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 first of a series, PG Buzz checked in Sally Matson, owner of Red Card in Petworth, Sussex with to learn more about her current ordering procedures, how she 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?
“Towards the end of lockdown I started requesting companies to email and post me catalogues and I placed orders directly to ensure the shop was ready to open with great new ranges. As soon as we reopened (on 15 June) I started seeing reps and agents again. I am lucky to have an office space where we can sit with patio doors wide open and also socially distance, so this has worked very well. This means that my buying habits have not had to change much at all, which is a relief as I missed face to face contact with the wonderful people who bring me lovely cards so much over lockdown!”
How are you sourcing products now?
“Having no physical trade shows – Harrogate, PG Live, Autumn Fair and Top Drawer – made being asked to join the judging panel of The Henries a bit of a saviour actually, as I have found a few lovely new companies via this avenue.
Having no trade shows is making gift buying for the festive season pretty challenging. Spotting trends and picking up those small interesting things to fill the shelves is really tricky. I am doing as much research as I can online and have managed a couple of days out visiting towns with lovely independent shops to get a feel for what ‘newness’ is around.”
What have been the positives from publishers/reps/agents in helping ensure you have a great card selection?
“I always find myself commenting on the superior service my smaller publishers offer. They have come up trumps again during and post lockdown, many offering discounts and extended credit. This has made a real difference – and in the case of three of these companies (Rosie Made a Thing, Caroline Gardner and Lucilla Lavender) the stock has sold through so quickly that I have done repeat orders. Wendy Jones-Blackett also deserves a mention as I changed the delivery date on an order I placed pre-lockdown at least three times and it still arrived when I asked for it with a big chunk of extended credit.
Maria McKenna is one of my favourite agents/reps and her assistance coming out of lockdown was fantastic. Maria obviously has a great relationship with the companies she represents so is in a position to make a phone call and get cards out quickly when they are really needed. Special thanks to Green Pebble cards too for opening a new account for me and getting a huge order out within 48 hours.
I received other calls from agents/reps asking how we were as we were coming out of lockdown and these were hugely appreciated.”
Conversely, what tricks do think have publishers/reps/agents have missed in helping you?
“While there have been some publishers that have made personal contact a priority; have sent letters acknowledging the challenging times and offering to help however they can to get us open and busy again, which has been great.
I think the publishers who haven’t acknowledged these extraordinary times have definitely missed a trick as I have no doubt they will see a downturn in their orders.”
Top: The front window of Red Card, on re-opening, was dedicated to the launch of Sally’s charity initiative Brief Request (which donates new underwear to people in need).