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Mar, 01 2007

Business of Gifts

Both disposable income and consumer spending rising than ever before, greeting cards and gifts sector is benefiting from people's ability to spend far more on cards and gifts.

THERE is a card for every occasion and an occasion for every card, so goes the popular saying. But the fact remains that there are enough occasions in one calendar year for a five-fold growth in the card retail business.

Sending a greeting card is a great way to stay in touch with family and friends. It is also a great way to create and retain clients for businesses. Some would believe that it spans the gamut of human emotions as well. Standing testimony to its endearing place in modern India are the thronging crowds at retail outlets across the country. Most of us enjoy getting greeting cards and gifts from time-to-time. Birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions mean even more to us when we are remembered by friends, relatives and colleagues. Beyond that, greeting cards have spawned an entire new set of occasions to celebrate - Mother's Day, Father's Day, Friendship Day, and most notably Valentine's Day.

Greeting cards, today, typify an entire lifestyle. With the western concepts gaining acceptance, today's younger generation is permitted to be more expressive which has brought about a great willingness to express feelings more openly, chiefly through cards. This generation has more money to spend compared to the previous ones. Love it or hate it, the card culture is here to stay. It's not a fad, it's a ritual now; a ritual that people are willing to pay for.

Players in the market

Greeting cards and gifts is a big market in India, which is still untapped with only a few players contributing to the ever-increasing demand. The greeting card market is one of the most profitable and high-paying markets. India, with its festival-dotted calendar, is a paradise for card companies. To India's millennium generation, it represents the best way to capture the spirit of an occasion, be it a festive occasion, or a day of remembrance. To the burgeoning greeting cards industry, India represents a dynamic and challenging market scale, in which creativity, innovation and market-savvy hold the key. Whichever way we look at it, greeting cards are here to stay.

If birthdays and New Year were once the only occasions for sending cards and gifts, companies like Archies and Hallmark have changed all that.

Archies Limited

Pioneering the trend in India, Archies began production of cards keeping in mind the feelings and emotions of Indian customer. The company has licensing arrangements with several big names - American Greetings Corporation, Gibson Greetings, Portal Publications, Kingsley Cards and Anne Geddes to produce an exclusive range of greeting cards in India. The company, expressing the feelings and emotions of the Indian customer on the cards, has a market share of 50 per cent and is growing with each passing day introducing new concepts in the industry. To enhance market penetration, Archies has introduced cards in several regional languages, such as Marathi, Hindi, and Gurumukhi. This has been supported by a rapid expansion in the distribution network, both through new company-owned outlets and the addition of new franchisees to operate Archies Galleries. It has a vast range of cards and other social expression products like gifts and posters for all generations. Archies has added another category called 'Stupid Cupid' fashion accessories for females. "We are increasing our focus on Gifting and have an exclusive tie-up with Russ Berry Inc, US to procure a vast range of gift items to be retailed through our network," said Vijyant Chabra, Executive Director, Archies Ltd. The company also expanded its product range to include artificial jewellery, crystal ware, chocolates, soft toys, perfumes and music. It has franchise network throughout the country and is still looking for more expansion through the franchise way. Archies greetings and gifting business is spread across 120 cities and six countries.

Internationally, it is called the Social Expressions industry. Speaking about the business Chabra said, "Today the ratio of greetings and gifts contribution in our total turnover is 48:52. We are also aiming to expand and consolidate our business as we offer a qualitative business model to franchisees and being the leader in the industry we see growth happening on both fronts' i.e. exclusive franchise stores and company-owned stores."

Hallmark

Similarly, Hallmark, a US-based company, has also been producing exclusive range of greeting cards. Vintage Cards & Creations Ltd. is the licensee of Hallmark in the Indian sub-continent. Vintage was selected by Hallmark Cards Inc. US as their exclusive licensee in 1992 and since then there has been no looking back for them as the company managed to reign the hearts of the Indian card buyers in a short span of time.

Hallmark has set up more than 400 franchisees in India and a few in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. At Hallmark innovation rules the atmosphere and creativity thrives. The market today calls for new and quality products and this need is aptly satisfied, because Hallmark understands the needs created by the changing times.

Other organisations

In addition to this, there are also cards manufactured by non-profit organisations such as CRY, UNICEF, HelpAge India and so on. And the latest player in the market is the ITC group. The company has entered the market with new and innovative ideas of selling greeting cards in India with its brand, Expressions. With the rise in demand for cards, many other names have also joined the list. There also exists a host of small card manufacturers who constitute its vast unorganised sector. Five years ago, the turnover in the domestic greeting cards industry was estimated at Rs 100 crore, today it is touching Rs 500 crore. In fact, the demand for greeting cards and gifts is such that it is now a multi-billion dollar industry and still growing.

A flowery affair

When words escape, flowers speak. While they may not last as long as lexis, flowers are forever. We associate flowers with the special times of our lives. Birthdays, marriages, farewells…No occasion goes without the fragrance of flowers …

Another product making foray in this sector is flowers. As a perfect gift, flowers hold a special significance in everybody's life. These tender blossoms fill our world with abundant joy and happiness and colour the world in perfect diaspora. Every flower has some significance and holds an individual meaning of its own. Whether it is roses, chrysanthemums, lilies or jasmines, each of them has a tale to tell.

Ferns N Petals

Ferns N Petals (FNP), a leading florist in India, has long been associated with good quality flowers and flower arrangements. Its the only Indian name at par with international flower brands in both quality and designs, providing one-stop solution for all flower requirements, be it for daily or occasional gifting or for floral decoration in weddings, corporate events and individual parties. FNP has redefined the concept of flower retailing, making even rare flowers readily available to the Indian consumer.

FNP has over the years not only streamlined the operations of all its outlets, but also successfully catered to the growing needs of the customer by providing them with excellent quality flowers. FNP started its operations in 1994 with a single outlet. The company got into franchising in 1998 with the idea to cater to a larger clientele through more outlets. The expansion eventually had a tremendous impact in the growth of business. "We have charted out a plan to increase the number of franchisees, for Stand Alone Outlets, Kiosks, Flower Carts and Wedding Franchisees," said Prashant Mudaliar, General Manager Retail. FNP promises to support its franchisees with regard to site selection and interior design, training in flower management, pricing and costing of products, cost control, customer-service and corporate marketing. The USP of its franchise system is the styling, packaging and the presentation of the products, which are of superior quality and very different from others.

Ferns N Petals is the only chain of its kind in the flower retailing business in the country and has created a niche for itself in quality flower retailing and floral arrangements.

The future

Starting a greeting cards and gifts business today can be a lucrative venture, with many investors seeking to invest in this sector. This business is mounting because today people love to send cards, gifts and flowers for special occasions, including birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, weddings and more. This industry is growing rapidly as the occasional buyers of yesterday have become heavy consumers today and the future will see them setting a trend for the generation to follow. In the final analysis, what began as a fringe sector in the early 1980s has, today, burgeoned into a Rs 1,000 crore organised industry with an annual growth rate of 20 to 25 per cent.

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