Progressive Greetings March 2019

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All Fired Up GCA’s Speed-dating With Dragons 3 success GCA’s third Speed-dating with Dragons event, held at London’s Business Design Centre, was hailed a great success by all. “It’s great to see lots of new product and companies coming through. As a buyer you also get something out of being able to help others, and of being part of something with others who share a passion for this industry,” summed up Andrea Pinder, owner of Unit 7, who was one of the ‘Dragons’ along with those from Between the Lines, John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Cardzone, Moonpig, Scribbler, Thortful, House of Cards, Postmark and other leading indies. Some 72 greeting card publishers made the most of the opportunities of pitching their companies’ ranges to 18 of

the UK’s top greeting card retailers in a series of one-to-one 10 minute ‘dates’ with buyers from multiples, small groups and indies. The event also involved a knowledge-filled panel session during which industry stalwarts, Ged Mace of The Art File, Paul Woodmansterne of Woodmansterne Publications and Brett Smith of Danilo (soon to join Emotional Rescue), covered a whole gamut of pertinent business issues - from making the most of agents to how brokerage works, from buyers’ needs to the trade’s collective environmental responsibility.

Below: A pitching session in action. Below left: Publishers waiting in their ‘pen’ before going in to pitch to the Dragons.

“It has been a wonderful afternoon, and I know from the feedback already that it is going to make a real difference to many people and their businesses, either through the orders they receive as well as the advice shared by the Dragons or from our experienced panelists of Ged, Paul and Brett,” said Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA. “This year we are celebrating the GCA’s 100th anniversary; events like this help to perpetuate our industry’s future through a closer understanding between publishers and retailers.” Lindsey Kleinlercher, co-owner of Between the Lines, having been persuaded to participate by her daughter Ellie, was ecstatic about the event. “I have loved it - and will be ordering from everyone I have seen!” she said. Paul Taylor, managing director of Cardzone, was also impressed with the publishers he met: “I ordered from one talented publisher, then and there as I so loved one Mother’s Day design I was shown. Our Mother’s Day selection is all done, but I couldn’t resist so we are squeezing it in.” Echoing the views of the dragons, Miles Robinson, partner of House of Cards summed up how: “It feels good to be able to put something back into the industry. Plus, we all love the opportunity of being able to spot the next little gems of publishers who have the potential to grow into something special.”

Handcrafted GOTY wins The Handcrafted Card Company won the Gift of the Year Cards and Wrap award in the Giftware Association’s awards, for its Pen & Ink collection, bagging a second award for the talented card publisher. This follows on from its Henries award for the Best Handmade or Handfinished Range last October. For the second year running, Paper Mirchi won the GOTY Design & Craft award for its hand-marbled giftwrap. Right: The Handcrafted Card Company won the Gift of the Year Cards and Wrap award for its Pen & Ink collection with Marianne Cameron, agent for Handcrafted, who collected the trophy (left). Seen here with Blue Eyed Sun’s Jeremy Corner (second left), and Origamo’s Furio Ceciliato (as the Quilling Cards by Origamo, distributed by BES, who received a Highly Commended trophy) and Fiona Burge of Really Good/Soul, as the company received a Highly Commended award for its Suck It reusable straws in the Under £10 category.

l Some 8% fewer ‘letters’ were sent by post in the nine months to 23 December compared to the previous year, but Royal Mail has stressed that the drop is largely to do with the continuing impact of GDPR. This meant that there was a 6% reduction in revenue from letter post. Previously Royal Mail has said it was anticipating a long-term average drop of 4%-6%.

£20 million cash injection in Clintons reduces losses Clintons lodging its annual accounts with Companies House (for the year to January 27 2018) was picked up in the press. The Times featured a sizeable story about the specialist retailer’s results. ‘Store closures, cost-cutting and a £20 million cash injection from its wealthy American owner have contributed to a reduced loss at Clintons’ was how the article began before going on to share how Clintons showed a £14.2 million pre-tax loss for the 12 months to end of January 2018, which was an improvement on the £19.4 million loss the previous year. The article also gave credence to how Clintons has been making progress in shutting unprofitable stores, trimming costs, clearing out excess stock and improving its retail margins in a ‘recovery’ that is being led by Eddie Shepherd, who became chief executive in 2017. Acknowledging the tricky retail landscape, The Times said that ‘Like many retailers fighting to survive on the high street, Clintons is grappling with its landlords to secure rents on better terms. It has renegotiated about 160 leases in the past two years.’ The accounts show how nearly £20 million of cash was injected by the Weiss family (who still wholly own Clintons, despite selling 60% of American Greetings, the publishing parent of UKG to private equity firm, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice last April). In a statement in its accounts, Clintons has said that it believes it will be a “profitable concern” within two years, “despite continued difficult market conditions in the high street” that it did not expect to improve. Above: Clintons currently trades from around 350 stores.