At the global property conference Mapic two weeks ago, one of the main questions on the lips of landlords and agents was ‘what will Clintons do with its 800-strong store estate?’

At the global property conference Mapic two weeks ago, one of the main questions on the lips of landlords and agents was ‘what will Clintons do with its 800-strong store estate?’

It is a pertinent question in the age of online retailing, when having hundreds of stores can seem like an out-of-date concept, particularly in the greetings cards world where etailers such as Moonpig have thrived with no physical presence.

Clintons’ competitors are eating its lunch, if its figures are anything to go by. Adjusted operating profit at group level plunged from £18.8m to £3.2m in the year to July 31. This week it revealed group like-for-likes down 2.4% in the 16 weeks to November 20.

Contrasted with rival Card Factory’s growing power – evidenced in a 20% increase in EBITDA to £64m in the year to January 31 – it makes for even grimmer reading. Card Factory’s vertically integrated model is paying off.

It is opening stores at great speed, determined to take advantage of Clintons’ poor trading, although some might question such an aggressive expansion strategy given how a similar approach has hindered Clintons in recent years.

Yet, while Clintons’ overly large store estate has come in for criticism, the retailer has not stood still. As well as refinancing in October, the retailer is grabbing the online opportunity, having launched its own personalisation website – albeit years after competitors had made their mark.

And it is welcome news that Clintons saw the need for fresh blood, appointing the first non-family member to run the business in its 43-year history. It is hoped that Darcy Willson-Rymer, the former Starbucks UK boss, can revitalise the business with new thinking.

He aims to focus on the right things – the store portfolio, customer experience, increasing back office efficiencies and ecommerce. But Clintons – still the market leader – must work hard to offer better value. With Card Factory value at one end and Paperchase at the other, Clintons needs to improve to maintain its position.