Picking up on a notable recent shift among its retail customers requesting that the greeting cards they receive from The Art File should be cellowrapped, the publisher has polled all of its independent customers to gain a clearer picture of the impact of Covid-19, and a fear of spreading the virus, is impacting on retailers’ attitudes to wrapped versus naked cards.
James Mace, sales and marketing manager of The Art File told PG Buzz that it had seen “15%-20% shift from retailers who were hitherto happy to have their cards unwrapped, now requesting them to be wrapped until further notice.” While he stressed that the Nottingham-based publisher’s preferred choice remains to supply its cards unwrapped, with an easy-peel clasp, it will continue to offer its customers the choice of having them wrapped.
“We undertook a poll among our customers as we felt it was important, not just for The Art File, but the industry at large to get a gauge of how retailers were feeling during these Covid-19 times on the wrapping issue. We have been overwhelmed by our customers’ engagement, and cannot thank them enough for their feedback,” said James.
While the results are still coming in, the first phase of responses show that 48% of The Art File customers would now like their cards to be wrapped, 30% would like them unwrapped with the remaining 22% unsure of what to do for the best.
Dave Moss, owner of Amica in Frome says he remains ever more firm in his decision to only stock wrapped cards. “My first experience of a range unwrapped was negative in terms of sales. I believe Covid-19 adds a further reason to wrap the cards.”
Shelley Sheridan of Heirloom in Teddington is another who feels wrapped cards are better equipped for being wiped in store. “The cards we are buying for the shop will only be wrapped. It would be even harder to keep unwrapped cards in great condition with the sanitising we are now required to do.
Our customers like the idea of saving the plastic, but in reality they like cards to be clean and flat. Non-wrapped cards become bent and dogeared very quickly. We reopened last week and people like the fact we are wiping down card stands and serving areas.”
Sarah Laker, owner of Stationery Supplies, Marple is one who is undecided, as she arguments on both sides: “It’s a massive issue, so thank you for bringing it up. How funny that last year ‘going naked’ was both the biggest topic of conversation and the biggest thing that had happened in retailing greeting cards! And now look what’s happened!
I’m tying myself in knots over what to do for the best for cards. I really want to go completely unwrapped as far as possible, but this worries me re Covid transmission. Cards are so sensual in that they need to be touched, read and so potentially in my shop they could be handled up to 20 times a day. If I’m asking people to sanitise their hands and it doesn’t dry properly before they touch the cards, there is the potential for damage, yet I can’t bear the constant use of plastic.”
However, there remains a strong push from many other retailers, on both environmental and hygiene grounds to stock unwrapped cards.
As a geography graduate herself, Gillian Wales of Gin Gin Tidy in Strathaven sees environmental, sustainability and ethical sourcing as key to her business. As she sees it: “There seems to be a push by the plastic companies to correlate their material with safety and protection in Covid times. I just don’t think this stacks up to be honest. It’s an old political trick to use our fears in this way. Not only is it a totally regressive step ecologically, it is questionable on the science front too. Plastic is one of the hard materials that this virus seems to adhere to most! I heard recently that the plastic bag industry is utilising the current climate to push back progress on the moves to paper and reusable bags generally – of course they will, it suits their interests! If anything, I’d say now is an even better time to ditch plastic wrap. Research done by the New England Medical Journal found virus can stay on plastic for up to 72 hours but 24 hours on cardboard – therefore paper is likely to be less of a carrier. This would refute any claim that plastic wrap would be safer. There was also another bit of research on Sars (as yet not peer reviewed) that found that plastic carried some element of virus for up to seven days!
I think we need to be careful we don’t listen to parties with vested interests in this to push their own agenda by tapping into people’s fears. Additionally, part of the reason we are in this situation in the first place is, ironically, our rampant globalisation mindset as a society. On that basis I’d like to stick to plastic-free as it’s a more progressive, ecologically-sound option.”
“It is an interesting debate,” acknowledges Georgina Black, owner of Pretty Shiny Shop in Stroud Green. “A customer and I were just talking about wrap vs unwrap today. She was saying how happy she was to see more cards without wrapping. I agree with her. I was nervous at first, but really haven’t had many issues. I think it would be a step backwards to start wrapping cards again.
I ask everyone to use hand sanitiser as they enter the shop and that helps to protect against the spread of the virus. I certainly am not wiping down the cards! Direct contact with the card vs wrap over card doesn’t really make a difference. We just have to hope we don’t have a positive customer come in and licks the cards! Please keep them unwrapped with a clasp as an option as I think it works great.”
Lynn Hanby, co-owner of Aardvark Gift House in Bristol stresses that unwrapped cards are less likely to spread the virus that wrapped ones: “Wrapped is not better. The virus lives on plastic longer than card. Yes, it is easier to wipe a plastic wrapped card, but the idea of wiping down your entire stock several times a day is a total pipe dream. We have put in a system where we display cards only full face and price them on the front, on The Art File’s wonderful little tag. We discourage people from touching the ones they don’t intend to buy. We also get them to sanitise before entering the store and once they have completed their stay.
Let’s not use this virus to take a backward step for the planet. I will continue to only buy cards from companies which are able to supply them unwrapped.”
As Jane Armour of Jane Armour Trading in Taunton points out: “There will be some, and there always will be, who don’t think cards should be unwrapped from the damage and ease of pricing point of view – they are right… unwrapped cards are a pain in the arse however, that is a separate issue.”
Jane admits she was initially “uneasy about the naked cards, but my observations since opening are that it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. I ask people to sanitise their hands when they come in…thus reducing the possibility of transferring germs… unwrapped cards have been bought in the same sort of quantity now as they were before. I have a customer in the shop right now who has told me that it doesn’t make any difference – “just keep washing your hands. Getting rid of plastic is important”. Another customer echoed this, but also added that “each card, whether cello wrapped or not, would be posted and pass though several hands before it got to its destination – cello wrap in the shop would protect it for minutes only.”
Frankly I stand my ground. The plastic has got to go and you, at The Art File have already made a start. Cards will be no more absorbent and not hold onto germs for longer that cardboard packages of food you buy in supermarkets. Tell everyone to get a grip and keep washing their hands!”
As James Mace sums up in the email he sent to customers: “It’s virtually impossible to keep everyone happy with the decisions that we make, but I hope you feel that we try our hardest to make the majority of people, happy people :)”
Top: The Art File’s (left-right) James, Karen and Ged Mace socially distanced outside the publisher’s offices recently.