“There was no reason to rush through a $7,000 Father’s Day order — those cards were not going on the shelf in the middle of February,” Ms. Krowinski of Sapling Press said.
Ms. Park said that the orders were not connected to the company’s bankruptcy. Paper Source has been trying to revive its inventory for months, she said, especially because it had to stock about 27 new locations that it acquired just before for the pandemic hit through the bankruptcy of Papyrus, its former rival. “We have been trying to get our inventory in greeting cards in a healthy position since last October when it was very clear we were really low in stock,” she said.
But the move amplified the vendors’ confusion. “The fact that January came and brands started getting these big orders, they were happy and excited thinking this was great, things are on the upswing again and then it was not the case,” said Katie Hunt, a business coach who works with stationery vendors through her company, Proof to Product. “The optics are bad.”
Paper Source, which has been privately held for years, is a relatively small retailer but a behemoth among stationery-makers, a friendly industry with regular trade shows and even “paper camps,” where aspiring cardmakers network and learn how to get their goods in bookshops and other chains, like Nordstrom. Because of its size, Paper Source is able to command concessions like longer payment deadlines. It has even solicited credits of up to $250 from vendors to help build new stores, according to emails reviewed by The New York Times.
Paper Source has about 1,700 employees, the vast majority of whom are hourly, and it posted gross sales of $104 million last year, down from $153 million in 2019, according to court documents.
Like many retailers, Paper Source’s sales plummeted last year as it grappled with shutdowns, capacity restrictions and “the wave of canceled weddings,” according to filings. It closed stores, eliminated jobs and cut the pay of senior managers. The company estimated that 30 percent of its formerly loyal shoppers have not visited a store or purchased from its website since the pandemic started.