At this time of year, it’s really evident that it’s a kid’s life! Card sending is all about marking occasions - be they personal and individual or seasonal and cultural. As a retailer, thinking about these in relation to children specifically can open up all sorts of opportunities to broaden your occasions offer and there has never been a better time to do it…
Over the last few years there has been a significant increase in the number of retailers developing their own card ranges and publishers opening their own shops. So what is it about the current retail market that is making retailers and publishers take these initiatives when so many other retailers are closing their shops ?
Naturally, there are different motivations depending on where you are in the supply chain but when we examine closely, we see even players in the same sector have different reasons for doing this. The one thing that is the same for everyone is that they want to feel they can create a point of difference between themselves and their competitors and to encourage consumers to spend money with them. There are lots of ways that a retailer can do this and card retailers are no exception.
Let’s start with larger card retailers like Paperchase. They have been printing their own brand cards for more than 30 years. In fact a significant percentage of their card and stationery range is own brand and they have always used this as a unique point of difference so that customers who wants that type of product will have to shop with them. They have always been at the cutting edge of design and they have built their brand on offering innovative designs and product formats. This type of brand differentiation is critical for many retailers and developing own brand products allows them to do this; refreshing and renewing ranges as they feel they need to to keep them ahead of the competition.
Traditionally this has been felt to be the preserve of larger retailers because of the volumes that have had to be produced to get reasonable cost prices. But with the advent of digital printing this is now becoming an option for many who want to do small print runs. For example, the National Trust who wants to be able to feature their stunning , buildings, gardens and landscapes at their individual properties; whilst litho print runs are rarely an option, good quality digital printing has opened up all sorts of opportunities for stocking wider ranges of unique images that visitors are keen to buy.
For me, this is part of the localisation trend we are seeing come to the fore to meet demand from consumers who want to buy something that has some meaning and relevance either to where they live or somewhere they have visited. This does not mean you have to be in a major tourist destination, but rather people enjoying spending time somewhere with friends and wanting to send or give a card.
If you are considering launching a range, it’s worth noting that your customers are not looking for an outdated photographic image either but rather a modern illustrative image or maybe something humorous that those in the know will understand…
Why doesn't every supplier or manufacturer enter at least one eligible product for an industry award... every year? With the many, many category options across the various industry awards, nearly every supplier or manufacturer has an eligible product - which means any buyer or retailer can stock award-winning product! It's time to embrace the fact that wherever you are in the supply chain you can use this year’s industry awards to your advantage. Here's how:
As it's the final day of Spring Fair for another year, I've been reflecting on the highlights. Particularly the fantastic Gift of the Year Awards Ceremony on Sunday evening and the attention the winners' display in the Spring Fair concourse has attracted! I've been thinking why doesn't every supplier or manufacturer enter at least one eligible product for an industry award... every year?
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.