Those in the greeting card industry is showing their love for one another at a time when the UK’s specialist card shops are not able to open for the first Spring Season event of the year.
With hopes dashed of retail lockdown easing before Valentine’s Day, publishers have been busy communicating with retailers as to their respective approach to the 2021 stock.
As Darren Cave, UKG’s commercial director told PG Buzz, for those retailers who are still able to trade, it’s ‘business as usual’, however the publisher has been in contact with those shops who are in lockdown. “We want to minimise waste and support our retail customers who are not able to open as best we can,” said Darren. “We’re encouraging our customers who couldn’t trade the season to retain the product in store for use again next year. In turn, UKG will defer payment of Valentine’s Day invoices until Feb 2022,” he confirmed.
Looking towards Mother’s Day (which falls on 14 March this year in the UK) Darren said UKG was standing by to ship quickly should lockdown restrictions be lifted in time. “We recognise that some of our customers currently closed will wish to prepare to trade Mother’s Day, and we in turn wish to support them. However, this has to be without the risk of creating significantly increased waste in what will be a materially impacted trading window. As a result, we’re offering our customers a balanced selection (2ft, 4ft, 6ft assortment) that we do have the capacity to ship if the government announce restrictions will be lifted during the February half-term.”
Sharing the approach Nigel Quiney Publications is taking, Alison Butterworth, managing director said: “We have delivered Spring ’21 to all of our customers who requested it or who were open – we worked closely with our salesforce to draw up the list. We are not delivering to customers who have asked us to hold the order. For Valentine’s Day and maybe even Mother’s Day, we may not be able to deliver at all to these customers, so in these cases we will hold the stock for next year.”
Taking a pragmatic tack, Alison added: “We are taking each week as it comes at the moment. The offices and warehouse are open full time and we are also taking orders on our Card Manager webshop. Our sales force is working – mainly administering Christmas credits and ensuring customers can place their Christmas order if they chose.”
Over at Hallmark, the publisher’s communications partner Kirstie Watson relayed: “Our approach for customers who remain closed is that can retain their spring season stock to help minimise waste and will then be invoiced in 2022. However, if any customers would prefer to have the stock credited then we are happy to support them in doing this. Our ASMs are discussing this with individual retailers.”
For Mother’s Day, Kirstie added: “Stock is on hand to support retailers if they have the opportunity to reopen and trade the spring season. We will be considering shipping condensed versions of the range if required.”
As David Byk, ceo of Ling Design and GBCC summed up, “All evidence points to the fact that consumers will want to continue buying cards, it is just a question of where and how.”
Ling and GBCC would normally have despatched its Valentine’s Day cards in the week before Christmas but checked with customers if they wanted it then and many wanted to wait to see what would happen post Christmas. “We dispatched lots on January 4 not knowing that Boris was going to decide at the last minute to stand up that day and close non-essential retail!! This resulted in lots of those customers being closed and sadly we will have Valentine’s back from them. Others will be open or offering web orders and we hope they will see enough footfall depending on sentiment to have a decent Valentine’s Day – the important thing is we are seeing that people are very much wanting to send cards!”
Looking to Mother’s Day, a very important season for both GBCC and Ling “as this is our core market and design heartland. With it being mid March we are watching carefully to see what happens. Having lost the last week of sales last year, some of our customers have some stock left over. Many did OK last year despite the last minute lockdown and publishers and customers alike could really do with the revenue in 2021 and not be sitting on stock till next year which also affects how much new we can look at bringing out. Fortunately looking at our customer base and stock levels we have decided we will be able to introduce newness for 2022, but it’s quite a challenge when things change literally on a day by day basis yet we are planning creative a year ahead!!”
Ending on a bittersweet note, David added: “As for Easter the whole team will just sit in a corner depressed gorging on chocolate dressed as Easter bunnies if we aren’t back to some sort of normal in retail at least by then!!!”
Top: One of the Valentine’s Day POS items that is downloadable from the GCA website (https://www.gca.cards/valentines-day-toolkit/). The website also includes a blog post on the origins and enduring appeal of Valentine’s Day cards. (https://www.gca.cards/valentines-day-history-stats-and-facts/)