Honest talk about Clintons from the Taylors

Greetings chain’s new owners confident of turnaround in next financial year

 

Having almost doubled their retail estate overnight to nearly 350 stores when the family-run Cardzone group acquired the Clintons chain back in March, Paul and James Taylor knew they had a lot of sorting out to do before revealing their grand plan for the future.

Speaking out this week publicly for the first time since the acquisition in March – to Retail Gazette, PG Buzz and The Sun – the father and son duo who head up the business have been honest in admitting the Clintons “business was in a worse state” than they had expected, but trading director James assured PG Buzz “it is 100% sortable”.

Above & top: Work is underway to futureproof Clintons, where some stores are considered much larger than needed for a card and gift offer
Above & top: Work is underway to futureproof Clintons, where some stores are considered much larger than needed for a card and gift offer

James explained it was never going to be an overnight success to dovetail Clintons into the existing Cardzone retailing business, but he feels very confident that all the key changes that need to be made – including strategy, store realignment, product balance, branding and management team – will be in place by the start of the group’s 2025/2026 financial year, which runs from 1 July, 2025.

“By then we will be in complete control of our destiny as, for example, we have inherited some commitment for Christmas 2024,” said James.

While not known for ever courting publicity, the pair recognised the merit in explaining the Clintons’ situation to Retail Gazette “to give the clear message to landlords how we are excited by the potential Clintons brings to our group, that there are challenges that we are working through,” said James.

Above: The Taylors inherited some purchasing commitments for Clintons for 2024/25, but it will be different next year
Above: The Taylors inherited some purchasing commitments for Clintons for 2024/25, but it will be different next year

The article, which appeared on Retail Gazette yesterday, 19 June, comes on the back of what James described as “a really good Father’s Day trade,” adding: “Like-for-like sales from our Clintons’ stores were up 2% and Cardzone stores’ sales were up 6%.”

And he revealed to PG Buzz that while “trading was tough in April and May, June’s sales are running head”.

With half of its stores on the High Street, James readily admits the drop in general footfall is a concern: “While shopping for seasons and events such as Father’s Day brings people into the stores, everyday sales are something of a challenge.

“We remain very confident of the greeting card sector and our sales are in line with footfall, and so a strong season can make up any shortfall in everyday. The current voids in High Streets, from the likes of Wilko closing and also the high parking charges do not help.”

Above: James Taylor and his sister Alex, marketing manager of the family business, spoke to Retail Gazette about Clintons’ future
Above: James Taylor and his sister Alex, marketing manager of the family business, spoke to Retail Gazette about Clintons’ future

While six Clintons stores are in the process of closing down, a situation Cardzone inherited, James stressed talks are still underway with landlords “to do everything we can to avoid any further closures or cause any alarm to our loyal team”.

In a candid interview with Retail Gazette alongside his sister Alex, who is the group’s marketing manager, James said once Clintons is returned to profitability that’s when “the exciting stuff” can really start happening.

Above: Consideration is being given as to whether Clintons would be a good brand to use for some Cardzone stores
Above: Consideration is being given as to whether Clintons would be a good brand to use for some Cardzone stores

“We want to have a concept that definitely holds on to the traditional key factors of Clintons but also introduces some newness and giftware and different ways of displaying products,” James told journalist Aoife Morgan, stressing that retaining the Clintons brand is very much part of the big picture, with some current Cardzone branches potentially being rebranded under the well-known name.

More store openings are also part of the plan “because that’s what the High Street needs,” believes James.

Echoing her brother’s views, Alex elaborated on the importance of card shops on the High Street, telling Retail Gazette: “People will go to supermarkets [for their cards] because they’re convenient but, if you’re on a High Street, people will make that journey to go visit their favourite brands and see what’s new.”

Above: Six Clintons stores are in the process of being closed, but talks are underway with landlords
Above: Six Clintons stores are in the process of being closed, but talks are underway with landlords

James added: “The UK population loves buying and sending cards and people are living longer. There’s a larger elderly population out there, and they are predominantly our typical customer – middle aged, female.”

The article ended with a positive endorsement of the Taylors’ ownership of Clintons: “Perhaps a dose of family values could be just what Clintons needs to get back on its feet.”

The Retail Gazette news piece can be found here with the extended interview with James and Alex Taylor here.

Above: The Mooch brand gives the group a gifty option
Above: The Mooch brand gives the group a gifty option

 

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