ON THE CARDS
‘Stationery lovers since 1968’ was the message emblazoned on the bright yellow wall, this bold statement somewhat at odds with the sorry scene below it of almost empty card racks, affixed to which a rather forlorn handwritten sign stating ‘All cards 10p’.
I was in Paperchase’s London Victoria Station shop on its last day of trading. It was uncomfortable to see, but I felt compelled to buy something to mark the end of an era and scouring the scraps, I randomly picked up some pom poms and packet of nondescript gift tags. How the mighty have fallen. In its heyday, Paperchase really was the ultimate haven for design-led stationery and greeting cards. I vividly recall, around 20 years ago, Timothy Melgund, the retailer’s ‘big cheese’ for many of the good years, saying to me: “We are a fashion retailer that doesn’t sell clothes.” And indeed it was. That was the day it happened…dismissing my utilitarian, perfunctory wiro-topped basic notepad, Timothy converted me to only ever use more ‘fashion accessory’ versions with their embroidered, patterned or brightly coloured covers, a habit that has stuck!
While Paperchase has most definitely played an important part in our industry’s history - and it remains to be seen how the brand will live on under Tesco’s ownership - the future chapters of the great greeting card retailing book will be peppered with tales of how other specialist multiples, small groups, indies, garden centres, bookshops, lifestyle stores among others are continuing to excite and inspire the consumer with their own selections of greeting cards.
The best of these will be feted in The Retas 2023 greeting card retailer awards, the finalists of which will be
revealed in the next edition of PG with the winners announced at a lavish Van Gogh-themed awards event on July 6 at the Grosvenor House Hotel.
Staying on the awards front, as PG went to press the final tweaks were being made to The Henries 2023 greeting card product awards’ entry portal (www.thehenriesawards.co.uk), with publishers having until June 18 to submit their entries.
Other important dates for the diary are June 6-7 when PG Live 2023 will open its doors on what really is all set to be a veritable fashion show of greeting cards with all 200 exhibitors pulling out the stops to help ensure that retailers can continue to woo the card and stationery loving consumers for many years to come.
All the latest happenings and developments in the trade.
20-21 Over The Counter Attractiveness Principle
David Robertson, co-owner of JP Pozzi turns his thoughts to Paul the Apostle, among other things.
Forever Blowing Bubbles?
What links an ancient Egyptian statue of a leonine mythical creature, a bubble blowing under-performing East London soccer team and Cardsharp’s lovely postie, George?
A Juicy Quarter?
How did the first chunk of the year pan out and what are expectations for the coming three months?
28-29 In Conversation With…Sara Davies
Pushing The Enveloper
PG caught up with Dragon Sara Davies to find out more about her business empire that is founded on greeting cards.
31-35 Dragons’ Feedback
Retailers shared their publisher hot hits from the recent GCA’s Dragons’ Speed-dating event.
37-39 Focus on…Male Cards
PG takes a testosterone reading on the male greeting card front.
Publishers’ new ranges and designs.
46-47 Next Generation Links
An industry-affirming story of a little girl’s quest to start a card company, aged nine.
49 Art Source
Greeting card artist Jane Sunner shares her story and her creative inspirations.
51-52 What’s Hot?
A trio of retailers reveal their best selling ranges.
53-63 Sources of Supply
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Paperchase’s final goodbye
Marking the end of an era, Paperchase finally closed all of its stores on April 3. with customers having grabbed last minute bargains as they took advantage of discounts of up to 80% to empty the shelves.
While Paperchase’s online platform ceased trading on 17 February, sales were squeezed out of the shops right until the end, as the stores featured handwritten notices selling cards for 10p and other stock at just 50p.
Having gone into administrative receivership at the end of January, Paperchase has limped on to clear stock, but its closure as a high street retailer was confirmed on its website with the
the joint venture agreement forged with the two retail businesses in April 2021 for future stores.
As PG went to press, the Postmark/Cardzone team were working frenetically to convert the six Paperchase stores to the Postmark fascia. The store in Battersea Power Station was on track to open on Friday 7 April under the Postmark branding with the hopes that the secured travel sites will be ready to reopen from 18 April onwards.
Emo’s Pint Of Stout card giggles go viral
Getting the giggles is infectious and a 90year-old birthday boy’s incredibly infectious reaction to a funny Emotional Rescue card went viral recently.
More than 972,000 views were clocked up within the first few days of Sue Newton posting the 40-second video of her dad crying with laughter at the Pint Of Stout design her sister Joanne had bought for him from Card Factory
“It's Dad's 90th birthday today,” pet portrait artist Sue posted on social media at the end of last month, “and I'd like to say thank you to whoever designed this birthday card, because Dad's reaction is priceless! Made me want to design cards!”
The Pint Of Stout design that really caught his funny bone features a pair of cloth-capped gents with pints, with one asking: “What do you do if a bird craps on your windscreen?”, and his pal replies: “Don’t ask her out again!”
message: “It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that we have now ceased trading. We want to take a moment to thank you for your support and loyalty over the years.”
However, Paperchase’s woes have led to opportunities for other retailers. While Tesco has acquired the rights to the Paperchase brand Postmark won the tender to take on the five outlets in Network Rail sites - in London’s Victoria Station, London Bridge, Waterloo, and Kings Cross plus Birmingham New Street - as well as the Paperchase unit in Battersea Power Station.
These additional Postmark stores will be jointly owned by Mark and Leona Janson-Smith and Cardzone , part of
UKG steps up for 102nd birthday
These new store additions will help take Postmark to 15 outlets, more than doubling its current seven-strong estate. Also, the Birmingham New Street store will expand the Postmark brand outside of its London heartland.
“It’s an extremely exciting time for Postmark,” commented md Mark, “we’re delighted to be able to grasp this huge opportunity to grow our brand and offer even more members of the public our curated mix of quality greeting cards and stationery.”
Emotional Rescue’s creative director Jennie Rutter replied that it was one of the publisher’s designs adding “love how much it made your dad laugh!”. Jennie added: “We loved the video! Nothing makes us feel prouder of the work we do than when you see someone laughing at one of your cards.
“The fact that this has gone viral just shows that there is something incredibly powerful about laughter. Thank you, Sue Newton, for posting it, we hope your Dad had a wonderful birthday!”
Sue added: “It made us smile but we never expected it to induce hysterics! Dad was laughing for ages - even after I stopped recording. No one was expecting Dad to have such a reaction!
Every birthday is special but when the celebration is marking 102 years young, that deserves a little extra something, and UK Greetings was delighted to have helped with a lovely local lady’s big day.
UKG’s HR manager Laura Roderick explained she’d seen a news post about a lady in a local care home, who would be celebrating her 102nd birthday without a family of her own, “so I decided some special UK Greetings’ happiness, laughter and love needed to happen”!
UKG hand delivered the special card to centenarian Blanche, who said it was “the most beautiful she has ever seen” and that she couldn’t believe she was turning 102 years old.
He's a sweetheart. He has memory problems which can get him a bit low at times so seeing him laugh like this was wonderful today. He is a real giggler!”
And the emotional power of a simple greeting card could even get Sue some work as her comment about wanting to design cards was picked up by Card Factory, as the retailer where the design was bought responded: “You know Sue, we’re always looking for freelance card designers! We’re glad the card brought so much joy to your dad, it’s what we live for.”
Above: The Emo card that had the 90-year-old birthday boy in hysterics.
Customers grabbed bargains before all 100 stores shut their doors for good
Mother’s Day delivers
Late sales surge, call for different captions increases
A late sales surge saw Mother’s Day deliver for the majority of greeting card retailers. In Liverpool and Manchester, Utility’s director Kate Cowie was very happy: “Mother's Day was record-breaking for us this year. We sold 15% more cards in the week leading up to the day than the same week last year!”
At Home Countiesbased House of Cards, co-owner, Miles Robinson reported “excellent Mother’s Day” sales, Heidi Early of Earlybird in Stoke Newington revealed her Mother’s Day sales were up 8%, Sally Matson of Red Card in Petworth confirmed her Mothering Sunday cards were “up on last year” while up in Cumbria, Victoria Robinson of Wishes in Cockermouth said that its 2023 Spring Seasons’ sales thus far were “exceeding expectation.”
proved to be the case again this year. Sales were fractionally up on last year for Mother’s Day with a lastminute surge on the Friday and Saturday.”
Different captions were also sought by The Beverley Card Company’s customers in the Yorkshire town, as owner Donna Stocks explained: “My Mother’s Day From The Dog cards were popular as were From Both Of Us this year. We also sold Mam, Nan and Nannie cards. Customers also asked for Mother’s Day For My Daughter cards.”
Near Swindon, Highworth Emporium’s co-owner Aga Marsden feared the big spring event would prove a damp squib after a very slow start, but it all came good: “I was worried that it wouldn’t happen at all at one stage, but it did. The week leading to Mother’s Day was very strong, much stronger than last year in fact, so we’re happy.
“Special titles are always the ones that sell first, like Mother’s Day from daughter or son, First Mother’s Day, etc. This year we almost ran out of Mummy.
Moonpig cites a record Mother’s Day
Moonpig recorded its largest yet week of sales ahead of Mother’s Day, according to its recent trading update which highlighted that group annual revenue is expected to hit £320million for the full year, with further growth expected in the coming 12 months.
Nickyl Raithatha, ceo of Moonpig commented that the figures in the update were “testament to the resilience of our business model, as demonstrated by a record UK Mother's Day”.
The company reported that its trading performance has been “resilient across the second half of the year to date” and confirmed its expectations for group annual revenue for the financial year ending 30 April 2023, remain unchanged at around £320m.
Above: Moonpig ceo Nickyl Raithatha was pleased with the record figures.
Hallmark hacks earn a Uni prize
Taking its brand to students has worked well for Hallmark and the publisher has now extended its links by participating in an undergraduate Humanities Hackathon at the University of Westminster - a day of thinking, concepting, and pitching.
Hayley Bastable, of HBB Cards in Newport Pagnell was so taken by the surge in demand that she completely sold out of cards “which I’m not sure was a good thing or a bad thing! There was a last-minute flurry of sales and anything that could pass as a Mother’s Day card was sold. The brilliant Happy Mother’s Day From The Dog design by Paper Shed sold out very, very fast and caused many comments from happy customers saying that was the most important card.”
For Sheffield’s Charisma, owner Janet Fowler realised she’d not ordered enough Grandma and Nan captions as these sold through early, while Mummy was a slower burn along with Wife.
“We always do well with Mothering Sunday captioned cards,” Janet explained, “and this
The event was another late starter for Caroline Ranwell at Hugs ’N’ Kisses in Tettenhall, but it came together in the end. “The final Saturday was busier than Christmas Eve and that’s a huge act to follow,” said Caroline. “This year a lot more people seemed to want traditional and wordy cards.
“As usual we sold a huge amount of Grandma, Nan, Nanna and Wife cards, I’d have liked more designs in those captions.”
Top: Utility’s Mother’s Day window featured PoS based on a Stop the Clock Designs’ card.
Above left: HBB Cards’ Hayley Bastable is tripling her Dandelion order for next year.
Below: Special titles sell out first at The Highworth Emporium.
“The Hackathon was a fascinating day,” Eve Gray, Hallmark’s creative development director of the Future Squad told PG. “We have a long-standing Graduate Programme and have engaged with lots of students for many years but have never participated in a Hackathon with humanities students before - so a Hallmark first.
“The students had really interesting thoughts about their need for connection and we feel it’s paramount for us to hear those voices. The fact that Team Hallmark won the Hackathon with their pitch was a gorgeous surprise, but we thought very well deserved!”
The event at London’s historic Regent Street Cinema saw Hallmark join LVHM luxury goods, WaterAid, Black Lives In Music, and the Financial Times’ FT Live, each working with teams of students who had picked that brand’s brief, generating ideas, concepts and coaching them.
Above: The Hallmark team on stage with Eve Gray second left.
Best Feet Forward For MND
Cardgains challenges greetings industry to raise £25,000
Look Out London - all the greetings folk are invited to put their best feet forward and head to the capital for the annual Cardgains Charity Challenge, which this year has set its sights on raising money to help beat motor neurone disease.
It’s a cause close to the industry’s hearts following the death of the legend that was David Hicks, founder of Really Good and Soul, and it’s brought the Sheffield-based buying group’s annual event to his home town of London for the second time.
All monies raised will go to the MND Association which focuses on improving access to care, research and campaigning for those people living with or affected by motor neurone disease in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
That’s snow business
In Malvern, Austin & Co’s Sean Austin was inspired by last month’s snowy weather to revive his Snow Dogs photo competition to get ready for his in-house Christmas charity cards later in the year.
Thursday 29 June, is the big day when Cardgains’ md Penny Shaw hopes around 75 people from across the greetings industry will be pounding the streets of London in a 25-mile loop starting and finishing in Paddington, and taking in many of the capital’s waterways, parks and gardens.
“Anyone can take part,” Penny told PG. “You don’t have to be a Cardgains member or supplier, we’d love to get 75 walkers from across the greetings and gift industry signed up to raise £25,000 - £1,000 for every mile - for this worthy charity close to the hearts of many following the passing of David Hicks.”
Miles Robinson, Cardgains’ chairman and co-owner of House of Cards retail group - and a very close friend of David’s - has been busy checking out the route and explained: “We’re starting in Paddington and walking along the canal through Little Venice, Regents Park, Camden, Islington, Hackney, Victoria Park and coming out by the Olympic stadium at Stratford, which is the halfway point. The second half will follow the canal through Bow, Limehouse, Wapping, City of London, South Bank, Westminster, through Hyde Park, and finishing back at Paddington.”
Anyone interested in getting involved, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top: The Cardgains charity challenge is in memory of David Hicks (right) with Miles Robinson.
Above left: The Olympic Park is the halfway point.
Below: Camden Lock features in the Cardgains’ 2023 event route.
Below right: Primrose Hill is also on the route.
Abacus’ Christmas cards raise £71,000 for charity
Greeting card publisher Abacus Cards has helped lift the spirits and coffers of four good causes, having recently donated over £71,000 to The British Heart Foundation, Marie Curie UK, Parkinson’s UK and Young Lives Vs Cancer as a result of sales of its charity Christmas card packs.
“Donations raised through the sale of our Abacus charity packs help to support The British Heart Foundation and Marie Curie UK, and funds raised through the sale of Clare Maddicott charity packs will provide support for Parkinson’s UK and Young Lives Vs Cancer,” studio manager Liz Ellis told PG.
This good news comes hot on the heels of The Art File revealing that its has donated £55,000 to the RSPCA, Young Lives Vs Cancer, The MND Association, and Dementia UK as a result of its 2022 Christmas card sales. Meanwhile GBCC has announced it has raised over £100,000 for charities through its 2022 Christmas cards (see page 19).
As Abacus’ managing director Nick Carey summed up: “There cannot be many other industries like ours which raise such significant sums for charities through the sale of its core product. It is not just the much-needed money that is raised for the charities, but the awareness of the good causes, with their details featured on the cards.”
Left: Charity card packs allow Abacus and Clare Maddicott to help good causes.
Greeted by the unseasonal snow a few weeks ago, Sean and Lucy the Labrador took to social media: “We did our Snowdog charity Christmas cards in 2018 and, looking out the window, it seems the ideal opportunity to run the competition again for 2023.
“It's not certain how long the snow will hang around this time so best be quick and take the opportunity over the next day or so to get pictures of your pooch in the snow!”
Back in 2018, Sean and his then much-loved companions Nessa and Max raised funds for Team Edward Labrador Rescue and Worcestershire Animal Shelter Rescue, with 25% of the sale price of the Christmas card packs going to the charities, and they also had a vote to pick the public’s favourite out of the six designs, with Piper from Malvern and his woolly hat taking the honours.
Above: Sean’s Snowdogs cards.
Alice Crowley, owner of Swagger Unique in Chipping Sodbury has stepped up to help following the devastation caused by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria and enlisted help from suppliers and agents to make up goodie bags which are raising money for the Disaster Earthquakes Committee
Alice explained the initiative is an expansion of her six-monthly stock room clearout to create charity bags.
“This time, the contents are worth so much more than the £10 we’re charging,” Alice said with each bag containing at least four greeting cards. “I asked my lovely sales agents and suppliers to donate and I’ve been overwhelmed with the donations of support!”
Among the suppliers who have made donations are Rosie Made A Thing, Stop The Clock, Louise Mulgrew, Rachel Ellen Designs, Choco Loco, Powder Designs, Gecko Jewellery, Pandora Clay Box, Hot Tomato and Space Masks.
Above: Some of the cards in the goodie bags.
The TATE CONTEMPORARY range publishes some of the museum’s boldest, most colourful artworks and renowned artists in a modern gallery-style art card format. Printed on thick art board with a neon green envelope, it’s an eye-catching range for those who love art, design and style. Ask your agent or contact us to order. museumsgalleries.co.uk
Dressed For Success
PG Live readies for greeting card fashion parade
With it now less than two months until PG Live 2023 - which takes place June 6-7 at London’s Business Design Centre - the over 200 exhibiting publishers are well underway with their plans to reveal the thousands of brand new card designs that chime with the fashions of today, be it in their colour palette, fonts, captions, humour tone, finishes or sustainability credentials.
Turning cards into wearable art is theatrical costumier Sharon Harvey’s very important job for PG Live and she is drawing on the greeting card delights from PG Live’s exhibitors to ensure the meeters and greeters’ are suitably dressed for success at the show.
As buyers are being actively encouraged to register to attend this year’s show, and receive the Show Preview in good time, the PG Live organising team wants to make sure visitors receive the full PG Live experience as soon as they walk through the door.
“We have once again commissioned the amazingly talented Sharon to create these wearable concoctions, but she needs card samples and sheets/rolls of giftwrap to work from - which is where our talented exhibitors come in!” Jakki Brown, co-owner of PG Live explained.
The four themes for this year’s show outfits will be:
l Summer Brights - shocking and bold with neons or off the scale brights.
l Green Seen and Blue-n Away - the
sky’s the limit with the different shades of blue out there while the grass could not be greener on the other side.
l Animal Magic - a menagerie of animals, crustaceans, insects and birds that inhabit greeting card designs. l Diversity and Inclusiongreeting cards are for everyone, irrespective of colour, creed or sexual preference. This outfit will celebrate the progress publishers have made on the D&I front.
Retail buyers, international distributors and licensees can register to attend the show on www.progressivegreetingslive.com
The exhibitor list, which is on the website, is a veritable who’s who of the greetings industry, from leading names to brand new start-ups.
“And if you are a company whose name is not on that list and are suffering from FOMO, there are a few stands still available,” said Tracey Arnaud, show manager. Tracey can be contacted on email@example.com
Middle: The PG Live Preview will be available soon, giving a taster of the show’s delights.
Joy as felted friends join Paper Bird
Some special little felted friends are gearing up to make a reappearance at PG Live heralding the return of Pippi & Me’s cute designs, now under the Paper Bird Publishing banner.
The delightful animal characters created by Jeannett Stevenson jumped at the chance to come out of retirement when Paper Bird’s founder and co-owner Una Joy got in touch.
“Jeannett had very successfully moved on from greeting cards to nurture her first love, ceramics,” Joy told PG, “and the adorable Pippi & Me characters had been retired. We were so delighted when she agreed to let them back out again with us as their chaperones.”
Paper Bird’s stand at PG Live will feature a whole panel of Pippi cards! They’ve had a Paper Bird makeover so the backs of the cards incorporate the publisher’s signature bookmark, and the selection includes birthdays, occasions and Christmas designs, all eco-packed with kraft envelopes using translucent paper bands.
German card publisher Goldbek takes over Swiss rival ABC
Big news in the DACH greeting card market, covering Germany, Austria and Switzerland is that German card publisher Goldbek is taking over Swiss competitor A.Boss & Co (ABC), though the respective brand identities will be maintained.
In the joint press release, the companies said the greeting card segment is “proving to be relatively crisis-proof” with sales figures steadily increasing.
The move allows Goldbek, one of the leading publishers of greeting cards sold on spinners in Germany, to expand its products to the high-volume “wall space market”.
With both companies highlighting that this is not a classic takeover, Goldbek will maintain operations in Hamburg, while ABC will remain at its Schönbühl location.
“We see this merger as a bundling of the competencies of two excellent teams,” Constantin Von Braun, co-partner of
Goldbek, explained. “With ABC we have found a partner on an equal footing, who enables us to play the entire keyboard of a complex industry without losing sight of the target product - the lovingly designed, original greeting card.
“This merger will make us the uniquelypositioned champion of greeting cards and we look forward to helping shape the market in the long term.”
ABC’s owner Roxanne Eicher added: “Tradition coupled with innovation has always been important to us at ABC. That's why it was so important to us with this entrepreneurial decision that an ownermanaged and sustainable company continues our legacy.”
Since its inception in 2011, Goldbek has sold over 200million cards with an emphasis on sustainable and 3D designs, while ABC began in 1905 and publishes 15-20million art and greeting cards annually.
Parcels Before Mums?
GCA uses its mettle on Royal Mail worries
‘Are Royal Mail prioritising parcels over Mum?’ was the striking headline of a press release issued by the GCA to the media just before Mother’s Day. It was sent in response to a government report concluding that Royal Mail has deliberately prioritised parcels over letters, and “has systemically failed to deliver against parts of its Universal Service Obligation (USO)”.
As millions of people around the UK were hoping their Mother’s Day cards would arrive in time for the big event, the House Of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee report was greeted with sadness by the GCA, which is welcoming the steps regulator Ofcom will take to establish if any such decisions taken by Royal Mail meant it has breached its obligations to the British public.
The MPs’ report came just before the steep increase in stamp prices came into effect, with First Class going up 15p to £1.10 and Second Class by 7p to 75p from 3 April, while Royal Mail is still angling to cut its Universal Service letterdelivery obligation from six days a week to just Monday to Friday so no cards would arrive for weekend celebrations such as Mother’s and Father’s Day.
The committee stated: “We believe that Royal Mail has deprioritised delivery of letters as a matter of company policy and that it has systemically failed to
into action crafting a press release which delivered the strong message of the importance to society of being able to send and receive cards.
David Falkner, director of Cardology, GCA council member and Royal Mail subcommittee chair said: “With Mother’s Day around the corner, the report into recent postal service performance is a timely reminder of how much we Brits rely on sending cards to retain the emotional connections so important to our lives… Two key reasons we love receiving cards are that they help us feel a connection with someone special and they help us know someone was thinking of us.”
As the GCA continues to apply the pressure with Government, Ofcom, the
Card retailers among Most Loved Retail Brands
Further proof that Brits love cards has come from the latest Most Loved Retail Brands league table with greeting card retailers taking 10 out of the top 100 slots.
Card Factory has climbed nine places from last year’s list to 19th in the 2023 Savanta BrandVue poll which recognises the most emotively-connected retail brands in 2023. The league is based on insights from over 90,000 consumers covering 200+ retailers to arrive at the top 100 brands according to how loved they are by the public.
John Lewis & Partners - which won the specific Department Stores category - moved up one place to 13th overall, with Waterstones rising to 17th from 19th, followed by Card Factory at 19th (28th in 2022), The Works at 41st (43rd), WHSmith 68th (70th), with specialist retailer Cards Direct entering the list for the first time in 100th position. With the fieldwork dates running for the full year to 28 February 2023, the only card retailers which dropped slightly from their 2022 ratings were online greetings specialists Moonpig, down to 53rd from 40th, and Thortful, which slipped one place to 73rd.
media and MPs over Royal Mail’s escalating difficulties, its concerns have been echoed by the British Independent Retailers’ Association (Bira). Both organisations joined forces with others at a high-level Independent Retailers’ Confederation (IRC) meeting recently, following revelations that Royal Mail’s board has threatened to put the lossmaking postal service into a form of administration if a deal cannot be agreed to end the long-running industrial dispute.
Above: Card Factory features 19th in the Most Loved Retail Brands.
Cardies onboard for NSW
The social media campaign has already kicked off for National Stationery Week 2023’s action (which falls 15-21 May) and greeting card retailers are getting involved, not surprising given the whole campaign is being spearheaded by Retas award winner Sarah Laker, owner of Stationery Supplies in Marple and Wilmslow.
deliver against parts of its USO. The evidence suggests that this practice has taken place not just during periods of industrial action but since the start of the pandemic, if not earlier.
“We therefore call on Ofcom to undertake an enforcement investigation into Royal Mail’s delivery of the USO and to report to this committee by the end of 2023.”
Responding at lightning speed, the GCA Royal Mail sub-committee launched
Bira has issued a press release stating it fears thousands of independent businesses and hundreds of High Streets will suffer if the Royal Mail does go into administration and has asked the company and Communication Workers Union to consider the bigger picture.
Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s ceo said: "Should Royal Mail collapse, the knock-on effect will be devastating for thousands of retailers who are struggling already and rely on the service to either bring in footfall through their doors, or to send out goods.”
(See Cardsharp pages 22-23)
“This year’s NSW campaign has got off to a great start already,” Sarah told PG, “with regular features on our social media feeds, such as
#StationeryShopSaturday where we feature independent retailers who sell stationery.
“We’ve already featured Earlybird in Stoke Newington as I feel very strongly that greeting cards are a massive part of the stationery industry and what better way to put pen to paper than in a greeting card!” said Sarah.
NSW sponsors include Maped Helix, Pentel, Snopake, Edding, Zebra and Staedtler
Above: Stationery is life for NSW coordinator Sarah Laker.
Ling moves distribution hub
Publisher joins GBCC in Gloucester - design and sales stay separate
Ling Design is moving its operations to Gloucester to take advantage of sister company GBCC’s purpose-built distribution facility, while the design and sales teams will stay entirely separate.
David Byk, ceo of parent company Swan Mill, wrote to all retail customers to explain the move from Ling’s longterm home in Paddock Wood, Kent, which has been timed to coincide with the lease on the premises coming up for renewal.
He wrote: “We have taken the difficult decision to close our Ling Design distribution facility and move it to The Great British Card Company’s (GBCC) new 75,000 sq ft purpose-built premises in Gloucester.”
Both publishers operate the same Card Manager computer system, and the move means the distribution follows Ling’s charity arm to Gloucester.
However, Ling’s creative, central sales, and buying teams will very much remain based in Bath. All phone numbers remain unchanged, and Penny Kennedy products will continue to be dispatched from the company’s Welsh warehouse.
David added: “Both businesses are operating incredibly well with the issues that GBCC had under the previous ownership now long behind them. The Ling Design creative, central sales and buying teams are all based in Bath and
this will certainly continue as a standalone facility supported by the excellent Ling regional sales force.”
David stressed how its approach to the Spring Fair, at which there were two separate stands, very much reflects the ongoing commitment to keep these as distinct sibling companies.
“Those of you who came to the NEC Spring Fair 2023 or trade with both will have seen their individual presences and how their offers are differentiated, complementary and extensive. We will continue to operate in this way and play to the strengths of both businesses.”
Consultations with the Paddock Wood workforce have been completed and the company is looking to grow the warehouse team in Gloucester, where the GBCC operations workforce has grown substantially to meet increased demand.
The company is to recruit a Ling Design Customer Service team to work alongside its GBCC counterparts, and a new customer services manager has already started in Gloucester to help drive this process.
The final stock movement is planned for the end of April and, other than shutting for a week while this happens, there should be no disruption in service.
Huge charitable effort
GBCC has announced that it raised £106,160 for charities as a result of the sales of its 2022 charity packs.
“We’re delighted with the total raised from the sales of Christmas charity packs in 2022,” commented David Byk, ceo. “To be able to raise funds and awareness for our chosen charity partners is both a hugely enjoyable and important part of our business. It’s great to know that we and our retailers can support such wonderful charitable organisations. Plus, we also know how important sending charity cards is at Christmas; not only does it raise valuable funds for charities but also is incredibly beneficial for the recipient too.”
Greetings names feature in B&LLAs finalists
There’s plenty to celebrate in the finalists’ list for the Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards 2023, with many having greeting card industry links.
Danilo, Museums & Galleries, Carousel Calendars, Eleanor Bowmer, Toasted Crumpet, Moonpig, Me To You, Blueprint Collections, Meg Hawkins, Sara Miller London and Alice Scott have all made the grade, alongside many heritage brands that have licences with various publishers.
The B&LLAs’s product categories were judged by a panel of retail buyers from across the spectrum including Argos, Asda,
Boots, Dunelm, FatFace, Home Bargains, John Lewis & Partners, JoJo Maman Bébé, Matalan, Moonpig, Morrisons, Mothercare, New Look, Next, Sainsbury’s, Selfridges, Specsavers, Tesco, TruffleShuffle, Vanilla Underground, Waitrose, and WHSmith.
The winners will be unveiled at the B&LLAS awards event taking place at the Royal Lancaster Hotel on Thursday 27 April.
Art helps heal
Improving the hospital experience is the idea behind a new project in Brighton Hospital where local publisher and artist Ilona Drew’s work now features prominently.
“It was an amazing privilege to be chosen as one of the artists to work on such an important project that will be there for years to come,” said Ilona, who publishes her work as greeting cards and prints under her I Drew This brand. “I have learned a lot through the process and am super proud of how my pieces look.”
Ilona’s two giant pieces showing Brighton & Hove Albion’s Amex stadium and Shoreham Airport are in the Louise Martindale building which is about to open as part of the redevelopment of the trauma, tertiary and training areas of Brighton Hospital.
Ilona’s artwork, as well as 11 other local artists, features in waiting rooms, treatment rooms, gardens and corridors so visitors can use them to find their way around the hospital.
Above: Ilona Drew with her stadium artwork in the hospital.
Since the turn of the year, life feels like it has been on fast forward. I do feel that I have been trying to be all things to all people and quite simply it is not possible. Like many others reading this, I constantly feel I have zero time and it is only because those around me are so supportive that I have managed to keep all the plates spinning, including embarking on a total revamp of our card displays.
Right now I feel I am trying to be all things to all people, a phrase that comes from 1st Corinthians 9:22 and relates to the apostle Paul.
Paul was an interesting chap! He wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament and in his spare time ran a tent making business which was successful and provided him with an independent wealth.
Paul was Jewish and yet his largest customer was believed to be the Roman army which is of course an interesting aside of putting business before any barriers. Paul also was instrumental in spreading the word of God and did so with no accusations of ‘you are being paid to say that’.
In small business it is difficult to not get hung up on being all things to all people. You will be bookkeeper, buyer, joiner, marketing genius, social media photographer and wear every hat, but there is a strong argument that quite simply by trying to do this you are actually doing both yourself and your business a disservice.
In terms of our retail stores all of us would claim to know our customers. When you are one or two stores indeed you may even buy product with someone in mind. I know that we do!
We curate our cards and gifts believing that we do so by taking our area, customers, personal taste and many other factors into account.
Over the years I have said to many publishers: “I love your product but sadly it
just won’t sell for me”. On more than one occasion I have bought product because I love it, but it just has not worked for our shops. That dilemma of commercial realism v being a little off the wall is a frustration.
This leads me to the greeting card selection in my stores and why we stock the brands and types of cards that we do. We are currently embarking on a complete refresh of all three card controls in our shops, with new companies being introduced, others being moved out and a renewed focus on the actual cards, their price and design styles.
This overhaul started around a month ago and it has certainly been an interesting
process to go through to say the least.
Firstly, we realise that we have far too much stock as we buy from those within our planned stock controls as well as buying some cards wild to give us additional choice in key titles, such as sympathy. We also buy wild because we love this industry and feel deeply rooted in supporting as many publishers as we can.
Secondly, in both the Pozzi and Bijou stores we really try to apply the principle of appealing to all. Having our planned stock control as well as wild buying probably means we give our customer too much choice, but this is something we have always done, and we believe the stores would be weaker without this dual approach. We have had visits from major publishers who have questioned if we are confusing customers by having the ‘traditional’ baby cards in one place and then ‘handmade/small publisher’ baby cards on display in another section.
It was an understandable challenge. Those who shop with us regularly know our layout, but what about those who don’t? If they just find the handmade/small publisher section do they think we as a retailer are too expensive? If they just look at the ‘normal’ cards, do they think we are just like any other card store and have no special card treasures?
Over the last month I have been asking myself a number of questions of this ilk, including…
l Which card companies sit well together?
l Which cards give us the best margin return?
l Which publishers give us the best service?
l Which publishers are continually refreshing designs?
l Which publishers make it easy for us to pay them?
l Which card ranges are stocked in the multinationals?
l Which ranges do we really like and send ourselves?
l Which cards are proven sellers?
We then went on to look at the card space available and split our controls, taking all of the aforementioned into consideration.
We have the unique situation of having two large greeting card controls in shops, both owned by us, that literally face one another across a road. These have historically both been anchored by the same publisher and through careful management we were able to avoid a lot of duplication. However, as publishers have thinned down
have curated the whole control, and taken them out of areas where they are weaker.
It has also been very interesting looking at some companies, such as Woodmansterne, with fresh eyes. Woodmansterne would class itself as a ‘mainstream publisher’ yet a huge amount of its product given the cards’ size and beautiful finishes actually sits better in our handmade/small publisher section where the full card is seen. A great example of this is its new Stephanie Dyment range which is beautiful and has had a good sell through.
Spending this time discussing with the companies that are helping us plan the controls has been invaluable and I am glad to say many more publishers now offer this planning service.
Waitrose - a third of people love us, a third of people don’t mind either way, and a third of people wouldn’t be caught dead in us.”
The basic idea behind the Attractiveness Principle is that, in the long run, you can’t be all things to all people. If you offer ‘the best’ on every competitive dimension, the market will swamp you with so much demand that you will eventually become less attractive in certain aspects. In other words, you could be so busy that people would stop coming because you sell out, can’t cope, standards drop, choice is reduced or simply you aren’t cool anymore.
This is common when you think of food or the latest craze and it also results in lots of businesses scaling up way too quickly only to find that those initial crazy few months don’t sustain.
Now on the card front we can only wish for a store that can’t cope with consumer demand, but we still simply have to make choices.
Greeting cards are a fantastic way to refresh and renew any store for what is a relatively small investment.
Being bold and trying something new while still sticking to your principles and to what you think will work is not always
their product selection we have found that both stores were displaying a lot of the same product which has been a catalyst for change.
I accept that sometimes I have focused too much on small publishers probably as I was far more aware of looking at their new product. Their respective launches are usually easier to view and buy as I don’t think the larger publishers do themselves justice in blending their product into their main line.
We have also drilled down into the role of specialist publishers in specific parts of the control. For example, Emotional Rescue will now feature heavily not just in humour but in male relations, while Danilo is now taking pockets in the open as well as our junior section.
While historically some companies that would automatically be allocated a percentage of pockets across the board we
For a long time, planning was the domain of UKG or Hallmark but now there are more publisher choices out there on this front.
What is really interesting is that all of the aforementioned can be summed up in the phrase ‘Attractiveness Principle’. So, what does this mean? Basically, everyone is attracted by different things and there are lots of cool reasons why. For example, Janan Ganesh, a reviewer for the FT argues that really good restaurants are hidden away and don’t have great views.
His point is that: “Chefs who are serious about food know that a beachside setting will become a magnet for marriageproposers and people who sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in public”.
In other words, the food doesn’t really matter as there will always be clients because of the view.
The founder of Iceland also captured this perfectly when he said recently: “We’re not
easy, but what is amazing is that we have so many card publishers and people entering the card world all the time that there are always new things to look at and potentially sell!
Maybe now is a good time to remind you that in a matter of a few weeks PG Live (June 6-7) will be here again offering publishers big and small the chance to be very attractive to your business!
So, make sure you go along looking for those next potential Attractiveness Principle partners.
To contact David email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The news of a surprisingly good Mother’s Day for many retailers outside of those in the transport strike plagued major cities, was dampened by reports of yet more imminent strike disruption at Royal Mail and even a threat of it going into administration.
What links an ancient Egyptian statue of a leonine mythical creature, a bubble blowing underperforming East London soccer team and Cardsharp’s lovely postie, George?
The answer to the aforementioned question is Daniel Kretinsky, also known as the ‘Czech Sphinx’, one of the richest and most inscrutable business men in Europe (hence his sobriquet), who is heavily involved in two things very close to Cardsharp’s heart, Royal Mail and West Ham United football club.
Both are venerable institutions. Royal Mail’s origin goes back 500 years to the days of Henry VIII, while West Ham’s goes back to 1895, when the Thames Valley Ironworks football team was formed (hence its nickname, The Hammers).
Well, Kretinsky has acquired a considerable financial stake in both over the last couple of years.
Both are in a state of considerable turmoil at present, losing money, performing badly and restrained by certain financial and legal obligations. While Cardsharp won’t bore you with the potential ramifications for West Ham (although he could do for hours given the chance!), it is fair to say, if you are one of the richest and shrewdest men in
Europe, you don’t look to acquire considerable stakes in these organisations because you love them. Although for public relations purposes you may claim to!
You do it no doubt as Kretinsky is that you see considerable opportunity for financial gain and in both cases he is obviously backing an outside bet. But the ramifications could be dramatic for our greeting card industry given its long-standing symbiotic relationship with Royal Mail. From the 1980s up until its privatisation in 2013, Royal Mail was very much an ally of our greeting card industry. It was heavily involved with the Greeting Card Association, even running consumer advertising campaigns promoting card sending. This was not just for altruistic reasons. It realised that although greeting cards accounted for a small percentage of its overall letter volume, greeting cards’ presence in the postal mix made the doormat drop much more palatable, providing a welcome distraction from the piles of junk mail and bills.
And indeed, Royal Mail was willing to not only listen to our industry but often responded accordingly. It was only after intense discussions with the greeting card industry, through the GCA, in the run up to the move to ‘size based pricing’ that Royal Mail was dissuaded to impose a higher
postal rate on square greeting cards and small cards, a practice common with many other postal services around the globe. Thereby allowing the innovation in the UK greeting card industry to continue to flourish, working with Royal Mail to minimise consumer confusion by coming up with the now well recognised ‘large letter’ symbol used on the backs of cards outside the standard letter postal charge.
Two things changed this great two-way relationship. Privatisation meant that Royal Mail had a share price to maintain and to maximise profits, and the rise of the internet saw letter volumes plummet with bank statements and the like sent electronically. Back in 2017 the annual letter volume was 12 million items - last year this had dropped to under eight million. Meanwhile, in the same period, parcel volumes grew from 1.1 million to 1.5 million items.
In the last few years, Royal Mail has had the look of an increasingly beleaguered organisation, at odds with its customers, its employees and its government.
For the last couple of the years, Royal Mail’s holding company, International Distribution Services (IDS) has been mooting a move to weekday only delivery, citing financial constraints as the main reason. It has also been accused and denied by the management, that it has been prioritising more profitable parcel deliveries. Indeed, in what was an apparently embarrassing appearance in front of a government select committee, Royal Mail’s ceo Simon Thompson was accused of a ‘systematic’ breach of its obligations by prioritising parcels over letters.
Add to this, the appalling state of industrial relations at Royal Mail has meant
we have had to contend with postal strikes on and off for the last eight months. These strikes, as we all know, had a devastating effect on Christmas card volumes in 2022 with some estimates of a 30% decline, and with the recent PG Retail Barometer including the saddening fact that 72% of indies believed their customers had sent fewer Christmas cards.
Cardsharp is well aware of the industry fear of the devastating effects longer term; that the dilution of the Christmas card sending habit will have on this coming year’s sales and beyond.
And if it could not get any worse, as Cardsharp penned this, the long running talks between Royal Mail and the Communications Workers Union were on the brink of collapse, with the company’s board threatening to put the loss making postal service into administration if a deal cannot be agreed. Is this a bluff to head off union bosses’ warnings that they could call more strikes if an agreement is not reached?
Of course on top of this, the greeting card industry has to live with the ramifications with the above inflation price rise of firstclass price rise of 15 pence to £1.05 and second class by 7 pence to 75 pence.
Amid this carnage Kretinsky has increased his shareholding in Royal Mail from 23% to 24%, getting nearer and nearer to the 30% threshold when he would be legally obliged to make a takeover offer.
Cardsharp really hopes this very confusing and fluid saga has a happy ending. From the greeting card industry perspective, perhaps the best solution would be for the letters division of Royal Mail to be re-nationalised, with the government reaffirming its commitment to a universal six-day service. But that would seem to be an unlikely scenario under a Conservative government, although Rishi Sunak looks like being a more pragmatic and flexible Prime Minister. Alternatively, this could be a vote winning policy for Keir Starmer’s Labour party. Supporting the Royal Mail letter service could rightly be seen as helping local communities and older voters. It would certainly win many greeting card industry votes, thought Cardsharp.
Ironically Cardsharp wonders, if secretly this is what Kretinsky is banking on. Not having the universal legal requirement of letter delivering, would mean that he would have acquired a huge parcel delivery company with its infrastructure at a knock down price. In fact, the IDS board stated in November that it was looking at the possibility of separation of the two businesses. The Sphinx must be rubbing his hands with glee at that prospect.
He is currently hoping for another bargain with West Ham, where the club’s dispute with the taxpayer-funded owner of the former Olympic stadium, could see the club acquire the huge and potentially very lucrative venue at another knock down price.
The Czech Sphinx would be forever ‘Blowing Bubbles’ concludes Cardsharp paying homage to the Hammers’ anthem, if both these investments come off, especially if it means he washes his hands of his obligation to universal postal deliveries. Meanwhile though our greeting card industry will feel “as sick as a parrot”.
Quarter? A Juicy
With the first quarter of 2023 now ticked off the calendar, PG checked in with some of those in greeting card community to find out how the first chunk of the year has panned out and what their expectations are for the coming three months, with the Coronation and bonus Bank Holiday expecting to lift sprits and sales.
John Procter co-founder of Scribbler
First quarter: “Trade definitely improved on all fronts as shoppers continue to return to the high streets, especially in our out of London branches. Our gift ranges have performed well and our card sales are nearly back to pre-Covid levels.
The low points were simply strikes and to a certain extent weather-related.”
Next quarter hunch: “We are feeling cautiously optimistic in that Spring Seasons, thus far would, had it not been for the rail strikes, have performed well.”
Allen Taylor regional sales director of IC&G
First quarter: “On the back of a challenging trading period for our industry as 2022 came to an end with poor footfall for many independents, all of us pinned our hopes and relying on a strong Christmas trading period. While overall the Christmas season ended strongly in the normal last minute.com 10-day rush, many factors including the Royal Mail strikes, the public’s lack of monies to spend due to ever increasing costs, and rail strikes, left many of our trading partners not being able to catch up the poor trading of previous weeks.
As a business that supports the independent, and that doesn’t trade in the supermarket sector, this had an obvious
Miles Robinson co-owner of House of Cards, a group of seven card and gift shops in the Home Counties
First quarter: “It’s been a quite mixed quarter coming after a less than sparkling Christmas and dealing with the residue stock etc to a fair Valentine’s Day, excellent Mother’s Day and so far, Easter is looking good too. Overall, extremely positive given the challenges we are all dealing with.”
Next quarter hunch: “I think Easter and the Coronation should be very good for trade. The Coronation, with its extra Bank Holiday is an unknown but a great opportunity for extra sales of ‘Royal/party’ product. This will be countered by the rather large National Minimum Wage increase kicking in and business rates hike hitting those larger retailers that don’t get the generous retail discounts smaller businesses will enjoy this year.”
knock-on effect to our own business, and as we approached the start of 2023, an expectation of our trading partners having lower than normal cashflow due to a low performing Christmas, where every penny spent in January to top up everyday displays, must count.
That said from January to date we have been pleasantly surprised that our core customers have brushed themselves down and pushed through, by continuing to spend with us and freshen up their displays, this has been helped with a reported strong Valentine’s and Mother’s Day seasons.”
Next quarter hunch: “The next three months we believe will continue to be challenging, as costs for all households continue to rise, however the good old British public always finds a way to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries etc, by sending a physical card, we also approach the lucrative wedding season (The 5th Spring season) that is still in catch up from lockdown, our forecast for the next three months remains positive for growth as our wedding range is 100% new for 2023.”
Sally Matson owner of Red Card, Petworth
First quarter: “To be honest, January wasn’t great for us. I feel like there is a lot of hesitancy in the market because of the economy, and people really don’t have as much disposable income. Having said that, our general card sales have matched previous years, it is the gift market which has been down for us. Sometimes if this happens you can tweak the stock and the sales lift, but I know the stock that we currently have is really great, so I am hoping that Summer and people holidaying will give the gift market a boost.
Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday card sales were also both up on last year, which we were really pleased about.
So, the high point has definitely been card sales, especially Spring Seasons, and the low points have been the weather and the gift sales. The price hike for stamps is a disaster. Breaking that £1 threshold for First Class stamps will make a huge difference. As First Class postage doesn’t guarantee next day delivery anymore, we will be recommending our customers buy Second Class stamps - it’s the more sensible option. I don’t actually understand why Royal Mail don’t do away with the idea of Next Day Delivery and just have one stamp price that aims to deliver within three days!”
Next quarter hunch: “Given that we have Easter (which has been going very strongly for the past month already, with very good gift and card sales) the Coronation (which has also brought strong sales of souvenirs and bunting alongside Ilona Drew’s Landmarks card range) and Father’s Day (which goes from strength to strength with great humorous cards) to come, I am feeling very positive about the Spring quarter. The longer days have already shown shoppers are staying out until 5.30pm, rather than calling it a day when it gets darker, and with the daffodils now in full bloom, everything is feeling brighter.”
Above right: Red Card is going for it with its Coronation display. Left: Sally Matson loves a trade show.
Victoria Robinson director of Wishes, Cockermouth
First quarter: “A sigh of relief! In planning for what would be on our racks in January I bought more cautiously for fears the new year would bring a dip in sales as the cost-of-living bit. But since then we have been over the moon to see our customers returning and they’ve given us confidence. We’ve had a strong start to the year with Spring Seasons’ sales exceeding expectation, a fantastic and much needed trip to the Spring Fair and lots of new product and suppliers on board with us for 2023. That trip to the show has to be our high; it was our first visit since 2020 and it gave us a much-needed lift, lots of inspiration and it was great to see and catch up with fellow shop owners and suppliers again. The low is undoubtedly the price rise in stamps. While we must remain positive and push special sends, the amount of cards posted is bound to be impacted. It has been more challenging to buy for Christmas ’23 not knowing how big the impact will be.”
Next quarter hunch: “It’s time to party! We have had enough doom and gloom, and Easter, the Coronation and Father’s Day give the perfect excuse to celebrate and get together. Easter is a growing season for us, so we’ve taken the opportunity to offer a wider product range with an emphasis on making memories through crafts and making things together (crafting items and activity books), Easter parties and egg hunts (decorations and tableware) as well as the traditional cards - both captioned and packs, which we have always offered but demand actually seems to be growing! We’ve been asked countless times for more captioned Easter cards. Ready for after Easter, we already have a full 2ft floor to ceiling display of bunting, tableware and decorations for the Coronation - and the sales have already started! We can only hope the weather will be on our side for parties and decorating. We also hope to see the start of a boost in sales for first wedding anniversaries, seeing it as a reason to celebrate…with a card to mark the occasion!”
Richard Pass independent sales agent, founder of STL Agency in the North of England
First quarter: “Generally all my retailers have commented that while it’s been tough, they are doing OK which is a strong message that as an industry we are in a good place. The low has been the constant negative news about the cost-of-living and the new price of stamps.
The highs have been the fantastic new designs and ranges that the publishers are bringing out. Redback Cards’ Moji range, the new designs from Dandelion Stationery and Alljoy Designs’ 3D card selections are three that immediately come to mind.”
Next quarter hunch: “I have a feeling that the industry will do very well across Easter, the Coronation and Father’s Day. Everyone loves to celebrate and the more reasons we can give for people to buy and send cards the better. Crucially these three events are spaced rather well, allowing the retailers to maximise their displays and really entice the consumer.”
Tim Gould co-owner of the Objectables greeting card publishing and retailing business
First quarter: “Publishing: Tough. Paperchase was our biggest customer. We lost a lot during the first administration, but chose to keep supplying them, it seemed like the right decision then it happened again and we got hit even worse. It’s been tough seeing some of the shops still open selling our cards and knowing we aren’t going to see any money. However, we had a good Spring Fair and we are in a good place going forward, luckily we have a lot of other great customers and brilliant suppliers so we are feeling pretty positive right now.
Shop: Amazing. We had our best Christmas in the shop and a pop-up on the Harbour Arm that did really well. We expected things to get tough due to the economic climate, but it has been great. Every month has been record-breaking with both Valentine’s and Mother’s Day being the best ever. The low point has been seeing other shops we love struggling and shutting.”
Next quarter hunch: “Publishing - Hopefully it is going to be OK. Positive hey. It feels OK though, got some great new customers and we have some new ideas and projects for the next few months.
Shop: Easter is a non-event in our shop, we sell the odd ‘happy chocolate day you fat f#¢ker’ card but it’s not a focus for us, same as the Coronation. It will mean more holiday makers and weekend visitors though so hopefully we will be busy. Father’s Day is usually good and the summer is coming so foot fall will gradually increase, no more dank Mondays, well not so many!”
Sue Morrish managing director of The Eco-friendly Card Company
First quarter: “Our first two trade shows of the year (Exeter Giving and Living and Spring Fair) were both incredibly buoyant. The post-Covid hangover seemed to have cleared and retailers were out there looking for new product which is great. It felt very different to all the doom-and-gloom that there was about the economy on the news - I guess the lesson there is take the news with a pinch of salt! I think a low has to be the news about stamp prices going up so much again, it’s frustrating, especially with the background of on-going strikes.”
Next quarter hunch: “A lot of our stockists are in touristy areas (coastal/national parks etc) so an extra bank holiday and extra tourism is always good for them. The second quarter of the year is always pretty busy for us - we don’t do Father’s Day/Easter cards etc so we benefit from the extra-space being freed up on the shelves after these events, as retailers look for something ‘different’ to put out in those spaces.”
Above: Sue Morrish is enjoying a great 2023 trade show season. Above right: This Becky Bettesworth design, on cards from The Eco-friendly Card Company chimes with the wild swimming/tourism trade.
Jo Wilson owner of Dandelion Stationery
First quarter: “The first quarter of 2023 for Dandelion has been pretty good, and we are seeing some similar feedback from our stockists. Most customers we have spoken with have had positive feedback on Valentine’s and Mother’s Day sales.
* High Points - For Dandelion, new designs in our 2023 brochure had some great feedback. From an industry perspective I think Spring Fair was a success - most publishers I
spoke with had a pretty decent show, us included. It’s always great to get to see customers face to face.
* Low points - Royal Mail’s price increases are another blow for the industry that we could have really done without. We are also still seeing price increases on raw materials which is challenging for small publishers. Unfortunately, over the last few months we have also seen a number of businesses we have worked with close due to struggles on the high street with footfall.”
Next quarter hunch: “I’m feeling positive for the months ahead. Hopefully inflation will go down a little to ease the pressure on prices - fingers crossed.
I think the Coronation will be a great feel-good event for the country, and we are really looking forward to PG Live, which has always been our favourite show of the year.”
Heidi Early co-owner of Earlybird Designs, a card and gift shop in London’s Stoke Newington as well as the card publishing company
First quarter: “Our Valentine’s and Mother’s Day sales were up by 8% which was incredible, but trade in between occasions has been a really hard slog and we’re actually just slightly down on overall sales compared to last year.”
Next quarter hunch: “I think the trend of Q1 will continue. Easter is a much more popular occasion than it used to be and we’ve been selling cards and decs for the last month. I don’t think the Coronation will be big for us as our Stokey customer base is not a big monarchy fan, but hopefully the bank holidays will help an uptick in sales.”
Above: Heidi Early promoting how Earlybird Designs is proud to be a member of the End End Trades Guild on a social media post.
Left: Some of Easter cheer from Earlybird.
As we kick off the second quarter of 2023, what would put a spring in your step right now?
John Jones sales director of specialist envelope company, Enveco,
First quarter: “Steady, very steady but after the last couple of years we will take steady!! We had a really successful Spring Fair with the launch of new colours and recycled papers which has put us in a good position for the year ahead. Not receiving notifications of paper price increases for three months has been a massive relief while the announcement of postage price increases is a real concern.”
Next quarter hunch: “I’m really looking forward to the next three months…some nicer weather, PG Live and lots of Christmas production.”
Below: John Jones on the Enveco stand at the Spring Fair.
l “Contented unions.” - John Procter, Scribbler
l “For Royal Mail to sort themselves out and reduce the cost of postage…in fact scrub that…actually give us a postal service that works first!” - Miles Robinson, House of Cards
l “Any news that inflation, interest rates, energy prices are reversing and if it’s not too much to ask Watford making it to the Championship play offs would be great.” - John Jones, Enveco
l “A spring in our step would be to see our industry be supported by government, with support in easing business rates/energy support costs, settlement of industrial action by rail/NHS etc and some good weather to get our public back out onto our high streets, helped with local councils providing theatre and free parking in our towns and cities to drive footfall, not also forgetting the Royal Mail who need to support our industry with the price of First and Second class postage.” - Allen Taylor, IC&G
l “Apart from winning the lottery…sunshine, to help people feel more positive and hopefully bring them out to spend!” - Richard Pass, agent
l “If Royal Mail slashed postage costs.” - Heidi Early, Earlybird Designs
l “For Easter sales to follow suit of those for Valentine’s and Mother’s Day and for the Easter bunny to bring us some good spring! I’m definitely ready for some sunshine!” - Victoria Robinson, Wishes of Cockermouth
l “Although paper prices have settled, some of the price rises we saw last year were astronomical, with some of my papers going up by over 40% in just the last quarter of 2022.
I would like the paper mills and paper merchants to review those increases that were decided at quite a turbulent time, rather than setting them in stone. More options for 100% recycled papers would increase competition and help with this.” -Sue Morrish, The Eco-friendly Card Company
Continuing to attract millions of viewers, the recent series of Dragons’ Den has just drawn to a close, with the BBC now on the scout for the next clutch of entrepreneurs who are prepared to face the Dragons.
PG caught up with ‘Dragon’ Sara Davies MBE, not only an impressive entrepreneur herself, but someone whose business empire was founded on greeting cards.
Having been on air for almost 20 years, Dragons’ Den has proved a winning concept - plucky entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to a fearsome den of super successful business people who may or may not invest in their respective venture. Since 2019, among them is Sara Davies MBE, whose warm ebullient nature is matched by her innate entrepreneurial nous, which can be traced back to her first big break, which is inextricably linked to greeting cards.
“I’ve always been ambitious, driven and have always tried to work really hard. Even at school, I was never the smartest in the class, but I would always work really hard to get good grades. When I decided to go to university to study business management, I knew that I wanted to own a business one day, but I assumed that I would end up running the family painting and decorating shop in Coundon. That plan changed, however, when I had to do a year’s industry placement,” Sara revealed.
Fortuitously, Sara’s placement was with a local craft company in County Durham, which
involved her going to lots of crafty trade and consumer shows to demonstrate and sell the products that the company made.
It was during this time that Sara spotted a gap in the market that was very much linked to the nation’s love of greeting cards, notably making them.
“They were so many people creating these lovely handmade cards and then putting them into ill-fitting, boring white envelopes, which they weren’t happy with and I couldn’t blame them!” admitted Sara.
With so many products crafting products already out there in the market, Sara was “very surprised that a product which could be used to create bespoke envelopes didn’t exist.
I knew that (with a little bit of help) I could create a really ground-breaking product to fix this problem. So, I roped in my dad, who was an ex-engineer, for some help and together, we created The Enveloper.”
This was to lead the way for Sara’s Crafter’s Companion brand, which has
spiralled into a whole host of products, shops/concessions, expansion overseas, her own craft programme Be Creative TV, a fashion-forward craft and stationery brand, Violet Studio among many other strands, and of course investments in other businesses as a result of Dragons’ Den.
Now widely regarded as a Queen of Crafting, Sara is not surprised that greeting card making is right up there in the crafting league, and looks certain to stay that way, for a number of reasons.
“I think that cardmaking is such a popular craft because there are so many different techniques, styles and things that you can do when creating a card. There are endless things to learn and so many products to experiment with that there’s always something new to try and be inspired by. I also think that cards are the perfect thing to make because they can be as simple or as intricate and advanced as you’d like them to be, which makes it a great craft for everyone, from beginners to people who have been crafting for years.”
Sara is herself a big greeting card fan. “Receiving cards is a lovely thing, especially when it’s a ‘just because’ card because it shows that people are thinking about you in that moment,” she feels.
Up Close and Personal
Sara Davies is adept at sussing people out in the Den. Here she is put in the hot seat to reveal a bit more about herself…
Which three words best describe you?
“Determined, passionate and fun!”
Other than friends and family, who would you most want to receive a card from?
“When I was on Strictly, I danced a Rumba to ‘Still the one’ by Shania Twain, which is just one of my favourite songs of all timeit’s really special to me and I love her music. To celebrate my routine to the song, the team somehow managed to get THE Shania Twain to record me a message and I think that a card from Shania would just be the cherry on top!”
Given her crafting persuasion, Sara’s vote not surprisingly goes to handmade cards, and she herself is a dab hand at making them.
“When the card is handmade you know and appreciate how much time and effort has gone into making that card for you.
It’s also lovely for the person who has created their card to be able to give it to someone that they care about, knowing that they feel fulfilled from having completed a project and enjoying seeing the recipient’s reaction!”
It won’t be long before it will be Sara’s reactions to the next bunch of wouldbe Dragon slayers that will have us glued to our TV screens.
As a ‘Dragon’, what is she looking for when entrepreneurs pitch their ideas in the den? “Primarily, I'm looking for a fantastic person. An outstanding entrepreneur can carry a mediocre idea, but the most revolutionary idea wouldn't be able to get off the ground with a mediocre entrepreneur,” she states. “I also
You’ve had so many highs in your career so far, what have been the most memorable highlights?
“One of the most memorable highlights in my career was receiving an MBE. I thought it was a hoax at the time and asked one of my team to call the office to check that it was real because I didn’t think that they gave them to people as young as I was. I also have to say that joining Dragons’ Den and going on Strictly were two things that I never thought I’d get to do, but I have absolutely loved both.”
Can you share quirky fact that few people know about you?
“I love JLS and I used to buy loads of their merchandise - including hoodies and bed covers!”
need to feel passionate about the entrepreneur and the product, and to feel like I can make a genuine difference to the business. It also has to be something that is interesting as well as profitable, or something that does social good as well as breaking even,” Sara explains.
Commenting on entrepreneurship and today’s entrepreneurs, she highlights: “The landscape of entrepreneurs is just as exciting today as it has been for the last few decades, with more and more people taking the plunge and setting up their own businesses. For instance, in the den, you might think you have seen it all and then someone will come through the doors and just completely blows you away with a product or a service that you know is just going to change people’s lives or will provide a genuine solution to a genuine problem.”
As for her own inspiration, Sara says she owes a lot to her “mam and dad who instilled a lot of the values and the work ethic that I have today. My dad always used to say to me “Kid, if you go and reach for the stars, but only make it to the moon, it’s still really good” and that has always stuck with me. In fact, I’ve always thought actually, there’s always another star to reach for”.
When starting out, what was the best piece of business advice you received and what would you pass on to a young entrepreneur starting out today?
“The best piece of advice I received in the first few years of my career was to be myself and know that that was good enough. In the very, very early days, I used to think that I had to power dress and would wear quite dull two piece suits that just weren’t me at all. I soon realised that I was good enough and that if people didn’t get me, that was fine.
I think it’s so important to stay true to yourself so that’s what I would say to anyone starting out in business but also, it’s just a great bit of general advice.”
Last month’s GCA Dragons Speed-dating event had the retail buyer ‘Dragons’ firing on all cylinders, inspired by the fast paced pitches from the 70 publishers who made the most of showing off their latest ranges. PG caught up with some of the dragons to find out which publishers slayed them.
Being a Dragon: “A great big thank you to everyone involved in the smooth and cheerful organisation of the GCA Dragons' Speed Dating event! It was exhausting but so worthwhile. I hope the card publishers found it as rewarding as I certainly did.
I thoroughly enjoyed channelling my inner dragon. I met many talented, and impressively energetic, designers all of whom were finding fresh ways to express emotions and sentiments on a simple piece of folded card! Everyone managed to cram lots of information into the allotted 10 minute slots yet share their personal stories too, which for me is so important as many of our customers love to hear about the artists behind the designs.”
Den highlights: “I was almost literally blown away by two young women
with extremely demanding 'day jobs' who have both built highly individual card companies as well. How these two women pack so much into every 24 hours astonished me!
The first is Nicole Elders of Calligart who designs jet engines for the aerospace industry and, in complete contrast, also creates images built from tightly scribed calligraphy for her own thriving card company. Meanwhile, virtually beneath our feet, Sylvia Prince trains underground train drivers then turns her hand to her Afrocentric card and gift company's designs which feature children of many skin colours. Each child has a name and story. The cards are fresh, modern, inclusive and beautiful. Definitely heading for my card racks!
I received my first ever ‘Access All Areas’ pass in my sample pack from Say it with Songs, (never too old for a new experience!) whose song lyric cards have genius links via a QR code to play the relevant track. I am playing its Dancing Queen link as I type this. These cards are a must for our customers and I can hear them humming behind the card spinners already...
It was good to hear from many people that environmental issues were a serious consideration in the sourcing, printing and presentation of their cards; this is definitely an issue for many of our customers. Quinn and Quill, run by lovely couple Tee and Jack Callaghan, certainly fulfil this brief in addition to having some super designs.
For the humour section I was 'tickled' by the Deadpan card offering. Truly living
up to their name I know a few tough to buy for fellows for whom they will raise a smile.
As a huge admirer of the skill of paper engineering I was very impressed by the truly lavish 3D pop up flower bouquet cards shown to me by Origamo's founder Furio Ceciliato.
Great to catch up with Iain Hamilton from Bewilderbeest whose crazily wonderful cards we already stock but I was keen to hear of new plans.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Wild Life by Mouse, Margaret Wrightson and Susan Brunskill of Susel & Co all of whose differing card designs are delightfully evocative of the countryside.
I am still sifting and revisiting the ginormous bag of the samples from all participating publishers. I appreciate the time and effort (and in some cases chocolate) that went into all the packs. And yes, I'll be placing some orders!”
Sarah Laker, owner of Stationery Supplies, Marple and Wilmslow
Being a Dragon: “Interesting, fun, intense and a little bit manic is how I’d describe being a Dragon. I totally loved it. The variety of publishers, at differing stages of their journey was brilliant; such talent. It feels so good to be part of the industry, to have a chance to talk to other buyers and to give back a little with advice for the newer publishers.
I was also delighted to be asked to participate in the ‘prepare to slay the Dragon’ Zoom meeting held before the event. I found that quite nerve wracking to do so I was totally blown away at the actual event to hear how my talk had helped so many publishers.”
Den highlights: “I will most definitely be placing orders as a result of the event, however I’m in a quandary as I saw so many lovely cards on the day, and having looked through the samples in my goody bag, there are even more publishers who cards I like! I currently have a shortlist of about 17 companies but I need to whittle that down a bit as I just don’t have that much spare room in the shops. Hot contenders for me are Ricicle, Lovely Paper Stuff, Klara Hawkins and Calligart, alongside a few others. And there are a couple of others, such as Urrghh, which I’ll be following to see how their ranges develop.
It was fab to see how much effort many of the publishers had put into presenting their samples. My daughters and I had great fun unwrapping each sample and discovering handwritten notes, discount codes and sneaky sweets.”
Above: Sarah spent two hours sorting the samples from her goody bag into piles to come up with her shortlist. Right: A pretty design from Ricicle Cards.
Claire Taylor, greeting cards, stationery and gift collections buyer of John Lewis and Waitrose
Being a Dragon: “It was so great to be involved in the recent Dragons event, there was a really lovely atmosphere. I really enjoyed meeting so many new people, both fellow Dragons and of course new publishers. We picked three publishers from the 2022 event, and I am currently working through our plans for 2023 and beyond, shortlisting who we would love to see more from.”
Den highlights: “I've put several of the publishers I met in the Den in contact with Woodmansterne so that our brokerage model can be fully understood before taking our conversations any further. I'm excited to see where the new opportunities lie to keep our assortment fresh and enticing. I am particularly focused on refreshing our humour category for the coming selections.
I thought that the moves in the sustainability arena were very interesting with lots of seeded papers, recycled papers, innovation and continual evolution in this space.”
Katie Salt, buyer of Card Factory
Being a Dragon: “It was great to get to meet some fantastic new designers and see some lovely new designs and concepts. There was a lot of talking to do as a Dragon, but it was good fun!”
Den highlights: “I thought Say it with Songs’ range is a great idea and lovely designs. Ricicle Cards has some beautiful designs while PaperMirchi is a fantastic concept and creates some great designs. We are likely to be placing some orders with some publishers as a result of the event.”
Mark Janson-Smith, managing director of Postmark
Being a Dragon: “As always it was a great afternoon being a Dragon, meeting lots of new and exciting publishers. The pitches I saw were very impressive and some very talented artists, producing cards that wouldn't have been lost in the collections of established publishers. I'm very much looking forward to going through my bag of goodies in detail and hopefully finding the next big thing.”
Den highlights: “Among the many delights, I loved meeting Siobhan Wauchope and Naomi Nicholas, sisters who co-own StreetGreets. They had such infectious smiles and publish fun cards with a unique selling point.
I also thought Emma Pearce of the Sister Paper Co has some lovely cards that we hope to have in store later this year as we've been meaning to deal with her for a while now.”
Sarah Crees, gift / Christmas buyer and Elle Turner, sales assistant and supervisor of Garsons,
Being a Dragon: “We had such a great day at the event and feel very lucky to have been included as dragons this year, it was such a wonderfully unique experience and so useful to be able to see so many publishers in such a short space of time.”
Den highlights: “There are definitely suppliers with whom we will be looking to place orders. Our favourites from the day were Raspberry Blossom, Ohh Deer, Klara Hawkins and Laura Darrington, and that’s before we’ve gone through the amazing bag of samples, the publishers really were so very generous!
I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did.”
Kate Cowie, director of Utility, Liverpool and Manchester
Being a Dragon: “I was delighted to be asked to be a Dragon at the latest GCA speed-dating event. It was great to see lots of familiar faces and to meet some new ones too. During the afternoon I was lucky enough to spend time with some very talented and creative card suppliers and hear their pitches.”
“We have since placed orders with Say it with Songs and Sakina, and will be ordering from Alphablots, Mifkins and Raspberry Blossom (of the latter we currently do their stationery but will now be adding the cards) in the coming weeks.”
Oliver Cooper, commercial manager / buyer of Jarrold, Norwich
Being a Dragon: “It was a great opportunity to meet the designers and owners to gain an understanding of why they formed their respective businesses and what inspires their designs. It’s always brilliant to meet people who are passionate about what they do.”
Den highlights: “I’m still in the process of working my way through all the samples I was very kindly given in my goody bag! The thing that really resonated with me was how much care and attention many of the publishers put into the presentation and selection of the samples they included. It must have taken a great deal of time to do this, and it shows again how passionate they are about their products and businesses.
I certainly will be placing some orders as a result of the event and I’ve already been contacted by many of the publishers involved. I’ve almost made it to the bottom of my goody bag and will then be making contact with some of the publishers.”
Above: Jarrold’s Oliver Cooper enjoying the pitch from Belly Button’s Michelle Hindle (right) and Estelle Johnson.
Dharmesh Yadav, owner of Presents in Sheen and Barnes
Being a Dragon: “It was an intense and full on afternoon, but I really enjoyed giving my input, such as advising on pricing and explaining retail demands.”
Den highlights: “One new publisher who stood out for me was Lovely Paper Stuff. While we already deal with Pigment, it was good to be brought up to date as to its latest ranges and I am also revisiting Deadpan and Cardology, who we stocked a few years ago.”
Focus on...Male Cards
We’re now thankfully a long way from beer and skittles in the male card world, with publishers and designers reflecting the myriad of hobbies and interests of the nation’s menfolk, not to mention a broader reach on the colour palette and design styles. With humorous cards covered in the next edition, PG took a testosterone reading on the male card front.
Want a card for the man in your life? It used to be that fishing, golf and booze were just about the only subject optionsthankfully, times have changed and the 21st century has seen designs aimed at males go completely off piste.
As Ross Harrison, business development manager of Laura Darrington, said: “We’ve seen a surge in male cards steering away from the traditional beer and sport themes, with a greater focus on surface pattern. Also popular are themes of adventure, with an emphasis on mindfulness and relaxation.”
The more extreme bucket list activities are on Cinnamon Aitch’s radar with director Sara Burford keeping a close eye following news stories showing queues at the summit of Mount Everest.
Sara commented: “These activities are not only aspirations but becoming more popular in reality. New designs will continue to reflect this ongoing appetite for outdoor pursuits and adventure with a refresh of colour and font to keep the range visually fresh.
“Adrenaline-fuelled posts alongside dramatic, remote scenes of natural beauty on social media have become the new status symbol, so off-road vehicles and wild camping have become some of our bestselling images among the range - the recently-added design of a wild swimmer was rapidly on the reprint list, shortly after launch.”
Louise Tiler has aimed her hand-painted Twilight range “at the female customers who like nice cards for men”, incorporating
birthday icons, stars and celebratory decorations, with engraved gold foil details.
She said: “I focused on moving away from traditional male sports or themes, allowing the designs to have a broader appeal and target a modern customer who likes cards that are well designed.”
The Boy's Brigade collection has been running for several years now as Rocket68 endeavours to design cards for the mainstream market, while also tackling more niche subject matters, as owner Jill White knows not all men like golf and beer.
“We've recently released new designs with themes such as Forager, Outdoors Explorer and Paddle Boarding,” Jill explained of the pen and ink hand-illustrated designs with a retro feel. “That said, within the range, football, rugby, and other sports are also covered but then so are pursuits such as bee keeping, chess and kayaking.”
Even in the more established ranges, such as Abacus Cards’ longstanding Graphite photographic offer, different sports are being brought in to update and refresh the designs, such as aviation and paddleboarding.
“The range has been updated to include sports that have risen in popularity,” studio manager Liz Ellis explained, “as well as more traditional sports, shot from different perspectives. The card images have been taken from unique standpoints, such as a bird’s eye view of a surfer and rugby players, as well as shadow images of golfers. For impact, the birthday designs feature captions with a raised foiled brush lettering.”
The success of Noel Tatt’s Fella collection in 6x6 size has led to the expansion into occasions, ages and relations in 5x7 and 9x6, and Dug’s Diary combines photographic imagery with a pun.
The publisher’s LJ Goodwin said: “Generally the standard themes of beer, alcohol, and sports continue to do well, however, we have recently introduced some gaming themes, motorbikes like the Harley Davidson and music, within male which is slightly different for Noel Tatt, but they’ve all proven to be successful.”
Nigel Quiney has added six brand-new Drift Away designs to its existing 12-strong British scenes collection, with planes, trains, boats and sports combining to expand this male selection, albeit with a female selector lens.
Explaining the rationale, export coordinator Mel Pollitt said: “As the GCA research highlights, over 80%
Just my type
of all card sales are bought by women, and they tend to be more conscious in their decisions, spending more time browsing for the perfect card. This range hits the mark by having a summer feel to it.”
With a broad male relations non-humorous selection The Art File’s James Mace has noticed more contemporary nature, animal, pet and art themes are also proving to be popular.
As shown in last month’s PG trends piece testifies, cycling has taken over as one of the top sports, and it’s the top seller in Pink Pig’s Three Up male range, as co-owner Mabel Forsyth has found guys identify with mixing sports and hobbies with a humorous overlay in a contemporary style as being a winner.
Bikes and food are always popular at Laura Darrington Designs, where a majority of its collections feature cycles or a culinary theme aimed at men.
PG Live will see Heyyy Cards debut two new collections of malefocused birthday cards celebrating everything from bicycles to beards with
Consumer analysis coupled with conversations with retailers has reinforced to The Art File that captions rather than imagery are a predominant theme in its most-popular male ranges, which include Vertigo, You The Man and Mulberry & Olive.
As sales and marketing manager James Mace explained: “It’s a theme which has proven popular among this market. Following consumer analysis and conversations with retailers, typography and captions appear to resonate more with men rather than the actual imagery.”
At Noel Tatt, LJ Goodwin has noticed the same, with lettering and type designs tending to sell well, while for Rocket68 simple type and unfussy graphic design earned the publisher The Henries 2022 Best Male Range award for its Graphic Form collection.
Owner Jill White explained that the winning range was inspired by midcentury book covers and covers a multitude of occasion and recipients, taking the classic caption - from Dad to Son In Law to Congrats Mr & Mr plus more niche ones such as Uncle, Nephew and Grandson - to new heights.
For IC&G , studio manager Robin Birch explained: “Niche captions are an important part of the support we offer to our independent customers. Our ever-expanding male captions include Like A Dad, Step-Son, Step Brother, Great Nephew, Grandson and Great Grandson, Godson and Godfather, Man In My Life, Fiancé On Your Engagement, and more.”
Laura Darrington has also recently produced a line of male age cards in a simple format, but with a more masculine palette and more relations captions. “We were recently approached by John Lewis for a Stepdad design, which has proved very popular,” relayed business development manager Ross Harrison.
With captions such as Cool Nephew, Legend Grandad, and Awesome Son being typical phrases for Earlybird Designs, the publisher continues to concentrate on typography and bold colours for its male-focused designs.
Co-owners Dom and Heidi Early “definitely don’t do soppy!” and they “completely avoid” the stereotypical male subject matters like football and golf, adding: “They're boring, overdone and don't really reflect our customer.
“Our Super Fab neon range has been so popular this year, and the comments from so many of our male-led business customers were that the range is refreshing and exactly what they want on their shelves.”
Top left: Type is the theme for The Art File’s Vertigo.
Top right: Earlybird’s refreshing Super Fab range.
a mix of both modern and traditional themes for all ages and relations.
Bikes are big for Wendy Jones-Blackett, as the publisher and designer explained: “They cover all ages too which is great for retailers.
Gardening is popular with the over-40s who might not want a floral design which is why we’ve gone for a watering can in our handmade art range, and I know a few bird watchers, hence the swift - a bit niche, maybe!
“Musical notes are going really well for us this year, again, they cover a wide age range and aren’t specific to any particular genre of music. We’ve included a paisley pattern too which is a bit retro - male patterns tend to be quite geometric so great to be able to offer a design which has a few curves in the pattern.”
Living with three footballcrazy boys, White Cotton Cards’ Georgie Palmer said:
A colour match
“With footy matches ruling my weekends, I just had to design for them!”
Having published her football cards for years, she’s now brought out a new design that covers over 400 different teams with a matching envelope to the club strip.
Something completely new for White Cotton, reflecting the ongoing ultimate accessory after a request from a shop for a special design, Georgie has also just brought out a 24-strong Tattoo range that includes male designs covering ages, relations and birthday.
Expanding its male selection is the aim at Thirty Mussels, as marketing manager Sophie Spoor commented: “We love a card, specifically for a man. In this age of technology and an easy text or voicemail, it's a nice sentiment and effective way to send a message. We consider our cards to be giant hugs, squished flat, folded and popped in an envelope - and we hope that’s how they’re perceived!
“We really believe that sometimes men like a fuss, but not too much, so a well thought through greeting card is ideal!”
It’s only to be expected that UK Greetings has a wide and diverse collection of over 300 male cards, covering all key captions, and brand manager Rebecca Badrock said: “We know that, while more stereotypical subject matter still resonates with consumers, with silly animal cards proving ever popular, we’re constantly evolving our ranges with influences from current trends and subject matter and ensuring it remains relevant and engaging, for a diverse and inclusive product offering.
She cites “colour confidence” as having “been pivotal in this evolution as we strive to avoid focusing on stereotypical colours such as the obvious browns and blues associated with male cards.”
And colour is also key for David Nichols-Rice who noticed many of his bestselling Ricicle Cards, designs feature a green palette: “It could be a massive coincidence but, maybe, on a greeting card green really is serene!
“I try to ensure lots of my cards are gender neutral, but a stand-out card for me is my Sip Sip Hooray, It's Your Birthday, featuring a bottle of gin - surprise surprise, it has a green colour palette.”
Different tones do well for different occasions with David’s simple blue background Happy Father’s Day card among his top sellers every year, and orange shades making the punning Dad, You're Cereal-ously The Best stand out.
, James Mace added: “The typical colour palette primarily orients around darker colours traditionally associated with male interests - black, navy blue, and red, with gold foiling sprinkled through the range where it’s suited.
“However, the on-going challenge that faces publishers is how to remain relevant among this specific target market, while simultaneously attempting to introduce new themes, imagery and colour palettes, in order to stand out from other cards and ranges on retailers’ shelves.”
Designs that have two foil combinations such as blue and gold. or blue and copper are highly ranked at Noel Tatt , like the Fella range it has just expanded, and LJ Goodwin said: “We presume it’s due to everyday trends at the moment in this colour palette.”
Since its launch in 2017 Cinnamon Aitch’s Cobalt range has met the brief of offering a non-clichéd, contemporary range of well-considered, masculine cards that resonate with men today and the women who buy the cards for them, and it’s being expanded in time for PG Live.
“Taking a cool steely colour palette with pops of copper foil and modern textures like concrete and slate, designer Emily Hauck came up with a corker,” Sara Burford said. “With a strong heavyweight board and quality concrete-effect custom-made envelope the strong, contemporary feel runs through each detail.”
Independent retailer feedback and requests led to IC&G releasing the Make Your Wish range late last year, and studio manager Robin Birch explained: “It was designed specifically to cater for our ever-growing male themes. We deliberately chose rich, bold colours and selected accent foils, finishing off with embossing detail. Male design themes cover technology, music, active lifestyle and food, all of which continue to show as popular trends in this sector.”
Molly Mae has introduced some brand new male relations cards into its popular Grand Centrepiece range. The new designs cover son, grandson, nephew, dad and brother captions, among others, across popular themes like sport, beer and gaming. All 155mm square, they are supplied with kraft envelopes, either clasped, banded, nested or cellowrapped upon request.
Molly Mae +(44)1455 557115
The ever inventive Go La La team has looked to the advertising world for its latest range’s inspiration. The new Madverts collection comprises designs based on spoof magazine ads covering subject matters such as fishing, cycling and reptiles! Go La La 01458 830913
A Bump-er Selection
Lucy Maggie Designs brings a refreshing take on maternity leave cards – a niche sending occasion, but a popular one! These humorous and light-hearted cards will put a smile on any new mum's face, whether it is poking fun at sleepless nights or celebrating the ‘joys ‘of parenthood. The A6 cards are printed on 350gsm textured board.
Lucy Maggie Designs
Exhibiting at PG Live
Jewels In The Crown
Bug Art has extended its Jewels range with 10 new cards. Each feature an elegant design set against a black background, a style that has kept this popular range flourishing for over 20 years. Each of the cards is beautifully embossed with two different foils and is blank inside. They measure 118mm x 167mm and are wrapped in a biodegradable bag with a gold pearlised envelope.
0115 929 4776
Exhibiting at PG Live
All Of A Flutter
Among Cake and Crayons’ new clutch of ranges is Blooming Birds. The 14 designs feature beautiful birds and blooms covering a variety of sending occasions, from weddings, engagements, anniversaries, new babies, new homes and a whole heap of love in a fresh, elegant colour palette. All 120mm x 170mm, the cards are supplied naked with a Kraft envelope.
Cake and Crayons
Exhibiting at PG Live
Dandelion Stationery’s notebook range inspired by its Words of Wisdom greeting card collection now comprises over 25 designs while there are eight designs of its magnetic list pads. All made in the UK, each notebook has no fancy finishes, making them 100% recyclable. They are supplied plastic-free. Each magnetic pad contains 50 printed pages and is supplied in a biodegradable cello bag.
Dandelion Stationery 01332 504940
Exhibiting at PG LiveA selection of products being launched to pep up retailers’ displays.
Polypropylene & biodegradable bag specialists
Over 40 years quality service to the trade Hotfoiling also available
FRIENDLY, EXPERT ADVICE DEDICATED AND KNOWLEDGEABLE TEAM FAST AND EFFICIENT SERVICE HIGH QUALITY FILM BAGS
T 01206 396209
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To The Letter
Following on from the success of its Inky Scripts collection last year, Bexy Boo has based this year’s Christmas designs around the same concept. The 24 designs, all 150mm square, feature strong fonts and a wooden letter tile but this time foiled in gold with bright, cheerful colours. They come with a textured Kraft envelope and are wrapped in bio cello as standard.
Bexy Boo 01565 830 546
Exhibiting at PG Live
New from Sunshine Llama is a striking animal-themed collection featuring the distinctive art of Tilda Mårtensson. The designs are a playful fusion of colour and modern illustration, featuring some charming dog and cat characters. They are available packed in cello or plastic-free.
Sunshine Llama 07763239731
Exhibiting at PG Live
The Green Scene
Greentings has come up with an innovative approach to sustainable greeting cards. Greentings' concept allows consumers to regift reusable greeting cards made entirely from post-consumer waste. Each card comes with three removable inserts and envelopes to encourage at least three uses. What’s more the publisher plants a tree for each card sold.
Exhibiting at PG Live
Stormy Knight’s popular Bloom designs are now available as lined notebooks. There are six floral designs in the collection, and they all feature embossed textured covers on GF Smith board and gold foil lettering. Each notebook has 192 pages of smoothlined paper, individually packaged with a bellyband.
Exhibiting at PG Live
Reflecting the continued elevation of sub-dermal art, aka tattoos, White Cotton Cards has made this a feature of its latest range, aptly named Tattoo. There are 24 designs in the range covering ages, relations and birthday, for men and women. All come with a gold envelope.
White Cotton Cards
Exhibiting at PG Live
Wrendale Designs is making it easy to create your own Hannah Dale-esque masterpiece, with its new paint by numbers kits. Beautifully packaged in an illustrated box, there are three designs, all based on Wrendale best sellers, Head Clover Heels, Born to be Wild and Blooming with Love. The kit includes a textured canvas artboard, 18 acrylic paints in recycled plastic pots and paintbrushes in two sizes.
www.wrendaledesigns.co.ukA selection of products being launched to pep up retailers’ displays.
A selection of products being launched to pep up retailers’ displays.
Crufts Of A Wave
Coulson Macleod has been barking up the right tree with its Woof range. This has now been extended to feature 19 different dog breeds, each featuring funny quotes about the dog breed. Following on from exhibiting at Crufts stand by for new doggie types - Dandie Dinmont Terrier anyone? Each card comes with a kraft envelope.
You can say thanks in style with Lola Design’s new note card packs. Each notecard pack comes with six of the same botanical design card and envelopes. The packs are fully recyclable, and the paper is sourced from FSC-certified suppliers. All designed and made in the UK.
Lola Design 01904 900141
Top Butler Service
Inspired by its love of all things paper, Pigment has taken the quality and opulence of its Fox & Butler cards onto a new range of beautiful stationery that embodies both sophistication and a modern design sensibility. As well as stationery items there is also a selection of boxed notecards available.
Exhibiting at PG Live
From cards to thank a teaching assistant and exam congrats, to those that mark a little one’s first day at school as well as wishing those bigger ones a good time at Uni, Abacus Cards’ education package is a ‘full report card’
Exhibiting at PG Live
Stoats & Weasels has hit on great theme for its Menu range whereby the designs champion the highlights and quirks of locations to show off what makes it unique, and to raise a giggle with customers. Bespoke options are available to retailers.
Stoats & Weasels
Exhibiting at PG Live
New from Deckled Edge is a collection of handy pocket-sized A6 notebooks. All 16 designs have matching greeting cards so make a great gifting idea. The inside back cover has a section to keep your pin codes and passwords safe to hand.
Deckled Edge 0800 771 0771
When you spot an opportunity in the market, true entrepreneurs keep the idea to themselves while enlisting the support of experts who can help facilitate their venture. This was most definitely the approach Emma Cooper took with her Cards of Kindness greeting card publishing concept, persuading Woodmansterne Publications to share their inner most workings.
PG found out more about this plucky nine year old with a passion to start a greeting card company.
Emma Cooper has wisdom beyond her years. Despite having been on this planet for less than a decade, she is not only conversant in the power of greeting cards and what subject matter is like to hit the spot with consumers, but also sees the sense in keeping her embryonic business plan well away from her peers at least until it is more fully fledged.
As head of one of the UK’s leading card publishers, Seth Woodmansterne, managing director of Woodmansterne Publications receives a fair amount of post connected to
the third generation card publishing business which he now heads up, but one hand written envelope attracted his attention recently, asking to be opened before the computer generated statements, invoices, and direct mail items.
“It was a great example of the power of a handwritten envelope of which we in the greeting card industry do well to remind ourselves,” Seth, a
member of the UK Greeting Card Association, stressed to PG.
The envelope contained a prospective submission, nothing new there as Woodmansterne receives them every day from artists and illustrators. The difference with Emma’s one, was that it was couched as a business proposition, one with such heart and soul that it could not be ignored.
In a tidy handwriting style that would certainly beat most doctors, and those in the greeting card sector for that matter,
Emma stated her intention:
‘I would like to create a card business named Cards of Kindness’ elaborating that she envisaged the designs would be animal-based, suitable for main sending occasions. Submitting two of her prototype designs, Emma’s main request was that Woodmansterne would consider publishing them as cards, in return for which she would give some money to charity as well as a credit to the company. Seemingly well aware of the importance of ‘sealing the deal’, Emma confidently pressed for a prompt response from Woody.
And, it was a full slam dunk for this talented youngster, as it was not long before she and her dad Mark were invited to Woodmansterne’s Watford HQ and given the red carpet treatment, with Emma and her
Next Generation Links
designs taken through the start to finish process of greeting card production.
“Emma’s letter warmed our heart and we just had to invite her in,” explained Ian Blake, Woodmansterne’s art director. “Her drawings and business ideas were fantastic, and we loved being able to help her digitise her designs and create a logo for her brand. It was great having her visit the studio and who knows, she could be a future superstar designer here at Woodmansterne!”
For Emma setting her sights on becoming a greeting card publisher rather than another business is something she is very clear on.
“I picked cards as it’s amazing to have something to brighten your day,” she told the Woodmansterne team, though admitted that she is so protective of her Cards for Kindness
It what must rank as one of the GCA’s most ambitious initiatives ever, The GCA Schools Project, spearheaded by membership and marketing co-ordinator Adriana Lovesy has connected UK groups of primary school children with pupils from the country of Ghana in West Africa. It is an initiative to connect children through greeting cards and help practice their handwriting too.
This initiative was launched in September 2022 as part of Thinking of You Week and so far, 9,000 greeting cards have been written by UK and Ghanaian children.
“The idea for the project was to enable youngsters to exchange cards, which actively promotes empathy, helps with emotional communication and conveys the value of doing something special for others, as well as being a fun way to practice writing. It has been so warmly received by schools both in the UK and Ghana,” commented Adriana.
Participating schools were provided with greeting cards for the children to write their messages. Respected greeting card publishers Lottie Simpson and AfroTouch Design each designed a card for the project.
And in an industrywide team effort, Graphite Creative printed the cards for this project with G.F Smith supplying the board. Enveco supplied the envelopes, The Art File donated notebooks, Ohh Deer donated pens to the Ghanaian children to use to write their cards and UK Greetings has provided the warehousing and distribution into the UK schools.
The project is still ongoing as there are some more cards already written by the Ghanaian school children, which need to be partnered with more UK primary schools.
“Any publishers, retailers or trade suppliers with contacts at a local primary school, please do encourage them to take part,” urges Adriana. There is a presentation hosted on the GCA website (www.gca.cards) that can be downloaded and shared which provides the school with all the information on the project.
idea that she has not even told her school friends about it, for fear that they nab the idea!
“We receive a lot of requests from members of the public to visit us, but sadly we are invariably too busy a business to do them proud,” explained Kate Leach, Woodmansterne’s head of marketing. “However, we were completely won over by Emma’s letter and even more so when we actually met her and it was an absolute delight and privilege to spend time with this card publishing competitor of the future and to be reassured that greeting cards still resonate with the younger generation,” added Kate.
A trio of UK schools share their thoughts on this far-reaching project…
l “The children were delighted with their cards from the pupils in Ghana. Thank you for coordinating this, what a wonderful project to be involved in.”
Gartconner Primary School
l “The children have really enjoyed writing and receiving the cards.”
Kingswood Primary School
l “It’s an amazing and uplifting opportunity for my children to be involved in”
Parkside Community Primary School
With a grandma and aunty as artists, Jane Sunner’s childhood olfactory memories include the smell of oil paints and turps, but up until five years ago it was the into the fashion world that her own creative road led, then a few years ago she embraced designing greeting cards as a freelance illustrator and hasn’t looked back since. Here, Jane shares her life loves and inspirations.
“I was fortunate to grow up in a beautiful little village nestled below the north downs in the south east of England. Much of my childhood was spent playing outdoors which inspired my love for nature, travel and adventure!
My Mum was very creative and as young children she loved to help us craft Christmas gifts for the family each year. My Grandma and my Aunty were painters and would often hold art exhibitions together. The smell of oil paints and turps reminds me of my Grandma and I remember her letting me use some of her oils to paint on stones!
In my younger years I spent a year working and travelling around Australia and New Zealand while in more recent times I’ve settled and made my home in the Midlands.
My life as an artist/illustrator all started relatively recently but my journey to where I am now began with my degree in fashion and textiles. The elective wide course allowed me to explore fine art printmaking which I combined with my final textile design project, winning a bursary with Belford Prints.
After graduating I worked as a freelance designer and also spent time out travelling.
Following that I worked for many years as an in-house fashion print designer, creating placements and all over prints for high street stores and retailers.
I currently work from a corner of my lounge with my desk (a very comfy chair) and a wonderful view out into the garden, overlooking our Eucalyptus tree and the
field beyond. In the warmer months I open the conservatory doors and bring the outside in! I love listening to the birds and generally just the peace and quiet while I work.
I’ll often start working with a watercolour painting then take it into Photoshop or Procreate where I’ll continue to enhance it. I love adding a touch of gold foil to my card illustrations. Since working in the greeting card industry my work has become more illustrational and I’m always looking to push myself creatively and learn new techniques. Even up to five years ago when I was working in fashion as a print designer I would never have thought I’d be designing cards, but I love it.
I draw inspiration from many sources! There are often lots of florals in my work and this of course originates from my background as a textile print designer, so a great deal of inspiration comes from nature and botanical influences. This can be sourced from my own photography, fashion prints, textiles, Interior design, shops like Anthropologie and Kitty McCall, Instagram, books and more! I love the beautiful designs of Clarissa Hulse and Victoria Johnson. Natasha Gulliford’s florals are also stunning.
The Creative Card Collective of which I am part is a fantastic platform for creatives to come together to network, share artwork and ideas. I always find it inspirational looking at other illustrators’ work.
I am represented by Creative Sparrow. I feel very proud to have such a wonderful agent representing my work and this in turn has opened many opportunities for me. It was very difficult during Covid times as I lost my job but unbeknown to me this was the push and the time I needed to really explore a new creative direction and make the leap to become a freelance designer.”
l Jane Sunner is represented by Creative Sparrow for licensing.
you are an artist, photographer or verse writer and would like to be considered to appear in Art Source, please contact PG’s Jakki Brown on email@example.com. This is an editorial feature and as such is
It was a really enjoyable experience attending PG Live. We found many new brands, and the food was great!
I am already looking forward to attending in 2023.
PG Live is one of the most important shows for us as we use it specifically to find new and upcoming publishers, and this year was the best ever! The show continues to be one of our favourites, not just because of the density of high quality suppliers but also because it’s such a pleasurable experience to attend.
Greg Rose, co-owner of Maybugs, Eastbourne, Hailsham and Bexhill-on-Sea
Tuesday 6 - Wednesday 7 June
PG Live was so fresh, it kicks off the summer buying season with a great start. There is nothing like seeing the product directly and I am a huge advocate of in person trade shows, they are so important to us. We came away from PG Live really happy after such a productive day!Samantha Gibbs, owner of Nest, Stoneygate, Broughton Astley and Thurlaston
PG ASKED A SELECTION OF RETAILERS FOR THEIR BEST SELLERS.
Category Name of Publisher Product/Name Range Comments
Everyday Relations & Occasions
Humour Children’s Adult Ages Art
3D and Pop-ups
Rifle Paper Company
Roger la Borde
Rosie Made a Thing
Rosie Made a Thing
Emily Nash Illustration
2toTango Up With Paper
Category Name of Publisher
Relations and Occasions
Five Dollar Shake
“Wonderfully designed with a strong identity.”
“Really great colourways with contemporary sentiments.”
“True masters…the laser cut designs are exquisite.”
“They sell so well.”
“Quirky, funny and different.”
“Customers love them.”
“These three publishers offer such a strong selection of contemporary children’s cards.”
“Customers respond to the year specific info.”
“The designs are just great fun.”
“Great selection of images coupled with good quality board brings them to life.”
“We display these on spinners and they always attract attention.”
“Simple, but striking designs.”
“Popular with customers.”
“Well made, practical gifts.”
“The necklaces sell so well.”
“Good add on sale.”
Product/Name Range Comments
Generally Haute Hipple
“Bright, fun affordable cards printed on 100% recycled board.”
“Luxury cards that stand out from the crowd.”
Art Children’s Adult Ages
Thinking of You
Rosie Made a Thing
Belly Button Designs
Think of Me
Belly Button Designs
Compton & Clarke
Fete de L'amour Generally Pretty as a Picture Milkshake Elle; Luxe Just a Note Generally Gift tokens
“Beautiful hand-finished cards on a shimmering board - as special as the occasions for which they are bought.”
“Fun, tongue-in-cheek deisgns for ages, relations and occasions - Rosie hits the mark across the board.”
“Digital artwork from original pictures taken by Wendy that’s proving very popular this spring.”
“Bright clean designs with fun characters for all ages.”
“Beautiful contemporary designs perfect for special birthdays.”
“Fresh designs, perfect for keeping in touch with loved ones.”
“Distinctive, modern designs, with matching tissues providing the perfect finishing touch to any gift.”
“They add a special keepsake to any greeting card.”
Category Name of Publisher
Product/Name Range Comments
“An extensive range that appeals to customers of any age.”
“An excellent seller for us and good value for money.”
“These appeal to the younger end of our customers. These cards stand out as being a little different to other cards on the market.”
Relations and Occasions
Words ‘n’ Wishes
Museums & Galleries
Birthday Month Cards
On the Ceiling
Plant me and watch me grow Generally Generally Generally
BBC Countryfile; Gardeners’ World; Springwatch
“The quality and graphics are excellent as well as having an insert - at a very good price.”
“Very popular with our older customers.”
“Very strong sellers - that appeal to all ages.”
“Selling well. The idea of planting the card and then seeing what grows from it means it is like a gift in a card!”
“Good quality cards that work well for us.”
“Our customers respond positively to the good verses.”
“A very extensive range - the traditional as well as contemporary designs sell well.”
“Just perfect for a garden centre. The range is constantly refreshed to reflect the changing seasons. A good quality card for the money that appeal to any age group and gender.”
“Brilliant for us, we sell a good quantity all year round. They are great if you want something a little different. Our customers also purchase them for a keepsake.”
Keeping in touch
“Popular partly as they have strong sustainable credentials. I do feel that more cards are being sent to stay in touch.”
Splat Planet History & Heraldry
Generally Generally Generally Generally
Colouring in T-shirts
“A good seller for us, the quality is excellent.”
“An excellent eco-friendly offering.”
“A good quality product with a wide appeal, also with an eco-friendly slant.”
“An excellent seller for us, even though it has been around for years. The range is constantly being refreshed.”
“We are known for our wide variety of gifts but Splat Planet and H&H’ gonks are among our current strong sellers.”
The Planters group comprises three high street Every Occasion card and gift shops (in Atherstone, Walmley and Kenilworth) as well as the two garden centres in Bretby and Tamworth. Although all part of the same company, all buy separately in order to cater for their respective customer bases.
“The two garden centres buy individually to cater for what each centre is likely to sell,” explains Bretby’s buyer Karen Shaw. “Having worked in both garden centres, I think our Bretby store customer base has a larger proportion of older people. Tamworth, which is larger of the two, has more younger families than Bretby as there is the Skytrail attraction and crazy golf. At Bretby however we are in the process of creating a new, larger play area so hopefully this will bring in more younger families, who then in turn may get more into gardening etc. as they are the future!”
Innovative high quality gift wrap, gift bags, tissue paper and accesssories galore for all seasons and occasions.
To appear in the Product Directories contact Warren Lomax
T: 020 7700 6740 email: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact
T: 07957 212 062 email: email@example.com
from the Including firmfavourites and brand new designs
Brands include: Keepsakes,Words ofLove, Jelly Beans, Bella Rose, Champagne and many more
Tel: +44 (0)115 986 0115 firstname.lastname@example.org www.writefromtheheart.co.uk
Hallmark Cards PLC Dawson Lane, Bradford, BD4 6HN UK&NI: 0800 90 20 900 ROI: 012 480 104 customerqueriesUK@hallmark.com
THE GREATEST COLLECTION OF GREETING CARDS IN THE WORLD
PRODUCTS: World’s leading publisher of high quality plastic greeting cards. Also an extensive range of quality greeting cards covering Everyday, Occasions, Christmas and Spring seasons.
BRANDS: Cherished Thoughts, Sweet Sentiments, Buddies Always, Symphony, Thinking of You, Style, Special Wishes, Special Times, Young Editions, Groove Sensations, Forever Blessed, Grey Skies, Classics.
SALE: SENSATIONS –Direct to retail XPRESS YOURSELF –Now one of the leading wholesale publisher suppliers in the UK
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