Reopening Hurrahs: Penmark, Southbourne Cards and The Indigo Tree

Now almost two weeks since reopening, it is not just the sun that is smiling as greeting card retailers in England and Wales are so happy to see their customers out and about and shopping for cards. Mark Rees of Penmark/Henry & Co; Deborah Tingay of Southbourne Cards and Adam and Milo de Wolff of The Indigo Tree in Streatham and Crystal Palace share how all their planning and revamps during lockdown has helped ensure a successful return to trading. 

Mark Rees, managing director of Penmark, which has 15 stores in the Midlands:

“We were all super excited about reopening. Trading has been busy but not manic with customers pleased we are back open.

On reopening day we put balloons up outside the stores made sure that we had plenty of staff on in the first week so everyone felt well supported and Covid-safe.”

Above: Mark Rees with his wife Katy, their children Henry, Lucy and Alice his mum Ann.
Above: Mark Rees with his wife Katy, their children Henry, Lucy and Alice his mum Ann.

What did you do for the build-up to the reopening?

“We invested significantly in new ranges (particularly gifts) to create some excitement and buzz for the reopening. We supported this with social media content to engage with customers while we’ve been closed.

Above: The new look Henry & Co store in Ormskirk.
Above: The new look Henry & Co store in Ormskirk.

What approach have you taken instore?

“Lockdown 3 was exceptionally busy for us with lots of significant changes being made across the business. Our business transformation is well under way with a rebrand of our store in Bridgnorth to Henry & Co and a complete refurbishment of our store in Ormskirk under the new brand too. The latter will be our blueprint for stores going forward and we are delighted with the outcome. It feels fresh, modern, relaxed and exciting and this coupled with an 80% refresh on the product range has hopefully created a winning formula that we can roll out and move forward with. It feels very exciting that we have a clear direction and have moved away from Hallmark and Thorntons.”

Above: Some of the gifts line-up in Henry & Co.
Above: Some of the gifts line-up in Henry & Co.

Deborah Tingay, owner of Southbourne Cards, Southbourne:

“Surprisingly I slept well the night before the reopening.  I knew I’d done all I could to get the shop ready and I felt unusually calm and proud of what we had achieved. The bunting was well and truly out!

Lockdown was rubbish yet the shop is like a phoenix from the flames.  Initial sales have been up 45%, based on 2019 figures. People are happy to be back shopping yet being sensible.  There is no panic buying, just a calmness and everyone seems quite relaxed. As a seaside resort we hope to benefit from increased numbers of staycation holidaymakers. Welcome back everyone!”

Above: Deborah Tingay was so excited about reopening.
Above: Deborah Tingay was so excited about reopening.

What did you do for the build-up to the reopening?

“We fanfared our shop reopening on our website and social media and managed to reach 5,000 local people that we know. I felt it was important that we used this as an opportunity to thank our customers and friends for their support during Lockdown 3, the toughest for many for so many reasons.  We wanted to really welcome them back.

We had lots of online banter with ‘I’m about to lose control and I think I like it’ – it turned into a version of Pop Master, and yes it was The Pointer Sisters!

We had so many supportive comments online and face to face from those in our local community.  I was out the day before the reopening and a lady came running over to say how excited she was that her favourite shop would be open again tomorrow – and that shop was my shop, it was emotional.  We were so excited we just couldn’t hide it!”

Above: Being located in a seaside resort, Southbourne Cards hopes for a boost from staycationers this year.
Above: Being located in a seaside resort, Southbourne Cards hopes for a boost from staycationers this year.

What approach have you taken instore?

“For the reopening of the store we left no stone unturned. We felt it was important that we delivered a phenomenal range of cards with a smattering of new gifts to our customers to let them know what they have been missing.

We were determined to reopen with a new look so we undertook range reviews in all areas of the shop and completely remerchandised it. Every single card in the shop is in a new pocket!

We worked closely with Bev White at Ling to present the best of the brand’s new ranges and extended our range of The Curious Inksmith cards too. We also reviewed our product selections with key card suppliers Paper Salad, Paper Rose, ICG, Woodmansterne, GBCC, The Eco-friendly Card Co and Pigment.

Plus, we have brought in additional suppliers to the displays. Museums and Galleries’ art ranges have reinvigorated our blank art cards and notelet selection while Janie Wilson and Wendy Jones-Blackett have added the bit of bling that was needed in our open card selection.

We have also showcased our wedding selection in a standalone FSDU as we believe this category will see a massive growth.

In order to remain Covid-compliant we have removed a number of spinners from the shop floor and added new table displays to break up the card racks.

Large parts of the shop were re-wallpapered and tired display formats revitalised to make interesting displays at eye level.  New lighting was installed to give better light coverage which really works well. We are also hoping that improvements to our broadband and card payment facilities will further improve the customer experience.

Customer service remains at the heart of everything we do; the difference is we are now surrounded by the best product selection ever, with the best processes ever, in the best environment ever.”

Above: Southbourne Cards’ team were ready to greet customers into the completely remerchandised shop.
Above: Southbourne Cards’ team were ready to greet customers into the completely remerchandised shop.

Adam and Milo de Wolff, co-owner and assistant manager of The Indigo Tree, Crystal Palace and Streatham:

Above: The Indigo Tree’s Crystal Palace store.
Above: The Indigo Tree’s Crystal Palace store.

“We’ve had a good reception to reopening in both our stores. Customers are just so relieved that we have been able to manage get through the last lockdown and reopen.

We have been delighted by the steady flow of very eager customers, with many saying that they felt the need the spend as they had made the effort to come out, which is fine by us. Our occasion cards have sold especially well, as customers are clearly keen not to miss any events from now on.

We hope going forward we will still benefit from a less busy West End and hope our website will continue to perform well for us too!”

Above: The Indigo Tree stores were beautifully merchandised in readiness for the reopening.
Above: The Indigo Tree stores were beautifully merchandised in readiness for the reopening.

What approach have you taken instore?

“We re-modelled both shops in readiness for the re-opening, by moving shelves and cabinets around and built new card racks in our Streatham store.

We completely re-merchandised to further improve the customer journey around the shops.

We managed to find a number of new products from mainly existing suppliers and are so excited that PG Live and Autumn Fair are happening this year so we can continue to keep the selection fresh.”

Above: The Indigo Tree’s best shop assistant, Doris was ready to welcome customers!
Above: The Indigo Tree’s best shop assistant, Doris was ready to welcome customers!

Top: All smiles from Southbourne Cards.

 

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