Christmas reports: House of Cards, Sainsbury’s, Earlybird Designs

Seasonal musings and 2023 hunches from three leading greetings retailers

 

A frenzied flurry in the final run up saved the season after what was most definitely a Christmas trading period like no other, as the postal strikes had a dampening effect on many retailers’ boxed card sales though single cards held up well.

In the second of the series, PG Buzz shares some of the festive feelings of greeting card retailers and their hunches as they start the new year. This time it’s House of Cards, Sainsbury’s and Earlybird Designs

Above: Part of the festive display in House of Cards
Above: Part of the festive display in House of Cards

Miles Robinson, co-owner, House of Cards, seven Home Counties shops

What’s your verdict?

“Glad it’s over.”

Spill the beans…

“Thankfully, a record final week helped and, once stamps were taken out of the equation, we were 2% up on last year for the Nov/Dec period. We’re certainly glad that one is over and as it was probably one of the most challenging Christmases we’ve ever had.”

What impact do you think the Royal Mail strikes had on your sales?

“Royal Mail definitely had a significantly detrimental effect this year and, together with their inability to even deliver stamps to us on several occasions, this really didn’t help boxed card sales, which ended up being almost 20% down. However, charity packs remained flat so I think this follows people buying less quantity as charity pack sizes are generally smaller than boxed, and giving rather than posting. Roll wrap, and gift packaging held up well and gifting in general out performed.”

Above: House of Cards co-owners Miles Robinson (right) and Nigel Williamson with The Retas 2022 overall retailer of the year award
Above: House of Cards co-owners Miles Robinson (right) and Nigel Williamson with The Retas 2022 overall retailer of the year award

What were your top performers?

“Card suppliers whose sales were excellent in no particular order were Paper Shed, Woodmansterne, Lucilla Lavender, Emotional Rescue, Wendy Jones-Blackett, Five Dollar Shake, Tracks, Cinnamon Aitch, and Dandelion Stationery.”

Did environmental issues play a part, eg in customers’ comments regarding packaging, glitter, etc?

“Environmental concerns took a backward step and of note was the fact that the bestselling charity packs were cello-wrapped!”

What’s your hunch and approach for 2023?

“We’ll be making a few tweaks for next year, adjusting some timings of display and looking at our mixes but we’re very positive we won’t have another nail biter like 2022.”

Above: Sainsbury’s consumers were variable in their Christmas card shopping
Above: Sainsbury’s consumers were variable in their Christmas card shopping

Abi Wilson, head of buying and design celebrations for Sainsbury’s

What’s your verdict?

“A pleasing event.”

Spill the beans…

“This Christmas trading was changeable. Cards performed well but, as ever, it was right to the finish line. We had a strong start, and were confident in range, but saw huge variances in customer spending behaviours as everyone has been carefully considering where their spend was needed most.”

Above: Abi Wilson with Sainsbury’s colleagues Sanjit Pooni (left) and Shar Grothier at the 2022 GCA AGM & Conference
Above: Abi Wilson (centre) with Sainsbury’s colleagues Sanjit Pooni (left) and Shar Grothier at the 2022 GCA AGM & Conference

What impact do you think the Royal Mail strikes had on your sales?

“The Royal Mail strikes likely impacted boxed card performance, and we certainly saw a slow on sales when the final post dates were pulled forwards.”

Your hunch and approach for 2023?

“I’m feeling optimistic. Our ranges look strong and we offer wide value choices. We continue with our commitment to sustainability, and evolve our approach to being inclusive. You’ll see some new formats which have recently launched, and a host of new brokered publishers are landing too!”

Above and top: Heidi promoting the Winter Toy Appeal where packs of cards sold in Earlybird raised £250
Above and top: Heidi promoting the Winter Toy Appeal where packs of cards sold in Earlybird raised £250

Heidi Early, owner of Earlybird Designs, Stoke Newington

What’s your verdict?

“Phew!”

Spill the beans…

“We had a really good end to the year, resulting in our overall sales up by around 4%, which we absolutely were not expecting! I don’t think the Royal Mail strikes had much of an impact on card sending because those who send large amounts sent early while others decided to buy and send cards anyway, even if they turned up late.

“Saying that, sales of our boxed cards, in particular the larger boxes, were slightly down. However, that seems to be a year-on-year trend. And in terms of overall sales, I definitely think people came out to the High Street more in that last week because deliveries were in such a mess – there’s always a silver lining in tricky situations! Single card sales were up again, a trend we’ve seen for a few years now.”

Did you do anything differently this year with your approach to Christmas trade?

“We worked even harder on our social media and, although it’s hard to quantify, we definitely saw a direct correlation between certain posts and sales.

“And it was also a year of working really hard on community projects which, at times, has been a really tough gig trying to balance time between the projects and the business, but our customer comments and sales have absolutely made it all worth it.

“The same goes for our sustainability efforts, we’ve worked on that all year and really promoted what we’re doing and made clear signage. A couple of years ago I couldn’t imagine Christmas without glitter but this year there was absolutely no glitter in sight and not one complaint. In fact, our sales of kraft paper-based wrapping, tags, tape, bows and ribbon were all significantly up, which is so encouraging.”

What were your top performers?

“Our own brand range was much bigger this year and those sales were strong throughout the season. Special cards like laser-cut ones from Alljoy and Roger La Borde sold very well, as did decoration cards, especially the personalised one from Jessica Hogarth. And lots of customers commented on our selection of funny cards from Dean Morris, Ohh Deer, Brainbox Candy, Bold & Bright, and Redback – I think people really needed a bit of humour!”

Your hunch and approach for 2023?

“We will order slightly fewer card packs and will remain conservative in our buying. I do think 2023 is going to be a very tough year but I’m still optimistic! It just means we have to be more creative and listen to our customers even more. The best ideas come out of the toughest times so, bring it on!”

MORE NEWS
Louies 2024 Feature Image
 
Eight UK card publishers clinch a baker’s dozen finalist places...
Charles laughs Feature Image
 
Palace pictures of Pigment’s cone cartoon setting Charles chuckling hit front pages...
Panorama RM Feature Image
 
Panorama evidence contradicts Ofcom and Royal Mail claims over importance of letters...
Shops open Feature Image
 
New stores show confidence continues to grow in greeting card retail sector...
Eco artists Feature Image
 
Customers guess that artist Julia Crossland’s tops Eco-friendly’s bestsellers’ list...
SF board Feature Image
 
Leading industry names share input over Spring & Autumn Fair development...
Get the latest news sent to your inbox
Subscribe to our daily newsletter

The list doesn't exist! Make sure you have imported the list on the 'Manage List Forms' page.