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I remember clear as day when the 'Card Factory' popped up in my hometown some 10 years ago. I was dragged in there by my Mum for a good snoop around, and have never looked back since. With high street competitors such as Clintons and Birthdays offering rather overpriced occassion items for sale, the 'Card Factory' has become a hit with bargain hunters, last minute buyers, and those like me that simply hate paying through the nose for an item that will be thrown into the trash not long after it has been received.
The 'Card Factory' is a shop comprising of various different items mainly purchased for special occassions. You can find all manner of cards, rolls of wrapping paper, single sheet gift wrap, gift tags and other decoration bits for your gift wrapping needs, cuddly toys, gift bags, invitations, novelty gifts, seasonal items, balloons, celebration decorations and occassion gifts. Everything you could ever need for giving a gift or card to someone can be found under one roof in this shop, and the best bit is - everything has a fantastically reasonable price tag attached!
This shop carries pretty much every card you could be looking for. Birthday cards for all manner of family members, friends, overseas birthdays. specific age cards and general birthday wishes. They also stock cards for births, deaths, anniversaries, get well, good luck, congratulations, sorry, humour and so on. At seasonal holidays they also carry a huge array of wonderful cards for every different person you could wish to send a card to. The 'Card Factory' seems to have the customers general needs thought out and available on their shelves all year round.
The prices in the 'Card Factory' are definately not to be sniffed at. Cards range between 29p for a small card, 59p for a medium card, 89p for a large card and 99p for an extra large card. Gift bags and rolls of wrapping paper tend to range between 99p and £1.99. The cuddly toys and occassion gifts the store carries are also decently priced meaning you can kit out your entire special occassion for less than half the price you would pay elsewhere. Fantastic!
For me, I have a rather love/hate relationship with the 'Card Factory' and so this review can vary from one extreme to the other within a matter of seconds. However I am a very stressy person and somehow manage to be the one 'picked on' in stores due to my lack of height, therefore my experiences of this shop may not be the same for others! There are a lot of pros and cons to this store, and in this review I will highlight the ones I think are the most dominant.
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I do love the 'Card Factory' (but also hate it at the same time..see lower down this review) and can find myself enjoying having a browse the minute after the shop has opened when there are hardly any customers and I can take my time looking at what they have available. Whenever someone's birthday or a seasonal holiday is around the corner my Mum always reminds me to 'buy the cards from the cheap shop!'. It's funny, but true. Since starting shopping with my Mum in this store a long time ago, I've saved myself a whole lot of money by purchasing cards and wrap from here.
Some of the highlights of the 'Card Factory' are as follows:
The prices: With cards, gifts and gift wrap items all ringing in at such low prices, it's hard to find fault with what they charge. I, myself, find the likes of other high street occasion shops expensive, and reel back in horror when I check the price of a tiny card on their coding system only to find that it costs the best part of a fiver. The gifts sold in these stores are also ridiculously overpriced and the majority of the time I would never dream of forking out for nicknack that would not be put to use. I've found some fantastic items for sale for under £1 in the 'Card Factory' that would be sold in the likes of 'Birthdays' stores for triple the price. It does pay to shop around, and the 'Card Factory' prices are definitely the best I've seen on the high street for special occassion items.
The offers: If the ridiculously low prices weren't enough to interest you into making a purchase, the offers they run all year round probably would be. At different times of year they put on different offers on their cards and giftwrap. In general, whenever a Nationwide holiday is taking place, the 'Card Factory' act on this and put an unavoidable offer in place to draw people into the shop. I've purchased cards on an '8 for £1' offer and put them away in my cupboard upstairs until needed throughout the year, and at Christmas I purchased some additional rolls of wrapping paper on a '3 for £1' offer. It's hard to say no to such offers, but at such low prices and the products being good value for money, it doesn't really matter as they will always come in handy!
The everyday range available: In such a small shop space you'd expect there to be a lack of variety available for purchase, however you'd be wrong. The 'Card Factory' manages to supply me with every card I've ever needed to purchase. There is always a great choice available for every 'catagory', and I can usually always find a card that I like and hardly ever leave empty handed (unless I get too stressed, see further down). Whether I'm looking for a card for a specific family member, a certain milestone age, an engagement year or just a simple 'hello' card, the 'Card Factory' offers me a large variety to choose from and always for an acceptable price. The range of occassion gifts is also spectacular, as the 'Card Factory' carries items for weddings, christenings, age milestones, engagements and specific family members. From silver plated photo frames, key-to-the-door gift sets, invites, acceptances and giant badges baring the wearers age, the 'Card Factory' always has those little extra detail items on hand at a quality price for you to make your occassions extra special.
The quality: It's hard to believe that you could purchase a decent quality card for under £1, let alone 29p, but thanks to the 'Card Factory' this is possible. Okay, you're not going to find a card that would be available in Clintons for £5, but the 'Card Factory' is not a let down when it comes to the quality of its cards. In all honesty, you can come across the odd card that looks cheap, however this is just my own personal opinion and could happen in any card shop, and to someone else they may look lovely! However, this said, aside from the odd one, all the cards are absolutely lovely. They avoid being thin, flimsy and cheap feeling and do hold their own with a quality feel to the card itself. The images and verses in the cards are those that you would expect to find on greetings cards wherever you may purchase them. On the whole, there is nothing 'cheap looking' about the products available to purchase from this shop and to look at, it can be hard to tell that you purchased a card, gift or wrapping paper for such a low price rather than from an expensive store. Result!
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As much as I do love getting a bargain at the 'Card Factory' stores, there are unfortunately many downsides to the shop that I also hate having to step foot inside. My love/hate relationship with the 'Card Factory' finds me overjoyed with finding a bargain, and fuming with irritation, at the same time.
A few of the downsides to the 'Card Factory' are as follows:
The size of the shop: Are you kidding me? Why the hell would someone come up with such a fantastic idea and then cram it into a matchbox sized shop space? It was obvious from the start that selling decent cards, gift wrap and such would be a popular idea with customers, so why make those customers suffer by giving them hardly enough room to turn around in when shopping? GAH! I get so angry and stressed whenever I'm trying to find a card or look at gift wrap as there are simply too many customers and not enough shop space. To make matters worse, the layout of the shop is pretty ridiculous, meaning that the ever gigantic queue takes up the whole of an aisle, which is pretty aggrivating if the items you want to look at are situated in said aisle. I'm getting annoyed just thinking about this now..*and breathe*.
The customers: This is one of the parts that niggles me the most. Okay, I'm 5'1 tall and could porbably pass for a child - but do you REALLY need to push me out of the way to look at the cards that I am currently looking at? Do you REALLY need to get right up my arse in attempt to aggrivate me enough that I move out of the way, purely to get some breathing space? Do you REALLY need to abandon your pram containing your screaming child in an aisle whilst you look for whatever it is you want to purchase, blocking off the whole section for other customers and deafening us in the process? Do you REALLY need to tut and huff and puff in my ear even though I'm stood as close as possible to the cards in attempt to let you past, in an already too small aisle, but you insist on smacking me with every single shopping bag you're carrying and look at me like it's my fault? Do you REALLY feel the need to be so impatient as to stand behing me and reach over my shoulder and grab a card from infront of me? Good god people, don't be so god damned rude! Okay, this shop is way too small and there are too many people trying to look at the same things, but have some common courtesy and maybe we wouldn't all be as stressed!
Holiday seasons: Thinking of visiting the shop around the time of Christmas, Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Easter, New Year? Don't bother! It's like throwing yourself straight into a deathwish. On any regular, non holiday month, each day from around 11am onwards can be like stepping straight into hell when trying to find a birthday card or a gift bag in such a cramped space filled with irritated shoppers. However, throw a major holiday into the mix and things just get a billion times worse. It's impossible to move within the shop, people are snatching things out of eachothers hands, arguing over who saw that last roll of gift wrap first and pushing and shoving eachother to get what they want. Holiday seasons in the Card Factory mean that if you do manage to make it out alive, you'll probably be covered in cuts and bruises upon exiting.
Lack of general stock at holiday times: Another thing that really gets on my nerves about the holiday seasons is that the stock for these occassions take over 99% of the store, meaning that if you are looking for a card for a birthday around these times, you're out of luck! Okay the shop is small, but this doesn't mean that they need to cut down the entire 'general' stock to a measly amount in order to cater for the holidays. I have now been taught from experience and buy my cards well in advance to avoid not being able to find a birthday card, get well soon or anniversary card due to the fact that Valentine's Day or Christmas stock has errupted and consumed the majority of the store.
I'm going to stop here on my negatives about the 'Card Factory' shop as I could rant on all day long, but I'll keep that for under my breath or ranting to my Girlfriend when she is waiting outside the shop for me to emerge red faced, bruised and steaming from my ears.
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In a nutshell, for me the 'Card Factory' is a fantastic shop to find decent cards, gift wrap and gift ideas on a budget but does have its downsides. If you're brave enough to fight through the masses, keep your cool and have a good look around, you're bound to leave with a bargain that can generally be worth the hassle. As much as I do like the cards, papers and gifts available from other high street shops such as Clintons and Birthdays, I have begun to despise paying £2.50+ for a card that will inevitably end up in the bin a few days after the occassion. In general, the only time I buy a card from Clinton's anymore is when the occassion involves my Girlfriend and I was to get her a card or giftwrap that looks that little bit more 'extra special'. Other than that, I purchase the majority of my cards, wraps and bags from the 'Card Factory' and cannot find fault with the price.
The 'Card Factory' does have its pros and cons, and I guess it is down to personal taste and the ability to keep a cool head, whether you like this shop or not. In my time shopping here, it has saved me a lot of money and I have given people a lot of well presented gifts, fantastic occassion decorations and lovely cards from here and definitely wouldn't have any problem making future purchases. For me, it's just about timing it right and not leaving things until the last minute, otherwise the whole experience can become stressful and result in a burning anger within haha.
To find your nearest Card Factory store, visit their website here: http://www.cardfactory.eu.com/
** Also posted on Dooyoo under the username little_feets **