With physical trade shows cancelled, the social distancing requirements and not all sales teams back to full coverage, the ‘normal’ patterns of showcasing new greeting card ranges and retailers’ placing of orders has been disrupted.
In the second of a series, PG Buzz checked in Miles Robinson, co-owner of House of Cards, which trades from a group of six card and gift shops in the Home Counties (as well as an active ecommerce site), to learn more about her current ordering procedures, how the company is sourcing products, as well as the pluses and minuses of the new scenario.
How has your greeting card ordering process changed compared to pre-lockdown?
“Strange times! Our stores and warehouse are ordering more online, by phone and email, which is quite a fundamental change for the moment. I think this will be the new way and will be here to stay, certainly for some time yet.”
What has your attitude been towards face-to-face meetings with suppliers?
“While initially we didn’t allow reps into our stores due to safety/number of people in the branches, we changed our policy on rep visits (from 6 July) once the government guidance was to encourage people to go back to work, but we are seeing very few. Those companies whose salesforce have been proactive in contacting and come in well prepared with PPE etc are the ones we will see, subject to our rules/guidance on how visits must take place.
Our managers are quite happy not seeing many reps at the moment and have only done so when absolutely necessary. We are not going to force this issue as everyone needs to feel comfortable.
The same goes for Nigel Williamson, Miles’ business partner doing the main group gift buying as he is now doing a lot by phone, email etc.
The lack of face to face contact is definitely one of the hardest changes, but I think most understand that if we all do our bit and have as little contact as possible the quicker life will come back. The last thing any of us want is another lockdown!”
How are you sourcing products now?
“We are sourcing from existing suppliers, by paying attention to the trade adverts in Progressive Greetings/on PG Buzz as well as word of mouth.”
What have been the positives from publishers/reps/agents in helping ensure you have a great card selection?
“Many publishers have been busy during lockdown creating new ranges and many brilliant lockdown cards (you know who you are!). These will give Thinking of You Week a serious boost this year.”
Conversely, what tricks do think have publishers/reps have missed in helping you?
“I think quite a few publishers have been very slow to wake up, unprepared on how to deal with customers now and some can’t even give us anyone to deal with yet! The proactive, well prepared publishers will win through this no doubt.”
Top: Miles Robinson (left) with his business partner, Nigel Williamson, behind the counter of its Wallingford store.