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contents the team

Editor Tracey Bearton

Advertisement Manager Simon Davis 01442 289940 (direct)

Managing Director Mark Naish





Production Director Paul Naish Chairman Malcolm Naish

05 Leader

33 Retail Advice

06 News

38 On The Shop Front

14 Spotlight

40 It’s All About Sales

15 Ward’s Words

41 John Ryan

18 Talk Of The Town

42 On The Line


44 Step Back In Time greetingstodaymag

47 Meet The Newbies


It’s Christmas! What’s on your festive list? Rounding up the month’s happenings, with more online at A selection of this month’s latest releases. With Giftware Association CEO Sarah Ward. Ruby Red share their thoughts, and greetings retailers mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1.

32 Four Corners

East, south, north, west, this quartet of retailers know their business the best.


10 Anniversary Spotlight on Rosanna Rossi

Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the Rosanna Rossi team still love painting and designing.

16 Harrogate Christmas & Gift Pre-Preview Kick off the new year with a bang.

19 Services To The Greetings Industry

The behind-the-scenes folk are very necessary to make sure the stars can shine.

23 Company Profile...Simon Elvin The emponymous publishers are 40 years young.


Big occasions revolve around kids, says Henri Davis.

Circulation Manager Robert Thomas

Philip Downer thinks card stores are more robust than people fear. Building loyalty keeps ’em coming, says Ian Bradley. Work out your strategies to beat Scrooge.

Keep in touch - follow us:

Chris Fox’s online insights for retailers. Chairman Malcolm Naish delves into the archives. Honovi Design and Insult Emporium are the new kids on the block.

24 Cover Story

The Art File have clocked up 21 years already and are pressing ahead with their plans for the future.

26 Children’s Cards & Wrap

Catching them young means the industry can build the next generation of card buyers.

30 GCA AGM Report

The card industry is growing strong.

34 Male & Father’s Day

Different designs abount but sports are still important in men’s cards.

39 Insights-X Review

Visitor numbers were up at the maturing German show.

Go to our website – – for all the up-to-date news and new product information plus our Facebook and Instagram pages carry more photos from shows and events. @greetingstoday


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Telephone: 01442 289930

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Talk of the town The voice of the people who matter, greetings retailers tell it like it is.

Wendy Ross, Ruby Red & Driftwood, Milngavie, Glasgow

What’s the story behind your store? I opened Ruby Red 10 years ago. At that time I had another shop in a country location and it seemed a good idea to open in a town centre with greater footfall and a bit more general buzz going on. It went really well but, having been in fashion wholesale in my early career, I’d always fancied having a clothing and lifestyle shop as well. Fortunately our landlord had the property next door and, about three years later, when I felt the time was right, I opened Driftwood. While the two are completely different, the customer is pretty much the same and it’s lovely to see people going from one shop to the other. Looking back to when you started, do you have any advice for yourself? I think the one piece of advice that I would have given myself all those years ago would have been to focus more on cards. Over the years, our balance has shifted and, although the gift side of the business is still incredibly important, it’s the cards that create the footfall that’s the basis of the business. I hope the shop is well regarded and that we have many different occasions covered by the cards that we stock. I always look forward to Mother’s Day as it’s such a big event now. Father’s Day on the other hand is decidedly average – sorry dads! Even Valentine’s Day doesn’t appear to be what it used to be, although it does provide a sales spike at a useful time of year.

Currently, which is your top-selling design, publisher or genre? Card designs and designers seem to constantly change. Things that we sold well 10 years ago might not necessarily sell well now and so I’ve had to be on the lookout for new and exciting brands pretty much all the time. The only brand that has endured with Ruby Red for all that time would be Tracks. Although not our biggest seller, it has been very consistent. Other long-term brands would be Hammond & Gower and Five Dollar Shake. I’ve also now had to introduce our little naughty card section as, quite simply, that’s a growing part of the market that I’m not able to ignore – and it makes us all laugh. When did you put Christmas out, and is there anything that seems popular already? Xmas tends to get rolled out in phases with Ruby Red. I’ll start putting cards out in mid-September, followed by other bits and pieces up until the end of October. I then like to wait until after Remembrance Sunday before launching the full festive assault. However, over the years I have decided to crank back on Christmas merchandise and focus more on having excellent festive gifts that, crucially, can also be sold beyond the big day. Of all the publishers you stock, which card would you like to receive for your birthday? I could only receive one card from our stock, it would be from Five Dollar Shake. They’re just gorgeous – and so is my husband who never fails to forget this important fact on my big day!

● Cardies

● Austin


Greetings industry help remember ITH Remembrance Sunday this year marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One retailers across the country have made beautiful window displays to commemorate the historic date.

Austin & Co in Great Malvern, and Highworth Emporium near Swindon, were among the many making the effort for the November 11 anniversary – with Cardies in Stevenage going


● Highworth

even further by coordinating a street display of poppies. Owner Jo Sorrell came up with the idea for the handmade poppies to be attached to the railings, on the path outside her shop, collecting them ready to be attached on Saturday, November 3. “We aimed to make at least 126 poppies, one for each name on the war memorial on the Green,” Jo said, “and wow, what an amazing community effort! “We’re overwhelmed by the beautiful and varied array of poppies that have been lovingly made and attached to the railings in the High Street.” @greetingstoday

years young


Simon Elvin Ltd are one of the great names of UK greetings card publishing, and celebrating their 40th anniversary. However, the man who founded and still runs the company that bears his name is, perhaps, not what you would expect from such a successful and high-profile business operation, as Peter Rawlings reports.


NTERVIEWING one of the British card scene’s true godfathers of the past 40 years might seem a daunting exercise.

However, when Greetings Today went along to meet Simon Elvin at the company’s HQ in Wooburn Green, Bucks, nothing could be further from the truth. Greeted initially by Simon’s wife Janet, at his side in the business throughout those four decades, you are immediately drawn into the warm and very calm atmosphere that pervades the whole company. That impression is underlined when Simon himself joins us – even after 40 years, he’s charming, courteous and, unexpectedly, genuinely surprised at our interest in his achievements. But he shouldn’t be, over the years he’s been a steadfast champion of the independent retailer and wholesale sector that has served the UK’s one-time biggest-selling brand by volume so well. From his very first range in 1978 to the half-dozen new collections published every year since, everything is aimed at what Simon perceives the independent retailer needs. “We never underestimate how tough life has been for the independent, especially the last few years,” he said. “The march of the major High Street multiples, low-cost card chains and supermarkets have ramped up the pressure on the independent sector, a sector I’ve always seen as the very backbone of the UK card retail trade. “That pressure has driven the massive reduction in post offices, corner shops, CTNs and those lovely small general stores, all of which served their local communities with fresh, carefully-priced card selections. “It’s always been about value for money for us. Without that, the best designs, the best quality boards and printing, and all the added finishes in the world are no value to the hard-pressed independent. “Their customers are looking for fresh bright designs on the racks, but they don’t want them at any price. That means the retailer has to be able to buy our products from their local specialist wholesalers at price points that allow them to make meaningful margins on those cards. “There’s nobody better placed to know their customers than the retailers themselves, so they’re the ones who should be making the decisions on what to stock, and our wholesale distributors have the flexibility to service their needs. Which means our job is to study the trends and fashions and come up regularly with fresh designs to catch the eye of the buying public. And our studio of hugely talented designers manages that brilliantly. “The words have changed as well though. Social media is developing a taste among younger generations, and the older to an extent, to be more accepting of shorter messages. There’s still demand for longer heartfelt verse, but the language has to be really mindful and the words more modern.” The Simon Elvin model has changed over the past 40 years from only cards to offering just about everything these days.The company’s cards almost single-handedly changed the quality profile of wholesale


It’s always been about value for money for us @greetingstoday

products in the early days, and they quickly followed with equally great value-for-money giftwrap, then gift bags, and gift tags, tissues and ribbons. These would soon be followed by beautiful social stationery ranges, all themed to make outstanding displays at retail. Most recently of all is partyware, again setting standards in design, quality and margin opportunities for retailers and wholesalers, yet still delivering great value-for-money to the end consumer. “Janet and I have been fortunate to have some very talented people working alongside us over the years. Over half the current team have been with us for the past 20 years or more,” Simon added, “and they have been instrumental in helping enhance the product ranges while maintaining our reputation for quality and value.” At one point, Simon Elvin had their own print works where virtually all their products were produced. That works has been sold to another large UK printers but, while many publishers now print in China, Simon himself is justifiably proud that more than half of his products are still made in Britain. He smiled wryly: “I don’t know how much that really means to retailers and their customers, but we feel a genuine sense of achievement to have kept so much of our work here. We’re a British company, serving the wholesalers, retailers and consumers of Great Britain, using British production whenever we can.” So, where did it all begin? The short answer is in Simon and Janet’s back bedroom, originally in 1968 after the small publishers he worked for putting pre-stocked spinners into retail outlets went bust. He offered to take stock from the liquidators in lieu of the three months’ salary he was owed and started Image Arts, which grew rapidly and ultimately became part of the Hallmark Group. Then in 1978 Simon started from scratch again, naming his new business Simon Elvin Limited, and the rest is history, with other specialist card and wrap firms, including Glick and Nigel Quiney, added to the group over the years to maintain their size and stability. So does he still have the same passion for the business? The answer, along with a smile and very direct look is emphatic: “Yes! Without doubt. I love the business and still get a real buzz out of every collection we put out. The day that feeling stops, I will stop!” This is all the more astonishing when you consider that, in his 40 years at the helm, Simon has overseen almost 30,000 different designs – and he’s signed off every single card, giftwrap, gift bag, tag, all the social stationery line and each partyware piece personally. Almost apologetically he explained: “If I’m not sure about a design, I’d rather not release it because it all starts and ends with the products. Consumers rarely know the brand of a card or gift bag they pick out so it’s up to us to make sure we’ve created something they instinctively like.” As a great British business everyone can be proud of, after 40 years Simon Elvin Ltd still set many of the standards others are measured against and live up to their promise to deliver “great products at great prices” to the great British independent retailer.

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Profile for Lema Publishing

Greetings Today November / December 2018 Issue