With most schoolkids off next week for ‘half-term’ time, the onus now for retailers is making the most of this ‘final term’ in the run up to Christmas, PG Buzz delves into the ‘report cards’ of a trio of leading indie retailers. Leeds-based Maurice Esofsky, co-owner of QLM; Savita Marsh, co-owner of Northwood Cards, Northwood and Rachael Barnes, co-owner of Dragonfly Cards and Gifts in Knaresborough reveal what grade they would give trade so far this year, what has been the most testing subject, what they would thank ‘teacher’ for and how they are hoping to achieve top marks in the festive run-up.
Maurice Esofsky, co-owner of QLM, Leeds (which recently won a Gold Crown Outstanding Store Development award https://www.pgbuzz.net/baileys-cards-gifts-winning-streak-continues/):
Making the grade: “I would give the trade a grade of C+ so far this year with a ‘work in progress’ comment as we opened our new store in March and got off to a good start but had a bit of a stall through the summer while we improved our ranges and mix of products. We added a number of new publishers into our card offering, some of which we met at PG Live, which have been very successful.”
Most testing ‘subject’: “The most testing subject has been sourcing the right products for our new client base, along with buying ‘small and often’ while keeping it fresh and new. Bearing in mind we were a discount store, we are now aiming for a wider market.”
Thank you teacher: “On a positive note we are excited about the new challenges and the successes we are encountering with our premium-priced merchandise, such as Jellycat, Katie Loxton, Joma Jewellery along with cards by Five Dollar Shake and Rosie Made A Thing etc. We are also extremely thankful for the ongoing support we receive from Hallmark.”
Festive run-up: “This is our first Christmas in our new store so in all honesty it will be a little bit of trial and error, however we have been picking up tips from our fellow Hallmarkers and this has resulted in us being quite confident with our mix of products – cards and gifts – for the festive season.
The move round to make space for the new stock will be challenging, but our festive stock will be out in full in early October. With the volume of stock we’ve bought, we’re expecting a good run to Christmas. We really hope that this Christmas will result in us becoming a more established destination card and gift shop.”
Savita Marsh, co-owner of Northwood Cards, Northwood:
Making the grade: “A definite A!! It’s been a great, fun year again in a fabulous industry, living our dream. Another year with an upward trend in sales after a very good Christmas 2018. We had strong seasons due to good weather and the late timing of Mother’s Day and Easter.”
Most testing ‘subject’: “Trying to keep off the subject of Brexit. Over the years we have built up strong relationships with our customers. We have watched their families grow and celebrated their milestones and become very fond of many along the way. Brexit has been a great divider across friendships and families so we have tried our best not to enter into any debates in the shop, swerving any ‘B’ discussions, and channeling our conversations back to the love of our industry and serving our customers. We appreciate that everybody has a different opinion and Brexit has been a very sensitive subject!”
Thank you teacher: “We would thank our suppliers for their focus on sustainability. Many of our suppliers have realised how important the current environmental concerns are for our customers. Five Dollar Shake and Woodmansterne are just a couple of the companies who have either gone naked, started using recyclable wrapping options or moved to biodegradable glitter on their cards.
As with every year we would always thank our loyal customers who have been a huge factor in our success as an independent retailer. A big shout out for the people of Northwood who have supporting us for 29 years!!
We would also like to thank all the companies who have enabled us to have a fantastic selection. I can’t list everyone but Nigel Quiney, Paperlink, Special Delivery, Tache, Pigment, Wendy Jones-Blackett, White Cotton, Green Pebble are just a few… the list is endless!
We also feel it’s important to thank Progressive Greetings for arranging PG Live and also The Retas as they very importantly bring like-minded people like ourselves together and celebrate our fabulous industry!!
We would also like to thank the lovely Santoro family this year who were our hosts at The Retas.”
Festive run-up: “After a fabulous summer we were extremely excited about Christmas, our displays of which went out in mid October. We found ourselves lying awake at night deciding where all our wonderful new stock was going to be displayed! We are feeling the excitement and are confident that it will be a great season again for us with new products. We can’t believe it will be our 29th Christmas trading! Yikes!”
Rachael Barnes, co-owner of Dragonfly Cards and Gifts, Knaresborough:
Making the grade: “This year so far I would give a B-, tries hard, but could do better.”
Most testing ‘subject’: “The most testing subject has been the local economy. Everything has been ticking over OK at the shop, but the closure of all but one of the banks in our town has definitely affected footfall, meaning everything is just that bit more of a struggle.
Customers are having to go to neighbouring towns to do their banking, so it’s easy for them to do their shopping while they are there. We are really having to work hard to entice them back into Knaresborough to shop with us.”
Thank you teacher: “We would like to thank teacher for the Spring Seasons (in particular Mother’s Day). Sales were incredibly late, but they arrived with a bang eventually.”
Festive run-up: “Christmas stock arrived thick and fast, but we didn’t put any of it out until the middle of October.
I think this year, more than ever, people will be looking for value for money. They’ll spend it on the right card, but they have to feel they’re getting something really special. We’ve reduced our choice in packs a bit this year, as we’ve noticed a steady decline, so are really focusing on the counter cards instead. The packs we are stocking are primarily charity ones.”
Top: (left-right) Maurice Esofsky of QLM; Savita Marsh, of Northwood Cards and Rachael Barnes, of Dragonfly Cards and Gifts.