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Packaging & design

Advent calendars: A profitable pre-Christmas operation

Advent calendars are no longer reserved for chocolate makers. They have been emerging in cosmetics departments for a few years, and this commercial operation seems to satisfy both consumers’ curiosity and brands’ expectations, i.e. drawing attention during a period favourable to shopping. Several packaging manufacturers have been speaking up about this new, very specific offering in terms of cost and technical challenges.

MPack for Kerastase

MPack for Kerastase

Demand is rising. An increasing number of beauty players, brands or distributors, have been dabbling in this new practice, which consists in offering a playful, discovery-based product at different prices.

We started four years ago, and today, we conduct about ten projects per year. The smallest is Mademoiselle Bio’s, with 800 units, and it goes up to 160,000 for a leader in selective distribution,” says François Malissin, Sales Manager of MPack. The company, specialized in global packaging solutions, provides a great number of cosmetics brands (Décléor, Birchbox, Kérastase…) with a specific, full-service solution from design to co-packing (filling).

Giant testing

There are two main reasons for brands taking such interest in Advent calendars. On the one hand, they help deseasonalize the end-of-year period. They are marketed in October, so, for consumers, they represent “a Christmas purchase before Christmas comes”. On the other, they are composed of 24 mini-products or samples, so they are an exceptional targeted testing operation. “It is often more about a testing marketing mix than a commercial operation”, asserts François Malissin.

As a result, service providers are compelled to adapt to a heavy cost constraint. “The main issue is that we need to be creative, while offering a logical production cost, based on the products put in the calendars,” says Guillaume Haillot, President of Shopluxe, a subsidiary of the Cosfibel group, also a supplier of creative solutions in luxury packaging. The company has developed Advent calendars for several years in the field of delicatessen, in particular the chocolate industry. “Chocolate makers’ creativity made us invent very original things for cosmetics,” he adds.

The selling price of a calendar ranges from about 30 euros to more than 300 euros in the luxury world. “Our customers are willing to invest in a comprehensive service, i.e. a ready-to-sell product about 10% its selling price. This determines the product complexity,” emphasizes François Malissin. And to best guide their customers based on the design and price, MPack launched a catalogue of about 30 estimated products two years ago.

Specific technical challenges

Advent calendars impose very specific manufacturing techniques, in particular as regards product bracing with spacers, window opening, and filling. “We work on the design, on securing the products, and on the total calendar weight”, explains Guillaume Haillot.

The standard calendar usually comprises two articulated sides containing the 24 boxes. It can also be presented as a box with 24 dated cases. The filling phase with the products supplied by the customers is usually performed by a packer selected by the brand. The MPack offering does cover this co-packing phase, though. “Our strategy consists in providing our customers with an offer that completes our services, like co-packing or the traceability of the products inserted,” details François Malissin. The assembly phase involves filling the thermoformed spacers, and then inserting them in cases, which are closed with double-sided tape. “Everything needs to be well-paced and organized to be interesting from an economic standpoint, both for brands and for us,” adds the Director. MPack can also carry out this operation at a Poland-based partner’s for very high quantities, openly, with their customers.

Better-adapted to skincare and makeup than perfume, for which the assortment of mini-products represents a drag on the budget, Advent calendars have found their own place in the beauty world. And according to suppliers, the series ordered are sold out every year!

Kristel Milet


  • MPack for birchbox
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  • Shopluxe for Nuxe
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