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E-commerce Packaging Case Study for Space NK

 – written by Jo Hilton
Space NK e-commerce packaging, custom printed with their logo and brand colour. The box is open showing make up products inside, sitting on top of a marble makeup counter with a shelving unit backdrop containing more cosmetic products.
This case study focuses on how and why utilising a specific type of packaging, whilst optimising internal procedures, is helping Space NK in their drive to improve sustainability and efficiency.
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Space NK Case Study Summary

ClientSpace NK | Cosmetics
ObjectiveRedesign packaging to enhance customer experience, consolidate, save money, improve stock availability through peak season and reduce environmental impact.
Solutions ImplementedCarry out full audit of processes. Custom-designed e-commerce packaging with improved aesthetics and functionality. Amended ordering processes, consolidated supply chain to improve OTIF.
Materials Used100% recyclable and FSC® certified corrugated cardboard. Printed with eco-friendly plant and water based inks.
ResultsEnhanced unboxing experience; Significant reduction in packaging materials; improved 100% OTIF through peak season, reduction in theft and losses, cost savings in packaging unit spend and consolidation.
Scroll down for a short video and image gallery.
First, we'll look at the challenges Space NK was facing as far as their e-commerce packaging was concerned. Then, we'll focus on which solutions proved to be the right ones for them and why.

Finally, we'll detail the benefits that have been gained by tweaking elements of their packaging process, both logistically and operationally.

Who are Space NK?

A prominent retailer in the cosmetics industry, Space NK supplies luxury personal care and beauty products to consumers both in the UK and the US.

Proudly British, the company was founded in 1991 by Nicky Kinnaird and labels itself – now as then - a type of 'apothecary'. Space NK stocks well over 70 brands each carefully curated to fit in with the company’s innovative, niche aesthetic.
Space NK Covent Garden - cropped into their logo on the front of their shop. The logo is in black cut out lettering mounted onto a white fascia, the rest of the shop front is painted white with red brick work above.
Space NK launched its first boutique in Covent Garden in 1993, initially offering an eclectic mix of fresh smoothies, unique fashion items, and exclusive beauty products from up-and-coming global brands. The buzz quickly grew, leading to the opening of additional locations showcasing top-tier beauty selections throughout the UK and Ireland. Currently, the company operates 72 stores in these regions, with another 29 established in the United States.

Known for its sleek retail spaces and luxury products, Space NK is also serious about e-commerce - currently, with its online revenue increasing year on year.

The Challenge

Being serious about e-commerce means being serious about packaging and here Space NK was encountering a few setbacks.

One major obstacle the company was coming up against was the sporadic nature of order volumes. This is a common issue for all those involved in e-commerce; often, it can be problematic to nail down specific sales forecasts. For Space NK, the cyclical nature of orders was routinely translating into stockholding issues with the knock-on effect invariably being poor OTIF, especially during peak sale periods.

In layman’s terms, this means that Space NK sometimes had a shortage of the right packaging when they needed it most. Consequently and frustratingly, the company was not entirely confident in their ability to deliver to customers within promised timeframes and felt strongly that this was an area where they could improve their overall service.

Secondly, Space NK had identified an issue with the packaging itself, the result, they believed, of inadequate box design. Due to a design flaw, boxes were popping open during transit resulting in goods getting lost or damaged. Even when products were making it to the customer, Space NK felt that damaged, flimsy boxes just weren't getting the right message across and were not reflective of their standing as a high-end retailer.

To get around this problem, Space NK had decided as a quick fix to use additional tape to seal their packages. Whilst this was admittedly always a short-term solution, it was, nevertheless, inefficient, time consuming and lacking a professional vibe.

To make matters worse, when consigned for shipment, Space NK’s pallets now had poor load stability leading to high rejection rates through their logistics channels. A typical knock-on effect of packaging that's not quite fit for purpose, but also an additional expense and hassle that no company can afford.

The Solutions

To tackle their issues as painlessly and quickly as possible, Space NK together with The Packaging Club ran a complete packaging audit of their dispatch process.

Such an audit essentially provides a deep dive into how a business functions in terms of its packaging supplies, product range, storage facilities and processes and how these components work seamlessly together.

Then, of course, there's the fact that each company faces unique challenges, so consumption patterns, volumes and seasonal demand variations as well as design and material specifications are all considered. 

Solution 1

To address issue number one, i.e., pin down sales forecasts more effectively and thus ensure the appropriate amount and type of packaging was always on hand, The Packaging Club and Space NK felt the best approach was to undertake a comprehensive review of the existing packaging range, in particular, making a close examination of their stock holding processes. 

Once The Packaging Club had identified opportunities for consolidation, a minimum maximum system was developed for all six of their packaging SKUs (stock keeping units).

These ranged from 30k to 60k units for each box type and meant setting up a dedicated production window for them each week. This was vital; streamlining a brand’s packaging assortment means greater operational efficiency which translates directly into cost savings. 

Solution 2

Solution number two focused on the packaging itself or more specifically, the box design. In order to eliminate any chance of seal failure, The Packaging Club suggested amending the size and cut creases on the box so staying shut was no longer an issue. As an added security measure, tamper-evident locking tabs were added to reduce instances of theft. The result was a crash-lock box which proved itself ideal for Space NK's products.

The crash-lock box's tamper-evident tabs had the added benefit of increasing overall box rigidity, providing an additional protective measure preventing damage during transit. For Space NK, this also meant a way to ensure that loads were secure and far less likely to collapse in on themselves when stacked on pallets. 

The Outcomes

Space NK new packaging benefits
1. Improved glue application for stronger seal and overhanging release paper for faster packing. 2. Specially designed tamper evident interlocking tabs that break away when forced open. 3. 100% recyclable paper-based tear strip for consistent frustration free unboxing. 4. Amended creases to reduce pressure on glue seals, further improving seal strength. 5. Offset cutter guide design to enable more product per sheet, reducing machine time and material wastage resulting in lowered cost per unit.

Cost Savings

The first major benefit for Space NK - the result of strategic consolidation and efficient design - was considerable cost savings and the company has already enjoyed a significant reduction when compared to their previous packaging solutions. A streamlined approach works; it reduces waste and optimises logistics and storage expenses.

Additional design tweaks and extra security measures don't necessarily mean higher costs. Even with the introduction of a bespoke crash-lock box with an improved design, The Packaging Club was able to drive down the cost per box unit for Space NK. When added to the savings made by eradicating damage in transit, this all adds up to a significant saving. 
This short-yet-satisfying video showcases the efficiency and ease of assembly of Space NK's redesigned crash lock boxes.

Improved sustainability

The second major benefit for Space NK has been improved sustainability, a consideration paramount to the brand when it delivered the brief to The Packaging Club on developing its packaging.
Space NK sustainability icons printed onto their custom ecommerce packaging
Now the use of eco-friendly inks and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified materials means that Space NK’s packaging aligns with environmental best practices. In addition, packaging is one more way Space NK can demonstrate to its customers how committed it is to ecologically sound business practices, thereby fulfilling its own environmental ethos as well as meeting the expectations of eco-conscious consumers. 

Enhanced Brand Reputation

The success achieved for The Packaging Club and Space NK with this project exemplifies the potential there is when a collaborative, open-minded approach is taken to achieve innovative e-commerce packaging solutions. Space NK's decision to have an audit has driven efficiency upwards, creating the opportunity for significant cost savings and what’s more, it has enabled one of the major players in the cosmetics industry to take further steps towards becoming increasingly sustainable.

By being open to scrutiny, embracing consolidation and aiming for cost-effectiveness - but never at the expense of sustainability - Space NK has enhanced its brand's reputation and reinforced both its commitment and drive to delivering exceptional services and experiences to every one of its valued customers. 

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