Christmas reports: Mooch Gifts & Home, Just Cards, Southbourne Cards, Card Factory

Seasonal musings and 2023 hunches from four leading greeting card retailers

 

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

In the last 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 Mooch Gifts & Home, Just Cards, Southbourne Cards and Card Factory

Above and top: Mooch made a big effort with its Christmas windows
Above and top: Mooch made a big effort with its Christmas windows

Jon May, co-owner of Mooch Gifts & Home, Stourport and Bewdley

What’s your verdict?

“Last-minute.”

Spill the beans…

“While our stores saw an early rush of Christmas shoppers in November, December was pretty flat though the final three days pre-Christmas were our busiest in our seven years of trading.”

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

“Single cards performed well and we probably ended up on-par with 2021 although pack sales were much lower due to the impact of the Royal Mail strikes.

“Card sales were severely affected by the Royal Mail strikes as folk simply did not post Christmas cards. In November alone our online sales were down 60% due to the Royal Mail strikes.

“Unfortunately, I have lost all sympathy with the workers, OK make a stand to your bosses but you don’t let down your customers at their busiest time. We, like other small businesses, are transferring our business to another provider as we can’t have this continued threat affecting our business. On the plus side, our stores did have additional footfall with customers shopping late for gifts as Royal Mail let them down with online purchases.”

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

“We definitely put more effort than normal into our windows and had a different theme to the standard Christmas that attracted lots of interest locally, and definitely introduced us to new customers. We continued to push our online offer, making nearly 80% of our cards and gifts available from the website for nationwide delivery or click & collect.”

What changes in consumer buying patterns did you track?

“As we predicted, customers bought lower-ticket items than in previous years, but we had planned for this, so sales were slightly down but the number of customers and transactions were up.

“Interestingly we didn’t receive any comments from customers on sustainability apart from on our eco crackers, which they loved. It did seem that if a customer’s finances are tight they want to buy products in prestige condition so naked roll wrap and cards do not work for us as we get left with the damaged products and then are out of pocket ourselves.”

What were your top performers?

“Money wallets sold very well this year which probably reflects a trend that more people were giving money than buying a gift the recipient may not want or use.”

Your hunch and approach for 2023?

“Like many small businesses we’re nervous going into 2023, but we will continue to monitor our costs, buy wisely and continue to be different to give our customers a reason to keep visiting our stores.

“We will be offering something completely different in regards to gifting for Christmas 2023, but will keep that under wraps until nearer the time. On cards, wrap and gift bags we will continue to fly the flag for our wonderful British designers.”

Above: Maggie Wynn at PG Live finding Just Cards on the Wall Of Fame
Above: Maggie Wynn at PG Live finding Just Cards on the Wall Of Fame

Maggie Wynn, owner of Just Cards, Honiton

What’s your verdict?

“Hooray – we did it!”

Spill the beans…

“We did it against all the negativity and Royal Mail strikes. It all worked out really well. There was a lot riding on how the final week’s trading went, but we were busy all the way through to the end. We came out on par with our expectations. I think the price of petrol and parking as well as the train strikes saw people shopping local.”

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

“We put all our Christmas boxes and single cards out early so the customers had plenty of time to buy and send them.”

Above: Museums & Galleries’ charity packs sold well in Just Cards
Above: Museums & Galleries’ charity packs sold well in Just Cards

What changes in consumer buying patterns did you track?

“Because all the companies have been really good with their sustainability approaches to packaging and glitter we didn’t have any comments about the environmental concerns with the products this year.”

What were your top performers?

Museums & Galleries’ charity boxes and packs sold extremely well, and Noel Tatt’s pop-ups were amazing sellers while its charity packs were excellent too with the best eco-friendly packaging of all the new products we stocked.”

Your hunch and approach for 2023?

“Roll on 2023!”

Above: Deborah Tingay (left) with The Art File’s Karen Mace at PG Live
Above: Deborah Tingay (left) with The Art File’s Karen Mace at PG Live

Deborah Tingay, owner of Southbourne Cards, Southbourne

What’s your verdict?

“Relieved.”

Spill the beans…

“It was a very hard, long and fierce pre-Christmas trading period. We had poor like-for-like sales in October and November as footfall collapsed due to macro-economic factors.

“The increase in average spend was our saving grace, with higher-priced items performing well so we ended up on a par in December compared to 2021, so I’m feeling pretty chuffed with that all things considered – although we had awful sales on Christmas boxes, probably down to the postal strikes.”

Above: Southbourne Cards saw an increase in average spend in the Christmas run up
Above: Southbourne Cards saw an increase in average spend in the Christmas run up

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

“We continued our stance on being plastic-free, not just from the end user, but also the waste passed on to us by our suppliers. Suppliers are, however, still sending plastic-wrapped products in error which is very frustrating.”

Your hunch and approach for 2023?

“We’re going into 2023 with a fighting spirit. It’s going to be really tough if the last quarter is anything to go by. We will be reviewing our supplier base with a view to improving our margin mix and performance.

“A number of my supplier ranges are still being heavily discounted in our local Sainsbury’s thus undermining my pricing position. Challenges remain, but we’re still as focused as ever on customer service – and are still smiling!”

Above: Card Factory was pleased with the Christmas trade
Above: Card Factory was pleased with the Christmas trade

Adam Dury, chief commercial officer of Card Factory

What’s your verdict?

“Pleased.”

Spill the beans…

“Overall card performance was in line with my expectation and, personally, I was particularly pleased with the performance of single Christmas cards and the continual focus on our own UK-based production.

“Customer behaviour certainly changed this Christmas as people became more focused on the earlier dates for last postage as well as greater consideration for those cards that could be delivered by hand, thus helping to manage overall cost.

“From my time out and about in our shops and from listening to our customers it was evident some had chosen to shop the High Streets and shopping centres to reduce the risk of delayed postage from shopping online.”

Above: Adam Dury with Card Factory’s The Retas 2022 trophy
Above: Adam Dury with Card Factory’s The Retas 2022 trophy

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

“We ensured we had the right balance of promotional activity and continually reviewed the timings of all product and range launches to ensure we had the right balance between the everyday and Christmas offer. Thankfully we didn’t have to wrestle with the shipping challenges of 2021!”

What changes in consumer buying patterns did you track?

“Customers are searching for value for money and are still focused on celebrating those special times throughout the year. The ability to offer the customer a one-stop-shop of card, gift and wrap continues to remain top of mind as customers look to control spend and shop with greater efficiency. Our proposition offers great value for money across a range of products and price points, and our experience so far this year has confirmed how well this resonates with consumers.”

What were your top performers?

“Cards for your nearest and dearest. It was a year whereby captions such as wife, husband, mum and dad were definitely big hits.”

Your hunch and approach for 2023?

“Confident and optimistic – I am the eternal optimist! We always complete a post season review to ensure we rebalance the 2023 offer to resonate perfectly with the customer. Roll on next Christmas!”

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