The holidays are coming and it's time for me to check my supply inventory so I'm not caught with orders that I can't immediately fulfill due to lack of the cardboard mailers or the protective poly sleeves I use.
Checking my own inventory gave me an idea to put this in a blog post in case the information will help someone else who is starting a greeting card business - or who has been at it for years but who might benefit from a stock list of supplies.
Obviously, I keep a supply on hand of each of my cards. Because the holidays are coming, I'll increase the inventory of my more popular and holiday-themed cards.
I use standard Kraft envelopes for my A2 (4.25 x 5.5) cards, which I order through Amazon or Envelopes.com, depending on who has the best pricing when I'm ordering. I used to offer a choice of colored envelopes for the smaller cards but found that keeping the extra stock was costly and meant that I couldn't pre-package the cards in protective sleeves because I wouldn't know ahead of time how many to prepare with each color of envelope.
For the holidays, I also offer a festive red envelope for my holiday cards.
For the A7 (5 x 7) cards, I do offer a choice of five envelope colors. While this does mean keeping a larger inventory of envelopes and, as with the smaller cards causes a dilemma with pre-packaging, I consider my larger cards premium and want to make sure buyers immediately see their value.
Clear Card Boxes - I use a clear, plastic box for my card sets. It holds up to 6 cards and envelopes and folds flat.
I also source the protective sleeves I use through Amazon, which immediately gives me access to a number of vendors who sell what is basically the same thing and therefore who have to price competitively. Because each of my card + envelope sets is individually packaged, I have to keep a supply of protective sleeves for both the A2 and A7 cards.
Stickers - I used to close each protective sleeve with a branded sticker. This was purely an exercise in branding because the sleeves are self-sealing. Lately I have moved away from this because it adds about $0.08 per item to my costs. That doesn't sound like a lot, but this business is one in which profits are often counted in pennies per item.
I designed a postcard-sized thank you card for my business and send a handwritten thank you with each order. In the past, I have ordered the cards through Vistaprint but will move my next order over to Cat Print, the company I use to print my cards.The reason for this is that while Vistaprint often offers discounts, you can never count on one from one day to the next. This means that the postcard cost can fluctuate anywhere from $0.13 each to $0.32. That totally messes up my profit margin.
Purple pens - maybe it's corny, but the predominant color on my thank you cards is purple so I like to write my thank yous using a purple pen. When I'm reviewing my supply inventory, I check my purple pen stash.
I send my cards in white cardboard mailing envelopes. I like the clean, white look and it is no more expensive than a Kraft brown cardboard mailer. Again, I shop these through Amazon. The price doesn't fluctuate much form order to order, and because there are multiple suppliers competing for my business, I can usually find one in my price range.
I use a 6 x 8 mailer for my cards but, because I offer a mat and backboard as an add-on item for my larger cards, I also stock larger 9 x 12 mailers to fit the 8 x 10 mats. Because I also sell matted art prints of some of my cards, these mailers are in constant use.
Mat, Backboard & Protective Sleeves - I buy these as a unit through Amazon. I used to buy the mat and backboard from one supplier and the sleeves through another, but found a great deal on Amazon for the complete set at a price better than I was able to source elsewhere.
I have a branded return address label that I put on the outside of each mailer. While I like the idea - the cost, really - of a branded stamp, I prefer the colorful label even though it adds a few cents to my cost per item. The envelope, after all, makes the first tangible impression my customers get of my company and product.
Sharpie pens - I blow through a ton of sharpies because I use them in my designs as well as when I address envelopes by hand. So, it's important that I keep a supply of two sizes on hand, the Ultra Fine Point and the Fine Point.
When I have a lot of orders to send out, I will often print out postage at my desk - which also prints out the shipping address - using a Zebra GX430t label printer. I don't use it all the time because it requires me switching out my Wacom drawing board for the label printer (they use the same USB port on my computer) and this is a pain, but I have to keep a supply of printer labels on hand.
I use two different printers for my work (not counting the label printer) and these are in constant use. For art prints, I use an Epson 3880. It takes 9 different ink cartridges, each which is pretty costly - about $60.00 each - so I have to make sure I have a backup supply of cartridges.
Because I offer two different sizes of art prints, I have to stock archival paper in each size (5 x 7 and 8 x 10).
When I first started offering greeting cards, I used the Epson 3880 to print those. While I now have my cards printed by Cat Print, I occasionally have to print out a greeting card - either because I am out of stock for a particular card, or because I want a mock up. For this reason, I keep a stock of greeting card paper on hand.
I also use a HP printer to print out orders and packing slips. Therefore, come inventory time, I have to make sure that I have both ink and regular printer paper on hand.
While these aren't unique to the greeting card business, I don't want to have to stop work to run out for basic office supplies. For this reason, when I'm taking inventory, I check my basic office supplies such as staples, paper clips, highlighters, blue pens, white out, pencils, erasers, sketch paper, etc.
That's pretty much it. I'm sure there are a couple of things which I have missed or which I'll need as my business grows, but these are the things that I make sure I have on hand when the holidays are coming around and I know I won't have time to wait around for deliveries or to run out to source locally.
Comments will be approved before showing up.