With social distancing and isolation becoming the norm these days because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have a desire and craving to connect in a more meaningful way.
And Hallmark Canada has found in the past year that people are enjoying that connection even more so today through personal cards.
The company opened a new corporate Gold Crown store in Halifax in November as well as one at the Seaway Mall in Welland earlier this year. Also in February, it plans to open a new store, a relocation, in Regina. Another store in Mississauga will be relocated as well to a much larger space.
Michelle Smye, Vice President, Product Solutions & Independent Retail for Hallmark, said the company has had several new distribution points this year.
Today, the retailer has 106 stores across the country that carry Gold Crown product and 73 of those are traditional stores where it has Hallmark on the bulkhead – 33 are what the company calls Gold Crown departments within a store which is a new concept it launched a few years ago where it looks at other retailers who may be interested in having a portion of their store devoted to this.
“We’ve had a really good success rate with that,” said Smye.
One of the key partnerships has been with Rx Drug Mart stores in Canada.
“They’ve been a really terrific partner for us. They were just named the number one top growing company in Canada by the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business and we’re thrilled because they’ve positioned Hallmark as their partner of choice in differentiating their stores in the marketplace. So they have several stores now with a full Gold Crown department which might be a 600/700-square-foot space in their stores,” explained Smye.
“We’re really, really excited about that.”
2021 Will See Continued Growth for Hallmark
Smye said the company definitely has plans for growth in 2021.
“We’ve got two existing franchisees that have already been working with us and looking to expand their portfolio in the new year. We’re feeling really good about that unless there’s some major change. Obviously they are aware of the challenges that COVID continues to present but they’re very keen to continue and they think the locations that we’re looking at will be very profitable for them,” she said. “So we’re excited about that.
“And we have several new prospects that have approached us and have expressed interest in opening a new Gold Crown location in 2021. They weren’t too keen in opening in 2020 but are feeling pretty good about 2021. We have yet to confirm those and properly vet them through our process but we’re feeling pretty good about our model and the opportunities that it’s presenting.”
Smye said there have been significant challenges for the overall retail market during the pandemic.
“But we think there’s more of an appetite now than ever for our products because we’re completely centred on helping people connect and make a difference in other people’s lives. Right now we all certainly need a lot of that. As people are hibernating in their homes they’re also looking at ways that they can reach out and touch somebody else. That’s been really significant,” she said.
“Holidays are our most important season. We’ve seen a terrific response from consumers. It was really unanticipated given the situation out there but we introduced the season with a really successful ornament keepsake premiere event in July and then followed up with an ornament debut event in October. That latter weekend event saw significant double digit increases in sales volume year over year. We see that particularly now in this time frame consumers really feel a need for our products.”
This time of year, Hallmark movies are also on television screens across the country and have been an extremely effective marketing tool. The Hallmark Channel’s ‘Countdown to Christmas’, which airs exclusively on the W Network in Canada, reached over 15 million Canadians last year and Hallmark is anticipating that number to continue to climb.
“That definitely translates to an elevated awareness around our brand, and most specifically for authentic Hallmark Channel merchandise that is only available at our Gold Crown stores. Canadians are highly engaged and looking to share with other ‘superfans’. Our movie watching essentials includes everything from barware and dishware, to comfy sweaters, blankets and socks – we’ve even added entertainment options to our collection with games and puzzles,” said Smye.