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Smiffys: on the road again

Smiffys’ head of UK and European sales Sam Bucknall returned to the road last week as party retailers began to reopen following lockdown. Sam has seen a number of highs and lows during his 17 years in the trade and shares his take on party retailers emerging from lockdown.

“It’s so good to be out again having been cooped up for three months, which has of course been a challenge for most of us in some way, shape or form. The roads are busy and I can feel the energy returning – it’s very refreshing and I feel hugely optimistic. This week I’ve seen customers as far north as Newcastle and as far south as Poole, so I’m definitely back to full miles and hours.

The stores that are open are positive, customers are coming in and looking, they’re planning events for the future and partying is still evidently a huge consumer demand. Retailers are selling products and engaging with those customers to give them the same great advice they always did – in that sense it’s like nothing has changed yet every sale is cherished that bit more. Good luck to the retailers and let’s be positive that every day will get that bit busier. From what I’ve seen, the general public are certainly on the high street, be it a mix of purposeful shoppers and curious meanderers. Either way, you can really feel the upturn in mood.

Halloween hasn’t been shied away from, far from it. My customers are keen to talk about it now and begin working with us to plan product, delivery and so on. With the much-coveted Saturday Halloween ahead of us – which certainly helps the cause this year – we’re already taking orders that utilise our historic credit terms. These allow retailers to place an order now, with a payment term of 1 November, offering them time to make the most of the trading opportunity with full support from us. Stock will be king this year – if you haven’t got it, you can’t sell it!

Back to general retailing, the stores I have been in have all had some kind of spruce up, it’s like they’ve used time to plan and prepare with customer flow-through and any jobs that needed doing. The time has allowed teams to re-evaluate stock, window displays and much more. Sometimes pause can be a good thing, I guess. To help them get going, we have been handing over POS kits which consist of ‘store open’ posters and other promotional material to encourage people through the door.

Throughout lockdown we’ve also had Smiffys FM on Facebook which has gone down exceptionally well. Every customer has been commenting on how they have enjoyed it! This was led by our territory manager Matthew Hill who took it on in his spare time; playing records and encouraging the industry to party at home – it’s worked well.

It feels too early to see any changes in consumer buying habits regarding particular product types. This time of year is obviously a bit quieter than usual anyway, so there’s a lot more seasonal partying to take place yet. Smiffys’ tagline this summer is to ‘Bring the Party Home’ and that’s exactly what we’ll be focusing on helping our customers do.

As I’ve been working throughout lockdown as normal, I’ve been in touch with customers and helping in any way I can. Customers have been grateful that we have simply kept in touch with them all, we even delivered catalogues to their home addresses during lockdown. We will always do our best to help them – be it payment issues, POS, design suggestions or anything else.

We will understand a lot more over the coming weeks but the (great) fact is that customers are in stores and the propensity and appetite for partying is still there – probably even greater than before as consumers feel they have some time to make up for.

Long may it continue and all retailers are welcome to get in touch with me. I don’t take requests for Smiffys FM but I can probably help with anything else!”

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