Monday, 14 May 2012

Clinton Cards, with sympathy

The announcement last week that the UK's biggest card retailer Clinton Cards was to file for administration came after quite a year for High Street closures.

With Peacocks, Game Group, Pumpkin Patch and many others, the High Street has been rocked by falling sales due to a lack of consumer confidence, with the public consumption hitting record lows.

Yet Clinton Cards, surely, would be OK? Everyone needs a greetings card, and with very few card shops on the High Street - Card Fair and others have all closed over the years - you'd think Clinton Cards would be safe.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Despite employing over 8,000 staff in more than 700 stores across its Clintons and Birthday chains, Clintons has been hit by falling sales and heavy losses.

Yet other card stores have flourished in recent times. Paperchase and Scribbler, more up-market card shops, have reported strong sales in recent months, whereas discount retailer Card Factory has continued to rapidly expand across the country. Both stores offer varying products, and are popular with customers. With Paperchase, you know it's expensive but it's good quality. With Card Factory, it's cheap and does the  job.

Which left Clintons in the middle. And that's where the problems lie; Clintons just doesn't fit in with the demands of today's culture. It's card lines seem to have dwindled in recent years as it favours on other products, such as gifts and wrapping paper. On a recent visit to my local shop, a big High Street Store in Alton, Hampshire, I was surprised to see that the shop floor space has decreased, as had the ranges. Card lines have been reduced, the gift wrap section has expanded yet the party section had disappeared.

And it seems that despite the loss of products, prices have increased. To get a decent card in Clintons, you have to pay around £2.99. £2.99 is a lot for a card which is pretty similar to all their other cards. There's nothing really special about their ranges, they don't grab me as high quality and as a result, you don't bother buying anything there.

Clintons cited supermarkets and online retailers as the reasons for its decline, but in reality, I think it's been a long time coming. It had started to regenerate its business, with a new look, improved layout and extended range. But it's all a little too late.

Although the loss of jobs and shops will be disastrous, there's nothing really surprising here.  I hope that a buyer is sought, but until then, it's 'comiserations' and 'with sympathy' for Clintons.

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

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