Up until the Prime Minister’s message yesterday urging the general public to minimise social contact and work from home as much as possible, many card retailers were feeling pretty positive, especially as the early signs of Mother’s Day sales have been encouraging.
“So far trade is rocking!“ exclaimed Miles Robinson, co-owner of Home Counties group, House of Cards. “We had two very quiet weeks after Valentine’s Day but then it’s been supercharged for obvious reasons. I suspect we may get this week out of it, but assuming a request for 70+ year olds to self-isolate comes in then I think that will see sales drop dramatically although I hope not of course. The obvious changes are people buying early clearly believing we may have a European type shutdown.”
Amanda co-owner of Love It in Stamford and Bury St Edmunds has also reported “a very good” run up to Mother’s Day. “Our card sales are strong and we have reordered on humour especially Redback (it’s Happy Mother’s Day Mum, you are definitely in my top 2 parents’ is the best!).Wendy Jones-Blackett is particularly strong too (its beautiful Paper Diamond range is just lovely) while Second Nature’s handmade designs are always a winner.”
She believes Love It’s two shops are busy as “customers are shopping local and supporting small businesses. Up until yesterday we have certainly found people out and about enjoying the spring-like weather, wanting to chat and have a bit of light relief giggling at our humorous cards.”
In addition to the Mother’s Day sales Amanda says that there have been extra sales made with “people wanting to cheer someone up with a cheeky card. Meanwhile others are genuinely worried and have wanted to buy something to wish us well!! We are very touched by the kindness and it’s clear many people need shops at the heart of their communities. No doubt there are tough times ahead but we are keeping positive.”
Another naturally positive person is Deborah Tingay, owner of Southbourne Cards who sees it as part of a card retailer’s role to be there for the community, sharing good times and the bad.
“You can find the humour even in the darkest of times. I had to laugh when a customer said to me yesterday: “This panic buying of toilet rolls is just for arseholes!”
Our Mother’s Day sales are very good so far and we should see good growth on last year. Yes my customers are worried, but we are staying positive by offering great customer service. There are not as many free hugs, but we are showing them that we care about their welfare by providing hand sanitiser and trying to operate contactless transactions as a preference.”
Sean Austin, owner of Austin & Co in Malvern says he was going great guns on Mother’s Day, but trade was steadier than he had hoped on Saturday. “I was so on a roll. Christmas was wonderful, and in complete opposite to a lot the major players on the High St, we had our best ever Valentine’s Day sales. So, Mother’s Day was on course to be a huge event. It’s not completely washed out, but last Saturday was not what you’d imagine a week before Mother’s Day. I know it’s very much about the health of our customers, staff, and neighbours, but if a lockdown is planned (similar to Italy and Spain), I do hope we can get through this final week. Saying that I was very heartened by some of the measures in the recent budget, especially the grant for businesses in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief.”
Meanwhile up in Cockermouth, Victoria Robinson, owner of Wishes is relieved that business has been “steady”. While Victoria says “the last week or so customers have been planning ahead and told us they are buying the cards they will want over the next two-three months” she accepts that “anything that resembles normality may now be behind us for a while in these uncharted waters.”
Having seen the shop’s takings increase on Saturday, due to customers planning ahead, she is bracing herself for a dip.
“The unknown is a worrying place to be, but we just have to take this day by day,” says Victoria philosophically. “Staying positive is a bit of a roller coaster, trying to keep a level head and manage decision making when you don’t know what’s around the corner isn’t easy. Thoughts of, will we have to close next week? The week after? Aren’t far from my mind. But we have been through tough (albeit very different) times before, and that helps to reassure that we will get through this too.”
Top: Part of the Mother’s Day display at Southbourne Cards.