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Cowabunga! The business failure and liquidation of longestablished iconic publisher Gemma International last month sent shockwaves through the greeting card industry. True, reflected Cardsharp, many in the trade recognised that the publisher of mainly licensed greeting cards and giftwrap had seen better days, but few were prepared for both the sudden collapse of the company and the subsequent scale of outstanding debt left behind. The empty stand at the front of last month’s PG Live with the Gemma signage at the front was a giveaway. Gemma only announced it was to cease trading and pursue a CVL the day before the opening of the show, obviously catching even the show organisers on the hop. Details later emerged of the suppliers who had lost money. One Far Eastern printer was in for over £400,000, while a major licensor was in over nearly £200k. It was by any standards quite a spectacular collapse. Coming so soon after the liquidation of Grass Roots International, another wellloved long-established trade supplier, although not on the same size or scale as Gemma, Cardsharp reflects that halfway through 2019 the sector has lost two sizeable publishers. Was Gemma’s demise a symptom of troubles afoot in the industry?



And will there be other casualties in the months to come? Or was Gemma’s failure unrelated to the health and strength of the greeting card industry generally? Cardsharp recalls from his ‘A’ Level Economics, Schumpeter’s theory of Creative Destruction. That is for an economy to remain robust and healthy you need business failures for newer, more dynamic companies to find their space in the market. Within every company lies the seeds of its own destruction. That may well be true but that does not mean that you cannot have real sadness at the disappearance of a well-loved and indeed historic ground-breaking publisher like Gemma.

Top: Gemma made lucrative card sales from featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on its designs. Above: When it was founded 34 years ago Gemma was a trail-blazer for licensed children’s cards. Left: Barbie was one of the first toy characters licenced on Gemma's cards.

Because, indeed, Gemma did trail blaze. It was founded 34 years ago (five years before even Progressive Greetings was first published!) by Lindesay Rudd-Clarke and his wife Margaret, who had been running toy shops in the Hampshire area. Lindesay was also a leading light in Toymaster (a kind of Cardgains for independent toy shops) and so the couple had obviously seen the huge strength of character licensed toys and merchandise through the tills of their stores. At that time children’s cards were dominated by cheap wholesale generic cute designs, perhaps with ages on and not much else. After selling his retail stores, Lindesay and Margaret managed to persuade the owners of the big toy licence owners at the time, such as My Little Pony, Action Man, Barbie and Thomas the Tank Engine, to let them use some of the images on children’s cards.

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Progressive Greetings July 2019  

Subscribe and receive hard copies of Progressive Greetings delivered direct to your desk anywhere in the world. Visit

Progressive Greetings July 2019  

Subscribe and receive hard copies of Progressive Greetings delivered direct to your desk anywhere in the world. Visit