Clinton Cards is one of the retailers blaming the snow for a disappointing Christmas, accompanied by a profit warning.
Retail Week Knowledge Bank has just updated its profiles of both Clinton Cards and Card Factory, the latter now the second largest specialist after Clinton.
Their recent track records could hardly be more different. The Clinton format has lost like-for-like sales in three of the past six years while management battled with the substantial losses at its ill-fated Birthdays acquisition. Both formats were already suffering like-for-like declines - December was actually less disappointing than the autumn. Sales densities remain modest at about £260/sq ft for the Clinton network, with Birthdays at £210/sq ft.
In contrast, Card Factory’s annual sales growth rates exceeded 50% until 2007 and 20% a year since, with turnover increasing from under £10m in 2001/02 to more than £200m in 2009/10. Its store network has risen from 25 to more than 500, but despite the network’s immaturity sales densities are estimated to exceed those of Clinton Cards. Little wonder Charterhouse paid a reported £350m-plus for Card Factory in April.
The contrasts are stark. Clinton may have seen off Celebrations (and Woolworths), but Card Factory is an altogether stiffer proposition. It is clearly not just the recent weather to blame for failure to address evolving market circumstances: rising supermarket sales, pound shops, a reviving WHSmith, the growth of online retailers with personalised cards - why is Clinton only now launching a more advanced equivalent service? - to say nothing of competition from Card Factory, with its mostly lower prices. Clinton management says it is to tackle its higher price perception issue, with a greatly increased marketing spend. Why not long ago?