While everyone continues to have birthdays, babies and weddings - the cards to celebrate these occasions, the last couple of months have seen these ranges very much reduced to make space for bays and bays of Christmas cards. There were some great ones out there - and I think some of them hinted at trends we will see in 2017...
But as well as design trends I believe we need to think about the impact of the economic uncertainty that the BREXIT discussions and all that goes with it will have on card sending in 2017.
During the last recession we saw a real change in people's card sending and gift giving. When money gets tighter and things get more uncertain, we reach out to friends and family to remind them that we are there for each other, whatever happens, even if we have less to spend. These types of changes may well be repeated in 2017 and beyond.
Here are some examples of the trends we saw last time round:
- Last time card sending was relatively unaffected; if anything there were more cards bought and many were more highly finished driving up ATV.
- Marking an occasion of a less well known friend or work colleague might previously have been done with a card and small gift, but now this would be marked with a nicer card or a more relevant one.
- Even when there are changes in our financial circumstances we still need to have a laugh so humour will be even more popular than normal.
- Mums with lots of cards to buy for children's celebrations traded down to smaller or cheaper cards, shopping on the internet for packs of cards or making the cards themselves.
- Anything to do with children will be the last thing affected by changes in income - be it celebrating birthdays or christening - everyone wants the children’s lives to be affected as little as possible so celebrations and present giving will continue as normal wherever possible.
- Likewise weddings, the final celebration for a child while in their family unit before they create their own.
As buyers we need to bear these sorts of things in mind when planning our ranges in 2017 and beyond.
The overarching point we all have to remember is to make sure our ranges offer value for money. Even though most of the cards sold in the UK are produced here too, it doesn’t mean that we won’t be subject to cost price increases for the board, ink and other components used to create them, as these may easily be bought in to the UK from abroad and therefore paid for in euros or dollars.
Publishers are going to have to decide whether to put their prices up, and if they do then retailers will need to consider how they are going to respond. With the recent business rate increases announced I am sure that most businesses cannot afford to absorb any cost price increases and in honesty, if all of your competitors are putting their prices up too, there is no reason not to do at least some yourself.
Having said that the normal rules apply; make sure that your pricing structure makes sense to a customer and they can see what they are getting for the extra money - be it size, quality of board, foiling, embellishments etc. If a customer can only appreciate the added features once they have taken it out of the bag, my hunch is customers will choose something else that is cheaper!
Of course in reality, no one knows what the impact of Brexit will be in 2017, 2018 or beyond... but most of us were in business in 2008 and we survived that, and there is no reason that we won’t trade through this successfully too.
It is difficult to make long term plans but I believe we must treat Brexit, as we treat any other business challenge, and understand that it will bring both new opportunities and some problems. The key to success will be to take advantage of the opportunities and minimise the risks just as we have always done - so let’s do that and make 2017 a great year for selling greetings cards!