Scouse And Manc Flavours: Utility, Liverpool and Manchester

Fenwick department store group revealed recently that it dedicating 30% of the card displays in its stores to ‘local cards’, be that specific captions, language used, subject matter or artists/publishers from the vicinity of the store. With that in mind, PG Buzz checked in with Steph Lloyd, retail buyer of Utility, which has three stores in Liverpool and one in Manchester, to find out the strength of local pride in these locations and how this is reflected on the products it stocks.

The tribal call: “There is definitely a loud tribal calling in Liverpool especially. Liverpool-themed gifting has always been a very strong department for us and while we always see a rise in sales over the summer months when the city is full with tourists, we also find Liverpool gifts are extremely popular with our local customers, especially in the lead up to Christmas. Year to date our Liverpool gift sales are up 22% on last year which is largely thanks to LFC’s Champions League win and the addition of Wot Ma Like’s Jurgen Klopp and Mo Salah keyrings and coasters to our range.

Above: Two Liverpool designs that sell well for Utility.
Above: A Utility created design (left) and one from Lowe & Behold Design.

We’re also very lucky that Liverpool has more listed buildings (more than 2000!) than anywhere outside London and numerous iconic ones, such as Royal Liver Building, Royal Albert Dock and the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals to name a few.

Local action: “Our ‘Liverpool cards’ selection is our fastest growing card department and thanks to the introduction of our own brand Scouse range in the spring of 2018 our Liverpool card sales are up a massive 38% on last year. We’ve had great success with this range that features local colloquialisms and phrases that tap into the local sense of humour. Some of our bestselling phrases from this range are ‘Appy Birthdee Aar Kid’, ‘Appy Birthdee Queen’ and ‘Appy Birthdee Ye Divvy. Certain other Scouse phrases during key gifting seasons – ‘Appy Valentines Soft Lad’ and ‘Av a Boss Crimbo’ have also done particularly well.

Above: Utility’s Steph Lloyd with co-owner Richard Skelton at The Retas 2019 where the retailer was feted with the Best Non-Traditional Greeting Card Multiple.
Above: Utility’s Steph Lloyd with co-owner Richard Skelton at The Retas 2019 where the retailer was feted with the Best Non-Traditional Greeting Card Multiple award.

Along with our own brand postcards featuring Liverpool landmarks, we’ve also had huge success with I Drew This’ range of postcards and gifts, along with our perennial bestselling prints and coasters from local designer Tula Moon. We also commissioned a bespoke pop-up Liverpool card from the ever helpful guys at The Art File which has been a strong seller. Coming soon is a fabulous bespoke Liverpool bauble card from the lovely Sarah Knight at Stormy Knight for Christmas 2019!

Above: Utility amplifies the tribal call of Liverpool shoppers.
Above: Utility amplifies the tribal call of Liverpool shoppers.

During the summer months we often create window displays based solely around Liverpool gifting and imagery which results in a good increase in footfall, reflected in the sales in our dedicated Liverpool gift department and card section.

Our previous Liverpool window displays have featured local contemporary sculpture Superlambanana, Moorland Pottery’s Scouseware ceramic range, Scouse Press’ Liverpool Colouring Map (which features Utility owners Richard, Dick and Kate along with our three Liverpool stores). This August we have created a window display featuring our Scouse phrase cards and fridge magnets, mugs and coasters.

It’s still early days in our Manchester store, which has so many student customers who aren’t from the city, but that said we do have developed our own cards featuring Manchester phrases and quotes. I think it’s the joy of the ‘in joke’ that makes these cards feel so personal to our customers in both Liverpool and Manchester – even if you’re not a local.

Above: The card racks in the Manchester store features the regional designs (many produced by the retailer itself) right near the front of the store.
Above: The card racks in the Manchester store features the regional designs (many produced by the retailer itself) right near the front of the store.

Our bestselling Manchester gifts are Martha Mitchell’s mugs and tea towels, which have seen a spike in sales as the academic term has come to an end as they make great gifts for those leaving the city. The Manchester Cookbook sells well along with Moorlands Mancware ceramics, and anything with a bee Manchester’s symbol on from cards to enamel pin badges! We’re also looking to develop more of our own Manchester greeting cards and gifts ready for the students’ return in September and the important lead up to Christmas!

Favourite flavours: “The best thing about Liverpool is the people! Warm and chatty with self-deprecating humour and a strong sense of identity.”

Top: The Wot Ma Like Klopp wooden keyrings that sell well in Utility.

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