Which is worse, SOLD OUT or OUT OF STOCK?

Setting the scene, we are Zaquarella, a small Greeting Card Publisher, trying to make our way during Lockdown. The huge annual Trade Show in London, focusing exclusively on Greeting Cards (PGLive), was first postponed from June 2020 to September this year and now has been outright cancelled. Other trade shows, which combine cards with gifts, home and jewellery, have been similarly affected and so we turned to Direct Online Selling – not our preferred business model if the truth be told.

A previous article of mine has detailed the failures or limited success we have experienced via various online platforms and search engines with the exception of Amazon. They are trusted by buyers worldwide and it is inevitable that brick and mortar shops will carry on ailing and eventually potentially disappear for good unless they can strike the right balance between an online and physical presence.

This all brings me to the experience of our first Father’s Day occasion in the 2020 Calendar. It is celebrated on the 21st of June in the UK and we were ready for it, or were we? We launched 10 new greeting cards for Dads; I even painted an overflowing beer mug which is out of my botanical comfort zone! We had a reasonable print run and started advertising on the usual platforms, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and even Next Door.

And the sales started rolling in. Our ‘Trout Fish’ card sold out quickly on 27th May. Great, we think and order replacement cards from our trusted Printers. Unfortunately, there is a delay in that order due to a broken varnishing machine and by the end of last week; we decide to get the cards with no varnish. The new card orders eventually arrive and we can sell them again (but the ‘Trout Fish’ is missing from the order – our error).

As sales are climbing, we decide to try adding to the mix an old greeting card we had from a previous season which had never sold. It sold out this morning 5 June. As of today, we have sold out of most Father's Day cards and the replacement order will only arrive on Tuesday 9 June - next week. Sadly, the 2020 Father’s Day Season will be over all too soon.

What did we do wrong? We underestimated demand and were unable to replenish stocks with enough speed, even though it was being closely monitored. So basically we would rather be SOLD OUT after selling large volumes than being OUT OF STOCK with demand unmet. We could spit all colours of the rainbow on this!

But don’t worry, we will believe more in ourselves and put in the right investment next time. We won’t listen anymore to those saying we are too small to aim high so soon. We CAN do it!

On the up side our Franking Machine arrived today! We can now save on stamp costs. When you are sending out the volume of cards we do every day, this machine is worth it! Plus we won’t accidentally stick stamps on upside down anymore, mea culpa!

It’s all good man! Another lesson in small business from the Zaquarella Team living it!

Written by Rachel Dickson, Co-owner and Creative Director at Zaquarella Greetings Cards. Hot off the press on 5 June 2020.