While not a humdinger, Christmas 2019 trade for cardies was generally better than expected. Continuing a trend of the last few years, higher end captioned single cards performed well while sales of box cards continued to dip for many, with the exception of charity cards. The wet weather in the run-up did dampen sales, but the fact that Christmas Day fell on a Wednesday provided a long weekend boost to trade in the final thrust.
Blue Diamond garden centre group buyer Angie Goosen; Rachel and Paul Roberts, co-owners of Mooch, which comprises four shops in Northampton, Olney and Towcester and Jo Sorrell, owner of Cardies in Stevenage share their Christmas card trade reports.
Angie Goosen, category manager of greeting cards, giftwrap, books and gifting for Blue Diamond group of garden centres:
How was it?: “With this being my first Christmas at Blue Diamond, I have the sales data history from previous years, but not the hands-on trading experience, so putting my finger on customer buying patterns was tricky. Our card range, as well as all other paper products I manage, was well and enthusiastically received by our customer, with singles almost achieving a 50% increase on last year, with boxed cards closely behind nearing a 30% increase. I took my learnings from the everyday card range, along with sales history and having ‘gotten into the minds’ of my customers, I delivered what I thought they would respond to best, especially within the humour and sentiment ranges. The staff in stores also did a phenomenal job of merchandising, using theatre and the use of multiple fixtures.”
Star performers?: “Second Nature, Pigment and The Art File really stood out for us! And Flying Teaspoons – they were only in Trentham as they were area specific, but they absolutely flew out. Laura does a fantastic job.”
Buying plans for Christmas 2020?: “I’ve learnt some lessons in 2019 having been new to the industry, so I have a clear shopping list for Christmas 2020 and how I can better the customers’ overall experience, and therefore increase my sales. My main focus will be ensuring a much higher percentage of my product across categories is plastic-free/environmentally friendly and having has much recyclable SKUs as possible.”
Rachel and Paul Roberts, co-owners of Mooch, four shops in Northampton, Olney and Towcester:
How did it go?: “Our ‘peak season’ was fabulous – it was our first with four shops and it was well ahead of our expectations. In particular, Christmas week was phenomenal with the Monday being the biggest day we’d ever had.”
Changing buying habits?: “Week days were much stronger than previous years with some of the midweek days being on par with the normal busy Saturdays.
We had the usual ‘early birds’ getting ahead in September and October with the dramatic increase coming in the last week of November and building to a climax around December 21.”
Star performers?: “Crumble & Core has been the standout product of our Christmas season – we initially thought of them as another card range, but the beautiful silver jewellery made them a key gift this year.
Gift books continued to be a very strong category for us and gift lines like Enesco’s gin glasses and Chilly’s bottles answered many customers’ Christmas dilemmas. Our fashion accessories were also strong with Jayley’s faux fur being a winner for us this year.”
Buying plans for Christmas 2020?: “We’re planning to go bigger with Christmas decorations this year – we were quite conservative last year and sold out before December on the best lines. We’re also going to go to look at more fashion accessories this year and are quite excited about growing that category.”
Jo Sorrell, owner of Cardies in Stevenage:
How did it go?: “We had a great Christmas and ended up on par with last year. This was good news for us as we lost Waitrose in our High Street in October so we were unsure how this would affect trade for us.”
Changing buying habits?: “We sold through our charity packs of Christmas cards very well but standard non-charity boxes didn’t fare as well.
We were also asked for the first time for Daughter and Daughter-in-law and Son and Son-in-law captioned cards, which I’m sad to say we didn’t have. People’s expectations of choice in both captions and designs was much higher than it’s ever been.
I heard a few comments on environmental issues and explained that we try to always use product that has been responsibly sourced.”
Star performers?: “Captioned individual cards always sell well for us, especially Wife, Mum, Daughter and Son-in-law, Son and Daughter-in-law, Grandson, Granddaughter, Both of you, Friend and All of You. Our best selling cards came from Belly Button Designs, Nigel Quiney, Noel Tatt, Paperlink, Second Nature, Rosie Made A Thing and Wendy Jones-Blackett.”
Buying plans for Christmas 2020?: “I will looking to improve on our environmentally-friendly products, plus will also be looking for an improvement on our choice of dog cards as this always a popular area for us. Our charity selection is another area that we will be looking to improve upon.”
Top: Angie Goosen (Blue Diamond), Paul Roberts (Mooch) and Jo Sorrell (Cardies).