There has been a fair bit of good news coming from John Lewis Partnership over the last few days – and those feelgood waves are lapping in from the retail group’s greeting card scene too.
Last Friday (22 January) the retailer (which comprises the John Lewis department store business and the Waitrose supermarket side) announced that it was to repay the HMRC and the Govt its £300 million ‘Covid loan’, two months ahead of schedule on the back of better than anticipated general trading since September. And a day prior, the retailer announced that it was pledging an additional £2 million to charities FareShare and Home-Start to support families in need. This follows the £3m John Lewis and Waitrose raised for the two charities through its ‘Give a Little Love’ Christmas Campaign.
John Lewis and Waitrose customers showed more than a little love for the retailer brands’ Christmas card and wrap selection. Sarah Moughtin, junior buyer of stationery and seasonal events said she was “Very pleased with the Christmas trading” while acknowledging it was “challenging for JL with shops closing through the various lockdown of tiers but we still tried to give customers enough choice online so that they could complete their gifting journey with us. It was evident to see how important branches are to greeting card sales as we tracked in the positive when JL branches opened and in decline when branches had to close.”
She reveals that John Lewis experienced “a staggering increase” in its online greeting card trade.
Having been able to trade throughout the lockdowns, Waitrose, Sarah confirmed “had a very strong performance with significant year on year growth” on the greeting card front, with the extension of its brokerage relationship with Woodmansterne to include Waitrose as well as John Lewis store proving advantageous. “Now that we are buying pan-partnership we were able to be more flexible with the stock we hold at Woodmansterne across both retailers which has also been of huge benefit to the publishers with whom we work.”
Sarah says she is “full of excitement” for what the retailer now has planned on the greeting card front, which will see a greater commitment to reflect diversity on its card racks. Picking out some of the highlights of the Everyday SS21 selection, Sarah highlights the introduction of AfroTouch Design (owned by black publisher Georgina Fihosy) into the offering as well as The Art File’s Fierce & Fabulous and Belly Button’s Happy Days ranges, which both feature women of different skin tones.
She also plays tribute to the “contemporary collections from Caroline Gardner and Woodmansterne, as well as some brilliant humour. It really was tough selecting and we have achieved a high percentage newness! Publishers have definitely been getting creative in lockdown as there were so many amazing designs.”
As Sarah points out while the pandemic has been challenging, she is no doubt that it “has definitely put greeting cards at the forefront of people’s minds as a way to keep in touch and to let people know you’re thinking of them.”
This belief is echoed in the findings in John Lewis’ annual Shop, Live, Look report (released last month) which looks back on the last 12 months, revealed how the Covid-19 pandemic reshaped our lives – how we shop, socialise and work.
The report highlights how we embraced not only letter writing, but continued to ensure we maintained our supply of greeting cards – with John Lewis revealing an 370% uplift in its greeting card sales online last year.
As Simon Coble, trading director of John Lewis summed up: “It has been a year in which people’s homes truly became their castles. We couldn’t venture out into the world, so we brought the world into our homes. We’ve stayed in, hunkered down, decked out and spruced up our living spaces.
As well as reconfiguring our living spaces as offices, schools and gyms, we’ve treated ourselves to new technology, from coffee machines to TVs. We’ve rediscovered forgotten pleasures such as letter writing. And we’ve freed ourselves from the tyranny of the waistband by embracing comfortable clothing. “
Letter writing and stretchy waistbands in the same paragraph, life has indeed been changed by Covid!
Top: The advantage of Woodmansterne now being the brokerage partner for Waitrose as well as the John Lewis stores has brought logistical benefits to participating publishers during the lockdowns.