Viewpoints: A cost of loving crisis?

Five Dollar Shake, Papyrus, Ling Design and Hammond Gower reveal their thoughts

 

PG Buzz asks members of the greeting card community to what extent they believe the cost-of-living crisis will impact on the sector.

Will it be better placed than other product areas due to its relative low cost and personal, caring nature, and what should the Government do to help?

Here publishers Five Dollar Shake, Swan Mill Group (Ling Design, GBCC and Penny Kennedy) and Hammond Gower, and retailer Papyrus give their thoughts along with revelations of some personal pick-me-ups.

Matt Genower, managing director and co-owner of Five Dollar Shake

“Everybody knows we’re all paying more for just about everything. In the same way eyebrows may be raised that a loaf of bread may cost over £2, the same will invariably occur when a greeting card is turned over. We think certain occasions/captions will be harder hit than others but, do I think consumers will make a beeline for a cheaper wedding, anniversary, baby, or special birthday card – absolutely not.”

Above: Matt Genower with his four-legged friend Masha, and one of Five Dollar Shake’s Fête De L'amour wedding designs launched at PG Live
Above: Matt Genower with his four-legged friend Masha, and one of Five Dollar Shake’s Fête De L’amour wedding designs launched at PG Live

Do you foresee consumer price sensitivity on cards: “I know several of our customers have, in recent years, introduced a small offering of much cheaper cards and these, I’m quite sure, will sell better than ever. However, most of our indie retailers have consumers looking for a specific style of card and I don’t think they will be swayed on price when finding that right card.”

What mitigating measures have you taken in your business: “We’ve recently run a couple of initiatives that many of our retailers have tapped into. They will have certainly benefited financially from these. Anything we can do to help them continue to get more feet through the door.”

Government magic wand wish: “For retailers I’d ask the Government to stop dithering on a forthcoming review on how commercial rates are calculated – do it now! For the rest of the country; recognise how is it possible that that the world’s fifth largest economy has, in the 21st century, hundreds of thousands of people choosing between heating or food. Recognise it and solve it – now!”

What’s your personal pick-me-up: “To spoil our beloved dog Masha. Bones, treats, a posh collar or two. She knows nothing of pandemics, conflict, cost of living crisis – oh, to have her four-legged life!!”

Fiona Fabien, co-owner of Papyrus, Glasgow

Do you foresee consumer price sensitivity on cards: “It would be very naive to think the greeting card industry would be immune from the cost-of-living crisis. I think most of our customers will be keeping an eye on expenditure and have to think about essentials v luxury. There will always be a market for greeting cards as they are relatively inexpensive compared to a gift, a cost-effective way of marking a special occasion special, and engrained into our British psyche. Thankfully, the price increases so far have been relatively lower than on other consumer goods, and we understand that we will have to keep our pricing competitive.”

Above: Papyrus owner Fiona Fabien in the shadow of Edinburgh castle during a showroom experience arranged by agent Lucy Sharp
Above: Papyrus owner Fiona Fabien in the shadow of Edinburgh castle during a showroom experience arranged by agent Lucy Sharp

What mitigating measures have you taken in your business: “All businesses will be facing the same pressures of rising fixed costs, from wages and utilities to services, so we will be in for a tough time. Having been through the last recession, we know that we will be keeping a very close eye on business costs and will ride the storm.”

Government magic wand wish: “I think that our biggest worry will be a general decline in footfall on the High Street as consumer confidence falls so I’d like to see the Government introduce measures to ease the crisis for the people most affected. The last recession we saw a reduction in VAT, which would be helpful, however, I think a targeted approach to help the families and people from lower incomes would be fairer.”

What’s your personal pick-me-up: “When times are tough my pick-me-up is an evening spent with my good friends – this never fails to cheer me up and problems never seem as bad when shared.”

David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill Group, including Ling Design, GBCC and Penny Kennedy

“I don’t think anyone can ignore what is going on in the wider world and be concerned about it from a personal and business perspective, with costs going up so quickly and everything being so unpredictable. I do worry about whether people will continue to spend money on greeting cards but I also know our successful retailers have evolved over time and have turned shopping into an experience. Visiting a card and gift shop which is well set out with lovely product or a garden centre which looks and smells great can be now a relatively cheap treat and escape and buying a card is a relatively low-cost purchase. I think we have learned through lockdown how important a card is and, thankfully, our numbers are testament to that.”

Above: David Byk at PG Live, and a duo of designs from Ling’s latest O&R release
Above: David Byk at PG Live, and a duo of designs from Ling’s latest O&R release

Do you foresee consumer price sensitivity on cards: “It’s fascinating to watch and listen to customers as they look for the right greeting card. Price is certainly important but so is value, and people take great care and consideration over their purchase. I think, with the price of stamp so high now, that people will spend a little more to make sure the card is really right for that recipient.”

What mitigating measures have you taken in your business: “It isn’t about trying to mitigate against cost increases now, but we’ve always done it and continue to do so. We look at everything we do from a cost perspective, as well as from a productivity efficacy. I do think that there are a lot of hidden or incremental costs outside the direct cost of the card or the box it goes in which can be reduced without affecting the card itself or the ultimate service to the customer. I think it’s really important that we all engage in those conversations about how to take some of those costs out as effective partnerships.”

Government magic wand wish: “Sort Ukraine and follow my friends from Emotional Rescue’s advice on a recent PG front cover advert and ‘Puck Futin!’.”

What’s your personal pick-me-up: “I like to think that I would play golf, but then I remember I’m really rubbish and it takes ages for me to get round. Could the Government’s magic wand sort that too?”

Nicci Gower, co-owner of Hammond Gower

“In previous recessions or difficult times there has always been a belief that cards have done well, but we’ve never been through a period like this in my lifetime where everything as we know it is shifting and changing at such a fast pace. I try to keep away from the drama of it all and continue to put one foot in front of the other and know, absolutely know, that life takes care of us and does not work against us as much as we sometimes feel it does.”

Above: Inspired by Leo DiCaprio’s words in Don’t Look Up, Nicci Gower (right) is shown with Reflections’ Philip and Maxine Nield at the recent PG Live
Above: Inspired by Leo DiCaprio’s words in Don’t Look Up, Nicci Gower (right) is shown with Reflections’ Philip and Maxine Nield at the recent PG Live

Do you foresee consumer price sensitivity on cards: “I think the retailer is very conscious of pricing and is nervous about going over a certain threshold, so I think pricing is important to them.”

What mitigating measures have you taken in your business: “We have had huge increases of costs. Our board cost has gone up nearly 15% since last summer along with envelopes and all our various other components but we have made the decision to swallow the cost to help our customers out. They need all the help they can get following on from the last two years of Covid.”

Government magic wand wish: “To help all our retailers out by drawing the consumers back out into the city and town centres and by making their life as easy as possible.”

What’s your personal pick-me-up: “When I’m worrying or feeling sorry for myself, I remind myself of the brilliant words Leonardo DiCaprio so rightly said in the movie Don’t Look Up, ‘We didn’t realise we had it all’.”

Top: The cost-of-living v the importance of loving

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