Christmas Reports: Waterstones; Postmark and Celebrations, Aylsham

In the second of a series, leading retailers reveal how Christmas trade stacked up in the end, what strategy they adopted as well as their hunch for 2022.

Today, PG Buzz hears from Megan Douglas cards & gift wrap buyer of WaterstonesMark and Leona Janson-Smith, directors of Postmark  as well as indie Linda Bygrave, owner of Celebrations in Aylsham.

Megan Douglas has taken over on the card buying side for Waterstones.
Above: Megan Douglas has taken over on the card buying side for Waterstones.

Megan Douglas, cards & gift wrap buyer of Waterstones

Verdict: “A good-start!”

Spill the beans: “We went into Christmas 2021with quiet optimism, feeling really positive about the ranges for both cards and wrap and due to last year’s events we were hopeful that customers would be excited to be able to celebrate Christmas this year. We have had a relatively good year on cards all things considered and saw positive response to our new Christmas giftwrap.”

Your strategy: “We have learnt a lot from the sudden 2020 switch to online shopping and this has enabled us to build a good model for selling cards and wrap online which has continued to do well even with stores back open.”

Top performers: “Charity boxed cards and traditional Christmas singles were our top performers while we also had great success with our Christmas rollwrap selection.”

Above: There was some early Christmas shopping in Waterstones for Christmas cards and wrap.
Above: There was some early Christmas shopping in Waterstones for Christmas cards and wrap.

Customer buying patterns: “In common with other retailers, we saw a lift in sales earlier into the season than normal. Customer product choice however remained relatively similar to previous years.”

Sustainable stance: “We have already stopped using glitter and foils on our own brand charity boxed cards and roll wrap ranges, so this year was already 100% recyclable and sustainably sourced. The eco conversation is something we take very seriously and are continuing our work towards eco-friendly solutions to packaging and products in 2022.”

Your hunch and approach for 2022: “Optimistic, although Covid is still a very real part of life and we cannot predict what the future holds we feel that this Christmas 2021 has been a reflection that retail is slowly on the mend and that customers are still excited by our product, hopefully this will continue to grow into 2022.”

Above: An early Christmas window in Postmark to encourage spending.
Above: An early Christmas window in Postmark to encourage spending.

Mark and Leona Janson-Smith, directors of Postmark, five shops in London

Verdict: “Phenomenal!”

Spill the beans: “We couldn’t keep up with the demand! It was incredibly hard to predict this year and we had reservations as we were burnt in 2020 with the last-minute lockdown. Christmas card sales were better than we could have ever expected with a couple of stores having just a handful of cards left on Christmas Eve. For the eight weeks to Christmas we were up 18% LFL across the whole Christmas category with card sales up 15%, driven by packs and relations captioned single cards.”

Above: Postmark’s Leona (left) and Mark Janson-Smith feel equally delighted by Christmas trade as they obviously felt when they spent a Silver Ticket with Hello Geronimo at PG Live!
Above: Postmark’s Leona (left) and Mark Janson-Smith feel equally delighted by Christmas trade as they obviously felt when they spent a Silver Ticket with Hello Geronimo at PG Live!

Your strategy: “The one big change we made was giving a full bay to Christmas relations cards which worked well and something we will probably continue with in future years.”

Customer buying patterns: “The drive towards being more environmentally-friendly continues and customers continue to seek out ‘green’ products. Some 95% of our wrapping was recyclable this year and sales reflected this with our rollwrap sales being a whopping 50% up! Admittedly this was helped by supermarkets running out early, but we just couldn’t keep it on the shopfloor and were running around right till the last day getting more stock where we could. Customers were also buying a lot more packs this year with our pack sales up 19% compared to singles which 6% up in comparison.

A sustainable Christmas?: “Environmental considerations played a huge part in our customers’ buying patterns, as reflected in all our ‘eco products’ selling really well. There was hardly a drop of glitter in the shop with publishers doing really well to cut this from their offerings while retaining the Christmassy feel. Who would have thought a few years ago you could have Christmas without glitter!

Wrap is now nearly all eco-friendly something that was sought out by consumers, so an essential part of our offering now.”

Above: A selection of The Art File Christmas products.
Above: A selection of The Art File Christmas products.

Top performers: “Sell through across the board was very good with greeting card sales finishing up with an 88% sell through. We had a lot of regular stand out performers from each category. Pack sales were driven by Museums & Galleries, Woodmansterne and The Art File, all with exceptional volume and sell through numbers. Caroline Gardner was very strong this year too with its clever eco-friendly ‘net’ bags which our customers seemed to love. Top performers in single cards were The Art File, Portfolio and Rosie Made a Thing, all with very strong sales and sell through.

Your hunch and approach for 2022: “We are going into 2022 excited with a touch of caution!

We won’t change our patterns too much for the coming Christmas seasons except to continue on our quest to become even greener. We will increase volumes in certain areas too as we definitely lost sales due to running out too soon.”

Linda Bygrave, Celebrations, Aylsham

Verdict: “Buzzing.”

Above: Linda Bygrave (left) with her daughter Holly Jade with their Retas trophy that they received at the recent awards event.
Above: Linda Bygrave (left) with her daughter Holly Jade with their Retas trophy that they received at the recent awards event.

Your strategy: “We put our initial display of Christmas cards and wrap out earlier than previously and it seemed to work.”

Customer buying patterns: “We experienced people buying more Christmas boxes and packs this Christmas over previous ones.”

Top performers? “Ling’s designs were very popular.”

Above: A luxury Christmas box from Ling Design.
Above: A luxury Christmas box from Ling Design.

A sustainable Christmas: “Most customers were looking for items that could be recycled or that were not made in China.”

Your hunch and approach for 2022: “I am feeling quietly confident about 2022, hoping that customers will continue to shop local. As for my Christmas buying, I will be looking to stock more traditional designs of wrap and tags.”

Top: Waterstones scored well with its charity boxed cards and traditional single cards.

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