Indies still fear grocers

Retail Barometer reveals supermarkets now greater threat than value giant, garden centres or online


Supermarkets are seen as the greater threat to independent greeting card retailers who are already in competition with garden centres, print-on-demand operators, Card Factory and Amazon.

The annual PG Retail Barometer survey, which this year invited 1,750 independent retailers to participate, saw 72% of respondents view the grocers as a real concern, with 16% going so far as to view them as a “serious threat”, and the figures continue the trend of last year as just three years ago only 17% of indies viewed the supermarkets in this way.

Above: Indie retailers see supermarkets as a threat
Above: Indie retailers see supermarkets as a threat

While many of the challenges of the pandemic have receded, the big grocers were able to cement their dominance when they were the only retailers allowed to open, so customers were restricted to supermarkets or shopping online where many independent greeting stores did do well.

Despite the challenges of the last year – notably the cost-of-living increases, rail and postal strikes – independent greetings retailers fared pretty well, with 66% either having experienced growth or remained on a par with 2021 levels.

With the 2023 rollercoaster ride now underway, PG continues to delve into the findings of the PG Retail Barometer, with both Cardgains members and those who do not belong to the buying group. All surveys were completed by 6 January, 2023.

Looking at threats and opportunities, garden centres do continue to be a thorn in the side of indies, especially as more publishers are courting this fertile ground, with 41% seeing them as a threat, and 13% as a serious one.

In the digital space, while less acutely felt than this time last year, the vast product selection and marketing muscle has seen Moonpig, Thortful, Funky Pigeon and other print-on-demand operators continue to irk 35% of indies, but that splits into 25% seeing them as a threat with 10% considering the online market a serious threat.


Above: Despite constant new store openings like Spennymoor in Co Durham, Card Factory is felt to be less of a threat now
Above: Despite constant new store openings like Spennymoor in Co Durham, Card Factory is felt to be less of a threat now

Amazon still looms high as a threat for 42% of indie respondents, especially given that increasing numbers of publishers as well as retailers are tapping into the online giant’s agility to respond to the whims of the consumer seeking the ultimate convenience of shopping from their sofa.

Despite the fact that Card Factory has further bolstered its position as the UK’s market-leading player with significantly upwards of 1,000 stores and has broadened its product offer, now only 35% of respondents view the value chain as a threat – three years ago, this figure was up at 41% – while 62% are neutral about its effects, and 3% actually consider the retail giant a bonus.

Meanwhile, social media is a double-edged sword having become a well-used tool for indies over the last year, with over three quarters (77%) now using channelling ideas through the medium for business purposes, and 65% of respondents now have a website for their shops.

Above: Garden centres and print-on-demand are still a thorn in indies’ sides
Above: Garden centres and print-on-demand are still a thorn in indies’ sides

However, 44% also view texting, emailing or social networking sites as threat because they offer an alternative to greeting cards, and 14% of those think these are a serious threat, while just 1% seem them as a bonus.

The full story of the 2022 PG Retail Barometer – which covers Threats & Opportunities, Growth Indicators, 2022 Christmas Sending, Sourcing Matters and Sustainability Drivers – can be found in the February issue of Progressive Greetings magazine, and PG Buzz will feature further outtakes over the next few mailings. The magazine can be read online here or you can subscribe here to receive the magazine by post each month.

Top: The PG Retail Barometer reflects indies’ views

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