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achieving this in the book trade, dictating terms to publishers and attempting to kill off the physical book with its Kindle product. Amazon can’t see a market without

trying to dominate it. It is now trying to expand into the greeting card market. It has been wooing many greeting publishers for a couple of years - and in fact is already offering many thousands of greeting card designs, but as yet it has not been seen as a destination for the product. But that could happen. Of course, you take the view that greeting cards, in order to remain relevant to the modern day consumer, should be sold where the modern consumer shops - and Amazon has a customer traffic flow to die for, but there are risks. Cardsharp is somewhat fearful that this

charm offensive is the thin end of the wedge. Already we have seen Moonpig offering a free card with every gift purchased on its TV advertising, how long before Amazon follows suit? And taken to the ultimate extreme, if

Amazon continues to decimate traditional bricks and mortar retailing, will there be anywhere to sell greeting cards? Most

which many consumers are seeking alternatives to what the internet giants are trying to feed them. Firstly, in book retailing: After

Above: After 130 years, Appleby's Bookshop in Morpeth, Northumberland, is set to close.

greeting card shops operate successfully on the basis of selling high margin greeting cards with impulse gifts sales pushing up the average transactional value, but they need customer traffic flow in their immediate location to achieve this. If everyone is buying everything from Amazon, these retail outlets, along with the shopping locations where they are based, will simply shrivel and die. Yet, before Cardsharp sends every reader

into fits of depression, he does feel not all is lost. There are some positive trends. Cardsharp sees encouraging signs of a fight back in

What Women Want?

‘Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars’ is the title of a sociological book that was extremely popular in the 1990s. And the title certainly rings true when it comes to greeting card buying. It is a dictum in our trade that 85% of the UK’s greeting cards are bought by women, but no real examination has yet been carried out to the real reason why? Cardsharp put his mind to this question after

re-watching What Women Want?, a rom-com film that came out 15 years ago. In the movie, unreconstructed male chauvinist (played by Mel Gibson) is electrocuted and as a result miraculously acquires the ability to read every womans’ mind. As a result he becomes a much better partner, father, person etc. What Mel realised is that while the prehistoric male was a

years of decline, the volume of physical books being purchased is rising again, while the number of bookshops closing has slowed right down. Certain large publishing houses are standing up to what they feel are Amazon’s draconian demands. And in music retailing, the worm may

have turned too. Vinyl record sales, considered obsolete a few years ago, are experiencing a come back. In fact, in 2014 actual record sales hit their highest level since 1993. Pink Floyd’s new release apparently sold over a million vinyl copies. In retailing generally, ‘boutique’ is

making a comeback. While more of us may buy our basic groceries online or in discounters like Aldi or Lidl, there is also a counter trend where the increasingly promiscuous shopper is visiting farm shops, delis, garden centres, independent clothes shops, indie gift and card shops, plus ‘makers markets’.

And as far as greeting cards are

concerned, Cardsharp felt the prevailing media mood was much more positive this year. There was very little of what Cardsharp calls ‘Bah Humbug’ coverage this year in the media. More than that, it was said Christmas card sending was a British tradition that was worth preserving. In fact, there was no anti– charity card coverage that Cardsharp saw. No ‘Where are all the religious Christmas cards this year?’ articles of woe. In fact, more typical of the coverage were stories about Santa losing his paunch in Christmas card designs over the decades and which bird was the most popularly now depicted on Christmas cards.

Above: Rom-com film ‘What Women Want’.

hunter-gatherer, living a precarious life trying to bag a woolly mammoth or a sabre tooth tiger to provide food for his female partner and offspring, the female of the human species (fearing widowhood on a daily business), needed co-operation from fellow females if to survive and not starve if the male cave man died, hence her attempts to bond closely with her fellow females within the tribal group. That, to Cardsharp’s mind, (trying to justify his recent TV viewing experience as insight!) probably explains why women attempt to keep social bonds of friends, families and good acquaintances very active, through the mechanisms of greeting card sending. It could even be summed up as being a primeval insurance instinct. Oh dear! Cardsharp senses he is starting to sound very pretentious, that’s what new year navel gazing does for you. Perhaps just the simple answer is that women just like cards!

These are all encouraging signs of a fight back and no one can predict the nature of the fallout as the internet matures. But Cardsharp just hopes that the likes of Amazon, who seem to be able to elude regulation, strangle competition and avoid taxation, can be brought to heel. At present the playing field is nowhere near level. In Cardsharp’s view, before we automatically embrace progress willy-nilly, we should recognise that technological developments, when linked to monopoly power, can sometimes be a force that does harm as well as good.


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