When the UK went into Lockdown on Monday 23rd March 2020, online greetings card shop owner, Claire Senior, thought that her business might be about to take a downturn like many other online bricks and mortar stores that had been forced to close. But six weeks into lockdown business has taken an upturn thanks, in large part, to the handwritten card service that Claire offers on her website. Claire spoke to us recently about adapting to the lockdown and how it has affected her business.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your business and the services you offer?
Yes, I run an online gifts and greetings card store called The Curious Pancake. We specialise in quirky, illustrated greeting cards and we stock over 1000 different cards, as well as gifts and stationery items. I started the business in 2011 (working on it only part-time at first) and I run the business from my spare room at home in Hucknall, Nottingham, although the steady growth in sales over the years enabled me to go full time on the business just over two years ago. About this time I decided that I really wanted to offer a service that allowed people to send cards directly to loved ones. There are some well-established companies that already do this, with the message printed inside, but I wanted the message to have more personality, I’ve always found it a bit impersonal to receive one of these cards with the typed message. As I have always loved writing letters and my handwriting is pretty neat, I decided that what was lacking in the online world was a handwritten card service, so that’s what I set up. It became popular almost immediately.
How many cards do you handwrite a day?
When I first set up the handwritten service (where I will handwrite a message of up to 280 characters in a card of your choosing) I would get maybe two or three handwritten message requests a day, but as more people became aware of the service I started to regularly write about 6-10 cards a day.
And since lockdown, how have things been?
Pretty full on! I saw an upturn in site visits and sales almost as soon as lockdown was into its second day. Because people were unable to get out as easily as before and because all other card shops were closed people took to the internet in droves to search out these things! I didn’t immediately realise how in-demand my card writing service would become. I would say that now, on average I might handwrite 30+ greeting cards a day! Although my working hours have increased a fair bit in the last 6 weeks, I’m pleased that the service remains popular and I’m really enjoying handwriting everyone’s cards. Although I’m the first to admit that my business doesn’t provide essential items, it’s nevertheless been really rewarding to have a service that helps people keep in touch with friends and relatives, and the messages that people have been writing are really heart-warming.
Do you have any tips or advice for others who are running their businesses during lockdown?
My advice to other online retailers is just to be clear with customers when they first land on your homepage. Tell them if there may be delays with orders and be as honest as you can about any backlogs. The lockdown has seen many online retailers struggling to keep up with demand, but if customers know that their order might not arrive for 5 days, the majority of people will appreciate that we’re living through very unusual times, and most people are happy to wait just a little longer. I would like to say a huge thank you to our local post office. I know many are not so lucky to be near a post office but the fact that our local branch has remained open throughout lockdown has meant that my business can keep going, which has meant so much to me as a small business owner.
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