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St. Albert loses Carlton Cards after more than 15 years

Schurman Retail Group stores across North America will close over the next four to six weeks
Carlton Cards in St. Albert is expected to close in the coming weeks, along with all remaining stores in North America. BRITTANY GERVAIS/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert’s long-time greeting card retailer Carlton Cards is shutting its doors after parent company, Schurman Retail Group, announced the closure of all its retail stores in North America last Wednesday. 

Stories published online by Global News and CTV News quote Dominique Schurman, CEO of Schurman Retail Group, who said 254 Carlton Cards and Papyrus retail locations in North America will be closing, including 79 Canadian locations. 

St. Albert’s Carlton Cards has been located in the St. Albert Centre for over 15 years, according to Jillian Creech, mall general manager. Now, ‘Everything must go’ signs and notices advertising a 30 per cent off sale hang in the front of the store. Local Carlton Cards employees declined to comment on the closure. 

Jennifer McCurdy, president and CEO of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, said she recognizes the challenge that national companies face when they priotize online services over brick-and-mortar storefronts. 

She said St. Albert residents are usually pretty good about buying local, but there's "always room to improve." 

"That's a concern, because I hope people will recognize that yes, online shopping is efficient, it's easier and sometimes it's less expensive. But it's the local businesses that are paying the taxes, that are employing residents, giving young people their first jobs," she said.

For businesses struggling to compete with online shopping, McCurdy said there are ways to stay ahead of the curve. For example, customers might walk into a local Indigo, but they might not go to buy a new book – rather a comfortable blanket, a new coffee mug or other products instead. 

"(Some businesses) are coming out of their square boxes. They're saying, what else can we do? What's the value added? Those businesses are going to do really well in the downtimes." 

McCurdy said she also encourages businesses to open their doors to the public by hosting events or gatherings, not necessarily to push their product, but to solidify better connections in the community.

According to Schurman, most of the stores will close over the next four to six weeks. 

“Despite our Herculean efforts to realign our Papyrus and American Greetings stores to fit today’s shopping environment, Schurman Retail Group had to make the difficult decision to close all 254 of our stores in North America,” she said in the statement.

READ MORE: Greeting card retailers Carlton Cards and Papyrus closing 79 stores in Canada

The Schurman Retail Group owns and operates Carlton and Papyrus stores, which buys branded products that are available in thousands of Canadian retailers including Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs and Indigo. Carlton Cards is Canada’s primary greeting card company, with more than 600 million greeting cards exchanged in Canada annually, according to Carlton Cards’ website. 

However, large greeting card companies have struggled to stay relevant with the emergence of paperless substitutes. Over the last five years, operators have grappled with the growing use of e-cards, or electronic greeting cards, and social media. 

In response, many greeting card publishers, including Carlton Cards corporate owner American Greetings Corporation, have offered digital greetings with a monthly or yearly fee for unlimited e-cards. But keeping up in a digital age is proving difficult. 

According to marketing research firm IBISWorld, growth in the Canadian greeting card and other publishing industry, including calendars and postcards, fell by 4.4 per cent annually between 2014 and 2019. 

Walking past the Carlton Cards location in the mall, Legal resident Real Champagne, 80, said he still buys physical cards on occasion to send his sympathies or to celebrate birthdays. 

However, he said he goes to cheaper chains instead of paying a higher price at Carlton Cards. 

“If you’re buying 10 cards at $10 dollars each, that’s $100. Or you go to the Dollar Store, and you’re paying $10 total — is it really worthwhile, the difference in price? It’s a nicer card, but it’s still just a card,” Champagne said.

The closure of St. Albert's Carlton Cards follows the closure of two other businesses in the St. Albert Centre in recent months. The local Things Engraved store shut its doors in early January immediately after the company announced the closure all of its 73 storefronts in Canada, citing an inability to compete with online retailers. The company's online store is still active.

Montreal-based Bentley Leathers also closed its St. Alberts location in the mall in December after the retailer announced it would be shedding its underperforming stores.

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