It’s already the last day of Spring Fair 2019 and I’m still wondering where the whole of last year went?! One minute we were toasting the arrival of 2018 and the next we had a vote of non-confidence in Theresa May and UK-wide snow! In between we enjoyed the World Cup, a really long hot summer, some crazy flash floods and and and……but how does this help us plan for 2019?
The most useful bits of information to remember are the trends we saw emerging in terms of design and the social and economic trends too. We need to consider how they influence the products we offer our customers so the products are relevant and therefore sell well to retailers or consumers alike. So in writing this article I am going to refer back to some of the articles I wrote in 2018 and pick out the things that I believe we need to include in our planning for the next 6 -12 months. While it would be nice to look at lot further ahead, until 1 or 2 key political decisions are made it is even more difficult than normal to know what might happen. At the time of writing the Brexit vote was voted down in the commons in mid January and renegotiations have begun… but by the time you read this - who knows what will have happened?!
As we get closer to key decision dates on Brexit the level of uncertainty increases both for us as individuals, our businesses and the economy as a whole. In the recession of 2008 we saw an a big increase in the sales of cards, notecards and stationery and a gradual increase in the sales of fountain pens and ink as we began to realise how much we valued our friends and family and we started to keep in touch more - writing letters, remembering special occasions and saying thank you more.
A natural extension of this is spending more time together doing things, going for walks rather than shopping, playing games rather than watching TV and celebrating many more events and occasions not with lavish parties but by sending cards to mark the occasion or just meeting up.
If money is tight usually the last people in the family to be scrimped on are the children. Adults usually try to protect them from the stresses and strains of adult life so all occasions linked to children and the key milestones will be celebrated when the time is right.
We are all keen to have a laugh too and politicians the world over are certainly giving us plenty of reasons to ridicule them - be it the way they look, what they say or how they behave. Celebrities aren’t far behind them and there are plenty of illustrators happy to create caracatures of them. One of my favourites at the moment are the sound cards from Really Wild Cards.
But of course there are plenty of other things to make us smile from cute animal, to funny lines, or gentle fun.
One of the ways to attract customers to your products is to stock ones that use innovative techniques - sometimes this can add cost but others are just plain eye catching. We know that in this competitive world it is important to stand out from the crowd so customers see your products first and chose them before others. On cards this can often be done with colour - whether that’s envelopes which create a stand out frame on the card displays, die cutting to add detail, foils that shine out or neon inks which give a strong blast of colour.
I think many of us are amazed at the impact of David Attenborough’s series in raising our awareness of the impact of plastics on the environment. In honesty, it is something we have all known about for ages but some of the images shown on the programme were so extreme that they seem to have shocked us into action as individuals, businesses and economies and all of a sudden our focus on single use materials and products has intensified and we are buying insulated mugs, lunch boxes, thermal bottles, water bottles and so on. From a greeting cards perspective we are seeing publishers moving in droves to biodegradable plastics for their cello bags and pressure being put on businesses to develop affordable biodegradable foils and flitters. Glebe Cottage, the ‘Eco Friendly Card Company’ have been at the forefront when it comes to environmental best practise having attained an FSC chain of custody and used compostable bags and laminates since 2006. They continue to lead the way in challenging the industry in this area.
And while there is pressure to innovate to produce exciting new products from more eco friendly materials and processes, the various economic pressures means that consumers have no more money to spend. If anything they have less disposable income so if you need to prices up you need to be confident that customers will perceive the reasons why and feel the products still offer value for money.
So what should you do now? It is important to think about how these trends and others impact on your customers and how should you react. Understanding this will help you decide what to include in your range, product areas or categories you might want to introduce, grow or indeed remove. It is worth taking some time to think this through before investing in lots of new products for 2019.