How was Christmas? Christmas cracker or turkey?

Retailers have started to reveal how their Christmas stocking went down.
Retailers have started to reveal how their Christmas stocking went down.

The tinsel is still on the tree, the remnants of Christmas festivities are still evidence and the final count has yet to be completed on how Christmas stacked up for greeting card retailers, but while certainly not a record breaker, it did deliver some sparkle on the sales front in some areas – notably single cards and high end boxes.

“Christmas was very up and down this year. Some days were mega busy and others didn’t seem to get fully going!” summed up Lesley Dunn of Feathering Your Nest in Rayleigh in Essex, summing up how Christmas 2017 was a difficult one to call, especially as 25th fell on a Monday.

Sales of Christmas card singles continued to rise for Papyrus.
Sales of Christmas card singles continued to rise for Papyrus.

“It’s hard to predict anything these days, so I was prepared for any scenario, always hoping we would see an increase in turnover,” Fiona Fabien, owner of Papyrus in Edinburgh told PG Buzz yesterday (Jan 1). Her hopes were met with Papyrus showing an increase in turnover. “Our Christmas card sales were up, which I wasn’t really expecting – with single Christmas cards for relations continuing to grow – a trend which keeps growing year on year.”

Mark Janson-Smith, co-owner of Postmark, which has four shops in London said that Christmas ended up being “brilliant” thanks to a mad rush in the last few days, resulting in a 10% like for like increase. “I spent the evening of Friday 22 December running around shops, pinching stock for other stores to try and make them look respectable for the weekend as they were so low. We ended up with a 91% sell through rate across all Christmas so we’re chuffed to bits!”

High end single cards, such as those from Belly Button sold well for Barkers Northallerton.
High end single cards, such as those from Belly Button sold well for Barkers Northallerton.

Postmark’s sales of single cards were up 15% and thanks to a late rally, its sales of Christmas boxes matched the previous year’s like for like sales.

Echoing the trend experienced by many Sarah Lishman, card buyer of department store Barkers Northallerton. “Our boxed cards sales were down, but single card sales were up.

Customers were buying top end boxes, Five Dollar, Belly Button and The Art File all doing really well. The new Noel Tatt boxes were very strong for us – great quality and design at a good price point.

Overall, we finished on a par with last year,” revealed Sarah.

Liz Killick felt there was less festive cheer in 2017.
Liz Killick felt there was less festive cheer in 2017.

Respected card retailer Liz Killick of Calladoodles, Carshalton suggests that Chrsitmas “suffered a definite downturn this year. The result of a combination, I suspect, of general belt tightening and the rise in online shopping. A straw poll of retailers carried out on our High Street revealed that footfall and takings were down on last year across the board.”

Scribbler co-owners suggest that the drop in footfall will have affected most major high street players.
Scribbler co-owners suggest that the drop in footfall will have affected most major high street players.

The drop in footfall is something which Scribbler co-owners John and Jennie Procter said cannot be denied as having had an impact. “Footfall in major centres declined, as reported in the press.  The high street was heavily discounted and, as a direct result, consumers were primarily interested in ‘sale’ items” John and Jennie told PG Buzz. Summarising the sales patterns in its stores, amplifying previous comments they said: “Packs continued to decline and Christmas singles held their own.” While this resulted in Scribbler’s “top line sales being down as we sold a greater proportion of own brand cards, it is looking as if our bottom line improved.”

Meanwhile, over in Kent, although its Christmas sales were up, Nicky Goodman of Paddock Wood Cards said she found it “frustrating that a lot of younger people tend now to not send Christmas cards anymore and instead give to charity, even though there are card companies out there that benefit charities. However, thankfully the older generation still love to send a card. With this is mind it’s worrying times but you just have to adapt your business to the trends of that time and adapt your buying patterns accordingly.”

Santa did deliver – just in time for many retailers!
Santa did deliver – just in time for many retailers!

Over in Welshpool, Ros Jones, owner of Celtic Company, said that the pull for charity boxes remained strong, continuing a trend of the last few years.

“We ended up having a better Christmas than I had expected –  6% up on last year,” admitted Ros. To her mind the weather benefitted her sales. “I think the heavy snow pre-Christmas ended up being an advantage as it put people off travelling far to go shopping and we saw a spike in ‘shopping local’.”

While it will not be until till receipts are double checked and returns are counted that the full Christmas picture will be formed, the festive trade did happen, but maybe it did not have as much glitter and sparkle as some would have hoped, which will impact on this year’s buying plans.

As Scribbler’s John and Jennie Procter summed up: “This year promises to be extremely challenging and there will be no room for complacency!”

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