Do licensing deals undermine charity Christmas card sales?

The sector makes millions from festive greetings cards, but should charities be getting a bigger slice of the Christmas pudding?

Sharon Little, general manager, Greeting Card Association
Sharon Little, general manager, Greeting Card Association


Dame Hilary Blume, director, Charities Advisory Trust

Why do charities - and the largest, grandest charities at that - agree to these poor licensing deals on their Christmas cards, which generally see them receiving less than 10 per cent of the retail price? They might say the deals are easy money and carry no risk, but it would not take much more effort to get a deal that would raise twice as much.

Not only do the charities sell their names too cheaply - they also agree to be associated with cards that are very cheap, thus undercutting real charity cards sold directly by charities. Why would customers pay 30p for a card when they can buy one for 5p?

Twenty years ago, the customer had to pay a premium for charity cards, and charities could make good money on card sales. Now, because of the laziness, incompetence and short-sightedness of many major charities, the profitability of the market has been significantly reduced.

And does the word 'hypocrisy' not come to mind when charities that campaign against global warming lend their names to cards printed in China?


Sharon Little, general manager, Greeting Card Association

In the UK, greeting cards raise more money for charity than in any other country and more than any other individual product at Christmas. Charities estimate that card sales generate as much as £50m annually.

Licensing deals enable organisations to tap into the huge footfall of high-street retailers with no financial risk and at almost no cost. Charities love these deals because, although they might receive less than 10 per cent of the retail price, the total amount raised can still be enormous. It is also a cheap way to raise awareness and reach a huge number of people in shops across the country.

It is meaningless to compare percentages from licensing deals with the amount charities get when they publish cards themselves. Charities might get 100 per cent of the profits if they publish cards themselves, but the profit is only what is left after they have paid for producing and distributing the cards, which can effectively result in a loss.


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