Greeting card retailers are having to hold their nerve more than ever this Christmas as the consumer trend for buying later and later is reaching a peak this year. With Christmas Day falling on a Monday giving the impression of an ‘extra weekend’ meaning that the peak in those all important and lucrative single card sales has shifted further into December.
With 11 days to go until the big day, echoing the views felt by many retailers, Philip Downer, managing director of respected retail group, Calliope Gifts told PG Buzz: “They say Christmas is later every year, but this year is really proving the point. Having Christmas Eve on a Sunday makes it very odd – some schools aren’t breaking up until 20th/21st; and when will civilians stop working? How big will the final rush be?”
With the High Street challenges of falling footfall and drop in sales, the UK consumer is leaving their Christmas shopping to the 11th hour in a bid to bag a bargain as retailers out play one another with aggressive pricing strategies. And while there are offers to be had on the greeting card front, it is more that the change in shopping patterns is having an impact on card stockists relying as they do on the footfall. The recent snowfall was far from welcomed by retailers, the poor road conditions in some areas of the country dissuading shoppers from venturing out.
In an effort to ‘catch up’ on these lost sales, plus to lap up every last minute purchases many retailers are extending their hours accordingly.
“We will be opening all our shops at 8:30 on the morning of Sunday 24th, and we’ll close (for two whole days) when the last customer staggers away,” says Calliope’s Phillip Downer. “So far, card packs have been much bigger sellers than singles, though this will swing away once people start to focus more on their immediate families. In terms of gifts and general merchandise, party games have been very popular, and our new ranges of fashion accessories (evening purses etc) have been an immediate hit. We tightened up our Christmas decorations offer this year and focused on quality instead of quantity (the garden centres have hoovered up the mass market), and that strategy appears to have worked.”