Events Important to the Greetings & Giftware Industry
The greetings and giftware industry has some key moments throughout the year that are particularly important for business. Alongside trade shows, these events are when attention on the industry is particularly high. In this list, I’m going to give you a rundown of what these important events are, when they happen and how you can use them to grow your own greetings & giftware business.
Events covered are:
- Valentine’s Day
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Thinking of You Week
- Festive Friday
- Christmas (inc. Black Friday, Cyber Monday & Small Business Saturday)
The Spring seasons comprises 4 occasions: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter and Father’s Day. In the world of greetings cards there are 2 major buying moments for retailers. As you can probably guess the first is Christmas, the second is Spring. Although the actual days are spread across the year; with Valentine’s Day coming in February and Father’s Day not occurring till June (here in the UK) retailers tend to order the bulk of their stock for the Spring occasions together. When I was still working for a publisher, these Spring orders would be delivered in early January, when shops had (hopefully) sold most of their Christmas stock. So when do retailers order Spring season products? & when do publishers promote their new Spring season collections? Well, each buyer is always going to be different but as let’s map out a general rule. If you’re selling B2B (i.e. to retail buyers) you need to have your Spring products ready to promote by the Summer of the previous year. So for Spring 2021, you need to have designs and samples ready May-June 2020. This allows you to promote Spring seasons at the Summer trade shows in June & July; to the trade press who will publish Spring previews in July (with a deadline in June) and be ready for the Autumn shows in August & September. Giving retail buyers plenty of time to order Spring products before they get into their Christmas selling season. It’s also worth considering that if you’re exhibiting at a Summer trade show the PR companies who work for the show will be pushing show information to press at least 1-2 months before the show opens. If you can give the show’s PR teams notice of (& high-quality images) of products you’re launching at the show around April-May you could get a lot of extra free promotion for your stand.
Once you’ve planned your promotion for your B2B clients, it’s time to think about consumers. So let’s take a look at the interest consumers have in each of the Spring Seasons…
Next Valentine’s Day in the UK – Friday 14th February 2020
Valentine’s Day is an important buying occasion for both greetings cards and gift products, so retailers tend to put a lot of effort into sourcing products and marketing the occasion. As you can see from this Google Trends report (below), searches for Valentine’s Day products start in January, steadily increasing in popularity all the way up to the day on 14th February. They then drop off dramatically a few days after the event before picking up again the following year.
This shows us that Valentine’s Day is a popular event for card & gift consumers. It also tells us that there is a short, seasonal point of interest which designers, makers and publishers have to be ready for.
Along with Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day is one of the most popular Spring season events amongst consumers.
Next Mother’s Day in the UK – Sunday 22nd March 2020.
Remember the Date Differs! Where you do business in the world will determine when you need to promote your Mother’s Day greeting cards and giftware. Here in the UK Mother’s Day falls on the 4th Sunday during Lent, which puts it in March.
As you can see in the search trends report (above) for Mother’s Day there is a similar search pattern to Valentine’s Day searches with interest growing in the month leading up to the event. The growth, however, is a little more spread out, climbing from December-March. The statistics also show a small peak of searches in May. I think this difference is due to Mothering Sunday celebrations having a changing date. While Valentine’s is always on the 14th of February, no matter what day that falls, Mother’s Day in contrast only ever takes place on a particular Sunday, meaning the date changes from year to year. In fact, if you look at the search numbers you can see that the interest is swayed by people wanting to know the dates of events. While the phrase “When is Valentine’s Day?” has a monthly search volume of 110,000, there are 673,000 (6x more) searches for “When is Mother’s Day?”. We can add to this confusion the fact that Mother’s Day is also held at different times of the year across the world. Here in the UK we celebrate in March, in the United States of America however Mother’s Day falls in May, which I think explains the small spike in traffic for the term in May.
If you’re ever on Twitter you’ll see minor confusion between different countries play out a lot whenever #MothersDay is trending!
Following the pattern shown with Valentine’s day, companies selling Mother’s Day cards and gifts to consumers need to plan their marketing and sales campaigns to be ready a month before the event, in every territory, they want to sell in.
Next Easter in the UK – Sunday 12th April 2020.
When I was working directly in the industry for a publisher Easter was the smallest of all the 4 Spring season events. The number of Easter cards sold was much lower in comparison to the other Spring seasons, and our range of designs was, as a result, a lot smaller. While we could easily have a dozen or more new designs for Valentine’s Day, we’d only have 3-4 greeting card designs celebrating Easter; I’ve also known some publishers stop designing Easter cards at all. If we look at the search statistics for “Easter Cards” in the UK between 2004 and 2019 my experience does seem to play out with people online. Interest in Easter Cards was highest in 2005, and from 2009 onwards interest has been half what it was at the 2005 peak.
It’s important to remember that this could be unique to the UK, where religious greeting cards are a small percentage of today’s market. Easter’s close proximity to Mother’s Day (following just a few weeks after) may also play a factor in sales figures. The decision of how strongly you cater to and promote Easter as a Spring season will always depend on your product range and customer base. While interest in greeting cards for Easter may have declined in the last decade, other areas of our industry offer great potential for product development. If, for example, we look at the interest in “Easter Eggs” between 2004 and 2019 (see below), the figures have been growing since 2013 and now are almost twice what they were when measurements began in 2004. This shows us that there’s is still consumer interest in the Spring season of Easter. How much time and effort you put into developing products and promoting will however depend on your business model.
Next Father’s Day in the UK – Sunday 21st June 2020.
The final Spring Season event of the year is Father’s Day, which happens in the UK is held in June. As you can see from the stats (below), interest in Father’s Day is more spread out than with Valentines. As with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is not date-specific so people seem to start wondering when it is around the time when Mother’s Day hits the shops. Interestingly, the numbers would suggest Father’s Day is slightly less popular than Mother’s Day. Compared to the 673,000 searches asking when Mother’s Day falls, only 550,000 ask “When is Father’s Day?”. Oh an in case you were wondering, Father’s Day in the UK and USA is celebrated on the same day, which I think explains why there are no small spikes in interest as we saw with the Mother’s Day figures.
As with all of the Spring seasons we’ve looked at, consumer interest in Father’s Day really takes off a month before the day, so that is when you need to have your marketing ready to take advantage of that entire month.
Thinking of You Week
Next Thinking of You Week – 22nd-28th September 2019
Thinking of You Week is an annual event encouraging people to send greeting cards to family and friends. Reinforcing the idea that greeting cards are ultimately about the relationships between the giver & receiver. Originally conceived by the UK Greeting Card Association, Thinking of You Week is celebrated in both the United Kingdom and in the United States of America. 2019 marks the 6th Thinking of You Week in the UK and 2nd in America. This year the US Greeting Card Association will be launching the event at the National Stationery Show, which takes part 20th-23rd May in New York. Sharon Little, former CEO of the UK Greeting Card Association commented
“It is fantastic to see that this initiative is being picked up by the American Greeting Card Association as well. The message behind Thinking of You Week is one that works across the globe.”
Utilising Thinking of You Week for Your BusinessThinking of You Week is still fairly new in comparison to other card-giving events like Spring seasons and Christmas) but it is already picking up traction. More retailers are taking part in and promoting the event each year. Royal Mail also helps publicise the event with specially branded watermarks used on mail sent during the event. These initiatives, along with the adoption of the event in America will help the event grow. Greeting card designers, makers, publishers and retailers can, therefore, see it as a great occasion to promote their products. For businesses selling to consumers products and promotional materials need to be ready for the first day of the week at the latest. To really make the most of the event however it’s worth creating a build-up and making consumers aware of what is coming 1-2 weeks ahead of Thinking of You Week. Businesses selling to retail buyers will have to prepare even earlier so retailers can plan their own promotions. Consider promoting the event to your retail buyers 1-2 months before this in order to maximise your sales potential.
Festive Friday is a special day for the card industry and greetings card senders; marking the time when we sit down (with a mince pie or two) and write our Christmas cards. The annual Festive Friday campaign aims to “create a great first wave of beautiful cards arriving in early December to get everyone in the Christmas card-sending mood!” Created by the UK Greeting Card Association (GCA), Festive Friday 2019 will be the event’s 7th year, and with each year the celebration aims to get bigger and bigger! In recent years, Festive Friday has adopted the tagline “Send a Card, Deliver a Smile”. With that in mind, each year the industry gets together for a day of festive-themed greeting card fun. For greeting card sellers Festive Friday is a great opportunity to show people the value of real, tactile greeting cards and the joy of receiving mail that isn’t bills or junk. As it’s only one day (usually the last Friday in November) it’s an easy one for consumers to miss, so retailers need to promote the run-up to the event carefully so they can make sure as many people take part as possible. For online retailers, this means promoting ahead of time and having special events or promotions on the day. In the real world, brick & mortar businesses have hosted in-store buying events with mince pies and mulled wine to mark the occasion, spread some holiday cheer and get people buying their Christmas cards. While it is primarily a greeting card-based industry event there is still potential for non-card businesses. Gift makers, for example, could partner with a complementary card company and offer a combined product offering; expanding their reach to a different market.
The final industry event we’re going to take a quick look at is Christmas. For many greetings & giftware companies Christmas (and the aftermath that is the New Year Sales) is the biggest time of the year and counts for a large portion of their income. I don’t think I need to explain what the Christmas shopping season is, so let’s just skip to how you can make the most of Christmas in your sales and marketing. In terms of timing and planning, I often think it’s best to work backwards. The statistics show (below) that interest in “Christmas” begins in October, runs through December and then drops off by January.
As a fixed, seasonal event this makes perfect sense. So if retailers need to be ready to start promoting to consumers by October they need to have their plans and marketing materials completed by September at the latest. If however, you want to get press for your business you have to think further ahead. Glossy magazines will usually have a 3 month lead time on every issue they publish but for the Christmas edition, they can easily spend 6 months of more planning and collating content. Here in the UK in fact there is a niche trade show called ‘Christmas in July’ which promotes card & gift brands directly to journalists writing Christmas features and Gift Guides. As the name gives away, the event is held in July! This means companies wanting press for their Christmas ranges need to be approaching the media May-July; with all the relevant images, product information and samples. If we consider this timeline applies to anyone promoting to consumers then businesses selling to trade buyers need to think about Christmas even earlier in the year. When I was working for a publisher the majority of Christmas orders were delivered into shops the first week of October, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary to deliver in September or to send small orders and samples much earlier in the year. If we look at the Trade Show calendar as a clue to when you sell Christmas to retail buyers the UK has the Harrogate Christmas & Gift Fair in January. This is closely followed by 2 of the UK’s biggest trade shows Top Drawer Spring and Spring Fair, held in January and February respectively. It’s fair to say that as soon as one Christmas is over, retailers are already having to think about the next one! So if you’re planning to sell to retailers you need to be ready early. Consider the festive season as a great time to plan and create next year’s festive products.
Black Friday & Cyber Monday Next Black Friday – Friday 29th November 2019 A quick note on Black Friday & Cyber Monday. Originally conceived in America Black Friday is a consumer shopping event held the first Friday after Thanksgiving. Traditionally it’s a day where retailers have big promotions. The event was joined by Cyber Monday, so-called because it was the biggest day for online shopping sales. As the event has developed Black Friday and Cyber Monday have evolved into one long weekend of promotion and offers. In recent years retailers have even stretched their Black Friday sales for days and weeks either side of the original date. As of last year, Black Friday was still part of the Christmas calendar, but it is a love/hate event. In recent years indie businesses have rebelled against the corporate-style of big-box retailers and used the day to encourage people to shop small. Many still have promotions and small discounts but their black Friday is regarded as a kinder, more colourful event.
Small Business Saturday Next Small Business Saturday UK – Saturday 7th December 2019 Another event entwined with the Christmas promotion calendar is Small Business Saturday. There is both a UK and USA version of this event and they happen on different Saturdays in early December. Small Business Saturday is not a card & gift specific event but as many of our industry’s companies are small businesses it’s an important event. The day aims to shine a spotlight on small business and encourage people to shop locally and with independent retailers. Held annually, the day includes many initiatives and events both in towns and cities and online so is worth adding to the marketing plan if you’re a small business. Like many of the industry events on this page, planning is key. While you do have to take part in the event on the actual day, you also need to be promoting your involvement in the run-up to the event in order to get the most out of it.