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Saturday, May 11, 2002

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Expressions with Popeye, Garfield

Ajita Shashidhar


Popeye and Garfield fans can soon buy greeting cards, gift wrappers and other stationery with images of the two cartoon characters on them. As part of its strategy to make its products exciting for kids, ITC's greeting cards division is shortly to obtain the licence to feature these two popular cartoon characters on its products.

Also on the cards is the launch of a range of Goldflake Expressions stationery such as notebooks, autograph books and gift wrappers, expected to hit the market in the next couple of months.

Having completed its first full year of operations, Mr Chand Das, Chief Executive, ITC Greeting Cards Business, says that the company is confident of diversifying into other products, as its supply chain and distribution network are in place. "In order to succeed in this business, it is essential to have a good distribution network and build a great product range, which we already have," remarks Mr Das.

The company recently launched its collection of Mother's Day cards in over 56 designs. The collection is accompanied by a television commercial aired across all channels as well as in-store promos such as posters and danglers. "April, May and June are traditionally dull months as far as greeting cards sales are concerned. Therefore, we decided to generate some excitement by launching an exhaustive collection for Mother's Day," says Mr Das. Unlike Archies and Hallmark, Goldflake Expressions, says Mr Chand, doesn't plan to set up exclusive retail outlets. Instead, Mr Chand says that ITC has developed a scheme called Expressions Valued Customer, in which, he says, "We ask the retailer to give us a 50 per cent share at the display counter, and in exchange we provide signage for the counter and also offer promotional support to the retailer. This scheme has not only increased our visibility, but has also helped in stepping up sales." Mr Das feels that it makes better sense to work towards increasing the brand's visibility in the multi-brand stores, rather than setting up exclusive store. "A multi-brand store automatically takes care of the number of footfalls," he says.

Talking about the greeting card industry in India, Mr Das says that Expressions has a five per cent share in the Rs 250 crore (in terms of consumer spends) market. Expressions, he says, occupies the third position in the industry, with Archies being the top player with a 25 per cent share, followed by Hallmark with a 12 per cent share. However, Mr Das expects that by the end of the year Expressions would be on par with Hallmark.

Mr Das admits that the sales of greeting cards has dipped in the last two years, which he partly attributes to e-cards and SMS facilities introduced by mobile phone service providers. However, he says, with many e-card sites becoming pay sites, they will also become revenue bearing and the universe of offline and online cards will become large. "Therefore, our challenge will be to get the online card users to send offline cards also," he adds. Goldflake Expressions has also tied up with the SOS Children's Village of India to bring out a range of cards for the institutional segment called SOS CVI cards "We manage the design, supply chain and the distribution network of the SOS cards. We pay SOS a royalty on the sales, as well as pay a minimum guarantee," says Mr Das.

The company is also planning to promote this product through a celebrity brand ambassador.

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Expressions with Popeye, Garfield

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