By Michael Johnson, Managing Director, Card Connection.
The greeting card industry represents a spend of £1.4 billion in the UK per annum. With the British public buying an average of 31 cards per person each year, have you ever wondered about what goes on behind the scenes? How greeting cards are created and how they get onto our shelves?
The employee responsible for managing a particular range will keep an eye on sales and aim to replace any cards that are not selling so well. A card may not sell as well because the humour has become out-of-date or the imagery needs updating or the trends in the market have simply changed. Some card companies tend to replace a whole range all at the same time but at Card Connection we keep the cards which continue to sell well and only replace designs which require a refresh. Therefore, analysis regarding what is selling well, what’s missing and what’s not selling so well, is the starting point for any new design. We aim for a broad appeal so try to cover a variety of styles including humour, cute, traditional, contemporary, handmade and sentiment so if there is a gap in the genre of a range we will aim to cover that with a new design. Once we have a picture of the genre and type of customer we are looking at attracting – perhaps in terms of age or gender – then we decide on the concept. Some cards are designed from scratch by our in-house designers, some are briefed out to a specialist artist or some are a refresh of a design which may be successful in another range. Many of our cards use powerful imagery and so it may be necessary to sometimes brief a photo library to come up with the perfect picture. Also, our design team work with freelance writers and artists who submit captions, images or designs, and we utilise these where appropriate.
From the initial scribble we brief our in-house design studio who create a mock-up. Once the mock-up is then worked up as technical artwork on screen and we are happy with the layout, words and design, a proof is generated which is checked before being provided to our printers. Bar codes and film wrap are added as part of the printing and packing process and some of our cards are hand-wrapped. Once batches of cards are ready, a jpeg image is added to our web ordering system for our network of franchisees to order online. Cards are delivered to franchisees within a few days and are being distributed to retailers within a week.
We are releasing between six to ten new greeting card designs each week and the whole process – from creating the concept of the design to the card appearing on the shelf – takes between three to six months depending on the complexity of the card. The franchisees have an important role to play as although the process for the card to be designed, wrapped and delivered is slick, the cards also need to be displayed well to encourage retail customers to purchase the product. A beautiful display which follows our researched ‘cycle of life’ format encourages consumers to browse and helps them select the perfect greeting card for any occasion. Cards are delivered by our franchisees to retail customers on a ‘consignment’ basis. This means retailers only pay for what they sell. Our franchisees supply the stock and display equipment on free loan and regularly merchandise displays with new product to ensure they are always looking fresh and enticing for customers. The win-win situation created has proved popular with retailers and this year Card Connection celebrates 21 years in the industry. Now, next time you purchase a greeting card you can imagine the process it went through, starting at concept to ending up in your pocket as the end customer!