The news of Clintons demise and immediate resurrection spread like wildfire within the card trade, the retailing arena and among the public at large. Given the high brand awareness, heritage and size of Clintons (albeit less than half what it once was) the media in all its guises latched onto the story.
With no one from Clintons available for comment, the media – from Sky News to the BBC, national newspapers to online business sites – drew from an official press statement issued by KPMG’s PR team titled ‘Future of Clintons secured following sale out of administration’.
While much was made of how the pre-pack deal has safeguarded jobs (until Christmas at least) for the 2,500 Clintons staff, there were also negative (and often misinformed) gibes made about the greeting card industry. Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (December 5), Julie Palmer, managing partner of insolvency practitioners Begbies Traynor shared her take on the Clintons chain of events, explaining how, while the leases on Clintons’ stores will now be “live” they will have been granted a licence to trade until Christmas after which negotiations can take place to reduce rental costs. All good clarity, but she also repeatedly made a point that greeting cards are “a declining market” stating that people are not “sending cards like they used to” citing “electronic cards” and “online operators” as having changed consumer habits. She did mention that competition from more “agile players” such as Card Factory and Paperchase as well as the supermarkets had eroded Clintons position in the market.
With the finer details of the Clintons deal and how it leaves suppliers still to unfold, PG Buzz collected some early reactions from those in the trade:
- Karen Hubbard, ceo of Card Factory was among those to pick up on the negative tack in the media about the industry in general. “I think we should be on the front foot correcting them – I do with the press when they say it to me – volume in slight decline, market by value in growth.
I am delighted that Clintons will remain a part of the card Industry and that they have come up with a solution that will retain jobs in this tough retail environment. It is good news for all of their colleagues at Christmas. It will be interesting to see what they will do that is different.”
- Paul Woodmansterne, ceo of Woodmansterne Publications: “Evidence shows that people love to send and give cards more than ever. Unfortunately it’s not just Clintons, shops of every kind face terminal decline because governments never worked out how to tax the multi-national online operators like Amazon. Of course, any ambitious company allowed to trade tax-free for 20 years can wipe out all competition.”
- Paul Taylor, ceo of Cardzone: “It is good news that the jobs of Clintons staff have been saved. Whatever the situation at Clintons, the card trade is most definitely not dead! We are excited about what is to happen over the next two weeks with millions of Christmas cards being bought and sent.”
- Ged Mace, managing director of The Art File: “It’s always sad to see any retailer on the High Street in difficulty, especially as it’s shop rents and business rates that are largely to blame.
Greeting card sales remain strong overall and we are receiving the most Christmas card reorders from customers we’ve ever had this year.
Things like this are unsettling for the trade. I do hope that the suppliers are treated fairly, both on monies outstanding and on orders going forward.”
- Rachel Hare, managing director of Belly Button Designs: “I’m relieved and delighted that Clintons is rebounding from this. Really positive sign that it is fighting back – they are a good customer and provide a familiar face on the high street providing much needed feel good in the form of the simple but effective greeting card!”
Top: (left-right) Card Factory’s Karen Hubbard, Cardzone’s Paul Taylor and Woodmansterne’s Paul Woodmansterne are among those to have commented on the Clintons’ situation.