Greeting cards, stationery can help you write a better bottom line
In an age of electronic communication, one might think that greeting cards and stationery products have gone way of the dinosaur. In actuality, greeting cards sales have remained stable and can be used by specialty retailers to not only generate profits, but also to set the tone for the unique nature of a store.
"Each specialty retailer needs to offer something different from what is found in the big box and product that fits the needs to its specific customers," said George White of Up With Paper. "Once the niche is identified, then load with products that reach that niche. With that said, unique greeting cards serve to both put the consumer on notice that the store offers unique product and to drive incremental sales."
Notes of Appeal
As a whole, White has found unique cards with embellishments such as sound, lights, pop-ups, etc. are driving the category; in addition, seasonal cards have done better than everyday in the last few years - Christmas and other holidays come every year, regardless of the state of the economy.
"Our fastest growing categories outside of such cards are pop-up notepads, which provide a terrifically useful item that the consumer is looking to match their mood/taste," White added. "Our newest offering, Sticky Note Pop-Up Portfolios, is designed to appeal to the same type of incremental purchase - for self or gift. The price is relatively low, and everyone needs a notepad, so it makes a great purchase for the shopper herself or gift-giving."
Bob Harju of Pumpernickel Press agreed, saying they've found home office products, small travel-sized notepads, pens, musical cards, unique cards featuring embellishments and cards on specialty papers sell best.
"The popularity of these products is due in part to the fact that these items appeal to a wide range of age groups and genders, depending on the product design," Harju said. "Unique birthday and occasion greeting cards are still number one with adults, while kids tend to be attracted to coloring books, sketch/note pads and pens."
Laura Overstreet of LaserGifts noted that one popular stationery trend involves the use of bold, bright colors. They currently offer a personalized magnetic notepad and pen set that is decorated in attractive pinks and greens that has done well.
"In addition, our newest and most colorful offering is the Make-Your-Own personalized pencil pack," Overstreet said. "These No. 2 pencil sets for both males and females are available in several appealing hues and are decorated with trendy, contemporary designs. The Make-Your-Own concept also fits in with the DIY movement that masses wide appeal among our elementary and middle school age target market."
That customization and DIY concept is important, as a person's name is the most powerful brand in the marketplace. Consumers are immediately drawn to a fixture featuring personalized merchandise and are searching for their own name, or those of friends and loved ones, to purchase and present as gifts.
"Almost universally, people prefer a gift with their name or initial," said Larry Phung of InScribe Inc. "They like it even more when it's in their colors and decorated with a design that matches their style. People appreciate that you took the time to find something that suits them, as opposed to buying something off the shelf."
Phung said that in his experience with their products, the main appeal is that it's a personalized gift that can be printed and assembled in minutes. Customers can choose from a variety of patterns and colors, and add the recipient's name or initial for a thoughtful gift that's made while they wait. For the retailer, it's quick and easy to make, and just as easy to sell. All you have to do is let customers know that no matter what name they're looking for, you have it.
And don't forget about pens, as they are a great add-on sale at any time.
"Our pens can be personalized, printed and assembled in minutes," Phung added. "And the same patterns and colors are available for both stationery and pens, so that they can be sold as a matching gift set. We even offer a gift box that fits all three sizes of stationery for the customer that wants to give the perfect matching stationery set."
Overstreet said that they've found that adults are looking for quality stationery items that will last through the years, which is why ballpoint pens and small desk sets remain best sellers. When it comes to children's stationery items, the product must appeal to both the youth and their parent.
"Products that allow children to express themselves including personalized and DIY prove strong market contenders," she said. "If these items also prove useful in a back-to-school function, it's a win for the parent as well."
White agreed that boxed notes and notepads appeal to the younger set, but they also sell a significant volume of their product to parents and grandparents to be given to children, so they have many designs that appeal to the latter.
"Our new UWP Kids line includes sticky notes pop-up portfolios and pop-up notecard portfolios," White said. "Each pop-up portfolio features four different die-cut sticky note pads, with artwork on every page, and has a locking corner tab to safeguard the sticky notes in any desk or purse. The line is launching with six designs with unlimited uses, plus two Hello Kitty designs, and we think children and their parents/grandparents will respond favorably to these."
Front and Center
Displaying these products on a prominent fixture, such as a floor display, garners the most attention from consumers. In addition, the signage accompanying the item must be an attention-grabber, while clearly communicating the use of the product.
"Placement is also key for the personalized stationery category," Overstreet added. "In many instances, customers are purchasing these items on an impulse, so featuring the display at the front of the store near a cash register also produces successful results."
Harju added that displays are getting a little more creative.
"Signage is good, but most retailers mix card fixtures and unique displays in areas where people are browsing," he said. "They attract consumers even if they may not be looking for a greeting card or stationery product."
Phung said tower displays are a great way to make an impact in your store, and those from InScribe have a footprint of just two square feet. The tower displays also accommodate a variety of other matching gifts, including pens, travel mugs, tumblers and cases for the iPhone 4/4S.
If space is at a premium, countertop displays are a great way to catch the customer's eye by the cash register or on a small counter. Regardless of where the items are placed, retailers should also not be afraid to price their goods accordingly, ensuring that their margin covers all expenses and generates needed profit.
Because while keeping the art of handwritten communication in this electronic age is priceless, you are setting the tone for the unique nature of your store. And "personal, yet profitable" is something most retailers would like written in stone.
By Abby Heugel