Cardgains: the UK’s largest Greeting Card & Gift Buying Group

Jun 23, 2021 | Meet The Member

Cardgains is a dedicated Greeting Card and Gift buying group that has been serving independent retailers for over 30 years through it’s unique ‘system’. We spoke to Penny Shaw, the Cardgains Marketing Director to find out more, and this is what we learned.

What is Cardgains?

Cardgains was established in 1989, and now has over 1000 member ‘rooftops’ and around 100 suppliers. It’s this scale that allows Cardgains members and Cardgains suppliers to enjoy the benefits of being part of the UK’s largest buying group. Cardgains is owned by members / shareholders and operates from their Sheffield Head Office.

But what is a Buying Group?

A buying group is an organisation where retail businesses come together to work as one, which affords them greater buying power and thus better prices and margins. For suppliers in the group portfolio, the benefits include access to a pool of willing buyers to whom they can market their products.

How does it work?

For members, which includes of various types of independent businesses, Cardgains have negotiated discounts with their suppliers, and offer further incentives such as turnover based bonuses.

The Cardgains suppliers are carefully selected before joining the portfolio, so members can be assured of high-quality relevant products, which complement rather than conflict with each other.

Shop accounting is also simplified, as members only need to make one payment each month even though purchases have been made from many different suppliers. There is an experienced accounts team at head office to assist with the processing of members’ statements and any queries.

Who is in the supplier portfolio?

The portfolio is an eclectic mix of suppliers across greetings cards, gifts, confectionery, balloons & party, giftwrap, lifestyle, plush, homewares, candles etc. – pretty much anything that is sold in the card and gift sector!

Cardgains suppliers have access to the members for direct marketing, and enjoy other marketing opportunities with Cardgains including the monthly Cardgains newsletter, the Cardgains ‘pods’ at Spring Fair, and regular promotions via email and social media. Once again, from an administrative side, Cardgains guarantees the members’ spend, ensuring a single monthly (and timely) payment for Cardgains suppliers.

The System

The Cardgains system is a straightforward monthly cycle.

  1. Cardgains members place orders directly with Cardgains suppliers and are invoiced as normal at the negotiated preferential trading terms.
  2. At the start of each month, suppliers send a statement to Cardgains of all the invoices that have been raised in the previous month for Cardgains members.
  3. Members then receive a statement requesting a single payment for all invoices during the previous month
  4. Suppliers receive a single payment for their valid invoices in that period.
  5. Rinse and repeat the following month!

Cardgains Sales & Marketing

If you’ve ever wandered the greetings & stationery halls of the Spring Fair you may have noticed an extra-large stand in the mix, featuring manned ‘pods’ from many of the Cardgains suppliers, giving them access to the show in a prime location.

Cyril Service, the Cardgains mascot

Many years ago, Cardgains introduced Cyril Service as the ‘mascot’ of the group. Cyril had been seen in many guises and features prominently in the annual marketing strategy and is seen on stationery, business cards, The Cardgains Village at Spring Fair, as well as having his own voice on Twitter! @CyrilService

After the trials and tribulations of 2020, Cyril is positively and actively working on the theory that ‘The Show Must Go On’ and, more so than ever, supporting members and suppliers to be ‘Stronger Together’! 

Cardgains produces a monthly newsletter for members, which highlights current supplier products and offers, which are also sent out on the ‘what’s-hot’ email programme to members.

Charity Activities

Cardgains have a commendable focus on charitable work – they have raised over £350,000 in the last 20 years for numerous charities. Each year Cardgains organises a charity golf day, raffles and numerous other activities, the highlight being the annual 25+ mile charity walk with events such as the Yorkshire Three Peaks, Ben Nevis, the Lyke Wake Walk, the Seaside Shuffle, Windy Wander and Withering Thighs! As well as raising money for charities, these activities provide an opportunity to network, make new friends, and bring a sense of achievement. Below is a montage of some of the previous events.  See how many people you recognise!

Meet the Sales & Marketing Team

Being a people focused business, Cardgains has a team of sales representatives who visit members’ shops to present new additions to the supplier portfolio, existing suppliers and offer any relevant trials and promotions and listen to any useful feedback.

Chris Dyson, (Joint Managing Director), Penny Shaw (Marketing Director) and the sales team of Jim Girvan, Alan Harwood and Ron Ritchie are in touch with members and suppliers on a regular basis epitomising the customer focus of the organisation. Cyril Service represents all that Cardgains is about – a bit of fun, and good old customer service.

Further information

We hope this short introduction to Cardgains has been helpful. For more information visit the Cardgains entry on the member’s directory or visit the Cardgains website.

Special Offer for Cardgains Members

Are you a Cardgains member? If so, we have a special discount offer just for you to join the GCA as a retailer member. As a member of both Cardgains and the GCA you’ll have the tools you need to help propel your business to the next level. Contact your Cardgains representative or contact the gca with your Cardgains number to obtain your discount code.

(Offer available to Cardgains retail members only. This offer does not apply to Cardgains supplier members)

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