How to Choose the Right Poly Bag for Your Merchandise

By Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

Ah, the humble poly bag. It holds your stuff. Maybe it zips, maybe it closes with a twist-tie, or it could even self-seal. Perhaps it’s in a seasonal color. But besides that stuff, aren’t they all pretty much the same?

Think again. There’s a lot more to this packaging than meets the eye.

Poly bags can be used to ship, store and display everything from paper goods to breakables to snackables. But you can’t just grab any old bag. The packaging needs to suit the use and support your brand promise. Anything less and you risk damaging your product and your customer relationships.

From a functional standpoint, the three most important factors to look for in a poly bag are: protection, strong seals and cost savings. Look also for two additional features — transparency and versatility — when you’re using the bags for storage or display. Here’s a breakdown of each feature:

1.    Proper protection. “I like a bag that isn't flimsy, with well-sealed sides that don't split, and clean edges that don't catch on things,” says Juli McCarthy, jewelry artist and owner of Mockingbird Studio Jewelry in Elgin, IL, who uses poly bags to display and ship her work. Sending particularly delicate items? Select a bubble poly bag for added cushioning (bonus points if you find one in your brand color). Contents sensitive to moisture? Look for bags labeled as moisture resistant.

2.    Adequate closure. Strong seals can be tamper evident and provide superior bursting strength that keeps contents secure in transit. Stress test several options by packing and shipping a few items to yourself. For display or storage, consider bags that can be heat sealed, open-top bags that can be secured with a ribbon or twist-tie, or zippered closures. “I like a zip mechanism that feels substantial between my fingers and seals cleanly without any struggling,” McCarthy says.

3.    Effective versatility. Jewel Carnett, owner of Tamami Chocolates, LLC, in McMinnville, OR, packages her confections in clear poly bags for the protection, yes, but also for the flexibility. “A clear, plain poly bag can be dressed up to match the season,” she says. “Be it a colored ribbon — pastels for spring, red for Valentine’s Day, etc. — an autumn leaf, a heart, whatever.” Add a branded label for product descriptions, and you save on more expensive forms of custom packaging. It’s important to note, however, that poly bags for food need to be certified as safe for indirect food contact.

4.    Enough transparency/opacity. Opaque poly bags are perfect for shipping, especially if your merchandise is light sensitive. They’re also good for gift wrapping to keep contents secret. Tinted options are best for display, enabling customers to see the contents and allowing you to showcase your brand or seasonal colors. McCarthy recommends transparent bags for “maximum visual impact. I use poly bags for storage as well as sales, so clarity makes a big difference.”

5.    Cost efficiency. Price is only one factor in cost efficiency. The right poly bag can reduce expenses in other ways. Lightweight poly bag mailers can provide additional protection for delicate items and be less expensive than using a box.

Now that you know all poly bags aren’t created equal, you can confidently choose the right one for your small business application.

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