“It’s still early days, but it has been a very, very encouraging start,” exclaimed Paul Taylor, managing director of Cardzone, referring to the last five days of trading in his stores since non-essential shops were allowed to re-open. “There clearly is a pent-up demand among the public to buy greeting cards, we all have to hope that sales patterns continue to be encouraging but we won’t be popping the champagne corks quite yet!”
Over 50 of Cardzone’s 135 stores opened on Monday with the others to follow in due course, with those in Wales able to re-open from Monday (22 June) while those in Scotland can start trading from June 29. “I would like to think we will have 100 of our stores open by the end of June and the final ones soon after that,” assured Paul.
With so many of the multiple card shop branches still closed (notably Card Factory, Paperchase and Clintons), indies have been making hay while the sun shines since the start of the week.
“Trading in all our three shops has been beyond our expectations – really positive response from our customers,” exclaimed Chris Bryant, who co-owns Expressions (in Swindon), Cats Whiskers (in Bishops Cleeve) and Polkadot (in Keynsham). “Expressions as expected, being predominantly cards, has performed extremely well. Father’s Day sales have been brisk, along with very good general sales. We have had plenty of sales in the £30-£50 region with regular customers coming in to replenish their card stocks.”
Chris, in common with so many other indies has lapped up the lovely comments from customers. “It has been great to hear them say things like “Thank goodness you are open we’ve missed you so much”, “It’s great to be back in a proper card shop where we can get just what we want,” “The supermarkets have no stock and are in a mess”, “We have had to buy online, but it’s not the same as coming in and choosing”. It’s all very reassuring,” says Chris.
As the days have gone on, retailers and their customers have quickly adapted to the social distancing and hygiene measures put in place not seeing them as a barrier to sales and in some way may be helping to boost sales as the public feel guilty putting cards back in the racks.
Never one to take the ‘normal’ path, Tim Gould, owner of publisher and retail business, Objectables raised smiles in Folkestone, where the shop is based with the messages on its social distancing signs, including ‘Don’t come any closer, I just farted’ and ‘You’re nice, but back off’.
Tim is very happy that sales in the shop have matched, and possibly exceeded this time last year.
“One good thing is that we have had very few LAL’s (laughs and leaves). We often had groups of people who spend 20 minutes reading all the cards, having a good laugh, telling us how much they love the shop, then they buggered off. In normal times it’s mildly annoying but still nice that people have enjoyed themselves. I think people are more aware now and being a bit more conscious of not using up our floorspace if there are others waiting to come in,” suggests Tim.
Mark Rees, managing director of Penmark, which comprises 10 card shops and four candle shops in the Midlands is another one who is delighted and mighty relieved that the re-opening has gone well in the three stores he re-opened this week, all others to be up and trading by next Friday.
“It has been 100% better than I thought it would be. Three days in and our sales were 50% up on this time last year,” Mark revealed. “The ‘spent-iment’ is strong, with customers clearly enjoying coming into the stores and spending, with our average transaction value well up.”
Mark has some unexpected local competition for Father’s Day trade in the form of his eight-year-old son Henry. The plucky youngster has set up Henmark, has bought Father’s Day cards from his father at 50p each, is to sell them via a ‘pop-up’ stall outside the family home in Duffield (near Derby) tomorrow as well as via a tie-up with the local butcher who is to retail them on his counter. Henry will give 10% of the proceeds to NHS Charities Together.
“There is always competition, but you just never expect it to be right under your nose!” said Mark.
Henry is backing his launch with an active marketing campaign. Already with a YouTube following for videos about his culinary skills (Chef Henry), he has also made a film to explain about his new greeting card venture (see below).
To see more first impressions of how trade is going post open-up, click on this link: https://www.pgbuzz.net/back-in-business-card-retailers-lap-up-the-publics-craving-for-normality/
* The GCA is organising a Zoom Meet-up with retailers on Monday 29 June (at 4pm) to discuss how trade is going and what more could be done to support them. Any retailer interested should contact Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA on firstname.lastname@example.org
Top: All Scribbler shops opened on Monday and got off to a good start.