When the polls closed on Thursday night and the exit poll showed no clear majority for any party, you could almost hear the collective groans around the country. PGBuzz has spoken to a number of industry players on what they think the coming days and months may bring on the political landscape and how this might affect our industry.
Read any newspaper article or talk to anyone in the street and the one word that comes up is ‘uncertainty’. It’s a far cry from the ‘strong and stable’ we were promised during the campaign by PM Theresa May.
“The winner with the most votes (May) lost and the guy who promised the world came second but is hailed the victor,” says Ged Mace, managing director of The Art File. “Anyway the real loser in this unnecessary and misjudged election is the country. With days to go before our exit talks with Europe get underway we are anything but strong and stable. Although uncertainty is not good for any business, greeting cards continue to perform well through the challenges that have been thrown at us in recent years. The high street however, is another matter, and a plan is needed badly to revive it. The soft £pound will help us export more greeting cards although margins on imported goods remain tighter obviously. In the months and years ahead greeting cards will continue to provide a comforting platform for everyone to express their feelings and support for one another. Cards are valued and reassuring; useful qualities in these changing times.”
The role of cards to provide comfort in these changing times is picked up by Simon Wagstaff, managing director of IC&G too. “While uncertainty always unsettles consumers and markets, greeting cards are not major items of expenditure and generally come through in such times of uncertainty. The happiness and emotions we communicate with our products generally makes life better for people, whether it’s to celebrate the birth of a new baby, an anniversary or a special occasion. So if properly marketed I believe the impact of political uncertainty on our industry can be minimised all round.”
It’s a sentiment shared by managing director of Portfolio, Jayne Diggory, as well: “Greeting cards are historically fairly recession proof – you still have birthdays whatever the weather and people will still send a card if not a present – but the economy is already having an effect on the small independents. I would say in the short-term all this uncertainty is definitely not good for consumer confidence.”
Gerard O’Mahony, commercial director of CBG, is also concerned about the impact this political uncertainty will have on consumer confidence. “For the greeting card industry one of the main consequences I can see is the impact this uncertainty has on consumer confidence and spending. Clarity and certainty is the friend of traditional retail businesses and after a very tough six months for bricks and mortar retail in 2017 the potential of continued uncertainty may well continue to hamper its performance.”
For retailers it is consumer confidence that is the main concern, with PG columnist David Robertson co-owner of JP Pozzi in Scotland saying: “With things like digital tax looming and the constant changes to the living wage, pensions, corporation tax and many other things, it feels like as individual businesses or small groups that we have greater difficulty keeping up with ‘the game’. Of course Brexit – soft, hard or otherwise – and the value of the £pound against the $dollar has an impact on what and how we buy and sell, but in real terms it is the constant uncertainty and changes that make it such a difficult time both for us individually and of course for our customers who never know what their disposable income will be.”
However, as they say ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ and John Procter, co-founder and owner of Scribbler, believes for businesses looking to expand there might be some good deals out there. “Our industry is remarkably resilient to recession and if companies are looking to expand there will be better property deals out there as landlords are going to have a really tough time finding good tenants. I therefore strongly advise all of us in this industry to really contest rent reviews and asking rents on new stores.”