Number of outlets: Online
Location(s): Cockermouth, Cumbria
Market(s): Greetings Cards
Modern Retail talks to Rebecca Strong, owner of the fabulous online greeting card store Pick ‘n’ Mix Cards where you can find high-quality greetings card at affordable prices alongside the best customer service.
MR: Why should people shop with you?
RS: Pick ‘n’ Mix Cards is a UK small independent online retailer selling high-quality greetings cards for all occasions. We feel we offer great designs at competitive prices along with Free UK Delivery and no minimum order value. As a small online business, we ensure that our customers are at the heart of what we do from choosing new products, listen to feedback and suggestions plus more. One service we offer is a Handwritten Message Service where we will hand-write your message inside your card and dispatch it to the recipient on the date you requested. We feel this is a lovely personal touch compared to a printed service offered by other competitors. This is also a great solution if you haven’t time to go to the shops, may have forgotten or you will be on your holidays!
MR: How would you sum up your target customer?
RS: In a way you could say that it is everyone! However, it is known within the industry that 85% of greetings cards are typically purchased by women following research from industry’s trade body, Greetings Card Association (GCA). In fact, in the UK we buy more cards than any other nation with the average person buying 33 cards a year! In terms of age it depends on the occasion for example Christmas cards are often left to parents to send so typical age is 35 years+.
For Pick ‘n’ Mix Cards, we chose to trade online rather than a ‘bricks and mortar shop’ so our target customer is anyone who loves to shop online. With the way digital and mobile technology has grown over the years, online shopping has become easier and more accessible from anywhere; however, research has shown people still prefer to receive a personal touch such as a handwritten card rather than a digital method such as a text, email or Facebook message.
MR: What do you love about your work/business/brand?
RS: I believe that if you are able to do what you love then surely you stand a better chance of succeeding? I love being my own boss with the ‘many different hats’ and challenges I face every day. Starting my own business Pick ‘n’ Mix Cards in May last year was something I had always wanted to do and when the opportunity came about, I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t give it a go. For me, the main reason was to provide a better and more flexible work–life balance; however, I can’t deny it hasn’t been a daunting prospect with a steep learning curve. So far, the positives definitely out way the negatives.
Why greetings cards? I have always been creative even at school and have achieved a graphic design degree, but it wasn’t until I was given an opportunity to work within the industry is where my passion began with greetings cards and everything that the industry offers in terms of creativity, variety and potential opportunities. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored!
In terms of my brand I have to thank a dear university friend, Claire Wright at Claire Wright Designs who designed my logo for me. Her inspiration behind the design was because cards are often sent with love, hence the shape of the letter ‘M’ representing a heart. I think it reinforces our personal touch but also compliments the contemporary feel of our online shop and products.
MR: What are your growth aims for the next 12 months?
RS: This first year has been a very busy one with our focus being on building brand awareness and our customer base. We have spent lots of time behind the scenes launching our e-commerce shop, blog, social media and more. The next 12 months continues to look positive, so I can’t wait to continue what I love and grow my business further. Our main focus is looking to expand our product range to provide more diverse designs for our customers, including looking at the potential to feature upcoming designers. However, I would love to launch my own range of cards but you will just have to wait and see on this!!!
MR: What advice would you give to a new retail start-up based on your experience?
My advice to anyone looking to start or in the early stages of a new retail business is to ensure you do your homework before venturing into anything which should include researching competitors, financial, marketing, suppliers etc. Without a question, make sure you have a clear 12-month plan with 3 and 6-month goals, as well as a realistic budget to help ensure you stay on track. Specific goals will also help when you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed with your workload and will also help stop getting sidetracked with your enthusiasm!
Know your boundaries! When I started my online retail business I already had an understanding of the industry and knowledge and skills in marketing and graphics. I still have been on the biggest learning curve, particularly because the greetings card industry is such a competitive market; however, one area I knew very little about was coding so I made the decision to choose a UK based ecommerce specialist, EKM, rather than build a website from scratch. I believed that this would give me the additional functionality and flexibility to adapt my website with the business as sometimes you just can’t plan or know everything you might need.
My last piece of advice is that at times it can become very frustrating and down-beat but this can be a great opportunity to regain focus and give you that positive boost to drive your business to the next level. Also, don’t think sales or orders will automatically come to you. Sales conversions from new customers can cost you five times as much effort to attract as returning customers so you need to give people reasons to buy your products.
Customers should try and remember that ‘each time you buy from a small business, an actual person does a little happy dance!’