While maximising its customers’ and colleagues’ safety and focusing on essentials have been the top priorities for Sainsbury’s over the last few months during the Covid-19 crisis, it has also been keen to respond to the consumer’s demand for greeting cards, especially at a time when specialists have not been allowed to open.
At a recent PG Buzz.net Zoom meeting, which took place last Friday (May 22), Carly Pearson, the supermarket’s senior buyer for the cards and wrap for the grocer shared with around 70 card publishers, how important it was to have the support from UKG merchandisers from April 15 to ensure a wide selection and strong sales, for the retailer, the suppliers and the consumer.
“A sure sign of the importance of greeting cards to the public is how our card sales have shown double digit increases both in volume and amount over the last eight weeks, despite not yet being up to full availability,” said Carly during the Zoom webinar (which was hosted by PG Buzz, supported by the GCA and Skylight Media) that was open to all Sainsbury’s existing card suppliers as well as publishers not currently supplying the supermarket.
“These are unprecedented times and we all need to find new ways of working together – and I would encourage anyone with any ideas of how we can improve what we do to get in touch,” she implored, citing discussions about publishers swapping in alternative lines to ensure availability as a case in point.
She confirmed how the changing patterns of our lives had caused some shifts in customer’s card buying habits.
“General birthday sales have been fantastic time but kids and occasions have been a bit tougher, which is not unexpected with the way people’s lives have changed with no children’s parties or weddings. Sadly, sales of sympathy cards have really grown for us, while Thinking of You cards, albeit a smaller section, are performing well as people use sending of cards as a personal way to reach out to one another.”
Acknowledging how lockdown has impacted negatively on sales of Mother’s Day and Easter, Carly highlighted how the team will continue to minimise wastage (and therefore costs to the supplying publishers) by including more less event-specific designs in the displays. However, with specialist card shops not able to re-open until June 15, only a week before Father’s Day, having got off to an encouraging start, Carly is anticipating a strong sell through.
She also clarified how, as the full buying team has been working (all from home) during lockdown that it remains committed to a full refresh programme of all card areas and encouraged publishers to submit their newness by the confirmed dates that she shared.
The only exception to this is the Thank You Teacher card selection refresh which, due to schools not fully opening for all until September, will skip a year.
As well as touching on how card designs of the future will arguably need to reflect interests that have grown during lockdown, such in gardening and baking, Carly importantly underlined how Sainsbury’s drive on the sustainability front, is even stronger now than it was pre-Covid.
“The impact of the virus on the environment has not gone unnoticed and while the outcome has been far more positive environmentally globally we need to consider how we don’t lose the momentum we were gaining in the cards sector as a result of this,” said Carly. Learnings from Sainsbury’s trial ‘Food to Go’ store concept in London’s Mansion House, which includes a selection of fully recyclable greeting cards, could well be extended to elsewhere in the estate.
“We expect as we come out of this crisis that customers will have an even more considered mindset towards sustainability so this is not something that we will be backing down from.
We expect to be glitter-free instore on our everyday ranges by mid-year and this Christmas as our first event.”
Acknowledging how anxiety and fear have been key emotions throughout the past few months and “mental health, which has been high on the agenda for the past few years will continue to influence the way that consumers shop” and greeting cards will play a part in this.
Paying tribute to the work the GCA has been doing in promoting card sending, highlighting the collaborative film made by Lanther Black as a wonderful example of everyone in the card community pulling together, Carly urged everyone to continue championing the cause for sending cards saying how she was so looking forward to seeing everyone in real life once we are out the other side of this.
Top: Sainsbury’s has experienced double digit increases in card sales in volume and average spend on cards.