17 Jun 2014.

Can packaging be an integral part of the sales concept?

By Damjan Geber, Creative Director in Brigada


By Damjan Geber, Creative Director in Brigada

Throughout the history of retail and retail spaces, packaging has been, along with quality, just about the only means of differentiating a product from its competitors. With the emergence of branding also emerged the need for packaging design that communicates all of the values intended for quality product positioning and sales, as well as the space in which it will be displayed.

It was no longer enough to have a good salesperson who the customer trusts and interacts with directly because, suddenly,  another version of the story reached the customer via new channels of communication and it needed to be transferred to the sales location consistently.


Coming up with packaging is today one of the basic parts of product development; It takes place in the early phases of brand development, but often separate to the concept of the retail space in which the packaging will be located. Such an approach is not necessarily wrong; however, a well-thought-out packaging design concept can become an integral part of the sales concept within the brand’s own store or in a multi-brand store. This also allows for significant savings to be made during the development phase.

Perhaps the best example of using packaging as an integral part of the fit-out of the retail space is the Swiss company Freitag which displays its recycled products (bags, wallets and the like) in their packaging, which is stacked along the walls of the store.

This does not only give all of their stores a uniform appearance, it also means that they are able to consistently follow their company philosophy, reduce rental costs (for example there is no need for a large storeroom), and reduce the costs, time and processes associated with fitting out retail spaces.


The retail space concept is thought out in such a way that the actual physical space is of secondary importance and is most often left in its original state, with only minimal necessary changes made.

Employees don’t take long to set up shelving that the packaging and products will be placed on, and these then become the display cabinets.  Their flagship store in Zurich is, after all, a pile of used shipping containers stacked in levels.

Premium duty-free products in airports make up an entire industry which has for many years successfully and consistently used packaging as a basic means of communicating quality and market position.

Specially designed shelves, gondola units or an entire store-within-a-store are integral parts of the development of new packaging for alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, perfumes and the like.


Specially designed bottles of well-known beverages or cartons of cigarettes are often the only promotional tools that are available, and would go unnoticed in the space if they did not have a strong presence. For this reason, the design of the promotional shelving or areas of the store become a key tool for rebranding or for promoting a brand new product, and is conceived parallel with the packaging development.

In the most demanding situations, packaging can be used quite successfully as the foundation for better positioning and for improving product perception, as well as for the basis for designing the retail space.

For example, Apple performed product development and developed its retail space concept at the same time as developing appropriate packaging for transporting and displaying its products.

From the largest computer to the smallest accessory, all products come in packaging that is of equal design quality.  The packaging is not only used to protect products during transportation, it is also used to build on the perception of product quality – both in the retailer where it is displayed and also well after it has been purchased.

Exclusive Room - Nespresso boutique in Munich, Germany

The Nespresso sales concept also reflects the importance of quality packaging, taking a necessary item (a container for ground coffee) and turning it into added value. The packaging for the coffee is thought of as something particularly valuable, something that does not need to be hidden in a box, but should be put proudly on display.

The entire sales concept was developed around these small objects in such a way that they build the space, using their shape, materials and colour.

Nespresso boutique in Munich, Germany

In most stores, it is the products that are mainly on display, with the packaging kept in the storeroom until it is needed for a purchase. However there is a whole series of stores which has, just about entirely, if not entirely, decided to get rid of packaging.

This is primarily the ever growing number of natural and organic stores which reduce the amount of packaging that they create and use, as proof of their care for the environment.

Such an approach is not only praiseworthy, given the amount of unnecessary packaging which ends up in landfill every day, it also promotes sales directly from small manufacturers which perhaps cannot afford to design and produce quality packaging.


Perhaps the best example of removing packaging from stores is the Japanese company Muji which intentionally removed all branding and packaging from its products. This move is a part of its strategy to promote design available to everybody, free of all additional distractions.

The only form of communication that its products carry is the same brown label with a red logo, basic product information and the price. The same concept has been faithfully followed while designing the stores which are free of all superfluous additions – they have a very neutral palette and light intensity, and the basic, uniform shelves only carry products, just as they are.


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