Hallmark Shifts Retail Strategy for Canada


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Hallmark Canada has discovered an innovative way to reach out to consumers with a new strategy that entails opening up smaller stores within other big retail stores across the country.

The multi-focus store initiative was designed to address the challenges of operating in the current retail market. The company now has 14 mini Hallmark Gold Crown locations in Canada – with many more to come.

Michelle Smye, General Manager, Canada Retail for Hallmark, says the company wants to continue to grow its bricks and mortar network.

“It’s really important to us to have stores out there in the community that are carrying our brand and particularly the Gold Crown brand which is an expanded breadth of product than what you might find Hallmark selling in mass points of distribution,” says Smye.

Image: Hallmark Canada

“In the current marketplace, it’s very hard to grow our traditional Hallmark store network given rising rents, especially in A and A minus, B, location malls. With our individual average transaction value being in the paper business, it’s very hard to remain profitable at the rents that are being charged in these locations. So we really wanted to think out of the box and get back to being the stores of the community.”

Currently, 126 stores across Canada carry Gold Crown products. There are 111 stores in Canada that have Hallmark on their bulkhead.

“There’s all kinds of people out there who are familiar with the Hallmark brand and would like to bring the Hallmark brand into their households but they just don’t have access,” says Smye

“What we’ve started to do is look at where do we have a lack of distribution. Where’s that white space and what stores may exist and be operating profitably and would like to team up with us and carry their brand and our brand in their stores. We started doing this at the end of last year – in the fourth quarter of 2016.”

Image: Hallmark Canada

Because of the success of the initial launch, Hallmark has decided for 2018 to be aggressive in its approach to grow its market.

“We’re really looking at growing exponentially. But in our plan we’ve got at least a group of another 25 locations opening in 2018,” says Smye.

The new store within a store concept is primarily located now in larger independent drug stores and some specialty gift shops.

“There’s definitely some potential for other places but we’re trying to focus in on stores of the community. So for example, it could be a hardware store if it was in a rural area and that was the store where everybody came to get their general merchandise needs and there was a real call for Hallmark products in that area,” says Smye.

She says consumer reaction has been great to the new concept.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.



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