In Which?’s annual survey of the UK’s ‘best and worst’ shops, voted for by 10,000 shoppers, technology specialists Richer Sounds and Toolstation came out tops, closely followed by John Lewis and Waterstones, with Card Factory featuring in 9th position, Paperchase in the 32nd spot and Clintons in 88th.
But what shops do it for those in the trade? PG Buzz asked a selection of card buyers what retailers hit the spot for them and why?
Dan Cooper, Christmas buyer for John Lewis:
“My favourite shops are Arrowsmiths and Kit in Broadstairs, Kent, where I live. They are both independent gift/card/clothing shops. The owners have great taste, know their customers and always have something different to offer. If they can delight me, they can delight anyone. They inspire me more than any big retailer, because they are fleet of foot, good editors, close to their customers and know what they are about.
I spend my life making choices from vast amounts of stuff. When I’m not at work I appreciate someone else making most of the choices for me. They are also helping to revive the fortunes of our town and attract new visitors. Everyone who comes to visit me in Kent wants to spend time and money in these shops. Everything I can buy from Arrowsmiths or Kit I do, because I want them to succeed and I enjoy talking shop when I pop in!”
Anne Borrett, head of buying for Papershop for Tesco:
“I did a high-end comparative shop over Christmas (mainly Regent Street and surrounding streets). I get a lot of new ideas for product innovation from high-end stores, it’s about trying to work out how to turn ‘niche’ into mainstream – I don’t always get it right, but have found a gems this way!
One of my favourites to visit is Anthropologie, that delivers atmosphere/environment, and also you start to see the early mainstream trends emerging (that are likely to cascade down to mass/grocery markets). You start to see new finishes and ideas that could ultimately filter through into a greeting card proposition.”
Jo Barber, owner of The Stationery & Gift Boutique, Ampthill:
“While I’m a big fan of independents, my favourite place to shop tends to be The White Company. Its shops are always clean, spacious and merchandised well. Its opening hours suit my busy day, the smell as you walk in is gorgeous, the staff always say hello as you enter and the products are great quality.
I admire the company as it gets it right in every store. It clearly invests in its staff, and when you give a White Company gift, it will always delight.”
* These comments and others appear in full in the February edition of Progressive Greetings Worldwide.