Greeting Cards; Approaching Retailers
Hey Guys I’m setting up a greeting cards business. I’ve got all my designs but haven’t printed them yet. Should I approach Retailers (Clintons, Card Factory, Tescos) before I have any hard sales? I mean, should I sell on my website, target local shops first, and then approach the major card retailers? This way there’s evidence that the cards sell. The reason I haven’t printed them yet, is because if retailers take orders, they’d require barcodes on them. I do want to add barcodes if its not necessary at present. Basically all I’m asking is, whats next for me?
Most retailers will just see your business as an idea and not a viable business, you will need hard sales to prove you can product the volume of orders they require and your design will sell.
As a small publisher of greeting cards, I can tell you that, unless you have something truly extraordinary, there is no point n trying to tackle Clintons etc. You will be up against the really big publishers who spend a huge amount on marketing/retailer support to keep their shelf space, and you’ll also be up against the retailer’s self-published designs. Plus they are inundated daily with people looking to try to sell in new designs. Finally, as a small publisher you would be most unlikely to be able to cope with the financial and production demands of supplying a major retailer.
The barriers to entry to this market are low (i.e. if you do your own design and artwork, then it’s the cost of print and packaging) so there’s a massive number of publishers all vying for sales through the same channels. The key is building a distribution network of independent retailers – and the only way to do that is to get your product in front of them.
You can try to do that yourself, but it’s hard, hard work to make it viable (that said, that’s exactly how the guy behind Purple Ronnie started 20 years ago); or you can try to find agents to do the work for you in exchange for a % of the sales. A good starting point, if you haven’t already done so, may be to visit a trade show, such as the Autumn Fair at the NEC and see how some card publishers work. Also, try to get hold of a copy of Progressive Greetings or of Greetings Today, the two trade mags.
Whichever route you take, you’ll need to have some stock to sell. Many retailers expect delivery quickly (even if some do forward-order), and you won’t have the time to then produce and pack your cards. I’d suggest you look at digital print runs to start with (there are some specialists in this arena for cards). Bar codes are worth putting on if you can, as certain retailers need them for their EPOS systems, but many small shops don’t bother.
You will need to know what RSP you think your cards should sell at. Do some market research and then also some cost-up calculations and see whether your suggested RSP makes sense both for the retailer (who will expect to sell at 2.35 x wholesale price) and for you as the publisher.
Hope that’s helpful as a starting point!
I noticed a local decoupage card producer has put stands in several of the local garages/filling stations up here with their cards on.
But I also suspect they’re being sold on a sale or return basis too (not sure tho.)
We also visited a local craft fair at the weekend, and interestingly 3 of the stall holders were selling "hand made cards" which tells me it getting pretty competitive in space.
All in all, I think Guy has offered some excellent advice above.
What about supplying or doing a deal with local charities/community groups to sell them for you too?
Hope that helps.
Guy, thanks so much for that post. It was really useful.
As a publisher, could I have my cards in various retailers? I wouldn’t have to sign any exclusivity contract? Would that be the case for the bigger retailers, such as Clintons etc?
How do you feel about supplying cards to Card Factory, with their really affordable mark-ups? I guess I have to print massive volumes to even get a decent RSP.
I receive PG trade mag every month. I’ve been to the Winter Fair in NEC too.
So, if you could put everything in points to clarify my approach.
1. Do a few mock designs before printing in bulk to show retailers.
2. Find agents to work for me. Ask retailers who they use.
3. Sell cards on my website.
4. Attend trade fairs. Approach other publishers to see what they are doing.
How about marketing? What advice would you give?
Raka, An alternative approach would be to find a publisher whose style of cards is complementary to yours and see whether they would publish on a licensing/royalty basis. You won’t make as much margin (typically 10% of net wholesale) but you pass off the risk to a third party who already has distribution. Some publishers might alternatively want to pay a flat fee per image so they own the copyright in the design.
The hard part here obviously is finding a publisher to take on your designs – it’s a bit like newbie authors looking for a book publisher!
Returning to your numbered points (and assuming you want to be a publisher):
1. It’s always worth testing your designs on some local independent retailers and then, if you get positive feedback, get a quantity digitally printed, bagged with envelopes and ready for sale in outer packs of 6. You’ll need at least 12 designs in the range to make it of interest to retailers (they may not take all 12, but simply like to be able to pick their favourites from a reasonable spread of choice).
2. You won’t easily find premier division agents, but there’s probably no harm in sticking a small "wanted" ad in back of PG see what falls out. Do your homework on any applicants (what other card publishers do they carry? what other products do they sell? who do they sell to? how many active accounts he they got? – this is a whole separate area in its own right) – and put them on a 6 months trial period to evaluate how they perform; and finally don’t be afraid to cull them if they’re not working for you (it probably means it’s not working for them either). Typically you’ll need to pay them around 17.5%-20% of the net wholesale price of every order.
3. Yes – a no-brainer.
4. If you’re serious as a publisher, you’ll need to be seen so will need to take space at key trade fairs. If you’ve got a lot of stuff for spring seasons (Valentines, Mothers, Easter, Fathers) then go to Autumn Fair. Otherwise, book a small stand in the Fresh section in Hall 3 at Spring Fair – it’s for up-and-coming new publishers and artists.
Finally you can have your cards in lots of different retailer so long as they don’t compete geographically. If you get into somewhere big like Clintons, they’ll want an exclusive for a period of time, but I wouldn’t waste my time trying to bang on those particular doors more than once. With the likes of Card Factory, it will – as you indicated – come down to £££ which means volume, and start-up publishers generally don’t have the wherewithal to compete on that basis.
The issue you will have is that the large retailers buy with scale and therefore the unit price is very low. Most card ideas have been done, are your cards really that different? You will probably need to very targeted, probably to a local area (selling through local shops) but the margin will be very small.
Unfortunately i cannot offer you much advice withint this industry, but i do support what the other have said in the form that it should be unique, alternatively you could set up your own website, where you display your cards and create an affiliate programme where other people can advertise your card on your behalf and you give them a snippet of the profit, this will help spread your product further. You could also do a survey on your site to find out what cards are the most appealing and print a sample batch for starters.
if you are seeking a great web designer ( e-commerce) and printers i have afew contacts and pass those on to you.
Overall i think its a fantastic idea i would be eager to see what sort of card you do, i may be able to put you in contact with a company that promotes other products and services for a small kick back fee they have a large client base and are alsways seeking new and innovative services or products.
Hebe, thanks again for your invaluable info.
Susan, will you PM me? I can’t seem to get to your PM link!
Unfortunately i am a newbie here, how you do PM
Lol! I have no idea Susan.
It should have an option when the username is clicked. But nothing!
you can e-mail me on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wow this is all awesome stuff. I’m desperatley trying to find out how to get in touch with agents. Could anyone provide me with a contact please?
Agents don’t generally advertise themselves! There are two routes you could go down: (1) find some local card retailers whose product profile suits what you a trying to sell, and see if they would be prepared to give you the contact details of the best card agent who visits them – that will at least get you started in your area; and (2) put a small Wanted ad in a trade mag.
Just be aware that not all agents are equal – a few are very very good, and they tend to have full portfolios (but obviously do need fresh stuff from time to time); many are average at best, so be prepared to part company with the ones that don’t perform (see point 2 in my post above of 17/6).
thank you that’s really useful.