No one quite knew how Christmas 2018 was going to pan out for greeting card stockists. After a slow start Northallerton department store, Barkers had a great one, while initiatives by Cardies and Feathering Your Nest helped to engage with their local communities.
Hear it from the horses’ mouths…
Sarah Lishman, buyer for Barkers Home in Northallerton, Yorkshire:
Overall verdict: “A very slow start, but super busy throughout November and December.”
How did you fare?: “We ended up 4% up on the previous year.”
Changing buying habits: “Christmas 2018 had a very slow start, October was a tough month. There we were fully stocked with Christmas but customers just didn’t want Christmas! But by mid November it was a different story. We were super busy throughout November and December thank goodness!
Christmas relations cards were really good for us this Christmas, but we struggled with charity packs, which was unusual for us.”
Star performers: “All publishers performed really well. We had a wide price range, which always seems to work for us.
Hallmark’s 3D pop-up boxes sold out first, within a few weeks. Five Dollar Shake and Belly Button sold through really well, in both boxes and singles. Five Dollar Shake’s new gift packaging went down very well, selling through really quickly.”
Approach for Christmas 2019: “The plan for this year’s buying will be pretty similar, but maybe I will cut back on packs. It was noticeable that more customers were conscious of recycling, especially on wrapping paper, so I will definitely take that into consideration.”
Jo Sorrell, owner of Cardies in Stevenage, Herts:
Overall verdict: “Christmas was good for us.”
How did you fare?: “We ended on par with the previous year.”
Mitigating circumstances: “Our Christmas bauble initiative, which involved asking people to tie an unwanted bauble onto the railings in the old town, worked a treat in getting people into the festive spirit.
One thing that bothers me is hearing people say I’m not bothering to send Christmas cards this year, I will give the money to charity. This always grates with me for a few reasons.
Firstly, what other industry gives so much to charity as a direct result of their sales? Does money go to charity from the sale of gifts, clothes or food!?
Also of course, receiving a card can mean so much to so many.
Half of our Christmas cards gave money to charity, which contributes greatly result for so many needy causes.
I certainly could not say the same for the gifts that I received. All were beautiful yes but no percentage of the sale went to charity.
I would so like people to think again about not sending a Christmas card.”
Changing buying habits: “November was fairly slow, with a few organised people buying their Christmas cards, but the minute we hit the 1st December the mayhem started!
We still stock packs and boxes of Christmas cards but find that many people buy these in the supermarkets now.
We saw an increase in demand for captions such as ‘Son and Partner’, ‘Son and Girlfriend’, ‘Son and Family’. Just having ‘Son and Daughter-in-law’ is no longer sufficient. We were even asked for ‘Son and Daughter-in-law on your first Christmas as Mr and Mrs’ this Christmas!
Providing all of the unusual captions is where the independent can excel.”
Star performers: “Our strongest cards are always the individual titled cards. Starting with the ‘Across the Miles’ captions and ending with the panicked men buying ‘Wife’ and ‘Mummy’ cards on Christmas Eve. Charity cards sold well for us, notably Noel Tatt’s Help cards that benefits 32 charities, as well as our Labrador Rescue South East and Central packs of cards.”
Lesley Dunne, owner of Feathering Your Nest in Rayleigh, Essex:
Overall verdict: “Christmas came late.”
How Did You Fare? “We stayed about the same as the previous year.”
“I have always asked my customers how their Christmas shopping is going, carrying out my own (secret) survey by keeping an eye on their spending habits. Over the years, little by little, they’ve shopped more and more online but in 2018 it seems they did even more than ever.
What was your buying approach?: “We are primarily a gift shop which sells cards. I had some cards left over from the previous year which I put back out and just added to the gaps with top ups of single cards.
I didn’t buy any Christmas packs for 2018 as I feel there is too much competition from supermarkets and charity shops offering deals.
All in all, we sold through our cards and gifts with less to carry forward to the sale. To be honest, that’s exactly where I want to be in these uncertain times, no excess stock. My buying pattern has changed over the last couple years with less forward buying and lower stock levels.”
Mitigating circumstances: “I had anticipated there could be a downturn in our sales due to depressing Brexit news and growing online sales. So hedging my bets, I bought less than in previous years. I feel that I got my buying just right by not over anticipating sales, meaning we ended on par with my expectations.”
Buying approach for 2019: “We focused one of our windows on mental health awareness and random act of kindness, something which is very close to my heart, especially at this time of year. Our shop is very much about supporting each other through the ups and downs of daily life with many gifts and cards aimed at sentiment, uplifting and supporting one another. Our well-being and sympathy section is really appreciated by our (mainly female) customers. This year, I shall be eagerly hunting for more cards and gifts to enhance well-being, kindness, self care, mental health awareness and friendship section. I feel there is a gap in the market which, could and should be filled.”