Sophie Greenwood

Predictions and Ponderings for 2016

We saw some really interesting things happening in the market in 2015 and I’m wondering how they will develop in 2016…

For instance, card retailers gave us a lot to talk about:

  • Who would buy Paperchase?
  • What would the impact of the new value retailers Cardmarket and Simply Clinton be?
  • Who were out to spoil Card Factory’s fun and try and take share from them at the bottom end of the market?

We also saw the emergence of Paper and Script and what feels like a slowdown of the growth of Funky Pigeon both businesses under the WH Smith umbrella.

We now know that Paperchase is to stay under the same leadership in 2016 and that as well as growth in the UK they are planning significant growth abroad too. Paperchase set the pace in all their markets with publishers and producers desperate to supply them and many design conscious retailers measuring their performance in term of design development and sales against them. The real question is how high will they set the bar in 2016?

At the luxury end of the market Liberty, Selfridges and others will be searching for unique cards that use beautiful materials, print and finish to set them apart and justify they prices they need to charge.

One thing you can be sure of is that there will be a real price fight at the bottom end of the market to drive volume... no change there then!

The most notable people moves we witnessed this year was Sophie Greenwood leaving WH Smith Travel /Funky Pigeon to go to Marks & Spencer. Sophie has been a real driving force as a buyer in the industry having been at Tesco and the WHS and because of M&S’ own brand range her profile in the industry may be much more invisible in 2016.

For me one of the biggest changes in 2015 was the increasing influence of brokerage as it permeates the market moving from the supermarkets into the mid-market as more and more large publishers take on the role of broker and then grow their share by managing the card ranges for medium size businesses like garden centres, small retail chains, and I heard recently - even large independents. This may make the retailers lives easier in many ways as they may not have the time, data, nor skills for the more complex range analysis that is essential if a buyer isto make their ranges better and better. This will all be done for them by the brokers – along with the individual supplier negotiations and management.

However, for publishers it really limits their access to another set of retailers because if they are not able or willing to supply under a brokerage system they will almost certainly not be able to supply these retailers. So for these publishers it means they are will have to approach the smaller independent retailers directly themselves, use agents, or hope retailers find them at shows or online.

This could make 2016 a really tough year for smaller publishers and those who do not want to supply through brokerage.