Puma’s Clever Little Shoe Bags

Discussion
Apr 22, 2010
Bernice Hurst

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

And so another old friend may bite the dust as Puma announces a new design
for its shoeboxes. In the future, customers will receive shoes packed in “cardboard
frames wrapped in reusable shoe bags called the ‘Clever Little Bag.'”

Introduced and illustrated on the company’s website, the new design should
start appearing in the second half of next year.

The Daily Telegraph reports the footwear maker expects to eventually
save 8,500 tons of paper each year, cut its carbon footprint by saving 20m
megajoules of electricity as well as reducing by 60 percent the water and energy
used during production. This expectation is tempered by an admission from Puma
chief executive Jochen Zeitz that although the “switch to sustainable
packaging will be cost neutral in the mid to long term … the packaging
would impose higher costs in the short term because sustainable materials still
cost more than unsustainable materials.”

Puma boasts that the new design is a result of “more than 2,000 ideas
and 40-plus packaging prototypes” considered and rejected during a 21-month
development period. And despite initial additional costs, the fact that the
new style will ultimately be both “eco-friendly” and “sustainable,” apparently
resolves company concerns.

“Boxes are everywhere, boxes have been
around longer than the wheel, our lives are filled with them, we work in boxes.
For a long time boxes made our lives easier. But at some point boxes became
a problem,” as Puma’s statement explains.

The Telegraph bemoaned the demise of cardboard shoe boxes used as “mini-depositories
for love letters, bric-a-brac and photographs … leaving attics around the
world … significantly messier.”

But famed industrial designer Yves Behar, who led the packaging redesign,
said in a statement that he hopes others follow their lead.

“Puma’s initiative to look closely at one of the most challenging issues
facing the retail industry in regards to sustainability and environmental harm
was inspirational,” said Mr. Behar. “In changing the packaging and
distribution life cycle from the ground up, we hope our new design and comprehensive
solution encourages other retail companies to follow suit.”

Discussion Questions: Are consumers ready for reusable shoe bags to replace
cardboard shoeboxes? What other products do you think may significantly change
traditional packaging styles?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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23 Comments on "Puma’s Clever Little Shoe Bags"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

Of course they are ready–it isn’t 1960 anymore and reusing a bag makes more sense than recycling a box.

I expect that we will continue to see innovative packaging centering around a handful of simple ideas–reuse, material reduction and/or recyclability.

Kevin Graff
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

Love it! In fact, whenever I buy shoes I leave the shoe box behind in the store for them to deal with, hoping that enough of us do that they’ll get the point. Look around and you’ll witness a lot of efforts (not enough, but a lot) being made to reduce useless packaging. Good for Puma to recognize the need / opportunity, and create such a cool commercial too. More should follow.

Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

It’s hard to tell whether “sustainable” packaging will resonate with Puma’s customers. There’s nothing wrong with thinking “outside the box” (so to speak), but Puma also needs to make sure that it’s not substituting clever packaging for good product development and brand positioning. It’s also possible that consumers actually like those cardboard boxes as a way to keep their shoe wardrobe organized, instead of having piles of “clever” shoe bags sitting on the closet floor.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

I’ve never bought shoes based on the package they come in. Sometimes I’ve just worn the shoes home and left the box there. I think this is much ado about nothing. I didn’t even know Puma was still around. I think Puma should be more concerned about why I haven’t given them a thought in years instead of sustainability and environmental harm.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
11 years 15 days ago

Well, schools everywhere will have to give up on shoe boxes as a supply item if this catches on, but I’m sure they’ll come up with some clever ways to re-use the bags. Look for an article on such uses in Real Simple sometime soon, I’m sure.

As for the larger question of, Does Puma get karma (or brand) points for this? As Apple has proven over and over, people appreciate good design. If it’s clever, it’s reusable, and it’s ‘free’, then that sounds like a win to me!

Marge Laney
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

Ok, sure, get rid of those nasty carbon spewing, tree killing, non-PC shoe boxes. But, what about the huge secondary market for shoe boxes? How about all of us who use shoe boxes to store a litany of items from important documents to priceless personal mementos? What are we going to do? Oh right, we’ll go out and buy “storage boxes.” On the other hand, I can hear a collective “HURRAY” from all the parents of grade schoolers who will no longer have to stay up until midnight making shoebox dioramas! It’s always a good thing for a business to reduce waste and save money, but be honest about it and call it what it really is.

Ron Margulis
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

The one thing I worry about with this and other changes in packaging is the impact on supply chain efficiency. If the primary packaging for shoes or bottled water or consumer electronics changes, then in nearly every case the secondary packaging needs to change. In some cases, even the tertiary or transport packaging needs to change in order to maintain the integrity of the unit load being shipped. For instance, when some producers in the bottled water industry removed plastic from the primary packaging and the cardboard trays from their secondary packaging, unit loads had to be reconfigured so there wouldn’t be any product damage. What’s more, stacking unit loads more than two high became problematic due to the lack of reinforced packaging.

So, changes in the primary packaging made for sustainability reasons could result in the secondary and/or tertiary packaging having to be strengthened to maintain the integrity of the unit load. This may offset the gains from the changes in the primary packaging.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 15 days ago
This is a neat concept, will get some media attention, and we all agree efforts toward sustainability are very important to pursue. But–from a practical standpoint how do they expect retailers to stock and display the Puma shoe inventory? Every shoe department I’ve ever worked in or managed has shelves onto which shoe boxes are stacked one on top of each other. Even the newer warehouse shoe store designs these days stack towers of shoe boxes by style and size out on the floor for self service. The cardboard frame in the clever bags looks far too flimsy to hold up to any stacking whatsoever. This bag may work fine for online orders but did they give any thought to the impact on brick and mortar retailers and how they may have to adapt their backrooms and selling floors to accommodate these bags if they are Puma dealers? Also, I would add that many of us ladies like to stack and store and protect in their original boxes shoes that we don’t wear every day–probably… Read more »
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
11 years 15 days ago

Very nice idea. Too bad they are only reducing cardboard use by 65% because of the insert they are still using. Although cardboard is recyclable where I live, my guess is about 25% of cardboard packaging gets recycled.

The larger problems that need to be addressed by consumer products companies include better education of consumers on the importance of recycling of all materials, and the reduction of plastic packaging, which is a much bigger problem for the environment and the oceans in particular.

But, this is a nice effort by Puma and they should be applauded for it! If they can reduce costs and help the environment at the same time, what’s not to like?

Ayat Shukairy
Guest
Ayat Shukairy
11 years 15 days ago

It’s about time! I’ve never liked the shoe boxes and have felt they are a waste of money and resources, not to mention bulky! The bags are brilliant but quite overdue. I would be quite surprised if this had a negative impact on their sales. If anything the company will be saving money and the environment because of this effort. They’ve scored points with me.

Harvey Briggs
Guest
Harvey Briggs
11 years 15 days ago

This is one of those great innovations that makes you slap your forehead and say, “duh.” It’s so obvious now that they’re doing it, yet the conventions of the category kept anyone from seeing it before. Brilliant.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

This is a bit of a segue; but the topic brought it to mind. I recently returned from a conference. The second day keynote speaker was Blake Mycoskie, Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS Shoes. His story of how TOMS started and has grown is incredible and certainly entrepreneurial. My question then is if a start up company can be as successful giving a pair away to a needy child for every pair sold; what does that say about the mark up factor in the industry? Certainly it is not all in the box that, as someone said earlier, is not even a necessity.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 15 days ago

No more shoe boxes? What will my kids use for arts and crafts? Where will I put all my Blue Jays World Series Champions trading cards? What will I put on my feet when I wake up?

Just kidding. This is an awesome idea from a brand that needs a little revitalization. Don’t forget, we have to pay 5 cents for every plastic bag here in Toronto (and most of the suburbs) so getting a reusable bag anywhere you go is a great idea. I like the name too. It’s clever, like the bag.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

Much ado about nothing as far as selling more shoes. Who cares what the box or the bag looks like? If the shoe feels good or makes me feel good, I buy it. Box, bag, wear it home or just put them in the shopping cart.

Nice way to turn nothing into a PR story.

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

I wouldn’t call them “brilliant,” as some others here have, but the Puma shoe bags do look like a positive, incremental innovation in sustainability.

To me, that’s the real key to progress on resource use and carbon output–steadily chip away at the problem through small, repeatable improvements that add up to a hill ‘o beans. The best ideas will catch on and be copied.

Oh. Did I mention I like the idea of having shoe bags to keep my clothes clean when I travel? A clever way to keep me interacting with the brand long after the sale.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

More than once, I’ve been told that, by leaving shoe boxes with the retailer post-purchase, I was forfeiting the option to return the shoes later. Good for Puma for stepping out. Now if we can only get retailers to stop using shopping bags, tissue, plastic hangers for every purchase big and small. One step at a time….

Sid Raisch
Guest
Sid Raisch
11 years 15 days ago

I love what Kevin Graff said about leaving the boxes at the stores. Getting rid of shoe boxes is an irritant that calls attention to my wife’s purchase of shoes for herself and the kids. Talk about an irritation worth getting rid of! I don’t want to be reminded about the money going out as the shoes come in.

The shoe industry should jump all over this one. Until then, I’ll buy into Kevin’s idea and ask my wife to just leave the boxes with the store. Maybe they can work out a deal to get their shoes in bags from the manufacturer and just reuse the boxes to make their shelves stack up all nice and pretty….

Stacey Silliman
Guest
Stacey Silliman
11 years 15 days ago

Shoe bags are wasteful too! You can purchase shoes at Target and other mass retailers and place them in a reusable bag and not have to worry about any cardboard or any waste! Most shoes do not require protection. Once they are on our feet, we’ll hammer them until they are not wearable. Sneakers are tough and durable.

So Puma–sorry, it doesn’t win a ton of kudos from me. Whether you are producing boxes or bags…whatever–it’s all waste to promote your brand! We need to do better with our resources and train ourselves to deal with less waste matter. Happy Earth Day!

JoAnn Hines
Guest
JoAnn Hines
11 years 15 days ago

Happy Earth Day! I love the Puma “rethinking” the box example. In fact I just used it @ NCOF.com as an example of creative thinking in engaging and retaining brand awareness though product packaging. It’s an excellent example of how the industry should consider ways packaging can be reduced through innovation. I’ve seen many great packaging concepts on paper that are long on realistic implementation.

This is definitely a step in the right direction since Timberland introduced their version of eco-friendly packaging back in 2006. Time will only tell how this interfaces though the shipping and distribution channels. Consumers will vote with their pocketbook if they like the innovative concept. If the sales are strong the rest of the packaging, shipping, and distribution problems will be solved.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

The comment was offered–perhaps facetiously–that this will reduce the supply of (former) shoe boxes that are useful for all kinds of other storage uses, but I think it illustrates one of the major problems with these (allegedly) green efforts: understatement of costs and overstatement of benefits; why, for example, is this “saving” tissue paper? Why will tissue be any less needed than it is now, and if it’s not needed, then why is it used? And then there are the other logistics issues commentators have brought up.

Of course a cynic might argue this has little or nothing to do with sustainability, and more to do with gaining positive press and building sales for a moribund brand…”going green” in another sense, if you will.

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 14 days ago

Great idea that everyone should be following! No one writes love letters — we text, video or IM them! Photos are also disappearing as we store these on the internet, in our digital photo frames or in the cloud! Shoe boxes as a storage for shoes is inefficient and a waste. Shoe boxes as a storage for anything else is a crazy reason to keep making them for shoes. Go Puma!

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
11 years 14 days ago

I LOVE this! For people like us that leave the boxes at the store, this appeals to our core values and the Puma brand gets big brownie points. This is also likely to appeal to the demographic that they go after, which is not most of us commenting on this article; it’s the young hipster Millennial. They are doing an important thing for all of us retail people, which is showing us that you can think different and there is a way to get around all of the old guard that tends to poo-poo anything new and unique. Good for them!

William Passodelis
Guest
11 years 20 hours ago

I think this is a really great thing for PUMA to do. You could use the bags for so many things and you could use them to protect the shoes when you are traveling.

Having said that, I couldn’t care less about the packaging when I purchase shoes. I know what I am looking for when I buy a pair of shoes whether for sport activity, work, leisure, whatever…and what they are packaged in is not even in the thought process. I also usually leave the box for the store to deal with.

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