I have sold many thousands of greetings cards to retailers all over the world and over the years I have chatted with many business owners in the same industry, and there is one thing we can all agree on.

The market for greetings cards is HUGE.

Actually two things:

It’s a huge market, and it’s SUPER easy to break into.

That’s an encouraging thought, right?

If you are thinking of starting a paper goods business, and you have your eye on the big money (i.e. working with national and international retailers), but you don’t have a vast amount of money to invest, you honestly can’t go wrong with greetings cards. As an addendum to that, I would suggest stickers, but perhaps only as an add-on product to a core of greetings cards.

So, the big question is of course HOW?

The first two pieces of the puzzle are DESIGN and SUPPLY CHAIN.

Design

Although it helps, you don’t actually have to be a designer yourself! However, you do need to have a solid (and honest!) understanding of trends for this year AND next year, so that you can create or commission designs that can hold their own in a very competitive market. That means designs that are two steps ahead of what you see on Pinterest or Instagram. You can search for trend forecasts 2021 to get you on the right track!

Slogans that are bang on trend can be good sellers if you already have some visibility, but something that is very of the moment can be hard to pitch to a retailer if they feel that it might feel a bit “tired” by the time it hits their store, or nobody will get it.

Colours are really important too. Again – look at what’s seasonal, what’s on trend and what is coming up. Bright colours sell well. Look at the best sellers from influential brands like Idlewild Co. and see how she uses colour to define her collections.

Try to have at least 8 – 10 designs in your first collection.

Supply Chain

Your supply chain can make or break any new product, but luckily for you, greetings cards are relatively easy. My big advice to you is to keep your most important figure – your COST PER UNIT (i.e. per complete greeting card, ready to sit on a store shelf) down to about $0.30. That means your paper, your printing (your printer will generally supply the paper), your envelope and your cello wrapper (if you are using these) AND your cost of assembling these together.

Of course, you can order these from separate suppliers and assemble them yourself – this is one product where you CAN do a nice, professional job from the comfort of your sofa! (I once assembled 2000 cards during the Eurovision Song Contest).

Keep sustainability and the environment very much front and centre with your choice of suppliers and materials.

Pricing

What do greetings cards sell for in the sort of stores where you want to be sold? Let’s say $3, for the sake of argument (that’s why I said $0.30 for your cost per unit, btw).

You will set your WHOLESALE card price at approximately $1.00 each, and sell in packs of 10, 15 or 20. Probably 10 to start with though.

Minimum Orders

When you pitch to a retailer, you will have a minimum order. Retailers can’t (and won’t!) try to order one or two cards – when they ask what your minimum order is you can say whatever figure you like, but I would suggest starting at $100, with a minimum of 10 cards (i.e. a pack) per design.

Pitching To Retailers

This really is as simple as writing a brief and to the point email introducing your collection, with a couple of nice sentences about your design ethos and sustainability credentials. Create a pdf with the designs nicely laid out, maybe with a few lifestyles (created from flatlays that you can get on Creative Market, for instance) and your wholesale prices and minimum orders clearly and briefly stated.

Contact at least 100 retailers and bear in mind that September and January are buying seasons for retailers.

Selling Them Yourself

Starting working up your Instagram game now! You can – and must – put a lot of hard work into creating a bit of a buzz around your work online. Etsy is increasingly hard to break into, so I would recommend having your own Shopify website and doing your own Instagram ad campaigns and PR.

It’s a hard slog, and many designers say that direct to consumer is only about 10% of their sales, BUT it is also the engine that drives your reputation in the eyes of retailers, so it’s worth it.

Starting a greetings card business is hard, but your startup costs and risk are definitely lower than for many other paper products! Once you have started making sales and you have a feel for what works and what doesn’t, you can start branching out into other products.

Listen to my interview with Kris Galmarini, founder of Idlewild Co. here and get the exact steps she took from designing Brooklyn-inspired wedding invitations to being carried in over 1000 US retailers.

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