Archies' has rallied with new investment; now will the brand gift itself a makeover?
Archies' — once everybody's go-to brand for greeting cards and gifts — has a challenging task in staying relevant
The Archies' stock was trading at Rs 35.25 till the morning of 11 April 2017. Then, value investor, Porinju Veliyath's firm bought 4 lakh shares in the company and the stock price hit a 52-week high. Well, Porinju Veliyath makes a 42 percent return on his investments when the Sensex makes 17 percent. So obviously, you got to trust the guy and learn how to pronounce his name right. If you’re wondering why he made the investment, here’s his explanatory tweet.
His investment comes with a warning. Take note. And FYI, Archies has been trying to turn around its business since 2011. To be fair, turning things around is a tough task. And to add to every marketer’s troubles, in the last ten years Indian consumers have changed so much that nobody knows where to look for their TG — are they watching TV, or Netflix or spending all their time on Facebook, Firstpost or in traffic? Archies had a good run, till people were exclusively shopping offline.
Let's take a look at how things progressed for Archies':
1979 - Anil Moolchandani started the business from his family's sari shop. Made his first sale worth Rs 12
1981- The first meeting with distributors took place
1984 - Foreign license for Walt Disney content was acquired
1987 - The first concept store was launched in Kamla Nagar, Delhi
1990 - Incorporated: Archies Greetings & Gifts Pvt Ltd
1993 - 100th Archies store launched
1995 - Tied up with CRY
1998 - The company got listed on NSE and BSE
2002 - Became Archies Limited
2005- Stupid Cupid, a fashion jewellery and gift store was launched
2007- Giftworks was launched (revamped corporate gifts)
2008 - Stupid Cupid became a counter in the Archies store
2011 - Partnered with Hallmark in India
2013 - Store expansion drive gains momentum. 35 new stores opened.
2014 - Revamps website and partners with 12 e-commerce players including Flipkart and Snapdeal
2016 - Launches "Desi Archies"
So much has changed in the company’s lifetime. Not everyone goes to a store to buy gifts or groceries. The first person/entity to wish us in the morning is probably Facebook. The socially acceptable way to wish people on their birthdays is to post their picture on Facebook and write something adorable about them. Isn’t it? Even wedding invitations seem to have tired of their physical format. The last wedding invitation I got was through wedmegood.com. In fact, I’ve never even bought a greeting card I think. It’s too impersonal. A bunch of writers can’t fit me into a “category” and try and guess what I may want to say to someone.
Well, I am cold-hearted, plus I write silly rhymes for people I like, so I may not be Archies’ target audience. Strangely, that never stops me from entering their stores, gawking at cards, picking them up and opening them while thinking of people I could purchase them for. And then each time, I walk out of the store empty-handed. I tell myself on the way out that I should write something original and paint a card instead. I even purchase the most expensive variety of bond paper and paints. But writing those lines takes so long, birthdays and bahanas come and go and I still remain a cardless gifter. So people who really want to do something about their gifts probably get them online or go to a store. I’ll never know.
Of course, Archies isn’t just about cards. They do make more money through their gifting vertical. Their website says they’re “market leaders in the social expression industry with over 60 percent market share in the organised sector”. Instagram and Whatsapp — have you been beaten? Well, as per the Archies boss, these internet businesses have no soul. (3:57 of this video) I agree with him. But ‘Have a soul? Buy a greeting card!’ doesn’t sound right either, even if proceeds from the sales go to CRY and HelpAge India.
When I was 14 years old I had a soul. I was obsessed with Archies’ slam books and friendship bands. It was common to feel slighted if you didn’t receive a request to write in a friend’s slam book. And if you got one, you couldn’t get away with “Best of luck”. You had to come up with something original that they’d appreciate. My contemporaries and I remember being aware of the brand and wanting to buy a little of that Archies’ magic — if we had the money. (They had cards for Rs 150 even in 1999). Now that we do have money loaded in our Paytm wallets, we don’t go seeking Archies’ products. If we see the store now, we walk in and maybe even buy a little something but Archies isn’t something we go nuts about. Have we grown up or just grown out of it?
The brand’s sales indicate that sentimental consumers all across the country have found an alternative way to show their loved ones that they care. ('The most special way to say you care' — that’s Archies’ tagline.) The numbers reveal that sales and profits have both stagnated and in some years reduced year on year since 2011. Some of us have even forgotten that Archies exists.
I asked my Facebook friends about their last Archies' purchase.
Here are a few responses I got:
Like my friend, Sheetal Shrivastava, most millennials like the idea of DIY. Especially, when typefaces and designs that Archies' offers seem archaic. It’s like someone has taken an image off Google and spruced it up on Microsoft Paint. I swear this is on their website right now:
To that, Archies may say they do have different cards that look cooler (That is true. I did pick up the worst one.) But please tell me why anyone would pay Rs 6,145 for a box of chocolates (that look like Ferrero Rocher) and some roses? Because they deliver for Rs 50 in the big cities? Ummm..I’m not so sure.
Also, Google ‘gifts’ and this is what shows up. Archies appears at the bottom of the page. It barely made it to my screenshot.
They do have a large physical presence though — over 230 exclusive stores and 300 franchises in 66 cities and neighbouring countries. That’s a lot more than 7-year-old brand Chumbak’s 20-odd stores. Despite that, Chumbak seems to be doing a lot better. In fact they’re already making plans to enter the US Market. If Archies' has 10k followers on Instagram, Chumbak has 130.9k. Well, VC money has something to do with Chumbak’s success and we know nothing about the company’s profits, though news reports say they the company made over a crore in turnover in 2010-2011. In that year Archies’ revenues were Rs 188.18 crores. Now in 2011, Chumbak was one year old and Archies was thirty-two. So while a comparison between the two may not be fair also because Chumbak has a presence in categories like ‘decor’ and ‘fashion’, segments Archies doesn’t operate in, the truth is that they are competitors. A cool t-shirt and a laptop case qualify as gifts. I don’t have to buy one from a website that claims to specialise in gifts.
Even if it’s slow, Archies' is making a transition. Archies' CEO Seshan Ranganathan, gave an interview to CNBC TV-18 about the company’s turnaround plans earlier this week. While he didn’t reveal what the large one-time investments this year would be spent on, he did say that unprofitable stores will shut down and the company will make an attempt to increase online sales by revamping the website again.
1. The company is profitable. Rs 10 crores in profits isn’t bad (2015-2016).
2. Desi Archies has some great designs.
3. The company has its heart in the right place. They try and give back to society. This YT video that they put out made me cry.
4. They allow you to pay via Paytm and PayU money if you make an online purchase.
5. Their delivery fee is transparent. They charge Rs 50 in order to deliver a package in Mumbai.
1. The FB sign-in on their website doesn’t work properly. They could fix that.
2. Too many of their 55-year-old directors seek re-appointment year after year. They may need more young people at the top.
3. Their partnerships with international brands don’t seem wholesome — they’re more like sales deals. You can sell my product and keep a commission.
I already showed you those images above.
Because of nostalgia and the general goodness of the brand, I still like it, even if I don’t give them my money. So here is my e-card for Archies':
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