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.
Sarah Lishman, buyer of Barkers Home department store in Northallerton; Stephen McHale, co-owner of the Bentleys/Maddison group of four Midlands-based stores and Amanda Oscroft, co-owner of Love It in Bury St Edmunds and Stamford share their Christmas card trade reports.
Sarah Lishman, buyer of Barkers Home department store, Northallerton:
How did it go? “We had, what seemed to be a difficult Christmas. We did however finish 1% up on the previous year. At least it was an increase, albeit a small one!”
Changing buying habits? “It was extremely slow. It did come eventually and we had a crazy December literally up to the end of day on the 23rd. I’ve never known it be so late though.
Boxed cards had a brilliant sell through, leaving us with only a handful of boxes for our sale, as did singles, both relations and open. This meant that our SOR returns were very small, which is good to see (less waste) The only slow area this year for us was charity packs, which is unusual.”
Star performers? “All companies sold well. One publisher that stood out for us was ArtPress Publishing with some really different designs that flew off the shelf.”
Stephen McHale, co-owner of the Bentleys/Maddison group of four stores in the Midlands:
How did it go? “Christmas for us tradewise was as predicted. We have the benefit of many years’ trading figures and how the year had been so far to help us plan our targets for each shop. We are very pleased with the takings for the business. Card sales were strong in each store and this is something we are very grateful for.
At both ends of our stores, the oldest one in Stourport (65 years) performed well all year and Christmas was no disappointment, and we managed a good increase at this store, highlighting the loyalty we have earned over the years. At the other end of the scale we opened a new store in November in Solihull and this has been welcomed with open arms, displaying the desire of high street shoppers for quality independent stores and an authentic shopping experience.”
Star performers: “Our increased sales of Christmas cards came from Cardigan Cards, Noel Tatt and Second Nature. Having the good relationships we have with our suppliers meant that as we ran low on certain categories we were able to get more stock in the following day.”
Buying plans for Christmas 2020? “We have good relationships with our card suppliers and this helps when making our selections as we get positive help on design options. We buy the majority of our Christmas cards by mid January. We are lucky enough to have a private buying day where most of our suppliers all come together in one room and we do a ‘speed dating’ system where we go and see each supplier for around an hour and the managers of each store makes their selection. This long day saves us around ten days’ worth of work. It’s also good for our suppliers as we place around 40 orders. We will go armed with our lists of best sellers and will also be looking for any new trends.”
Amanda and Will Oscroft, co-owners of Love It in Bury St Edmunds and Stamford:
How did it go? “I was sad to see the Christmas display of festive red envelopes disappearing from our shops; I loved every busy minute of Christmas 2019. Our Christmas trade was very good, in line with expectations, which meant the quarter’s sales overall were up on the previous year. Our sales built from October and were excellent in the last week. Rain didn’t seem to affect trade at all and at least it was mild.”
Star performers? “Our card sales were very good, especially the higher priced ones (£3.99 and £4.99 single relation/special friends titles) from Second Nature. Rosie Made A Thing’s packs and singles were outstanding, with lots of top up deliveries during December.”
Buying plans for Christmas 2020? “We’re planning to stick to the tried and tested methods this year. Customers will pay for a quality card especially for loved ones and it seems the card is as important as the gift for some.”
Top: Barkers’ Sarah Lishman, Bentley’s Stephen McHale and Love It’s Amanda Oscroft.