It is easy to think that a child will be happy with a birthday card that the sender likes as long as there it a ‘nice’ present to go with it, or maybe some money inside, but I am afraid that as our children become more and more aware at a younger and younger age - they also know what they like and don’t like.
Age cards work well for very young recipients ‘who are too young to know’, but as a retail buyer I always found that once they get to school at 4 or 5, these decrease significantly in popularity and don't come back on the agenda until 18 and 21. From 6 onwards they become more savvy and want a card featuring their favourite character from TV and this is when licensing kicks in!
Licensing is hugely important in the children’s market, they are watching TV, seeing films, being read stories, or playing games on phones and tablets from a very early age and will pick up on characters they enjoy watching or hearing about. Greetings cards, gift wrap and party-ware are really important within this sector and can provide retailers with significant sales if this is relevant to their target customers.
But licensing does not have to focus on current trends. There are some wonderful classic children’s licenses too like Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse and Peter Rabbit.
The nostalgia linked to these characters and the sender's memories of the pleasure they had from the associated stories and films means they will have great appeal to the sender - and they may be recognised with the young recipient too even if they are less familiar with their day to day antics!
Hannah Dale has had extraordinary success with her Country Set animal Illustrations. In 2015 she decided to broaden the appeal of her range but using her wonderfully expressive style to create a beautiful children’s range called Snails and Pigtails inspired by her own ‘little rascals’. While Hannah says she felt it was a risky move she is thrilled she tried it, as the range is proving massively popular with her retail stockists.
There is always a lot of talk about sexual stereotyping of products for children with princesses, fairies and pink for girls and knights, pirates and blue for boys. Some retailers try to avoid such products but I would suggest that children still love them and many publishers continue to have huge success with them; some of my favourites are from Rachel Ellen.
Licensing trends are important for some kids from very early on but design trends will be important for others - particularly as they get older and begin to know what they really like. This year I would expect there to be strong sales on everything unicorn, rainbows and magical so this card from Deckle Edged’s new range should be spot on.
Passing Rachel Ellen’s stand at Harrogate I saw a strong standout range called Party Animal for slightly older boys, talking to Rachel she explained that this was designed by a new member of her team and this range is adding real breath to her offer. It was so well received by retailers they have already had a reprint!
But of course it is not just about birthdays there are all sorts of occasions that we celebrate with and for children and there are some truly special cards to help us mark these occasions.
More on that next time...