While many UK multiple and independent greeting card retailers had already taken the decision to close their shops in order to protect their staff and lives in the face of the escalating Coronavirus, prime minister Boris Johnson’s message last night left others in no doubt that they had no choice but to shut their physical stores until further notice.
While the dramatic fall in footfall in the final run-up to Mother’s Day will have had a negative effect on card sales for high street retailers at least with the vast majority remaining trading until this weekend, the nation’s public will have had no problem in sourcing cards to send to their mums, even if, in many cases they could not see them in person.
Card Factory, Paperchase, Cards Galore, Scribbler and Cardzone are among the greeting card multiples to have taken the decision to close their high street shops before the Government’s directive issued yesterday (March 23) evening ordering all ‘non-essential’ shops to close.
“It has been a very emotional and sad day,” commented Paul Taylor, md of Cardzone, which was trading from 135 card shops until they all closed at the start of this week.
Likewise, many small groups and indies had already taken pre-emptive action, largely to protect their staff.
For Home Counties specialist group, House of Cards shutting its stores yesterday (before the official instruction to do so) was especially poignant, coinciding as it did with the 30th anniversary of its very first shop opening.
“This is one of the saddest days of my life. Today is the 30th anniversary of House of Cards. Today we closed all our stores,” said co-owner Miles Robinson, with a heavy heart. “But we had to put the health of our staff first.” Like so many others, Miles is somewhat “shell-shocked” by the speed and severity of the crisis. “This has to one of the biggest challenges for business and society that we have ever faced, outside of wartime,” he astutely pointed out.
Mark Janson-Smith, co-owner of the London-based Postmark group also closed its four stores over the weekend. “Our staff were getting anxious and we wanted to be as safe as possible,” he said. “But we have created a window display of humorous cards so that at least those walking past will see something to lift their spirits,” added Mark.
Like others with an online presence, Postmark will continue to operate its virtual shop. “Although we are not advertising it, for fear of us being seen as profiteering, we are popping a few extra cards in with every order free of charge so that they can be used to help people keep in touch.”
Postmark is one of many indies who have donated cards to local groups and charities so that they can use them to stay in touch with friends and loved ones.
Likewise, Cardzone and House of Cards are also helping to ‘sweeten’ the blow in these isolating and difficult economic times by donating the confectionery products they were selling in their shops to local food banks and other needy causes.
“We had 50,000 Easter eggs in stock, they might as well be used to cheer people up,” said Cardzone’s Paul Taylor.
Also, taking a similar tack to Postmark, House of Cards is to raise a smile among those walking past its shops as it is including a poster that is an enlarged version of a Harold’s Planet card from Abacus/Clare Maddicott which taps into the loo paper shortage caused by stockpiling.
“Whatever happens, the UK public will always have our love of lavatorial humour to fall back on!” quips Miles.
Top: Today sees all ‘non-essential’ shops ordered to bring down their shutters.