Hello Brick & Mortar: Real Customers, Everyday Thanksgivings

In the early months at Clementine I was a total sucker for “hello” cards. Letterpress print an animal saying “hello” or “hi” and I was sold. I mean, give-me-some-box sets, sold. I was certain that everyone would buy them because they were a sweet, quick way to let someone know you’re thinking of them. But they didn’t sell. I was stumped.  â€“ Emily of Clementine

Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Anne & Leo ~ Banquet, Neon Heart ~ For Anne’s parents who took care of her kids so that she and her husband could get away for the first time in years.  

Meanwhile stationery flew off the shelves. Customers who came in to buy a birthday card wound their way to the counter with a thick stack of cards, always telling me they couldn’t resist and would find a time to use it. We would joke about stocking a stationery drawer, like a mini-bunker, to avoid emergency trips to the drug store. My card lines doubled, then tripled. I found a soft spot for “just because” cards and for the stories customers told about where each card was headed.

Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Caroline ~ Pearl & Marmalade, Snarky Cat ~ Just a good card to keep in reserves for the right occasion.

I can’t say specifically why hello cards sell slowly (were you wondering if I still order them? Of course I do!). What I’ve learned is that sending a “just because” card is a simple act done with great care. It’s more than a hello. It makes you vow to stop texting so much. It can reconnect you to someone in a heartbeat and make you feel implausibly good. And who doesn’t like that?

Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Sarah – May Day Studio, You Are My Sunshine ~ for a friend who sent a package that arrived on her door after a very tough day caring for her mom // Eliza & babe ~ May Day Studio, You Turn My Grey Skies Blue ~ for a friend who often sends thoughtful things, who works long and hard and deserves to have her day brightened.

It’s always fun to hear people chuckle from across the store, or pull friends in through the door because they see a card in the window that they must have.

Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Sam ~ Katharine Watson, “F” ~ for a friend whose last name begins with F, just because she shares a great love for Jack Handey // Linda ~ Banquet, He’s a Prick ~ Kind of self explanatory, yes?….

Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Felix ~ Iron Curtain Press, You!!!Me ~ a just because I love you, for his girlfriend living several cities away.

I buy a lot of stationery from Valentine’s Day collections long after the holiday, because love is a “just because” sentiment I can never get enough of. And customers agree. I also really like the burgeoning lines of celebration and encouragement cards (yippees, yahoos, hoorays to be braves, weather it together, with comfort) that focus on the exclamation of excitement or compassion, rather than a specific event. These give customers the opportunity to insert their own applause and celebrate for any reason. Or share comfort for rough patches that may not be so easy to define.

Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Shawna – Screech Owl, Aim High ~ For a friend trying to find the career that’s right for her. To remind her that she’s fabulous, to keep her spirits and confidence high! / Sarah ~ E. Frances Paper, Peace Comfort Strength ~  just a note to brighten her mom’s spirits.

Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Susan ~ Printerette, Strawberry Jam ~ just a bit of housewarming sweetness for a good friend who just moved in with her boyfriend.

Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Sophie & babe ~ Parrott Design Studio, hooray for you ~ for her sister, Julia who’s totally rocking the party planning world.

I order “just because” cards in bushels. Cards that don’t always have a category in vendors’ catalogs, now out-sell almost every other occasion. Yet I realized I wasn’t sending them. This is the shop owner’s lament: It’s hard to use your own inventory, especially if it’s the last card left and it’s a favorite. At the beginning of this month, Clementine’s 3rd birthday, I decided it was high time I got over that and start sending more cards. Here are my first four, to very different people who impact very different parts of my life, but who I’m so thankful for:

Brick + Mortar: Retail Trends from Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Scout’s Honor Co, East Coast Girls Are Hip ~ for my oldest hippest friend, Sophie, who I’ve known since I was a baby, now pregnant with her first baby (yippee!) // Banquet, Sometimes Life Gives You Lemons, for Anna, a vendor I’ve connected with about the trials of mothering and small-business owning, after her unexpected trip to the hospital (she’s ok!) which delayed outgoing orders (lemons!) but I hope gave her some time to lie down and daydream // Banquet, You Are My Favorite, to Paul, the fabulous marketing director at Sweet Paul, who has often gone out of his way to do thoughtful things for my little business // Albertine Press, Venice Letterpress Library, to the wife of my favorite art teacher, who passed away last year. He made an indelible mark on my life (including sneaking me on to a trip to Italy for upperclassman).  It took me too long to send, but I cried while I wrote it, and when I sent it I really vowed: Less texts. Less email. More cards.

“Just because” cards are the Thanksgiving of cards. Through humor or kindness or love, they give us a moment to just be thankful that the person we’re sending them to exists. They are a hello, with some serious oomph.

Do send “just because” cards? Have you received them? I’d love to hear your stories.

  1. Great post! This is the reason that I started making cards in the first place. Keep up the great writing Emily, it has been a pleasure to read your two posts and I can’t wait for the next one.

    • Thank you, Emily! Your parking ticket card would make me break my rule about “no writing on the inside of cards.” It is a perfect just because love card. xoxo and please send any topics you’d like to see, I’ve gotten some great ideas from vendors, but am always looking for more!

  2. I loved reading this article, it’s always so interesting to hear why someone purchases a card, whether it is an individual retail order or a shop wholesale order.

    I really enjoyed her last post as well, I am new to selling wholesale so it was nice to learn that I am doing things right. 🙂

    • Shayla, thank you! I am always learning from customers why they love what they love. Luckily you and your card-making colleagues are always inventing new cards to choose from. Congratulations on the launch of your wholesale side!

  3. said perfectly: “sending a “just because” card is a simple act done with great care.”
    I love this! The sentiment made extra special because it’s unsolicited by a specific date or event. It really expresses the connection and importance of those relationships. Beautiful reminder to send more “just because” notes 🙂

    • I agree completely with the power of an unsolicited card, Lynsey. There can be so much stress around just grabbing a birthday card (actually, a lot of just because cards are getting scooped up for birthdays). Just because cards are the opposite, watching customers choose them is a joy start to finish.

  4. Another wonderful post Emily, it’s interesting to hear the perspective of a buyer/shopkeep extraordinaire! Our favorite cards definitely are the ones designed with a specific someone in mind!

    • Charlee & Dani, thank you! Your “I miss you so much I could spit” Llama has brought more smiles to more customers than I can count. Also, that snarky cat card has probably healed more mother/daughter and partner relationship snags than I can count. You ladies are just because card maker extraordinaires! I need the hibernate card back for valentine’s day though….please, please…..

  5. This is another excellent, insightful post Emily. What are your thoughts of cards with stand alone “sayings” {Eleanor Roosevelt, etc…} as opposed to an illustration with a “saying” … or maybe just an illustration {dog, bird, pinecone, etc..}. Anxiously awaiting your next post. Happy Turkey Day!

    • Hooray, Denise, a question! And thank you for the kind words. So, my feeling is that they’re all possibly great. Was that helpfully vague? …let me elaborate. I think the most successful “just because” cards are a lot like a good recipe, you have a good illustration with a good open ended bit of words (a quote, your own saying, a general exclamation, etc) and they just strike a nerve. That said, the right quote or saying that resonates will sell like crazy (see my note to Dani and CharLee below, they knock it out of the park with very tailored sayings that manage to have a broad appeal).

      When I look to buy, I generally ask two questions: 1. do I love it 2. who will it appeal to. The answer to #2 doesn’t need to be “everyone” but I need to be able to name types of people who it will appeal to.

      Quotes by themselves are tricky – I tend to like my “quotes/sayings” as prints more than cards – something you can frame and put in an office or nursery. When given as cards they often come off too “advice I didn’t ask for” for my taste. That said, a lot of people are doing them really well now: I think Sarah (Parrot Design Studio), did a brilliant batch of prints and cards with a quote and illustration this year. But I’ve only bought them as prints so far, I think they will translate well as ‘just because’ cards too, I just haven’t made that leap yet. Annemarie from Scout’s Honor Co also does a killer job with stand alone sayings that are illustrated, but not overly so. I only bought her work as prints at first and now buy the cards and they go like crazy. Be aware, plenty of customers buy cards intending to frame them, I should do a whole post on things customers do with their cards.

      Your woodland illustrations are really nice – for just animals/acorns/etc I tend to like those as a set of 6-8 cards. Sets with a variety of illustration-only cards sell better than single animals. Take Colleen (Letter & Lark)’s woodland set. I adore that as a set, I think they have more purpose together, and they’ve sold better in sets than singles.

      Hope that sort-of addresses your question!

      • Good thing your answer was not vague!! LOL…. thanks for the insight, definitely makes sense indeed. I actually have the Llama card since we have hiked across Colorado using Llamas and chuckle on the spitting!! Thanks Emily.

  6. Love this series and love this post! So relevant even though I live in New Zealand!
    So lovely to read why your customers picked those cards and where they’re going to. I think that’s what I love most about making cards, getting to make two (or more..) people smile, the person who buys the card and the one they give it to 🙂

  7. Such a great post Emily. It really is great to hear things from the shop owners point of view. I used to sell my cards at a lot of markets, and I would love seeing people browse through them and see which ones make them smile. The ‘Oh I must buy this for …’ Or ‘Oh this is so perfect…’ just makes what we do all worth it. Now wholesaling rather than at markets, it is great to hear that you all get the same happiness when your customers find the perfect card.

  8. I love your card selection (on-line), although I am too far in distance to visit your store, I feel like I can visit through the photos you post. If I were in the store, “You are my Sunshine,” and “You are my Favorite” are two I would grab right away, and I like how the colors and art work on “He’s a Prick,” sort-of remind me of an anatomical (prickly) heart .. which seems appropriate. The “Peace, Comfort, Strength” card is gorgeous — the kind of thing I would buy a stack of to have on hand to give out as gifts .. cards like that are great for framing — I keep a 5×7 holder on my desk just for that reason, and often frame cards as gifts for friends (sometimes they’re just too pretty to “use”). I love the constellation card set for it’s colors and graphics .. definitely on my Christmas list. I am an old-fashioned card sender, and also keep the ones I’m sent — have bins of cards under my desk to look at when I need some cheering. Thanks for posting these fun selections 🙂

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