So as I visit various retailers, a theme continues to pop-up: exclusive contracts with other greeting card vendors. Of course, Hallmark is the most notorious and most ubiquitous, but I've encountered this with other vendors as well.
It's as though they fear competition.
Now I'm a pretty determined guy, so obstacles don't faze me much. As I learn from the market about what they want, I'm adjusting. This morning, I asked my display rack supplier if they could fashion a custom rack for me that is smaller and would allow me to display a smaller number of niched cards for retailers. So for coffee merchants, coffee cards; for wine merchants, grape and wine cards; and so on.
And I have other alternatives. Borders was considering my cards, and would have displayed them but for the exclusive contract they have with Marshall Sherman, a greeting card vendor. But that contract is up at the end of the year. Will their next vendor insist on an exclusive arrangement? Not if I can help it. Here comes my letter-writing campaign.
An exclusive contract is counter-productive for the merchant: what if another vendor could provide cards that sold in greater volume than their current vendor? Why limit their opportunity to sell? I think that retailers should remain flexible to market conditions and keep their options open with vendors. That certainly seems healthy.
This is America, after all. It's a land of choice, where competition abounds. So I'll keep pecking my way out of this egg.
2 vendors down; 10,998 to go.