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Retailer Face To Face

that if your sales are good you just have to make the selection better and then the sales should follow. That’s what our new selection should do!” says Kirsty, bursting with enthusiastic pragmatism.

While full of praise for

Hallmark, who brings in other publishers’ designs via the brokerage system as well as developing the own brand card designs for Waitrose, Kirsty remains heavily involved as to what specific card designs are included and the mix in each store. “I am the buyer, it’s my

job to ensure the best selection is in each individual store, whether it has a display of 1,500 cards as in our Food

& Home branches or just a handful in our little Waitrose stores,” says Kirsty. “However, the analysis I now have at my fingertips, thanks to Hallmark, as to what designs are selling where means I can really tailor each selection. I can ask myself, ‘does that dog design sell better than the cat design in a specific branch?’ or ‘which of these four floral designs are really blooming sales wise?’” says Kirsty, revealing the level of detail that the flow of data from Hallmark affords. (The answer to the cat v dog question is “Waitrose customers do appear to be more ‘cat people’ when it comes to card buying!” reveals Kirsty). The January replan marks the culmination of the last three years of experimenting with what Waitrose’s customers really want from the retailer on the greeting card front. “What works in other supermarkets, or indeed other card retailers, is not necessarily what works for Waitrose, be that the balance of own brand versus branded, lower priced versus higher priced, captioned versus blank cards,” says Kirsty. With the Waitrose brand being

held in high regard by its loyal customers, as well as with aspirational occasional shoppers, a major trial was carried out a few years ago to ascertain how its


of £1) - which is a small nod to the essentials Waitrose brand. Even within the own brand the Waitrose brand

plays second fiddle to the exclusive livery created for many of the designs, the rear of the cards perhaps fanfaring the artist in question or championing that they are part of a New Talent capsule range that showcases new graduates’ work.

customers would react to increasing the percentage of own brand everyday cards on offer. “We trialed having 100% own brand cards in 15 stores, 50% own brand in another 15 stores and 30% in another 15 branches,” says Kirsty. “We

alienated some customers in the stores which had the higher percentages of own brand designs, with 30% being the right amount for us. On the card front, customers come to us to find the types of cards they would find in an upmarket card or gift shop, and price is less of an issue than it might be for other supermarkets,” says Kirsty. However, there are some lower priced

cards in the selection - there are only around 10 designs (with an RRP

Top left: Among the best selling cards for Waitrose is this humorous design from Susan O’Hanlon. Top right: Paper Salad’s designs sell well for Waitrose. This one is especially poignant as the ring featured is very similar to the one Kirsty wears. She is marrying her fiancée (who also works for Waitrose) in May. Above: There is a small selection of cheaper cards under the essential Waitrose sub-brand. Inset: Greeting cards remain an important product category for Waitrose.

“Our own brand designs are important -

we were delighted to win The Henries award for the Best Male Card Range for one of our collections - but it is the publishers’ brands that really drive our sales,” reveals Kirsty. “We do well with the likes of Susan O’Hanlon, Janie Wilson, Woodmansterne, Paper Salad, Caroline Gardner, Pigment, Laura Darrington and Saffron,” says Kirsty. “And our customers expect us to introduce new looks, hence the reason I love PG Live so much as that’s where I have picked up lots of great new companies, Laura Sherratt and Libby McMullin being two great examples that both feature in the new plans.” A natural clear thinker, Kirsty has no trouble summing up what she sees her role as being: “The UK leads the world in cards, it’s my

job to have the best of these on offer for our customers, so that’s what I am doing.”

Inspirations And Revelations Kirsty Dennis shares what really makes her tick.

Who has been your main inspiration in life?“My grandmother, the most independent resilient woman I have ever met - right up to her death in her 90s. I still miss her every day.”

What is the reason you are the buyer you are? “It is all down to having been incredibly fortunate in the bosses I have had right through my career with John Lewis. From my very first manager when I worked in the children’s shoe department in the Nottingham John Lewis department store 18 years ago, up to Christian Haas, my current boss.”

Best thing about your job? “Being a card buyer is a dream job as you get up close to the creative side without having to do the designing yourself. I should have known I was destined for it. My art teacher at school was Ged Mace’s (of The Art File) sister. I think she must have affected both us!”

From childhood to adulthood, what are your big loves?“I have always loved reading, and studied English and American literature at Uni, but as a child I was obsessed by all the Mallory Towers, St Claire’s, Famous Five Books - not exactly real life, but I loved them! Now, while I still love books, my penchants have broaden to include handbags and shoes!”

Your working life and secret life? “I am an organised early starter – at my desk working through my ‘to do’ list by 7.30am. At the other end of the day, I relax by going to dance classes. I did ballet to a fairly high level when I was younger, but now it is tap dancing and street dancing for me! Concentrating on what my feet are doing helps to rid me of work worries!”


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