While not a humdinger, Christmas 2019 trade for cardies was generally better than expected. Continuing a trend of the last few years, higher end captioned single cards performed well while sales of box cards continued to dip for many, with the exception of charity cards. The wet weather in the run-up did dampen sales, but the fact that Christmas Day fell on a Wednesday provided a long weekend boost to trade in the final thrust.
Nigel Hamilton-Evans, co-owner of The Well Good Card Shop @Boroughbridge Post Office, Boroughbridge; Sarah Holmes, owner of Pencil Me In, Elgin and Carl Dunne, owner of Cards and Gifts, Sheffield share their Christmas card trade reports.
Nigel Hamilton-Evans, co-owner of The Well Good Card Shop @Boroughbridge Post Office, Boroughbridge:
How did it go? “Christmas sales were fantastic – our sales ended up by about 7% against the previous year.
Specialising in quality packs, wrapping, tags and bags has resulted in increased sales year on year. Added to this our range of ‘special’ Christmas cards for friends and relatives continues to draw more and more customers back every year.
We saw the biggest increase in sales in our card packs, with quality again being the key.”
Changing buying habits? “Our stamp sales held their own this year after many years of decline which is good news.
We did a little bit of customer feedback and I get the impression that the ‘card list’ of a few years ago has been stripped out of the ‘those nice people we met on holiday 10 years ago’ . Therefore, we are selling less stamps but now sell better, and more expensive, cards and packs.”
Mitigating circumstances? “We promoted a personal shopper experience with my colleague Julie Thompson and I being on the shopfloor to help find that perfect card. That attention to detail and a personal and enthusiastic approach drove sales. The amount of comments we received along the lines of “why would we go anywhere else in future” was amazing.
We have adopted this approach as believe there is nothing better than a passionate, proud and knowledgeable person wanting to find you that perfect card. And Julie and I know our stock inside out!”
Star performers? “Ling led the way on the quality card box/pack front with Peter Pauper and a few others close behind.”
Sarah Holmes, owner of Pencil Me In, Elgin:
How did it go? “Overall we were 15% up on the previous year in sales across all of our products and with a better margin.
We went all in for singles this year, it is too difficult to compete with the supermarkets and the bigger chains on packs. We only had a few customers asking for them (and I think I will get some packs in for 2020). I thought I had got the volume of cards right but alas in the last few days it was slim pickings and we could have sold a lot more (noted for next year!).”
Changing buying habits? “I felt Christmas spending started earlier for us and there was then a steady stream up to Christmas.”
Mitigating circumstances?: “We were very fortunate that we had no bad weather spells this year and, unlike those around the UK, no crazy rain or snow.”
Star performers? “We sold out of ‘erm everything! We have stocked Jade Fisher every Christmas and her cards, being that little bit bigger than A6, with beautiful illustrations and representing good value always do really well,”
Buying plans for Christmas 2020? “More, more cards! I was pleased with how all of our ranges sold, there is nothing that hasn’t gone well. Our custom range of products especially sold fantastically. We usually have a sale table in January in store, but we have barely anything to go on it! Overall I am pleased and think there is still scope to push further and improve sales.”
Carl Dunne, owner of Cards and Gifts, Sheffield:
How did it go? “What did Santa bring me for Christmas? Well 1,200 box cards, removal of scaffolding, the opening and closing of a pop-up shop, a 6% increase in overall sales, amazing customer feedback and a partridge in a pear tree!
We were happy that our Christmas card sales were up – and single cards were up by 4%. We managed to not only move all of our normal Christmas stock, but also what I’d ordered for the pop-up shop as well.”
Changing buying habits? “Sales of stamps dropped drastically for us. Either people are being more economical with their postage by sending cards together or this could be a further indication that snail mail is taking a serious downturn.
Gift bags outsold roll and flat wrap which I believe is a further sign that we’re getting much lazier when it comes to wrapping our presents.
We also saw a huge increase in sales of brown paper suggesting that people are looking for more environmentally-friendly wrap which aren’t foil or containing glitter.
We had some of the bizarre requests for relations titles, such as ‘To Mum and the dog’ and even one request for a polygamous card ‘Son and Partners’. He must be a happy man I thought! Thank God for Creation Express as we are able to quickly knock up such personalised titles on demand.”
Mitigating circumstances: “The weather. As the nation was dealing with flooding, Sheffield and South Yorkshire really did take the biggest hit with deluges of rainfall not seen since the floods of 2007. Meadowhall closed, the River Don burst its banks, shoppers stayed home and dry. Though luckily you can’t dampen the British shopping spirit, and as soon as the sun came out so did they!
Late in November we saw the scaffolding (that has blighted our area and the other businesses), partially removed. All of this after two years of promises, lies, back peddling by councillors and planning etc.”
Star performers? “When it comes to card lines that flew off our shelves, UKG’s single and box cards were stand out favourites. We increased our offering of UKG and its associated company’s charity box cards to compete with the pop-up shops that now seem to dwarf the high streets during the festive season.
Cherry Orchard won hands down when it came to the more diverse titles such as ‘Son and Son-in law’, ‘Daughter and Daughter-in law’ etc.
We sold House of Sarunds’ Boozy Chocolates for the first time and we sold out. While, our last new line was a full range of glitter light-up scenes which we couldn’t keep up with, having to re-order several times throughout the festive period.”
Buying plans for Christmas 2020? “Looking forward to Christmas 2020, other than just a few tweaks with regards the box cards it looks like we’re just about right with what we’ve had in store. Card sale increases this year show us that the market isn’t shrinking and actually many are choosing quality over the cheaper end of the market.”
Top: (left-right) Nigel Hamilton-Evans (Boroughbridge Post Office), Sarah Holmes (Pencil Me In) and Carl Dunne (Cards and Gifts).