Key Elements of Retail Ready Packaging Design

Product marketers looking for a way to reduce costs and their carbon footprint can make their product more appealing on the shelf or store floor with packaging that is ready for retail.


Retail Ready Packaging (aka Shelf Ready Packaging) design makes it easier for retailers to sell your products. This type of packaging is secondary packaging that makes it easier to stock retail shelves or store floors because handling requirements are reduced. Display trays and cases can be placed on a shelf, ready for the consumer to shop.

And since more products can be put on a shelf at once and restocking time is cut down, your product is more likely to be available to shoppers who will not have to encounter empty shelves when they are looking for your product.

What makes good Retail Ready Packaging design?

There are a few core components all Retail Ready Packaging design includes. According to industry consultancy IGD, Shelf Ready Packaging is easy to:

  • Identify: A store team is able to clearly see a product name in a storage area and put the package in the appropriate place in a store.
  • Open: Packages need minimal equipment to open. Perforation and properly engineered packages eliminate the need for knives or box cutters.
  • Replenish: The packages can be stocked on shelves with a “one touch” movement, with zero fuss.
  • Shop: Consumers can easily identify categories and products on shelves and pull them off the shelf with ease.
  • Dispose/recycle: Packaging holding products is simple to dismantle, dispose of and/or recycle.


Conversely, packaging that is not retail ready will be difficult to identify, open and stock. This can make retailers hesitant to supply those types of products at their stores because it places a burden on both staff and customers.

Examples in Retail Ready Packaging design

A leader in Retail Ready Packaging is Walmart, which first published “Sustainable Retail Ready Packaging Global Guidelines” in 2008. One example of improved efficiency in how Walmart uses Shelf Ready Packaging design is by featuring products in corrugated boxes. These are used to both ship and display the products, the tops of which can be easily torn off to display the products once on shelves.

Costco is another large retailer with Structural Packaging Specifications in place to lower costs, ensure product safety and mitigate warehouse damage. Costco's Retail Ready Packaging guidelines include details about stacking strength, materials that can be used, security and handling and stocking.

Overlooked elements of Retail Ready Packaging

In addition to the five design tips mentioned above, it is important for consumer-packaged goods providers to include a few more elements that enhance the retail readiness of their packaging. To create truly successful Retail Ready Packaging, your design should go beyond specifications and include extra attention to detail.

Clear graphics identifying what is in the packaging

Retail Ready Packaging has to make the product clear to both store employees and customers, or else consumers will pass by your product. You also need to include business differentiators in Shelf Ready Packaging. For example, a June 2019 study by Accenture found more than half of consumers would pay more for sustainable products that are designed to be reused or recycled. Making this clear on Retail Ready Packaging by adding a recyclable logo makes RRP more effective.

A focus on the end customer, not just associates

If Retail Ready Packaging is not attracting customers, retailers won't want to stock your product. RRP should make it easy to take products off the shelves with the added value of recyclability and reusability.

The Retail Ready Packaging must be durable enough to stay intact amid store foot traffic and handling by employees and customers within a store. That means packages shouldn't be falling off shelves when products are grabbed. Display trays shouldn't be flimsy or breaking. And the packaging should clearly communicate what is in the package and the sustainable aspects of the packaging itself.

Webinar - Inbound Packaging: The Hero of Your Business

With more emphasis on end users, more touch points and longer freight distances, packaging is more important than ever. Find out how inbound packaging drives value.

The benefits of Retail Ready design

Retail Ready Packaging design benefits the customer, the retailer and the product creator. Not only can businesses find more retailers to sell their products when their packaging design is retail ready, but RRP design can also cut down on supply chain costs.

Packaging is easy to ship and handle

Retail Ready Packaging is less bulky and is also more sustainable because it can be stocked in the packaging it ships in.

Sustainable Retail Ready Packaging lowers shipping costs

Focusing on lightweight shipping containers and relying on the strength of the internal Shelf Ready Packaging can increase sustainability and lower shipping costs, for example even added perforation and additional printing can eliminate excess packaging while improving the efficiency of the secondary Retail Ready Packaging.

Shipping products in their own packages reduces and eliminates repacking

The need for repacking at distribution centers in the United States and European Union is reduced or eliminated because products ship in their own packages.

Another potential benefit? Shifting to Retail Ready Packaging means you have the opportunity to innovate and make your packaging more cost-effective and more attractive to retailers and consumers. Making the switch is an opportunity to improve upon your packaging in ways you otherwise never would have.

Challenges with Retail Ready Packaging

When you are packaging products in Retail Ready Packaging, be aware of some pitfalls. These can be avoided by working with a trusted packaging provider.

Retail Ready Packaging is not always appealing on the shelf 

But, then again, neither is some type of non-Retail Ready Packaging. The key is to achieve both an appealing aesthetic and packaging that effectively holds the products.

Retail packaging must be strong to protect products

If your items are undergoing a long journey, say from Southeast Asia to Europe, packaging needs to be strong enough to protect them every step of the way. Otherwise, they're damaged and you could turn off customers, damage your business reputation and lose money.

Shelf Ready Packaging design is a smart move for your business, but you need a packaging partner that provides the best durable materials presented in a smart design that protects your products.

Retail Ready Packaging from an industry leader

Retail Ready Packaging is ideal for modern retailers. Customers will purchase more from sustainable brands, and Shelf Ready Packaging is one way to convey sustainability while achieving cost savings for your business.

If you are ready to create or improve upon a Retail Ready Packaging program, Billerud can help. We create custom sustainable packaging solutions that lower production costs, help the environment and resonate with customers. For more information on how to design various types of packaging program, read our ebook, “From Concept to Reality: The Packaging Development Process.”

Webinars & Videos

Partner with a packaging expert that has both industry and regional knowledge. Contact us to find out how we can help you.

Get in touch