This might be my 30th year in the industry but I can remember still sitting in a planning meeting at WHSmith debating the impact of increasing the retail price on cards to over £1. It seems a world away now, especially as this year we have seen the RRP on a lot of card ranges tip over the £3 price point which was previously the domain of heavily detailed or hand finished cards like those from Five Dollar Shake or Form from Artfile .
But how can we get consumers to part with their money for a card that is over £3? It’s all about finding that added extra something.
We know that differentiating your product is critical for both publishers and retailers to drive sales, so going that extra mile to make all the difference helps to justify an increased price point if necessary.
One of the ways that publishers are getting our attention is by being more inventive with print by using foil, embossing or a combination of these finishes and other really interesting elements, all of which help their cards stand out on the shelf.
When I’ve been on the road this year at trade fairs, I have found the cross section of cards on show very exciting and unlike anything I’ve seen before - highlighting just what fantastic shape our industry is in and how innovative the designers and publishers are.
For example, an innovative brand I really like is Bexy Boo. I first noticed Bexy Boo at Harrogate a few years ago when she was displaying her Scrabbley range. At PG Live this year she took it to another level, launching her Forkies range using take away forks with really funny captions. I love them and can’t imagine what makes you look at a piece of shaped wood and think it is a great basis for a new card range!
Jessica Hogarth is well known for her distinctive seaside illustrations and London scenes which have been hugely successful for her. However, this year she decided to do something quite different - introducing a range of cards that have baubles on them, all ready for Christmas. Jess says that this range of cards has definitely helped her to open up new accounts because of her new seasonal ranges. Shops have felt the idea is unique and fun and she is looking forward to creating new artwork for them for next year.
It’s not just designers who are bring innovative ideas to the market – new publishers are pushing boundaries too!
Middlemouse combines beautiful cards with ‘innovative additions, recipes and gardening tips, or useful little things that make the card you send to your loved one that bit more special.’ They’ve titled these ‘Cardlets’ – a brilliant title! What could be nicer than sending a Christmas card with a few carols to sing included in it? Or a birthday card with a cake recipe? I’m sure they’ll appeal to a wide audience.
One of my long-term favourites are the sound cards from Really Wild Cards. These type of cards seem to have a long life. When I was the card buyer at the National Trust, their bird song and farmyard cards were best sellers. John at Really Wild Cards continues to develop the range with really topical subjects and the range has been updated with some well-known political characters which are great fun and proving very popular as cards - whether you agree with their politics is another matter!
While prices continue to rise on cards, publishers are still trying to keep their cards below the £3 price point. An easy way of doing that is to reduce them in size. Cards come in all shapes and sizes but Coulson Macloed do the opposite, offering stunning concertina cards. One of their newest ranges is the ‘Not a Typical’ concertina cards. Featuring striking black and grey fold-out greeting cards with messages that are straight-to-the-point yet heart-warmingly funny, these cards are really original and look great propped up on the mantelpiece.
Buying cards with a little extra something works particularly well when you are buying an occasion card; who doesn’t want their card to stand out amongst the massive amount of cards received by loved ones? Hello Geronimo does occasion cards really well and I love their new baby card with the little felt feet, they are so cute. They have a wide selection of ‘add-ons’ which make their ranges really different so they are well worth checking out if you want something a bit different.
One issue that publishers and designers are finding is that adding these special touches often means a card has to be handmade or hand finished, simply because a machine cannot be as delicate as a hand. I remember my children learning to quill when they were younger, it is such a stunning way of adding images to a card. Eastwest have a fabulous range of designs and, because they are all handmade, retailers can have bespoke images made for them. Thinking about the time it must take to do some of these designs is mind blowing but it certainly is a great way to secure sales.
Adding these extra elements makes all the difference but they take time, effort and passion to design and make. This is what adds that point of different that makes them really special. The cards from Dayo are no exception. Described as ‘Where Paper Meets Fashion’, Dayo’s handmade and hand-finished cards vary to reflect individuality and are renowned for being ‘beautiful ethnic cards with a mixed media approach’.
Despite living in a deeply digital age, sending cards to mark special occasions has stayed as important as ever, if not more so! That little something extra makes both the recipient and the sender feel very special indeed.