I always have loads of cards and presents to buy at this time of the year, so the offer for a £20 allowance to go shopping on Orchard Cards' website was very tempting. As you can see, I couldn't resist!
I put together a wants list, then thought about other cards I've bought recently. This meant I was able to have a thorough look around the site with plenty of purchases in mind. I found they don't just do cards: there are related items such as ribbon, gift tags and bags too, so I took the opportunity to add a much needed roll of birthday gift wrap to my 'purchases' :)
Back to the cards - my wants list included (√ = success):
- Wedding anniversary and birthday cards for NAH (hope he's not reading this!) √√
- A Mothers' Day and birthday cards for my mum √√
- Exam good luck card for my niece (GCSEs loom large in her life this year)
- Birthday card for my nephew
- Easter card for NAH's aunt (she always sends us one) √
It was too late for Valentine's Day and my MIL's 90th birthday but I had a look to see what was available for these too. I excluded the Christmas product ranges as I've lots of these already.
I found a nice set of reasonably priced notelet cards to add to my selection and Orchard Cards kindly sent me an extra garden related card (the one with the wheelbarrow) because they wanted to see what I thought of a new range they're stocking which includes seeds (lovely - thank you!)
The 5 cards I selected (excluding the extra one), plus the gift wrap and set of 10 notelets came to just under £20. I can't vouch for the order fulfilment side of things as mine was done manually after I'd made my selection. I see First Class P&P is free for 10 or more cards, £1.99 for 9 or less, and £2.99 if wrapping paper or Advent calendars are included. Guaranteed next day delivery is £5.99 irrespective of order size or items selected.
Having explored the site and made my selection, here are some further observations:
- An easy to navigate website with plenty of details shown when the mouse is hovered over the card (though see also Weaknesses below)
- The drop down menu at the top of the page makes it easy to find the types of cards wanted. In addition they're also searchable by theme and artist, or a general search
- There's quite a lot of the humour and photography ranges I've previously bought elsewhere
- An excellent selection for gardeners, nature and landscape lovers
- The Valentine and 90th birthday selections were better than those I bought from elsewhere
- Prices are generally competitive
- Some cards come with a small gift which are a nice touch for the right recipient e.g seeds, or a voucher for a pot of tea for two at a National Trust property (NB check the T&Cs of the latter to ensure the recipient can make use of it and can generate the voucher code)
- Details re country of origin, card sourcing and compostable packaging are shown when the card details are clicked on. This makes it easy to find UK cards which use sustainable materials (NB 95% of the cards are from the UK)
- A card writing service is offered (not tested)
- I was pleased to find my robustly packaged, 'awkward' parcel (because I'd selected a long, thin roll of paper to go with my cards) was padded inside with compostable filler instead of the usual polystyrene 'pellets' or air-filled plastic.
|Part of the website showing the mouseover problem on the left & the good card description display on the right|
- I had to sign up for an account - my personal preference is to buy as a 'guest', so I don't have a squillion internet accounts
- There was a problem with mousing over cards on the left hand side of the page (see above) - most of the enlarged image didn't display (seen with both IE and Google Chrome browsers)
- Some of the ranges are very limited e.g. just 3 to select from for Exam good luck (and sadly none of these were suitable for my niece)
- Need to click on the card for more details to see the message inside - my preference would be for this to be included in the mouse over description as it's one of my main buying criteria
- The Checkout information only shows the card reference number and price for each card ordered. It's therefore wise to check the more detailed View Basket details (which includes card thumbnail pictures and brief descriptions) to ensure the order's correct before proceeding to payment
- A search on card type and size would also be useful, e.g. find a really large card for a major event such as an 18th birthday (i.e. the kind of card you get from your parents when you reach this milestone). Card sizes are given in the details, but I didn't spot anything above a MED size.
On the whole Orchard Cards have a good product range and their prices are competitive. However, additions to some of the ranges on offer are needed if they're to provide a 'one stop shop' for all card requirements. It also pays to plan ahead, buy in bulk and buy cards or smaller items only to make the best use of the cheapest or free postage charges. The site is ideal for anyone who has difficulty in getting to the shops to buy cards, or if the selection available locally is poor.
I'll be back - if I can get my act together and not think about buying cards at the last minute in future!