A Look Inside the Greeting Card Industry

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Managing Director of Card Connection, Michael Johnson discusses the state of the greeting card industry in 2012

The first greeting cards recorded were sent by the ancient Chinese to express messages of goodwill during the New Year celebrations. The ancient Egyptians also sent their greetings on papyrus scrolls. The first commercial Christmas card is said to have been created in 1846 by Sir Henry Cole who was also known for modernising the British postal system, managing the construction of the Albert Hall and founding the Victoria & Albert Museum. In modern times, the greeting card commerce has developed into a thriving industry with about £1.4billion being spent on cards each year in the UK alone.
In Britain, the tradition of sending greeting cards is particularly wide-spread with estimates ranging from averages of between 31 cards being sent per person per year. From Christmas, to Valentine’s Day, to Birthday, Easter, Thank You and even Congratulations on Passing Your Driving Test, there is an appropriate card for every occasion. Interestingly it has been estimated that 85% of all cards are purchased by women.

The industry itself employs around 100,000 people in the UK, including designers, publishers, photographers, writers, printers and distributors. According to the Greeting Card Association, greeting cards are stocked in more types of outlet than any other product – with one in six retailers stocking greeting cards.

The common social culture of sending greeting cards has resulted in the development of the franchised greeting card distribution market, which offers exciting opportunities for franchisees to capitalise on the UK population’s love of, ‘sending a card’.

One method of distribution of greeting cards which has proved popular, and the method originally developed by Card Connection, is where franchisees place card ranges in retail outlets on a ‘consignment’ basis. This means the stock and display equipment is installed on free loan to the retailer. This is one step beyond ‘sale or return’ as retail customers never have to buy the stock in the first place, only paying for what they sell. The award winning merchandising service provided to retailers by local franchisees has established the company’s excellent reputation especially within the convenience sector.
One of the main advantages of greeting card franchises are their flexibility. While retail customers are trading throughout the day, and often into the night, franchisees can merchandise them at hours convenient to them. These days, electronic hand held equipment can automate invoicing, leaving the franchisee time to focus on creating and merchandising attractive displays which encourage purchasing behaviour.

The concept of distress purchases, where customers make an unplanned purchasing decision, has also proved a lucrative avenue for greeting card sales. Unlike an impulse buy, where temptation is the driver, distress purchases are usually initiated by an event, like forgetting ones wedding anniversary! In relation to the sale of greeting cards this event is always time critical.
The normal pattern of the sale of Christmas cards on the high street begins in September when the retailers start advertising and rises gradually until a few days before the holiday season. However, data from one of our leading forecourt retail customers shows a very different picture. Sales of Christmas Cards stay fairly static throughout the run up to Christmas, and then peak sharply to its highest point on Christmas Eve.

Sales of single Christmas Cards are in-fact, 12 times higher on Christmas Eve than in the week prior to Christmas. This is not a one-off phenomenon. Sales data over several years identifies an almost identical trend year-on-year. Perhaps surprisingly, figures also show that the second best day for single Christmas Card sales is actually on Christmas day itself, with sales eight times higher than the week before. This essentially reflects the fact that consumers use forecourt outlets to purchase last minute or distress items enroute to their destination.

Over the years greeting cards have grown in popularity. The thriving UK industry now offers many opportunities for franchisees: from supplying high street retailers to taking advantage of merchandising to attract distress purchasers. For further information about greeting card franchise opportunities please see below.
 

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