Lockdown greeting cards sales leap as people show they care during pandemic

Greetings card retailer Card Factory has seen a big jump in sales of lockdown cards as people write to their loved ones at a time when they cannot see them in person.

A lot of people want to touch and feel the card, read the verse, does it say the right thing about their mum or their friend

Karen Hubbard, chief executive at Card Factory, said: “People are sending cards to each other just to remind them they’re here and that they’re thinking about them during lockdown.”

The Wakefield-based firm said online sales at its main website have more than quadrupled since the coronavirus lockdown forced the closure of all its stores, as it confirmed plans to reopen 10 per cent of its shops on or around June 15.

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The firm said like-for-like sales at cardfactory.co.uk surged 302 per cent since lockdown began and are 153 per cent higher in its financial year so far.

Other best sellers aside from lockdown cards include photo upload cards and Ms Hubbard said birthday cards are still very popular at a time when people can’t give birthday greetings in person.

She said buyers are also searching for the perfect Father’s Day card for people who cannot visit their dads due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Card Factory, which has more than 1,000 stores in the UK and Ireland, is planning a slow reopening of shops from around June 15 but said it had plans for further openings “subject to our early learnings”.

It said it believes social distancing can be achieved in most of its stores.

The firm said: “It is clear that in some shops social distancing will impact the number of transactions that we are able to deal with.

“However, our teams are looking to introduce innovative ways to process customer transactions to optimise sales in stores, including helping customers reduce the frequency of their visits, but increase the average basket value in each shop.”

Ms Hubbard said that customer and colleague safety will be paramount.

“We can’t wait to reopen on the 15th with a small number of stores,” she said.

“We are really big on hand sanitisers. We want all our customers to sanitise first so we’ve got hand sanitiser posts in place as customers come into the store.

“With card buying, a lot of people want to touch and feel the card, read the verse, does it say the right thing about their mum or their friend.”

The group has launched a second warehouse unit at the Wakefield Industrial Park, which has helped to meet rocketing demand for online orders amid the coronavirus crisis.

It also plans to launch a new website for cardfactory.co.uk in the second half of the year.

Ms Hubbard said: “When the sales just took off and went through the roof, we needed to make sure that our colleagues who were doing fulfilment were socially distanced.”

When asked when the other 90 per cent of stores will reopen, Ms Hubbard said: “It will depend on what happens. If we reopen the stores and customers are comfortable, colleagues are comfortable and everything works, then we’ve got a plan to really quickly reopen stores.

“It will be determined by how well the first 90 stores get on.”

The firm, which has furloughed more than 90 per cent of its staff, cancelled its 2019-20 final shareholder dividend payout and said it does not expect to pay one for the current year due to the impact of Covid-19 on overall trading.

Results for the year to the end of January revealed a 12 per cent drop in underlying pre-tax profits to £67m, with the group blaming a “very challenging market” and soaring costs.

Like-for-like sales fell 0.5 per cent over the year.

Ms Hubbard said: “Before the impact of Covid-19, we had made a satisfactory start to the year.

“In the first major season of the year, Valentine’s Day, we achieved our fourth consecutive year of record sales growth in both volume and value.

“However, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted trading and, given the uncertain economic backdrop, we are unable to provide financial guidance for 2020-21.”