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Can second-chance Clintons play its cards right?

Caroline Hawkings Managing Director 09/12/2019

In some good pre-Christmas news for the high street, it was announced last week that Clintons has been rescued from administration leading to 2,500 jobs being saved.

Clintons has been caught in the middle, facing stiff competition from all sides."

Just one month ago it looked like the brand could be going the way of other familiar high street brands such as Mothercare which announced the closure of 79 stores in November.

Clintons, like Mothercare, has been caught in the middle, facing stiff competition from all sides:

  1. Online card retailers (e.g. Moonpig and Funky Pigeon) – which offer a personalised proposition
  2. Premium shops (e.g. Paperchase and Scribbler) – which offer a more curated collection, and are often in major travel hubs and benefit from those last-minute purchases from consumers on their journeys to and from work
  3. Supermarkets – which continue to offer that one-stop-shop convenience option at a reasonable price point
  4. The discounter alternative (e.g. Card Factory) whose price points offer an attractive option in a time of continued economic uncertainty

What’s more, sending cards has fallen drastically with the rise of digital communication as an easier way for keeping up with family and friends.

The data behind the decline

Data from Savanta BrandVue Retail shows that Clintons is behind in terms of customer perceptions with a Net Promotor Score of just +17.1 compared with Scribbler’s +27 and Paperchase’s +39. Online retailers lead the way with Moonpig on +47.2 and Funky Pigeon on +37.8.

It also has less of an advertising presence than its newer competitors: Moonpig (15%) and Funky Pigeon (12%) both have a higher ad awareness score than Clintons (1.8%).  This means it’s easy for Clintons to slip off the radar for consumers as other brands have greater ‘mental availability’.

The brand’s in-store satisfaction score is +6.4 compared with Paperchase’s +7.8 which has a much fresher and more modern feel.  This is where Clintons has to win and maximise the advantage of ‘physical availability’.  While online companies have their USPs, we know from our work that a key barrier to usage is the inability to ‘buy there and then’; despite our best intentions, many of us aren’t able to plan our card purchasing that well.

The final piece is the value proposition itself: what can Clintons offer the consumer that helps it compete with discounters, supermarkets, more premium brands and the personalisation of online?  This could mean a more radical, but perhaps much needed, strategy if the brand has a chance of creating a clear and valued point of difference.

Perhaps a silver lining is that Clintons’ consideration score remains higher than many competitors with over a third (36%) of the UK public saying they might consider buying from the brand. This is higher than Paperchase and Funky Pigeon 22%, and Moonpig 31%.

Let’s hope the brand can use this opportunity to evaluate how it can progress and start to win back consumers for many years to come.

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