In normal circumstances, this Sunday would mark the start of Home & Gift, Harrogate, sparking an annual summer ‘pilgrimage’ to the Yorkshire spa town for the gift show. However, while the calorific delights of Betty’s Tearooms are not available virtually, show organisers Clarion have instigated a programme of digital activities (starting next Monday and running until Wednesday) in light of the exhibition not going ahead due to the big C pandemic.
These include a series of Shoptalk seminars and trend talks from experts as well as product launches (both live and via pre-recorded video) from several greeting card and gift companies who were due to exhibit at the show. The companies participating include Belly Button Designs, Caroline Gardner, Toasted Crumpet, Coulson Macleod, Wrendale Designs, Wild & Wolf, Bomb Cosmetics, The Somerset Toiletry Company, Talking Tables, Portmeirion and Repeat Repeat.
Clarion is inviting all retailers and interested parties to register to attend any or all of the seminars and presentations (https://homeandgift.co.uk/home-and-gift-virtual-2020)
Belly Button Designs is primed to get things rolling, with Rachel Hare (founder, md and creative maestro of the business) and Michelle Hindle (the company’s head of sales) being first off the blocks in the 10am-11am slot on Monday (20 July).
The Manchester-based publisher is not wasting this opportunity to launch its major Happy Days collection. While Rachel Hare conceived the idea for this extensive collection (comprising 109 card designs, with gift bags, stationery and mugs to follow) prior to lockdown, its community vibe, ripples of humorous positivity and dashes of popular culture references certainly chime with the tastes of today.
While Rachel and Michelle will be giving a ‘live’ welcome to viewers, a pre-recorded video, shot in Belly Button’s studio allows Rachel to give a personal tour of the collection and the rationale behind the designs as well as explaining how the range debuts a brand new recycled board from GF Smith, 40% of which is made from recycled coffee cups.
Ahead of her ‘stage performance’ at Home & Gift Virtual first thing Monday morning, Rachel Hare, founder and creative maestro of Belly Button Designs shared her take on how the ‘new normal’ is panning out and what she thinks it ‘tastes’ like.
What is new ‘now’ like for you and Belly Button? “It was difficult at first, but feel I am now in a new rhythm. I am certainly getting a lot more designing done, which is great. When a situation is intense, as it has been over the last few months, it challenges you. I find I am digging deeper creatively. Coming up with newness has been my way through this; creating ranges that retailers will want to buy.”
What positive stuff has come out of this period? “Like many other businesses when this hit, we had to ‘go back to basics’… I was opening the post, answering the phone, sending out orders etc. This all led to a new understanding of my business and the way forward with flexibility and agility being key, while maintaining a close eye on the costs.
The sense of community and consideration of others has also come to the fore, which in a case of serendipity as this is at the heart of the new Happy Days range that we are launching at Home & Gift Virtual.”
How do you reckon will things pan out? “I certainly feel more confident about the future of greeting cards. The public’s surge in buying and sending cards throughout the lockdown and since the easing has confirmed that.
We went live on a B2C Belly Button website during lockdown which has been invaluable in connecting me with the buying needs of the public and highlighting just how important a role cards play in their relationships.
The re-opening of the shops got off to a good start and I do feel that people have a greater sense of wanting to support their local retailers which is good news for many indies.”
What would you say is the taste of the ‘new normal’? “It is a zingy lemon sorbet, that we have eaten a lot of during all this. It has an unexpected tang that may be a bit sour, but is surprisingly refreshing.”
Top: Belly Button Designs’ Happy Days range will be launched at Home & Gift Virtual on Monday.