look for around a 30% mark-up, so for 6d6, this means a 30% price cut plus we have the cost of packaging to take into account. Finally, there is the environmental issues to consider. Unnecessary, unrecyclable packaging is one of the most pointless waste of resources going.
The traditional approach for miniature companies has been either a small clear plastic bag with a cardboard end-peice or a blister pack. Neither is environmentally ideal and neither reflects the distinctive 6d6 approach.
Ideally, we would have our own custom designed packaging made our of cardboard (strong and recyclable) but this requires massive production runs which means massive upfront costs. As we are only dipping our toe into retail, this is out of the question.
The solution to our problem was found on the shelves of our local craft store. It is a small (0.07 litre) plastic box. This is large enough to take seven or eight of our figures, it is robust, distinctive and a flexible solution. In fact it is an almost prefect solution except for two, not so minor problems.
It is expensive. The cost to 6d6 is about the same as a miniature to manufacture and that cost comes straight from our bottom line. The cardboard inlay need for product information is also time consuming to create as it has to be cut by hand. Both these problems will be reduced as we scale up our retail distribution but for now they are significant and we effectively make no money from our retail sales at the moment. However it is worthwhile because retail is another way of getting our name out to gamers and they path the way for more profitable products (e.g. modules) later.
The environmental cost is also significant. The box is made of Polypropylene, a petrochemical based plastic and not many places can recycle it. The idea of increasing landfill with our packaging does not sit well with the basic goals of the company.
On the plus side, the box is robust so there will be little waste through damage, and it is reusable. This is a big plus as reuse is generally better than recycling.
Nothing is Perfect
Whilst the magic box is far from perfect on several fronts, it is a good solution to our current situation. We will keep using it for the time being and as our retail distribution grows, we will continue to refine and improve our packaging.