The new US owner of Clinton Cards unveiled a revamp of the cards and gift retailer on Tuesday as it begins a turnround at the struggling chain.
Gone are revolving card stands, price code charts and dated orange and white signage. In are round tables to display gifts, dark wooden floors and card displays streamlined under headings such as “fine art” or “photography”.
“New design choices [make it] a distinctive destination,” said Dominique Schurman, chief executive of Clintons, as she presented the first new store, in central London.
Smartened interiors and new red shop signs are to be rolled out in almost 400 stores within the next three years, with an initial target of 100 renovations complete by the end of this October in readiness for Christmas trading. Ms Schurman estimates this will cost £30,000 to £40,000 per store, meaning a total investment of up to £15.9m.
The move is part of an effort to revive Clintons, which was has been hit by a combination of rising competition and a large rent bill after it expanded during the economic boom. The chain was forced into administration in May by American Greetings, one of its biggest suppliers, which bought the brand and more than half of its stores last month.
AG has projected it will take two years to restore Clintons to profitability, and has appointed the Schurman Retail Group, in which it owns a 15 per cent stake, to manage the business on its behalf.
Some prices have been lowered in an effort to boost sales but there are also more upmarket cards and gifts on offer in line with the updated look. Cards will be sold pre-wrapped with an attached price sticker.
The lack of price stickers had been criticised by analysts, who said the number of price points in stores was confusing for customers. The chain will continue to stock value ranges, with cards starting at 49p.
“It’s a great first step,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consultancy Conlumino, of the revamped store. But he said running nearly 400 stores was “probably in the long term a bit too expensive”.
Discussions with Clintons’ landlords to cut its rent bill and introduce monthly rent payments for all stores are continuing.
The Schurman Retail Group was founded by Ms Schurman’s parents in 1950 as a wholesale importer of stationery from Europe, before moving into retail in 1973. The group now operates about 400 stores in the US and Canada.