Love was in the air for indies

Despite falling on a Monday, romance was not dead on Valentine’s Day

 

Monday may not be the most romantic day of the week for Valentine’s Day to fall, but there was still plenty of love in the air for the first spring season event of the year.

While there were fears from specialists that people would be caught on the hop so a disproportionate amount of sales would be nabbed by the grocers, many were pleasantly surprised by how the event stacked up tradewise for them.

Above: This Rosie Made A Thing design was a top seller at Red Card
Above: This Rosie Made A Thing design was a top seller at Red Card

“Love was definitely in the air – we had our best Valentine’s sales yet,” exclaimed Sally Matson, owner of Red Card in Petworth. “We put our Valentine’s cards out earlier than usual and that boosted sales. We sold 75 cards on the actual day and also opened on Sunday 13 February as I knew it would be busy with those last minute sales – and it was!”

Best sellers for Red Card were Rosie Made A Thing’s “I bloody love you” and “I’m still hot for you – it just comes in flushes now” with Louise Mulgrew, Susan O’Hanlon, Sara Miller from The Art File, Redback’s Shine and Jeffrey & Janice from Bold & Bright Designs also performing very well.

“We noticed that the 60-somethings and above went for more traditional cards, the under-30s went for the mushy stuff and the inbetweeners definitely wanted/needed humour!” reveals Sally.

Above: The Austin & Co window display, based on a Dandelion card design
Above: The Austin & Co window display, based on a Dandelion card design

Another award-winning indie who was feeling the love is Sean Austin of Malvern’s Austin & Co.

“We were up 50% on 2019 level, it was crazy – our best Valentine’s Day yet by a long way,” Sean told PG Buzz this morning (15 February). “We put our displays out three weeks earlier than usual, which helped drive other sales too. Saturday February 5 we had our biggest sales day yet on everyday cards. We opened on Sunday February 13 – we don’t normally open on a Sunday in the winter – which was very worthwhile, and the actual day itself was equivalent to a peak Saturday and even today, a day after the event, I’ve sold three Valentine’s cards in the last hour!”

Above: Some of Austin & Co’s best-selling Valentine’s designs
Above: Some of Austin & Co’s best-selling Valentine’s designs

He puts the surge down to people’s enjoyment of reconnection. “We had lots more customers buying multiple cards, to give to other members of their family and friends,” shares Sean, adding that Austin & Co’s best sellers came from Ohh Deer, Redback and Hunter Press.

Putting her Valentine’s Day display out early also paid dividends for Anne Barber, owner of In Heaven At Home in Market Harborough: “Sales were great, our sales were up 17% on 2020. After being closed for Valentine’s Day last year, we launched early this year with a full window display featuring lots of cards and gifts as well as a dedicated display area in store. We doubled our selection on previous years, including romantic, funny, silly and cheeky cards and the cheeky ones proved to be very popular!

“We changed the cards in the window every couple of days and noticed that lots of customers came in to purchase cards they had seen in the window – the power of lovely window displays! I also did lots of Facebook and Instagram posts to raise awareness, which seems to have worked,” Anne adds.

Above: One of the Valentine’s Day windows at In Heaven At Home
Above: One of the Valentine’s Day windows at In Heaven At Home

Valentine’s Day also brought a warm glow to Postmark’s cheeks with Mark Janson-Smith, managing director of the London-based group, reporting: “Our Valentine’s card sales were strong, up just over 10% like-for-like on volume and value on 2020. As always, around 50% of our Valentines sales happened in the last four days which hasn’t changed as long as I’ve been doing this.”

As for the types of cards that performed well, there was something of a shift towards “the slightly more cynical designs, with the ‘you’ll do’ captions selling out first. We didn’t stock any of the more traditional handmade cards this year as we moved away from glitter and gems, so we had less options at the higher price points, but our letterpress designs from 1973 performed well as did magnet cards from Pango, which had 100% sell through,” shared Mark.

Above: Part of Postmark’s Valentine’s marketing on its website
Above: Part of Postmark’s Valentine’s marketing on its website

While all these retailers agree they have benefited from the shop local trends, others experienced more erratic sales patterns. Penmark Valentine’s Day trade for ended 3% up overall but, as group md Mark Rees revealed: “There were variances within that. For example, we have a store near the Rolls Royce office that would typically do well at Valentine’s but traded down by 12% with so many still working from home. Our Henry & Co stores continue to be our strongest-performing stores.”

The retail group’s buyer Michael Laybourn added: “Higher-priced, captioned cards were very much in demand, Wife/Husband in particular.” Michael sensed that “sales began slowly to begin with but, over the past 10 days, gained momentum, with busy weekend trade across the stores and, as usual, yesterday (14 February) we saw a lot of last-minute sales from men at work”.

There were similar buying patterns tracked by Paperchase, whose best-selling Valentine’s Day card was its £10 Gift As A Card record player design.

Above: Paperchase’s innovative £10 Valentines card
Above: Paperchase’s innovative £10 Valentines card

“Love came very late this year for us,” says Tori Heath-Smith, card buyer of Paperchase. “With Valentine’s Day falling on a Monday, we saw sales pick up this weekend with a mega-Sunday of sales.” Tori added that the chain was hampered by so many of its stores being in the centre of major conurbations and stations, so Paperchase was “disappointed” with the level of Valentine’s Day sales, which were down on last year. However, on a positive note, Tori says: “This is juxtaposed with a really strong and early start to Mother’s Day!”

Above: Paperchase’s St Pancras store on Valentine’s Day itself
Above: Paperchase’s St Pancras store on Valentine’s Day itself

Top: A selection of Valentine’s cards stocked by In Heaven at Home

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