Greeting and postcard creator Mark Baigent discusses selling more than half a million cards each year and "horrendous" competition in the market.
What does your business do?
Wellington-based NZ Art Cards designs, prints and supplies greeting cards and postcards to i-SITE locations, museums and galleries, botanical gardens and also owner operated souvenir stores around the country, with the majority of our business in the South Island. The business is 10 years old, founded in 2008, primarily as a greeting cards designer-printer-distributor working with 80-90 New Zealand artists but things are constantly changing and we're now primarily an art postcard print distributor. We also do fridge magnets and small prints.
What was the motivation for starting NZ Art Cards?
More than 90 per cent of all images were being imported as hard copy by various New Zealand companies and large American companies but we had a lot of New Zealand artists that weren't being represented, so there was a gap in the market.
We filled that successfully for four or five years, and then the market changed a little bit; rather than 'buy New Zealand artists' it became more of a case of 'buy local artists'. We would go to a Whanganui store and the store would be interested in artists that were from Whanganui so it went from international to national to local and that made things a bit difficult with any artists we found.
It became unattainable so we backed out of that a little bit simultaneously were getting this huge demand from the tourist sector for postcards so got distracted in that department working on that. We now specialise in copyright historical and old posters from various digital archives in New Zealand and Australia, tidying them up and making them contemporary.
How big is your team?
Just two of us doing design and administration from our home offices and print and production in an isolated container, we rely on all the tech these days.
How much competition are you facing in what you do?
In the greeting card market our competitors are small importers of hard copy sourced from the UK, Europe and the US or large firms printing and manufacturing their own, we are one of the few that design, print and distribute ourselves. Our cost of production in the last few years has dropped 85 per cent and that's because of the way art work is being distributed and sold internationally - it's gone through a major revolution with technology. As far as the standard way of doing things goes, there's a horrendous amount of competition, a huge amount of oversupply.
How many greeting and postcards did you sell last year?
We'll be approaching half a million postcards per annum and around 25,000 greeting cards. We're tracking away to do more like 100,000 of those per annum.
What's your focus looking to the new year?
Our focus is to replicate what we're doing here, in the souvenir postcard market, in Australia. We're in the process of reproducing our website and all the systems which we hope to have done in the next couple of weeks and then we'll look to approach retailers. We're also simultaneously launching the same art work template which we called digital copy into Europe, UK and the United States.
How has the industry changed in the past 10 years?
It's an unbelievable difference, even within just the last two years. The way artwork is being distributed internationally via the internet, and designers that have never been able to get to the market are working through internet shops.
Things have changed and do change so dramatically that we consider ourselves to be less than a year old every year.
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Things have changed and do change so dramatically that we consider ourselves to be less than a year old every year - it's amazing how quickly things have changed by technology, and the way the consumer is behaving as well. Greeting cards at the premium end of the market is growing internationally after a lot of decline.
Are Kiwis still buying greeting cards?
Gen-Y consumers at tourist and domestic level is dramatically changing, smartphones in their pockets has radically changed how they behave.
Photographic postcards is the fastest declining market you can imagine. We have no photographic postcards at all, it's all retro kitchy millennial artwork, when we first introduced that we couldn't believe the takeoff in what everybody was telling us about a rapidly declining market. There's interesting regrowth occuring internationally and in New Zealand.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Always be aware that things are changing and changing fast and that brings a lot opportunities and challenges, building in adaptability is vital.