Waterstones is reconsidering its approach to Christmas 2018, on the back of the recent strong sales, on single cards, charity cards and calendars especially.
Claire Fitzgerald, card buyer, shares some of the bookshop multiple’s festive cheer…
What’s your verdict on Christmas? “Considering the dreary weather in the months leading up to Christmas, we were delighted with the seasonal sales of ‘related products (non-book products which includes greeting cards), which finished up on last year. The Christmas cards category as a whole ended up +2% on last year, which includes single cards, charity packs, boxed cards and own-brand charity packs. Earlier sales of Christmas boxed cards and single cards, between September and November, increased YOY by 3% and 1%, respectively.”
Did you sense any changing consumer buying patterns? “We sold a lot more Christmas charity packs in 2017 compared to the previous year and single cards seemed to be more popular than ever, which underlines that some customers are more willing to invest a little more time and money in choosing a special card for a friend or relative.”
What do you cite as the mitigating circumstances that affected your trade? “Having a full weekend before Christmas seemed to impact slightly in that the sales at the beginning of December were slightly down on the previous year, with last-minute shoppers arguably feeling like they had much more time to shop than usual. That said, the sales from the last week before Christmas usually have the biggest impact on our final sales so this didn’t matter too much in the end!”
What card products did especially well? “Christmas single cards performed really well, ending 10% up year-on-year with customers favouring humour cards more than any other genre.”
Will you be changing your card buying patterns for Christmas 2018 as a result? “We may look at getting the stock into shops a bit earlier for Christmas 2018, as the sales came as soon as the stock hit the shops, so there’s definitely an opportunity for an even earlier launch.”
What happened on the 2018 calendar front at Waterstones? “We had a huge lift in sales of 2018 calendars last year vs 2017 calendars. Mini wall calendars had a particularly good year, in terms of year-on-year sales, which suggests that some customers prefer a more compact format to the standard wall calendar.”
What were some of the ‘stand out’ calendar products for Waterstones’ customers? “Favourites among the standard wall format include Moomin by Tove Jansson (Flame Tree), Banksy (Carousel) and the Mum’s Family wall calendar (Workman) which have remained in the top 10 in recent years. The Italia Calendar (BrownTrout) sold particularly well, making it into our top 20, perhaps as it provides a form of escapism for those a bit disillusioned by the dreary British weather.
In the Page-a-Day range, the Cat Gallery (Workman) was the top performer. The Johanna Basford Boxed Calendar (a colouring-in calendar from BrownTrout) remained in the top 5 Page-a-Days, despite an overall downturn in the colouring-in trend that thrived last year. Humour titles also sold much better than in previous years.”
What scored well for Waterstones on the diary front? “Our top sellers were the Cath Kidston Wells Rose Pocket Diary, Faber & Faber Poetry Desk Diary and the RHS desk diary. While we experienced a drop in overall diary sales, they were still encouraging when looking at them within the context of the last few years.”