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Paper cards retain value in digital age

BY Barbara White-Sax

Texting and social media have not killed the traditional greeting card business. “Facebook has caused most people to acknowledge more birthdays than ever before, but they aren’t sending fewer cards as a result,” said Susan January, president of the Greeting Card Association and VP of Leanin’ Tree Cards.

“The actual paper card still holds significant emotional value — especially for highly personal, emotional card-sending occasions, such as condolences/sympathy, weddings, new babies and milestone birthdays and anniversaries,” January said. In fact, industry statistics show that 90% of U.S. households purchase at least one card a year.

Enhancements, such as chips that allow cards to play a song or record a message, continue to provide freshness to the category. Yet while sales of greeting cards in drug stores are projected to be steady for the next few years, rising postal costs and manufacturing costs are forcing suppliers to find ways to keep a lid on retail pricing.

Suzanne Haines, VP marketing for Designer Greetings, said the company’s 50%-off program “can transform under-performing full-price greeting card departments into high-traffic departments.” “Stores that need a major point of differentiation have used the program to drive traffic and create a card department destination,” she said. “The strategy increases traffic and category sales while reducing on-hand inventory dollars.” Designer Greetings also offers a double-value program, which allows retailers to price higher-end cards between 99 cents and $1.99.

Manufacturers are quick to point out that the category can’t exist solely on value-priced merchandise. “Lowest price is not necessarily the only thing people value when shopping for products that help nurture their relationships,” said Sabrina Wiewel, Hallmark’s general manager for the drug channel.

Dave Phipps, a spokesman for Avanti Press, said the company has been driving higher profits with premium collections priced at $3.99. The average price point of Avanti cards is $2.99.

The company’s Motion line, which features lenticular 3-D effects, and its Standouts line, featuring dimensional photographic interiors, have been very successful.

 

 

The article above is part of the DSN Category Review Series. For the complete Greeting Cards Buy-In Report, click here.

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Study: Mobile technology offers in-store opportunity

BY Gail Hoffer

NEW YORK — While advances in smartphones and social media use have lead many consumers to shop online, those same technologies are being utilized by retailers to get customers back into the stores. New shopping apps, mobile technologies and social media rewards are moving buying decisions back into the stores, according to WSL/Strategic Retail’s second annual "Buzz to Buy 2.0" trend report.

According to the report, approximately half of all smartphone owners use their devicse while shopping in-store. More than half of those who use mobile for shopping are comparing prices (56%), taking pictures of products (53%), and finding coupons and discounts (46%).

Shopping apps are growing in popularity, and according to WSL/Strategic Retail, 35% of those surveyed are using them to receive in-store alerts to deals and sales (35%), reading QR codes or bar codes for product information (33%) and helping to navigate the store (28%).

"For the first time in many years, retailers are getting ahead of the trend — and the shopper, by introducing new mobile apps that create fun, entertaining and promotion-driven experiences at the malls and in the stores," WSL/Strategic Retail CEO Wendy Liebmann said. "By using mobile technology to access flash offers, search best deals and earn rewards, shoppers are, once again, able to make purchase decisions in-store, rather than online at home."

WSL/Strategic Retail conducted an Internet survey from Sept. 8 to 12. The survey included 1,702 respondents recruited from an online panel of shoppers who were at least 15 years old. All participants are active Internet users — they have done at least one online shopping or social networking activity within the past month.

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Ingles reports positive Q4, full-year results

BY Allison Cerra

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Ingles Markets recorded key increases in its fourth-quarter and full-year results for fiscal year 2011, the retailer announced Monday.

For the fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, net sales increased 5.8% to $905.8 million, compared with the year-ago period, while comparable-store sales (excluding gasoline) rose 2.2%, compared with the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010.

Meanwhile, net sales for the full year reached $3.56 billion, a 5% increase from fiscal year 2010, marking the retailer’s 47th consecutive year of record sales. Comparable-store sales (excluding gasoline) saw an increase of 2.3%.

"We are proud of both increased sales and profits, reflecting a fitting tribute to the way my father built and ran this company," Ingles CEO Robert Ingle, Jr., said. "We have a great group of managers and associates that continue to drive excellent results."

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