In the third of a series, leading 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 Carlo Marinelli, senior buyer of Paperchase; Richard Baker, co-owner of Cilla and Camilla as well as Adam and Harriet De Wolff, co-owners of The Indigo Tree.
Carlo Marinelli, senior buyer of cards, wrap and gifts for Paperchase
Verdict: “Encouraging overall.”
Spill the beans: “Despite the late arrival of Omicron threatening to scupper December sales, we saw some very strong performances, particularly charity card packs and our Christmas card boxes. While single cards sales remained relatively flat, our premium price-point innovation cards, featuring sound, light and pop outs, sold particularly well and really resonated with our customers.”
Sustainable stance: “All of our card packaging is now plastic-free.”
Your hunch and approach for 2022: “The performance of 2021 has given us a degree of confidence going into Christmas 2022 planning, and we’re aiming to book early to counteract the inevitable freight delays that we’ll no doubt encounter again.”
Richard Baker, co-owner of Cilla and Camilla, Sherborne, Beaminster and Bridport
Verdict: “Very pleased.”
Spill the beans: “Overall, we were really pleased with our Christmas trade. Overall, our Christmas cards/gift wrap etc sales were almost 20% ahead of 2019 – we estimate around half that increase was volume and half price inflation.
To determine what a ‘good’ Christmas would be (considering that the past two years have been so disrupted) in the end, we set ourselves some fairly ambitious targets and exceeded them by around 10%. The West Country market towns, from which we trade, have all been vibrant throughout the pandemic. Those influences which have caused larger centres to suffer, have impact in a directly opposite way in these towns. Customers who might have made Christmas shopping trips to Bath, Bristol or Exeter, stayed local and who might have travelled abroad have stayed at home. Since re-opening in April, we have seen consistently high numbers of visitors to Dorset.”
“One quirky benefit came courtesy of our local pharmacy in Beaminster where our enterprising pharmacist organised a large scale vaccination centre in the Town Hall, which had regular capacity for walk-in boosters. This centre attracted hundreds of people from the local region – up to perhaps a 30-mile radius – many of whom then stayed on in the town to shop. Our Beaminster cafe has been strong all year but, in December, boosted by ‘booster patients’, sales were double what we saw in 2020.”
Your strategy: “We ordered some key stock earlier than usual to avoid shortages which might have resulted from distribution delays in the supply chain. This generally worked well for us, although we still struggled for stock in a few areas, notably in diffusers, plush and some toiletries. On the whole though, our major suppliers were pretty good.”
Customer buying patterns: “Some customers bought earlier than we might have expected, but not to any significant degree. The overall sales profile was almost identical to 2019 (2020 was obviously different with November lockdown).”
Top performers: “We were caught a little short with Christmas cards and giftwrap. We did little different from previous years, but customers wanted much more. We were able to get last minute top-ups from a few really helpful suppliers, most notably, Rosie Made a Thing, The Art File and Woodmansterne.”
Sustainable stance: “We increasingly stock unwrapped cards and avoid plastic packaging wherever we can. We like doing this, it makes us feel better about ourselves, and some customers comment on it. But, overall, I think the impact on sales is very marginal, even in ‘right-on, woke’ Bridport.”
Your hunch and approach for 2021: “We see all the influences which have boosted trade through 2021 continuing well into the future. We are quietly and modestly confident about 2022.”
Adam and Harriet de Wolff, co-owners of The Indigo Tree in Streatham and Crystal Palace, London
Spill the beans: “We simply had our best Christmas trade ever! We were so well supported by our local communities as well as across the country online. Our Christmas sales were well up, double digit increases in both stores. We had amazing Christmas trade in both stores and they were virtually empty by the close of play on Christmas Eve. This was unbelievable and shows we got our choices right, but it also puts us in a fantastic position to find new for 2022!”
Your strategy: “We did put our Christmas stock out in a week or so earlier than usual. While customers didn’t really start buying Christmas-themed products until very late November we did see an earlier start to gift buying.”
Customer buying patterns: “We didn’t really see a huge shift in buying patterns, but we did have to re-order much more than we have done before. And we have virtually no Christmas stock to carry over which is a dream scenario!”
Top performers: “We did really well with charity card packs this year.”
Sustainable stance: “We made a conscious decision to avoid stocking glitter cards and plastic novelty products. We are seeing that people generally avoid buying unwrapped cards over wrapped so we need to find a workable solution to this as we are left with unsaleable dirty, clasp-ripped and torn cards.”
Top: Cilla & Camilla’s Beaminster Christmas shop window.