Greetings retail revival continues

New bricks-and-mortar openings show industry is bucking UK trend


Greeting card retailers are bucking the UK trend with ever more bricks-and-mortar shop openings across all strata of the industry.

The latest information from the Local Data Company and professional services and accounting firm PwC revealed “unprecedented challenges” facing the High Street and a net decrease of 5,000 stores across Britain over the past year.

Above: Cards Direct’s latest store in Sheffield
Above: Cards Direct’s latest store in Sheffield

But on the greetings front, the past couple of weeks have seen large retail group Cards Direct, medium indie chain Scribbler, and small chain Jumping Bean open new outlets, along with a completely new shop-cum-studio from publisher Oh Squirrel – and 100th birthday celebrations for indie department store Austins.

Edging ever closer to its 70th store, Cards Direct has its latest outlet in Sheffield’s Crystal Peaks Shopping Centre as the value greeting card, wrap, gifts, balloon and partyware retailer continues expanding just weeks after opening in Maidenhead.

And Scribbler buying manager Tori Heath-Smith told PG Buzz: “It’s been a busy week here as we opened our new York store on Wednesday – in typical bright, in your face, Scribbler style of course!”

Above: Scribbler green now shines in York
Above: Scribbler green now shines in York

The move takes the business co-founded by John and Jennie Procter and known for its edgy humour to 34 standalone stores with 28 of the print-on-demand kiosks developed with Fujifilm in stores, hospitals and university campuses in Britain and Northern Ireland.

Camberwell is the latest site for London’s Jumping Bean, adding to its original Honor Oak site opened in 2002, followed by Beckenham in 2012, then East Dulwich in 2021.

Co-owner Nilou Noorbaksh and the team unveiled the greeting card, gift, fashion and stationery store just last week with a social media video which can be seen below.

London is also the location for Oh Squirrel publisher and calligrapher Katie Wagstaff’s latest move, into premises in Walthamstow that she’s kitted out as part shop part showroom in her first foray into the retail world, with a three-day grand opening over the weekend. “The space is 100% an immersion into the Oh Squirrel world,” Katie explained. “It’s been lovingly designed to feel like walking into a mood board, an inspiring home away from home.  

Above: Katie’s original scribble of how she wanted her store to look, and the real thing (image: @sciencechick83)
Above: Katie’s original scribble of how she wanted her store to look, and the real thing (image: @sciencechick83)

“I adore retail and independent shops. Shopping in real life, whether on the High Street, an antique market or boot sale is my favourite hobby, so I decided this is the year I create a bricks and mortar Oh Squirrel shop and enter my shopkeeper era.” The move came when Kate was looking for a new studio closer to home in the London borough, but nothing she’d viewed was right until she found the newly-renovated shop, where she realised she could show off her brand and expand the wholesale site of the business – and the journey to the opening can be seen in the video below.




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A post shared by Oh Squirrel | Cards + Gifts (@oh_squirrel)

Kate said: “Eventually I got to view it and then, after a weekend of soul searching and asking the opinion of so many friends and peers, I made an offer. This space is going to be something special and independent.

“The thing is, owning a shop was never really on my list. It was a ‘one day, perhaps’ kind of thing, but I believe in fate and opportunity, and mostly gut feeling. Yes, opening a somewhat frivolous venture in a recession may sound like a really daft thing to do – but in my bones I feel it and I know it’s right.”

The good news isn’t just about the newbies, as the south-west’s biggest independent department store Austins has just celebrated its centenary, complete with town crier.

Having first opened in Romford, the store has been at the heart of retail life in Newton Abbot for 100 years and, with its broad range of goods including cards from publishers such as The Eco-friendly Card Company, epitomises the continuing appeal of the independent department store.

Above & top: Austins staff celebrate its 100th birthday, complete with town crier
Above & top: Austins staff celebrate its 100th birthday, complete with town crier

Austins, Barkers Northallerton, 254-year-old Jarrolds in Norwich, Sparks Bristol, and Sandersons in Sheffield, Morpeth and Stroud which was founded in 2016, all feature in a report from Drapers retail trade magazine about the renaissance of such family-owned businesses.

The Local Data Company records that as of this month there are 139 in England and Wales, up from 122 a decade ago, and Drapers has even introduced Best Independent Department Store as a new category for its indie awards this year.

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