While perhaps not a humdinger, Christmas trade for cardies was generally better than expected. Continuing a trend of the last few years, higher end captioned single cards performed well while sales of box cards continued to dip for many, with the exception of charity cards. The wet weather in the run-up did dampen sales, but the fact that Christmas Day fell on a Wednesday provided a long weekend boost to trade in the final thrust.
In the second in a series of Retailer Revelations, Joe Guest, senior buyer of Paperchase; Miles Robinson, co-owner of House of Cards and Sarah Moughtin, junior buyer for John Lewis & Partners, share their Christmas card trade reports.
Joe Guest, senior buyer (cards and wrap) for Paperchase:
How did it go?: “Overall we had a good season, with sales coming through towards the end of our peak trading period.”
Changing buying habits?: “We saw an interesting shift into Christmas boxed card sales compared with our packs, boxed card sales overall exceeded our expectations. Christmas trade was in line with our expectations overall.
As seen in previous years we saw our Christmas singles relations card sales spiking at the end of the season, we also saw the peak for Christmas packs last longer than in previous years.
With Christmas Day falling on a Wednesday this year we did see a later peak in sales.”
Mitigating circumstances?: “There were a few mitigating factors this year – the poor weather in Scotland impacting trade in those stores for a time. Also, we could see that customers were waiting for Black Friday offers to end before buying into Christmas product in a significant way. We reduced the number of promotions during our peak trade this year.”
Star performers?: “Our selection of 3D and relations cards continue to perform well for us. Boxed Christmas cards were a surprising new entry into the top sellers this year with some options significantly outperforming.”
Buying plans for Christmas 2020?: “All product categories are currently under review at this time to ensure we can continue to deliver growth within this category.”
Miles Robinson, co-owner of House of Cards, group of six shops in the Home Counties:
How did it go?: “We were slightly up on last year on a store like-for-like basis (+1.4% for the five weeks to Christmas Eve) so we’re okay with that.
Card sales wise things look relatively positive. We saw an increase in charity cello packs, which is rather at odds with our feeling of a move to greater sustainability when it comes to cello bags!”
Changing buying habits?: “I think the biggest driver this year was again moves to online as customer numbers were down. We also sense there was a conscious (or semi-conscious) move towards sustainability, which we saw effect selections of rollwrap and accessories.”
Mitigating circumstances: “The wet weather had a slight dampening affect but not that significant for us I don’t think. The election didn’t seem to affect things either.”
Star performers: “Winners for us, of which there were many, in no particular order (based on new sales or comparisons against last year) include: Cinnamon Aitch, Lucilla Lavender, Second Nature, Tracks, Tache, Wrendale, Rosie Made A Thing, Five Dollar Shake, Paper Salad, Redback, Woodmansterne and Wendy Jones-Blackett.”
Buying plans for Christmas 2020?: “No plans to change our buying this year at HOC – just try to pick those winners and run with the trends.”
Sarah Moughtin, junior buyer of stationery and seasonal events for John Lewis & Partners
How did it go?: “The team worked hard to trade Christmas right to the last minute, resulting in a great season, finishing up 12% on singles (the area we look after). This exceeded our expectations.
Our relations cards had a great season, an area the team has worked hard to expand.”
Changing buying habits?: “Everyone took full advantage of the weekend and extra days leading up to Christmas Day, with sales coming through right to the end.
Our increase in relations card sales prove the theory that people are willing to spend more on those closest to them.”
Star performers?: “Janie Wilson was a standout performance for us. She is a new publisher for us so seeing her nestling among our top performers is really exciting to see!”
Top: (left-right) Joe Guest of Paperchase, Miles Robinson, of House of Cards and Sarah Moughtin of John Lewis & Partners.