The Greeting Card Industry’s Reawakening, But Some Are Still A Little Sleepy

“Calm and steady” is how Miles Robinson, co-owner of the House of Cards summed up the new emerging pattern of business for the Home Counties retail group. 

Above: House of Cards has embraced the new normal.
Above: House of Cards has embraced the new normal.

“Our customer numbers are down 30% as people are venturing out a lot less, but our average transaction value is up 25% as customers buy more when they do come in. We expect our takings to settle out at 10%-15% down in this ‘new normal’ which we are comfortable with,” Miles added.

Continuing the trends that inevitably emerged during lockdown, online sales of greeting cards remain incredibly strong generally as do those in major supermarkets.

Above: Supermarkets, such as Asda have been well placed to grow their card sales, both during lockdown as well as now as the public limit their shopping trips out.
Above: Supermarkets, such as Asda have been well placed to grow their card sales, both during lockdown as well as now as the public limit their shopping trips out.

Carly Pearson, senior buyer for cards at Sainsbury’s told PG Buzz that its card sales were holding up incredibly well, showing “very healthy double-digit increases”. While she had been anticipated a drop off when non-essential retail re-opened on June 15, she said it has not been to extent anticipated.

Above: Sainsbury’s admits it has benefitted from increased demand for its cards over the last four months, which has taken its toll on the merchandising of the displays.
Above: Sainsbury’s admits it has benefitted from increased demand for its cards over the last four months, which has taken its toll on the merchandising of the displays.

While greeting card retailing has woken up, it seems that there are still some ‘sleepy’ publishers out there as they gauge the new economics of the situation in the level of support they can afford to offer customers.

Having initially taken the view that social distancing guidelines would preclude sales reps visiting its shops during trading hours, Miles and his business partner Nigel have eased up on this, but has seen little take up from its suppliers.

“I wrote to all the suppliers who call on our individual shops saying that we would be open to reps arranging appointments from July 6, but to date, have only heard back from one company. It has been surprising just how uncommunicative some suppliers have been throughout all this,” Miles told PG Buzz.

Carly is similarly frustrated that, due to many publishers’ teams still being on furlough, she is having to resort to her own ‘make do and mend’ methods. “I am trying to plan for Mother’s Day and am struggling as I have not received enough samples or even mock-ups. Come on publishers, send them in!” she urged.

While UKG was the first major publisher to get its sales team out on the road again, Carte Blanche, GBCC/Ling, Hallmark and Woodmansterne were among those close behind.

Above: Two of the designs in Woodmansterne’s The New Normal humorous collection which includes designs from several of its brands.
Above: Two of the designs in Woodmansterne’s The New Normal humorous collection which includes designs from several of its brands.

Andy Paterson, sales director of Woodmansterne confirmed all 13 people in its sales team are “back on the road, in fact two of our very busy territories opened up some weeks ago and the results have been far better than expected.” It seems that the personal touch is bearing fruit. “Despite the technical solutions readily available, video conferencing and screen sharing, our experience is that, as long as meetings are conducted safely, customers prefer to meet face to face!”

Like many other indies who were nervous about meeting reps and agents face to face, independent retailer, Sarah Laker, owner of Marple Stationery Supplies has seen the ‘real’ benefits far outweigh any concerns over safety, with Nigel Willcock (former sales and marketing director of Paper Rose) being one of her very first appointments as he embarks on his new career as an agent.

Above: Nigel Willcock, now an agent during a recent socially distanced appointment with Sarah Laker of Marple Stationery Supplies.
Above: Nigel Willcock, now an agent during a recent socially distanced appointment with Sarah Laker of Marple Stationery Supplies.

“I did wonder during if I would feel comfortable welcoming agents and account managers back into the shop again, and how it would work. Nigel is the second agent I’ve seen this week, having had an appointment with Richard Pass (Redback, AllJoy, Dandelion) earlier in the week, and actually it’s worked really well. We’ve been able to maintain a socially acceptable distance throughout the appointment and I felt quite comfortable looking at samples, just washed my hands well afterwards. I feel when buying cards that it’s very important to handle them to get a feel for the ranges, quality etc. It’s not the same experience buying from a catalogue or website, plus you can’t talk about best sellers or putting ranges together with a website!”

Wake up call for Clintons’ suppliers

Clintons creditors face near wipeout’ was the headline in The Times today reporting how the retail chain’s suppliers look set to receive between 0.6p and 1p for every pound owed as a result of the pre-pack administration deal at the end of last year.

The news article in the business section of the newspaper delves into the report from the company’s administrators, which showed that unsecured creditors, (which includes its greeting card suppliers), are owed about £75 million and the largest settlement they can expect is a pittance.

Top: Now, is no time for slumber. The industry has reawakened!

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