The news that some ‘non-essential’ shops, including those selling greeting cards, are now allowed to open in Austria, Italy and Germany, brings hope that the UK will follow a similar pattern once the ‘curve’ of the Covid-19 plateaus.
Austrian-based card publisher, Pabuku, which has strong links with the UK through both its distributor (Northlight Designs) and via licensing (through its UK agent This is Iris) is instigating initiatives to support its retail stockists as well as promote card sending in their native country.
“After a month in lockdown things are getting a little looser at retail,” shares Ulla Klopf and Ute Baurecker, the co-owners of Pabuku.
“Since 14 April, shops smaller than 400 sq metres have been allowed to open, but with very strict guidelines. Everyone has to wear masks, only a few customers are allowed into the shops at any one time and they must maintain at least a one metre distance.”
However, they add that it is far from a retail stampede as people are still being advised to stay at home.
In common with the plight shared by publishers and retailers in the UK, Ulla highlights: “Most shops ordered during the trade fairs in January and February and so still have the stock, but have not generated any money. The fact that Austria and Germany are not as avid card writing countries as the UK makes it even harder as people don’t tend to buy just cards online.”
In order to promote cards and help the customers of many of Pabuku’s Austrian bookshop stockists (which have done well with online orders during lockdown), the publisher has donated free cards for them to add to every book order.
“To each card we have attached a sticker which carries the message ‘Thanks for ordering from your local bookstore who also supplies Pabuku greeting cards. Please send this free card to a loved one, friend…someone you are missing at the moment’. It has been well received,” adds Ute.
One bonus of the lockdown for the publisher has been the surge in interest in its 2,000-piece jigsaw,
The Quirky World, which includes images taken from its greeting card collections. “We promoted it via Facebook and Instagram. It’s just amazing how many people are into jigsaws now!” says Ulla.
While obviously pleased that Austria is in a “quite good situation” on the Coronavirus front, compared to other countries, for Pabuku with export accounting for such a large part of its sales, it will only be when the restrictions are lifted elsewhere that it can start to build up its sales again.
“We always have to travel to other countries for trade fairs and of course no one knows when this will be possible again. I am not saying we are bored as we have a long ‘to do’ list. The year started very well for us, but now even new projects are on hold,” admits Ute. “Still, I suppose this is a good time to rethink ways of distribution, trade fairs, products. We live in the countryside so it’s much easier for us to go outdoors – even doing some yodelling to cheer up our friends and customers!”
Click below to see Ute and Ulla in yodelling action!
Top: Pabuku’s co-owners Ulla Klopf and Ute Baurecker against a backdrop of their The Quirky World jigsaw.