Elusive Empty Boxes

Once your carefully selected gift items are beautifully displayed in your store what do you have? Empty boxes. No problem, lets just put those away neatly in the back. Now when an item sells we can offer to get the box for the customer. What great service! So we step away from the register and head back to get the box. Not to be seen for 5-10 minutes. Where is that box. It’s got to be here somewhere.

When Elaine and I first came to our store one of the details that eluded our attempts to find an effective solution was handling the empty boxes for items. What we found out was that for the 30+ years it had always been a problem but that there was really no way to fix it. Over the years lots of ideas had been attempted to no avail. The current practice was to organize them by vendor. That works out well until you find out you have 70-100 empty boxes from some vendors on hand at any given time. Next we tried to organize it by the department. It seems logical, this item was in the baptism section so the box would be in baptism box section too. Except we have hundreds of items in the baptism section each with their own empty box.

When a search took a long time sometimes a second person would go “help look”. Then, if needed a third. Almost always the box was found, but rarely was it found effortlessly. I recall one particular day where I figured out that accounting for staff time it cost almost $10.00 to find a box. Not a good plan for making a business healthy. One option many stores employ is to simply buy new gift boxes, perhaps embossed with the store’s logo. If that fits your marketing strategy and budget constraints you have a great solution. But we wanted to use the box we had already paid for from the manufacturer.

Finally a Great Solution

We were stuck trying to find a solution because we made an incorrect assumption about what was a logical grouping for boxes. We were thinking about the vendor, the type of product, the section of the store, the size, when really all that any of these boxes had in common was they are empty. And generally, they had a bar code.

Now it made no sense at all to try and organize all our boxes in sequence by the 12-13 digit bar code. In a stroke of inspiration one of our staff suggested we just use part of the bar code, perhaps the last numbers. I ran a frequency count on the in-stock gift items and estimated we would be able to limit groupings to under 20 items if we used only the last two numbers of the bar code. A new system was born.

50 Large boxes with the tops cut off were arranged to hold the empty gift boxes A large label was made for each “holding” box starting with 01-02 and continuing up to 98-99. The boxes were sequentially arranged on a self unit and every empty product box was sorted into its appropriate “holding” box using just the last two numbers. Who cares who the vendor is, just mix them all up, who needs them to be standing in cute little rows, drop them in the big box (the holding boxes will look tidy in a row).

Now when we offer to get a box for someone it takes only a moment. An unexpected bonus was discovered when we found it was much easier to locate a particular vendor’s box when there were perhaps only one or two of their boxes in any big box. In addition we would have a good idea of the size of box we sought so it was easy to zero in on the most likely suspects in any big box.

The system has been in place for a year now and it has been a dream. It was great to resolve this time consuming and frustrating problem. It is now amazingly easy to locate a box or to put it away. Perhaps your store could benefit from this method of organizing empty boxes. I know ours did.

Additional details

  • Some boxes are too big for this system. They live on their own further down our shelves Still grouped by the last couple of digits. The number range of those areas is larger 01-20 through 81-99
  • The “holding” boxes we use are 20x18x24 W-H-D. We cut slots to create an easy grab spot on each box.
  • When we cannot find a box in the correct box we quickly look in its neighbors just in case we carelessly put it away.
  • Depending on the number of total boxes you need to organize, you can adapt the rage of last digits for each “holding” box