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“I’ve learned to call them erasers not rubbers because otherwise everybody gets the giggles. That area of the shop is just a scrum on Saturdays when all the youngsters are in here. We also do a service for party bags with the shop managers having the authority to negotiate with the customer.” With a new Chief Operating Offi cer in the shape of Mario Silvestri, who worked with Chris at Chelsea and Sit-up TV, plus e-Commerce Manager Bhavna Rishi, Senior Buyer Yaza Hussain and Chris and Meg, the team of fi ve is keeping up Blott’s deliberate less is more approach for the big dates such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and even Christmas. Chris added: “We had a fantastic Christmas, we did buy in some gifting products to go with our usual range, products that sit well with the brand, little puzzles and candles and nice pen sets and stuff like that. It’s quite easy for a brand to go off-message, particularly at Christmas, so we were quite tightly focused. We haven’t been in to the special events things as we do high-quality gifts that we hope are good gifts for all seasons. We’re didn’t anything specifi c for the Jubilee, we already carry a Union Jack bag and some suitable cards.” For a

stationery store, greetings cards are already enormously important and will become even more so as the chain grows both in numbers of stores and online. Having

run a big on-line business before with Sit-up TV, Chris knows what it’s all about and Blott’s website is already growing fast: “It is already a good part of our business and is currently run from the stock room above our shop in Tunbridge Wells but it’s getting too big for that so we’ll be having to move it to our warehouse soon. The website is quite good, it looks really nice and has a good range of products and works well. We haven’t spent a lot of money on marketing that because we’re selling mostly our own brand we’ve let the shops do the marketing.

“Moonpig sell 30,000 cards a day and will be

‘We don’t do anything smutty -it’s all a bit wholesome really’

launching our own version of that in the next couple of months, starting with the Rebus puzzle cards which people can then personalise the message inside. “The online supports the street side and my view is

that we grow the web organically so, once we get to 10-12 shops the web business will have a suffi cient volume to take on a life of its own. We’ve already had approaches because the website looks good. I’ve had approaches from Spain and other countries for people wanting to start up a Blott. It’s encouraging but not something we’re pushing for at the moment.” As well as planning the new stores, Chris is also thinking up ways to appeal to their core market with plans for a pocket money range of cards and notelets especially to appeal to young girls. He’s also expanding their range of age cards from the current 18 and 21 offerings as the Custard cards with stick-on numbers have gone into store. He said: “The die-cut cute animal cards we do are a big seller and we try to keep the prices down because we fi nd it’s the card

girls give to each other at school to make up after falling out, or just because they’re best friends. My daughter and her friends do it all the time, they love sending little cards and notes to each other. So we’re thinking about introducing a range of cheaper cards they can spend their pocket money on them. If my daughter is anything to go by they fall our with friends and make up so many times a day and give each other notes and cards. “Our cards are good value starting at around £2.20

but that’s still a bit high for pocket money so if we can get something for 50p I think it would be very popular. I think there’s a market for cards for girls, it’s not

Boss’s favourite

something boys seem to do. “We also do the more expensive pop-up building

cards which fold out to be the Empire State Building and that sort of thing. And the plants cards are good from Canova cards. “Cards are about 20 per cent of our business, and we’ve just had a big refresh of our range. The cards that we currently do are our core best sellers, We do 150- 180 cards that I rotate to keep it fresh. “Some that we started with have fallen by the wayside because they didn’t sell but the Rebus puzzle cards, which I came up with, and the die-cut cute animal cards are very popular. And we try to buy in four to six from different artists or designers to provide freshness and seasonablity.

“Mind you, multicultural cards hadn’t even occurred to us which is strange given that our team are from such diverse backgrounds so it’s a good thing to think about, I shall have to ask them. “One of the things about cards is the motivation for giving the card. What you want is the card that you give them to say ‘I’ve thought about this, therefore I’ve bought this card’. “What makes a great card is, when the recipient gets

the card, it’s ‘Wow! They’ve thought about me’ It has to have some personal connection that’s why our Rebus cards work so well, you can sit there for 25 minutes and work out what it means, so it’s got more value that one with just a cute picture on the front.” On the economics side of things, Blott are doing well although the stamp price increase is affecting the internet distribution as it has almost double on packages from £1.45 to £2.70.

As the business has only been going for 15 months,

they’re just beginning to work out trends and budgets, but it’s looking promising. Chris said: “Where we have got comparisons we’re 100 per cent up on last year. We’re trading really well, above what we expected, this gave me the confi dence to put a lot more money into the business. “It’s bucking the current retail trend especially when you look at things like Clinton Cards going into administration. But then they do have some very big shops and that means big costs in maintaining and staffi ng them. They could have probably offered the same range in at least a third less space. “Successful retail business generally start in

recessionary times because it gives them the chance to prove they stand out and have something to offer. “Hopefully Blott will prove that maxim to be true.”

Editor’s choice

“My personal favourites are the Rebus and die-cut animal cards. “The last one I sent was the UK prime minister Rebus card – I always send ones from the Rebus range which are relevant but I shall have to think up some more designs because my family birthdays are all coming round again!”

“Any of the skulls stuff and the zip pencil cases – I bought a bagful of Blott goodies for my daughter, topped off with the elephant- shaped paper clips.” 17

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