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All change at top of Cardgains!

Penny Shaw takes over as buying group md as Chris Dyson retires


It’s all change at the top for Cardgains buying group, with joint managing director Chris Dyson retiring, and Penny Shaw, the company’s marketing director, taking over the md role from 1 January 2023.

Chris shared his retirement news officially with members and suppliers in Cardgains’ recent newsletter. “It’s time for change, as we restructure the team at Cardgains ensuring we have a solid plan in place for the years ahead,” he wrote in his swansong column.

Above: Chris Dyson says goodbye in the latest Cardgains newsletter
Above: Chris Dyson says goodbye in the latest Cardgains newsletter

Chris said he decided: “It’s time for me to re-group, take things easy and enter the world of retirement. I have had nearly 30 years with Bridewell UK and Cardgains and loved every minute, getting to know hundreds of members and numerous suppliers as we carried on the fight on behalf of the independent retailer.”

The managing director baton is passing to Penny, who has spent the last 25 years with the company, latterly as marketing director, so is certainly no stranger to the industry or the needs of independent retailers.

“I’m delighted to have this opportunity to further develop Cardgains and futureproof it for our members and suppliers. I remember when I first joined Cardgains all those years ago asking Chris ‘why isn’t every retailer a member of Cardgains?’ as it has so many advantages,” Penny told PG Buzz.

Paying tribute to his long-time colleague, Chris added: “I know that Penny, along with the recent appointment of Miles Robinson, co-owner of House of Cards, as chairman and Aga Marsden, co-owner of Highworth Emporium, as our new non-executive director, will continue to move the company forward in the years to come. I’m obviously privy to some of the changes that are planned and can tell you, it’s in good hands and there are exciting times ahead.”

Above: Chris and Penny at Spring Fair 2022
Above: Chris and Penny at Spring Fair 2022

While the focus is very much on the future, when drawn to reflect on some of the industry changes during his tenure at the buying group, Chris said: “Throughout my time at Cardgains, millions of pounds worth of turnover and member bonuses have moved through our system. Suppliers and members have also constantly evolved as new products have been launched and created and retail has changed. This period through history has seen eight prime ministers, six US presidents and a Covid rollercoaster to name but a few of the events, appointments and struggles!”

Referencing some of the product boom times, Chris cited: “Tatty Teddy, Ty Beanies, Yankee Candle, Willow Tree and the arrival of many small house card publishers – as they used to be known – growing into brands we now know as major players in the greeting card industry. I’m sure we have played our part with the development of many of these.”

Summing up the changing retail landscape and Cardgains’ enduring place within it, Chris added: “Over the years, our competition has changed and will continue to do so. Clintons, Birthdays, WHSmith, supermarkets, Card Factory and, of course, latterly we have the online options!

Above: Back in time with Chris when he started at Cardgains, and his Henries Honorary Achievement award
Above: Back in time with Chris when he started at Cardgains, and his Henries Honorary Achievement award

“Ultimately however, the spirit of the independent retailer, the supplier support and the part we play still makes our group of independent Cardgains members a major player in the industry with turnover this year expected to reach £25million.”

Chris explained how the membership – currently around 1,000 rooftops – has also changed a lot from its inception: “At Bridewell UK the criteria was to be an independent retailer, a member of the NFRN (The Federation Of Independent Retailers) and our members were predominantly CTNs (confectionery tobacco newsagent).

“The Cardgains vision started offering the same Bridewell UK concept to card shops which was an immediate success. Over time, gifts were introduced, which expanded our appeal and changed the make-up of the membership. Today we have card shops, gift shops, convenience stores, garden centres, art galleries, bookshops and florists all enjoying the many benefits on offer.”

The 2023 Cardgains supplier portfolio sees the introduction of 10 companies to reflect the membership’s changing shape. These include Bexy Boo, Boxt, Depesche, Fountasia, Padhome, Peers Hardy Group, S66 Sportwear, Smart Games, Something Different. and University Games.

Of his many happy memories Chris highlighted being presented with the Honorary Achievement award at The Henries in 2006: “I was thrilled to be recognised in this way, while among my colleagues, peers and friends.”

Above: Chris (left) with Penny and joint md Steve Grocott on one of Cardgains Charity Challenges
Above: Chris (left) with Penny and joint md Steve Grocott on one of Cardgains Charity Challenges

He also stressed how proud he is of Cardgains’ charity work over the last 22 years: “I’ve met some great people along the way while at the events, making friends for life and, between us, raising over £350,000 for various charities, and covering around 800 miles! A personal message to everyone who has ever taken part in a Cardgains Charity Challenge and walked shoulder to shoulder with myself and others, often stretched to personal limits…it’s been a pleasure.”

The Cardgains Charity Challenge for 2023 will be in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, in memory of Really Good and Soul founder David Hicks, who died earlier this year. While details have yet to be finalised, all members of the greeting card community will be invited to participate.

While Chris officially retires at the end of this year, he will still be assisting on the Cardgains Village at Spring Fair, at Birmingham’s NEC over 5-8 February, 2023.

Top: It’s goodbye from Chris Dyson as Penny Shaw becomes managing director at Cardgains

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