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Choosing the Best Retail Boxes to Sell in Self-Storage

Rob Kaminski Comments

Have you ever bought something because it was cheaper and seemed “close enough” to what you really wanted, only to find out when you used it that the quality was much less than what you had hoped? There’s nothing like finding out firsthand the meaning of the saying: “You get what you pay for.”

Not long ago, a client noticed that the corrugated boxes ordered from a local box vender were very light in color and felt pretty flimsy, too. We sent the boxes for testing, which confirmed the recycled paper content was way too high, and glue coverage was downright skimpy. In fact, though they had the required “Manufacturer’s Certification Stamp” printed on every box, these boxes failed the test every time. In other words, though the client was paying a fair market price, he was getting a very unfair deal—inferior boxes.

Do you know how your own boxes really stack up? One simple test: When you see a stack of boxes leaning to one side, it’s most likely because the bottom boxes are being crushed. And that is a real-world failure to meet the edge crush test.

If this happens in one of your tenants’ units, you risk much more than crushed edges. What if the boxes you sold your customer topple over, damaging valuables or injuring the customer? That’s the problem with substandard “bargain” boxes.

Since so much can ride on the quality of the corrugated boxes you sell to your customers, you need to learn how to get what you pay for. Once you know how high-grade corrugated cardboard is made, you’ll understand why cheaper boxes are almost always inferior.

There are two key areas you’ll need to know if you expect to bargain with box vendors from a position of strength: construction and stock. Caution: Though the following is a bit technical, take the time to read it. It’ll make you a smarter box buyer.

Corrugated Construction

The strength of a box is in its design and construction. A corrugated sheet consists of two major components: the linerboard and the medium. Linerboard is the flat paper that covers both sides of the corrugated sheet; the medium is the “fluted” or arched paper found in between both liners.

It takes the right kind of glue, applied hot for the right length of time, to weld the three components together. If the fluted paper isn’t properly bonded between the two linerboards with a starched-based adhesive, it can weaken the strength of a corrugated sheet. How that fluted paper is shaped and how well it is glued in place determines how well it resists bending and pressure from all directions.

When the flutes are arranged on their ends, they form columns that can support a great deal of weight. There are five commonly used flute shapes. Each has its pluses and minuses. In moving boxes, the most commonly used is the “C-flute.” Though there are other designs, because the C-flute “waves” or “ripples” are taller than others, they have greater stacking strength, making them the better choice for storage situations.

Box strength is measured by two accepted industry tests: The Mullen Test measures the bursting strength of the corrugated, while the Edge Crush Test (ECT) measures stacking strength. A 200-pound Mullen box and the 32 ECT box would have comparable stacking strength, but they serve vastly different purposes.

The Mullen Test box, better suited for the protection of heavier contents, is popular for heavy-duty industrial shipping applications. On the other hand, the 32-pound ECT box was designed for those who need stacking strength. They are lighter in weight with the good stacking characteristics so important to those of us in the self-storage industry. Though a Mullen Test box would be stronger in every way, it’s a lot more expensive than a high quality ECT box. That is why 32 ECT boxes are the gold standard in self-storage.

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