November 5, 2008, 12:00 AM

Amazon plans to deep-six clamshell packaging and wire ties

Amazon has launched a Frustration-Free Packaging initiative in conjunction with manufacturers designed to grant easier access to products.

The days of hauling out box and wire cutters on Christmas morning in order to penetrate hard plastic clamshell packaging and wire twist ties are coming to an end, at least for Amazon.com Inc. customers.

A new multi-year Frustration-Free Packaging initiative aims to make it easier for customers to liberate products from their packages. The first two targets: products, such as small electronics, enclosed in hard plastic cases known as “clamshells” and those secured with plastic-coated wire ties, commonly used in toy packaging.

The effort is rolling out in the U.S. with 19 top-selling products from leading manufacturers including Fisher-Price, Mattel, Microsoft and electronics manufacturer Transcend. The products won’t change, just the wrapper. Amazon will streamline the packaging for the project, which will expand across Amazon’s international sites beginning in 2009.

“I think we’ve all experienced the frustration that sometimes occurs when you try to get a new toy or electronics product out of its package,” says Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “It will take many years, but our vision is to offer our entire catalog of products in Frustration-Free Packaging.”

The initiative also aims to make packaging more environmentally friendly by using less packaging material. For example, one of the first products to use the new packaging is a pirate ship from Fisher-Price. The toy now is being delivered in an easy-to-open, recyclable cardboard box. The new packaging eliminates 36 inches of plastic-coated wire ties, 1,576 square inches of printed corrugated package inserts and 36 square inches of printed folding carton materials, says Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Also eliminated are 175 square inches of PVC blisters, 3.5 square inches of ABS molded styrene and two molded plastic fasteners.

Small items, such as digital camera memory cards, will be downsized. Typically encased in oversized plastic clamshells to deter shoplifting, memory cards are then placed inside larger cardboard boxes for shipment to customers. Working with Transcend, Amazon has eliminated the nearly impenetrable clamshell and the need for an additional box. The cards now will ship inside recyclable cardboard envelopes that use less material.

Customers can order select items from Fisher-Price, Mattel, Microsoft and Transcend in the new Frustration-Free Packaging for immediate delivery. The current product selection can be viewed at Amazon.com/packaging.

Matt Williams, manager of WebStore by Amazon, spoke in June at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition and his audio-visual presentation at IRCE 2008 is available on CD-ROM.

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