Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday Gift Post—Out with the Old Cards, In with the New Ones

It’s almost Halloween and we have a handle on whether our customers send Halloween cards. They do, but only a little. Our customer base sends occasion cards, but aside from Christmas, the only holidays we have decent sales on are Valentine’s, Mother’s, and Father’s Day.

Of the new stuff, our cute letterpress line sold through, but the nostalgia letterpress did not. Surprising, since we sell through the same company’s blank, holiday, and sympathy cards so quickly. We also put some old cards we inherited on clearance at 50%, pre-holiday, but we found they won’t sell at any price. After the holiday, we’ll do a short 50-75% off clearance and then off they go, to points unknown.

It’s really time for us to dump some of the old cards we inherited. We’ve also tried extreme markdowns on the Christmas stuff, but even that’s been tough. The problem is three-fold. The cards are simply neither our esthetic nor our customers, and there are too many cards that are relative specific. “Happy Birthday, Grandson-in-Law”, and “Happy Valentine’s Day, Brother.” And as I mentioned earlier, we simply don’t get traffic for the minor holidays. Boss’s Day? Administrative Professional’s Day? Passover? Somebody sends cards for Passover?

The quantities are also a bit confusing. Though we almost never order in larger than sixes, we have 8-10 units of many of the styles. Alas, that may be a function of not itemizing cards in our inventory, and thus getting duplicate shipments.

I honestly can’t figure out how the stuff got into the store in the first place, because Schwartz never did well with this kind of thing. I remember having an argument at the Chicago gift show with a gift rep and some buyers from a a small-metro gift shop where they insisted that a frame that says “Sister” would sell better than a frame that did not.

“My customer knows who their sister is. They don’t need a sign to remind them!” I almost screamed.

The truth of the matter? It’s my thought that indie stores should avoid being racked at all costs. Whether it’s study guides or map or cards or giftwrap or magazines, you always wind up with more than you can sell, and unlike with chains, it’s rarely on consignment. We wind up carrying inventory that we can’t sell, at levels we’d never buy on our own.

That said, you are usually able to exchange out racked holiday cards. The problem once the program was cut off, anything not returned did not get credited. And so we're still dealing 18 months later.

Last year, we only had about a dozen boxes of leftover cards after our clearance and they went back on the floor, already discounted. The new boxed Christmas cards are selling pretty well, and we’ve just put out our first spinner of loose holiday. Another half-spinner will go up after Halloween. And we’ll clear some space from friendship/thank you/congratulations for some more.

So what will be leftover after our holiday? I tend to be a sucker for cute, but that's only part of our market. I scaled back on that a bit this year, but couldn't resist these Hello Lucky designs.


barbara Agness said...

Daniel, I really liked the company "Artists to watch" do you sell their cards? They sold really well at Conkeys in Appleton. They would also let me return cards that don't sell and exchange them. I think the sales rep lives in MILW. She is great!

Daniel Goldin said...

Yes, we carry Artists to Watch, though not every artist. Our customers seem particularly fond of Nick Wroblewski--I think those are woodcuts. ATW is also one of our stronger lines for goofy old photos with captions--not as snarky as the other lines.