Christmas Reports: Objectables, Stationery Supplies and Earlybird

In the fourth of a series, retailers reveal how Christmas trade stacked up for them in the end, what performed well as well as their respective hunches for 2022.

Today, PG Buzz hears from Tim Gould, co-owner of Objectables in Folkestone; Sarah Laker, owner of Stationery Supplies in Marple and Wilmslow and Heidi Early, co-owner of Earlybird in Stoke Newington, London.

Above: Happy camaraderie at The Retas last November! (Left-right) Heidi Early (Earlybird); Karen West and Sally Matson (Red Card); Dominic Early (Earlybird); Annie and Tim Gould (Objectables) and Sarah Laker (Stationery Supplies).
Above: Happy camaraderie at The Retas last November! (Left-right) Heidi Early (Earlybird); Karen West and Sally Matson (Red Card); Dominic Early (Earlybird); Annie and Tim Gould (Objectables) and Sarah Laker (Stationery Supplies).

Tim Gould, Objectables, Folkestone

Verdict: “Brilliant.”

Spill the beans: “Our Christmas trade was way above par. We had a record December right up until Christmas Eve and several sales records were broken throughout the month. We should be about 30-35% up on 2019/2020 December sales.”

Above: Objectables’ shop is in the Creative Quarter of Folkestone.
Above: Objectables’ shop is in the Creative Quarter of Folkestone.

Your strategy: “We didn’t change very much other than placing smaller orders and were still ordering more than usual in the last weeks.”

Customer buying patterns: “As plans were up in the air for everyone until the last few days, I think people had held out until the last minute. We completely sold out of Christmas cards as people were still buying several cards at a time right up till Christmas Eve.”

Top performers: “Being known as a humour shop we obviously did well on individual cards that are bought for specific people, but we bought in a lot of nice contemporary cards too. We sold every single one of the Christmas cards we bought in and were only left with our own self-published cards (that’s because we have loads of those, not because they are rubbish!😂).”

Above: One of Objectables’ quirky designs.
Above: One of Objectables’ quirky designs.

A sustainable Christmas: “About 90% of the cards we sell are nested or clasped so having sustainable cards is really not an issue. We have tried to cut back on the ‘useless plastic crap’ offerings.”

Your hunch and approach for 2022: “We are happy with the chaos tactics that have always used and will continue with these for the coming Christmas. As for how we are feeling going into 2022…F**ked!”

Above: Sarah Laker in festive mood.
Above: Sarah Laker in festive mood.

Sarah Laker, owner of Stationery Supplies, Marple and Wilmslow

Verdict: “Phew”

Spill the beans: “After the rollercoaster year we had in 2021 I had no expectations for our 2021 Christmas trading, I just held my breath and took it one day at a time. Compared to 2019 my card sales were 19% up! Gift sales were strong too, Card sales in our Marple store alone (as we did not have the Wilmslow store then) were 30% up compared to 2019 and gift sales were up a whopping 39% up compared to 2019.
However this is counterbalanced by my ‘bread and butter’ stationery sales being much slower over the whole year, meaning we were 24% down overall on 2019, which is gut wrenching and while I know there are other businesses out there in a far worse position it still hurts to my core that the pandemic has had such an effect on my business which is totally out of my control.”

Your strategy: “The only thing I did differently in 2021 was buy conservatively, I was worried we’d get a pre-Christmas lockdown and didn’t want to be left with a lot of stock, so my initial orders were smaller than usual but then I took advantage of ‘free’ delivery offered by several suppliers, including Dandelion Stationery which meant I could do some small, targeted top-ups. I also bought mainly gifts that weren’t seasonal, again with a view to being able to sell them during the year if needed.”

Above: A sustainable themed Christmas window in Stationery Supplies.
Above: A sustainable themed Christmas window in Stationery Supplies.

A sustainable Christmas: “Most definitely, sustainability remains high on the customer agenda: we sold out of recycled Christmas paper tape and wrap – it was a clear winner. Also, customers wanted ‘useful’ stocking fillers rather than plastic items that would just get thrown away. We sold a lot of pens and stickie notes as stocking fillers during December with Legami erasable pens being top of many stationery wish lists. I’ll be looking to source even more eco products this year!”

Top performers:The Art File charity cards sold out in both of our shops. Also cards with our town names on from Dandelion Stationery and Molly Mae did very well. Gift stationery, such as the lovely Leuchtturm journals, pens and products from Clockwork Soldier, East of India helped to take our gift sales up a whopping 39% higher than they were in 2019.”

Above: The Art File was a top performer in Stationery Supplies.
Above: The Art File was a top performer in Stationery Supplies.

Your hunch and approach for 2022: “December footfall and sales have shown me that the customers are still supporting my shops and that they are still looking for that shopping experience that they can’t get online. Although they are still shopping with caution it gives me hope that retail will improve during 2022.”

Above: Earlybird’s Christmas window.
Above: Earlybird’s Christmas window.

Heidi Early, co-owner of Earlybird, Stoke Newington, London

Verdict: “Wow”

Spill the beans: “Overall our sales (Oct to Dec) were up 9.5% (compared to 2019), which is incredible considering our last week of sales dipped, which we think was down to the sheer volume of customers either with Covid or isolating because they were going away. We really couldn’t have wished for more and certainly didn’t expect it!”

Your strategy: “We placed our biggest ever Christmas card pack order with Museums & Galleries and received 950 packs in September (we don’t normally take delivery until October but moved it forward a month due to worries over delivery problems and possible lockdowns) then in December we did two further top up orders, incredible!”

Above: A charity pack from Museums & Galleries that sold well for Earlybird.
Above: A charity pack from Museums & Galleries that sold well for Earlybird.

Customer buying patterns: “Overall the average spend was only slightly higher than normal, but people started Christmas earlier and tended to come back for more top ups. Customers were really happy to spend more on single cards (£3.99-£4.99 price point). Anything with a London design sold out early. We’d ordered 48 of the personalised ‘Merry Christmas from Stoke Newington’ bauble card from Jessica Hogarth and sold out of these before the last week.”

Above: Jessica Hogarth’s localised bauble cards were a sell out for Earlybird.
Above: Jessica Hogarth’s localised bauble cards were a sell out for Earlybird.

Top performers: “We pretty much sold out of all of our packs from Caroline Gardner, James Ellis, Roger la Borde, and had to do an emergency repeat order with Paper Salad and sold out of those cards too!

On singles, Alljoy’s 3D Message in a Bottle cards were super popular as were cards from Tache’s hand-finished rangeCaroline Gardner’s pom pom cards and Roger la Borde’s laser cut designs. Investing in our in-house-designed relations cards proved a winner too as we sold over 260 of them.”

A sustainable Christmas: “The only glitter card packs we had for 2021 were from Caroline Gardner and the publisher uses eco-glitter and were packed in reusable hessian-style bags so were super popular.”

Above: Caroline Gardner’s approach was a winner for Earlybird.
Above: Caroline Gardner’s approach was a winner for Earlybird.

Your hunch and approach for 2022: “For the coming Christmas we’ll be ordering more and keeping with the earlier time frame. I’d to say a massive thanks to all our suppliers as they did a superb job at getting orders to us in what was a very tricky time and we really, really appreciated it.”

Top: Part of Earlybird’s Christmas window.

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