Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Gift Post (Yes, Posted Late)--On Holiday Boxed Cards.

Our holiday cards are selling well and we're beginning to run out of certain designs. This weekend folks have been calling looking for particular cards, sent to us from websites. The problem is that just because we carry a line doesn't mean we carry everything from a line. If nothing else, that would be boring. What I'm showing is still just a small assortment of our boxed cards.

The trick is to make sure you represent all the icons of the holiday, from traditional Christmas icons like angels and the manger, as well as less religious but still Christmas images such as Santa Claus and trees and cardinals and holly. And then there are images for folks who want a general holiday card, with snow scenes, doves, penguins, and woodland creatures. I think the dove can go either way--a lot of our customers like the peace connection.
One of course has the tendency to move towards your own interests. We quickly determined that without any sort of structure, I am going to buy a lot of bird designs. I also needed at least one season in the field to figure out that we had a good market for more religious designs.

 Another thing I found is that there is a market for crazy cards, but you're more likely to sell them loose than boxed. I still like to have a small assortment of unusual designs. I hoped our science fiction Santa (see above--it's a multi-armed Santa seemingly replaced by a robot model) would have a certain appeal with our customers gravitating towards science fiction and graphic novels, for example. And then there are some cards that seem not of the moment; it wasn't until I received the design that I realized that Santa reading a printed map seemed both out of date for the joke and yet not retro enough to be nostalgic.

Trends come and go. When I bought our first collection in 2009, I liked these laser-etched cards from Galison, but they didn't really work as well as I'd hoped. Several years later, Peter Pauper came out with a line at a cheaper price point that worked better.
If you look carefully, you'll probably notice that some of our designs stay the same from year to year while others switch out. Just like books, our reorders are based on sales. My rule of thumb on holiday cards is that I will bring a design back in if we sell out sometime before December 15. What that means is that if you come in on December 26 and buy up a design you really like at markdown, we're not going to have it the next holiday, unless of course it still didn't sell through at markdown (in which case the pre-holiday price still starts at 25% off in most cases). There are some holiday items that we specifically buy for multi-year sales, but I'll leave that boring case-pack minimum conversation for another blog, if at all.

This coming Wednesday evening is Hanukkah, and while we have a good sale in books, and wrap a lot of presents, and can even sell a novelty item if I find something great (like this year's Hanukkah ducks), the card business is slower. Part of the problem is that the cards are pretty boring. More observant Jews send High Holiday cards, and many get them at their synagogue shop. What we find is that a good percentage of the cards are sent by non-Jews to Jews, but if the card doesn't pop, you can substitute a winter scene and wish them a happy holiday. That works better when the holidays are close together. This year you can send a Thanksgiving card, and yes, we have a few of those left too.
The loose Hanukkah cards tend to be more clever, and also sell better. We're actually almost out, but we've got a few latke-themed ones. So should I do a blog post on holiday wrap? We'll see if I can say anything interesting about that.

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