How are direct-to-consumer puzzle brands keeping people interested?

Puzzle sales have boomed in the past two years. So has the competition.

Piecework Puzzles launched in July 2019. It's now far from the only brand selling design-forward puzzles. (Photo: Carl Ostberg)
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Sales of jigsaw puzzles have gone through the roof throughout the pandemic.

Puzzle giant Ceaco says sales were up 300% in March 2020, when people found themselves suddenly stuck at home.

Those numbers have continued to remain healthy, with direct-to-consumer puzzle brand Piecework reporting that it has experienced a 29% monthly compound growth rate during the past year.

A boom in puzzle brands

Piecework launched in July 2019 with four puzzles that depicted whimsical and sometimes photographed scenes. For a short while, its offering was fairly unique — until a whole host of other puzzle brands decided to get in on the action.

A few months later saw the launch of Jiggy, which sells artist-designed puzzles that customers are encouraged to frame, and today there are 10 brands in the Thingtesting directory that sell puzzles with designs to suit modern tastes. Ordinary Habit, Different Puzzles, Puzz and Goodfit all launched in 2020, while this year has seen the debut of Le Puzz.

Standing out from the crowd

The puzzle brands now need to figure out not only how they can keep people interested as societies open up again, but also how they can stand out in a crowded market.

Jena Wolfe, cofounder of Piecework, says that compared to when her brand first launched, it’s now critical for puzzle brands to communicate their unique points of difference — not an easy task when it seems like so many are trading in quirky, wall-hanging-worthy designs. In Piecework’s case, Wolfe says its focus on photography sets it apart from others that rely on illustration.

Giving customers a reason to come back for more is also something puzzle brands need to keep top of mind.

Wolfe says email is one of Piecework’s most valuable channels when it comes to driving new sales. “We have a solid group of customers who read and love our emails, and purchase from our emails,” she says, adding that these readers also tend to make word-of-mouth recommendations and buy puzzles as gifts for others.

To make sure it has a constant stream of news to share with these readers, Piecework has been busy releasing new designs (53 since 2019, to be precise) and working with other brands.

Piecework now has seven collaboration puzzles under its belt, including designs that it has worked on with Broccoli (a magazine for cannabis users), Goop, Asian pantry brand Omsom, and, most recently, sexual wellness brand Maude.

“We really do feel like the renewed passion for puzzles is here to stay. There was a clear hole in the market prior to our launch — there wasn’t a single puzzle brand that was exclusively dedicated to making high-quality puzzles,” Wolfe explains. “With the competition we’re seeing, it’s really an indication that this is a permanent interest for people.”

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