“Our cat calendars outsell dog titles two to one,” is one of Hazel Walker’s favourite facts about the calendar and diary buying habits of Waterstones’ shoppers.
In a fast-paced fact-filled pre-awards talk at the recent Calies awards event, Hazel shared the size and shape of the retailer’s dated products business while leaving the attentive audience with a plea to take steps to make their respective products more sustainable by making improvements on the environmental front.
“I am surprised how much we take on calendars,” admitted Hazel with the product’s sales accounting for 10% of Waterstones’ general merchandise products. She revealed that this year’s calendar season has also got off to “a strong start”, ahead of last year. That said with 50% of Waterstones’ calendar sales coming in December she accepts that there is a lot still to play for.
Wall calendars still account for the lion’s share at Waterstones (some 60% of its calendar sales), with boxed calendars representing 33%, mini-wall titles 5%, Advents 2% and mid-year products the remaining 1%.
Revealing the subject matters that chime with Waterstones’ customers, a quarter go for art titles, with animals and humour accounting for 10% each with pop culture, photographic and planners also popular.
Hazel stressed the importance of regional calendars, which account for 20% of Waterstones’ calendar sales with Scotland, London and Yorkshire generating the highest sales. Some 120 regional titles are offered in Waterstones’ core range with many more in stock in their respective areas.
Hazel explained that despite the electronic alternatives, Waterstones still has many customers who come back to its stores year after year to buy their diaries.
“We had a strong 2018/2019 season on diaries,” revealed Hazel, with one trend being that mid-year diaries now account for a quarter of the sales.
Ending on a poignant note, Hazel delivered a personal and business plea for calendar and diary companies to look to make further improvements on the sustainable front.
“Sustainability is a key focus for Waterstones,” stated Hazel highlighting some of the changes the chain has adopted in its stores and at its central warehouse to cut down on single use plastic.
She paid tribute to the card industry for “leading the way” in the reduction of unnecessary plastic, she turned her attentions to dated products. Highlighting how there had been a “good reaction” to plastic-free options on offer for 2020 on calendars, such as the award-winning Sea Change calendar from Carousel Calendars, Hazel asked the audience to share the responsibility of looking to make further improvements in this area. “We all need to be doing more as an industry,” she concluded.
Top: Waterstones’ Hazel Walker on stage at The Calies awards.