Cardie happenings of 2023

PG Buzz looks back over a busy and eventful greeting card industry year


As retailers tot up their festive till takings and we get ready to wave goodbye to the final days of 2023, PG Buzz takes the opportunity to look back at some of the most-read stories from the newsletters galore of the last 12 months.

And we – the team of Jakki, Warren, Tracey A and Tracey B – wish everyone a very healthy, happy, and prosperous new year.

Above: Five inspiring female founders – Olivia Reilly, Jo Williams, Stacey Dennis, Danielle Seatter and Beck Prior
Above: Five inspiring female founders – Olivia Reilly, Jo Williams, Stacey Dennis, Danielle Seatter and Beck Prior


Jennie Rutter joins Emo board – the long-serving Emotional Rescue creative director steps up as her role has expanded.

Noel Tatt hits £2m charity milestone – the publisher’s 20-year partnership with Help 32 Charities sees the 10% donation of the retail price from its Christmas card collection sales top the £2million mark.

Cardies relieved Christmas did happen – Royal Mail’s strikes dampened box sales and slashed stamp buying, but single card sales were up as retailers revealed the festive trade delivered against the odds.

CBG backs indies with major plush and gift launch – Carte Blanche Greetings hits the ground running with its first major plush and gift launch since 2020, including a window display competition.

WHS expansion continues – adding 15 new stores is WHSmith’s target for the year as total revenue rises 41% in the 20 weeks to 14 January.

M&G diversifies into napkins – Museum & Galleries’ expansion into textile-based products grows to include printed organic cotton napkins along with a printed paper collection.

GCA meets Labour party’s head of policy – the industry association took the battle over Royal Mail’s threat to cut letter deliveries to those who may form the next government.

Cardfactory’s Christmas ahead of expectations – good news from the UK’s biggest greeting card retailer with sales up to £432.6million from £337.3m a year prior, as it opened a third central London store.

Five inspiring female founders – Little Boat Gifts’ Olivia Reilly, Stacey Dennis from Love Layla Design, Joco Interiors’ Jo Williams, Eco-Able’s Danielle Seatter and Beck Prior of Prior Shop were profiled among the 100 UK female entrepreneurs.

Tesco has bought Paperchase brand in pre-pack deal – the retailer’s story finally ended in complete collapse then Tesco saved the brand, although the deal did not include Paperchase’s 100-plus stores.

Above: UK Greetings’ Darren Cave (left), Ceri Stirland and James Conn
Above: UK Greetings’ Darren Cave (left), Ceri Stirland and James Conn


POC’s sustainability white papers for retailers and publishers – sustainable membership organisation Products Of Change and Spring & Autumn Fair linked up to “deliver real education to retailers and suppliers”

Nicole Elders flies high – hidden talents abound in the greetings industry with this publisher’s day job being as an aerospace engineer building huge engines for jumbo jets.

James Conn retires as UKG ceo – the long-serving chief exec announced he was to retire on 1 March when customer and channel director Ceri Stirland became the first woman to lead the company, and Darren Cave stepped up to take over her role.

Dobbies Garden Centres acquired – the UK’s largest garden centre retailer, which has a large greeting card section, was acquired by funds managed by long-term investor Ares management.

Hallmark to outsource field merch ops to Dee Set – from 21 March the Dee Set Group took over the merchandising needs of all Hallmark customers, with all staff moving over to the service provider.

£20m bill for Paperchase’s unsecured creditors – the retailer’s first fall into administration in 2021 left creditors, including greeting card publishers with a huge bill.

Barley Bear’s such a prankster – IC&G’s character hit the big time as the star of the first prank of the new Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway series on ITV1.

Above: Janet Ross-Jordan with Theo Paphitis – and the polycrub that caused a power cut
Above: Janet Ross-Jordan with Theo Paphitis – and the polycrub that caused a power cut


Hallmark Cards md resigns for personal reasons – Tom Rolt stepped down as group md for the UK, Ireland and Australia after seven months, but agreed to stay on until his replacement is found.

Stamp price rise anger – the greetings industry condemned Royal Mail’s inflation-busting 16% first class stamp increase to £1.10, and 10% second class rise to 75p from 3 April, as GCA raised the issue with the government.

The Art File passes £300k charity cash milestone – the publisher’s 2022 Christmas packs raise £55,000 for four worthy causes, taking its total to £300,000-plus over the years.

SBS retail winner causes sparks – Cards And Gift Wrap indie Janet Ross-Jordan dazzled entrepreneur Theo Paphitis with her eco-friendly paper tape then blacked out the local school by causing a power cut!

Postmark picks up prime Paperchase sites – quick work by the retail group saw it win five outlets in Network Rail sites, as well as at Battersea Power Station and two other stores, doubling its estate.

Card retailers make most-loved brands chart – Cardfactory climbed to 19th in the 2023 Savanta BrandVue poll recognising the most emotively-connected retail brands, with John Lewis, Waterstones, The Works, Flying Tiger, Hobbycraft, WHSmith, Moonpig, Thortful and Cards Direct also in the top 100.

Czech billionaire increases Royal Mail stake – the delivery group’s biggest shareholder Daniel Křetínský raised his share amid speculation he may launch a buyout of parent company International Distributions Services.

Emo’s pint of stout giggles go viral – a 90-year-old birthday boy’s incredible reaction to a fabulously funny Emotional Rescue card went viral, clocking up well over 300,000 views on social media.

Ling moves distribution hub – the publisher left its long-term home in Paddock Wood, Kent, to join sister company GBCC at its purpose-built premises in Gloucester.

Above: Graeme Karavis is Hallmark’s new md
Above: Graeme Karavis is Hallmark’s new md


Hallmark has new managing director – Graeme Karavis brings “track record of success” to the top job at the Bradford-based publisher.

Agent’s opinion: Can I be direct? – North West independent sales agent Neil Greenwood’s views about suppliers’ different approaches to sales enquiries with a message for those who try to skimp on commission

Management buyout at NQP and Paper Rose – Alison Butterworth and John Lowey completed an MBO of Nigel Quiney Publications and Paper Rose with Paper Design Group and brands Glick, Polytint and Simon Elvin Ltd acquired by Pillarbox Designs, a company privately owned by Paul and Chris Taylor.

Postal strikes end in sight – fingers crossed! – Royal Mail and the union announced an “agreement in principle” had been reached to end the disruptive industrial action after almost a year of talks.

Greetings stores buck retail trend – a swathe of openings from Cards Direct, Cardfactory, Postmark, Lark and WHSmith’s first new Curi-o-city brand outlets show how much the UK public loves cards.

Cardfactory acquires SA Greetings – the card retail giant paid £2.5m cash for the South African card and gift packaging business, its first international acquisition.

Otter House buys Splimple – founder Stuart Cauldwell sold the humour card business including all licences such as Alison’s Animals to the Exeter publishing group.

A magnificent seven – four British publishers shared the spoils from the US GCA’s annual honours The Louie Awards, with Louise Mulgrew clinching four trophies, while Paper Salad, Paper D’Art and Tache also won categories.

Above: The Princess Diana link turned these cards into a £7,000 sale
Above: The Princess Diana link turned these cards into a £7,000 sale


Lee Hartley joins Paperlink as business development manager – the experienced industry name moved from Noel Tatt to the London-based publisher to take up a newly-created role.

Long live the king! – Coronation fever was crowned by cardies’ fabulous window displays once greeting retailers had got through Mother’s Day and Easter.

Pigment’s designers are spaced out – an airy new studio space saw the publisher buck the recent trend for working from home, with its staff preferring to go into the office.

Diana was a right royal card – a pair of cheeky Emotional Rescue cards signed and sent by Princess Diana were up for auction, making £7,000, way above their original 95p price tag!

£1bn losses at Royal Mail – as the postal service’s performance was blamed for parent company IDS’ £748million in annual operating losses, Royal Mail told the GCA it wants a strong greeting card sector in the UK.

Indie retailers recognised – small greetings stores were reaping the rewards of their hard work with Cards & Gifts, Raffia, and Gifted among the latest to be feted for their commitment.

Card buying among 16-24 year olds is up 14% – Cardfactory delivered positive insights into the UK public’s card-buying habits and the industry’s resilience, along with impressive financial results.

Me To You has 75% brand awareness with UK public – Carte Blanche’s consumer research confirms Tatty Teddy’s charm has a high standing with the banking both in awareness and their purchasing decisions.

Above: Cardgains’ annual challenge smashed its target for MNDA
Above: Cardgains’ annual challenge smashed its target for MNDA


Gangster of maximalism at PG Live next week – GBCC’s launched a new licence with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen with a personal appearance at the trade show.

Consumer participation in cards at all-time high – the greeting card industry is in pretty good shape, according to UK Greetings’ ceo Ceri Stirland as she revealed findings from the publisher’s latest research tracker report.

Relive PG Live in pictures – the delights of the UK’s biggest greeting card trade show captured the industry’s attention.

Slow burn for Father’s Day – retailers reported sales figures generally tracking last year’s as they brace themselves for the traditional last-minute rush.

Card buyers on the move – new and relocating faces revealed on the buying front with changes at John Lewis and WHSmith.

Ohh Deer takes on UWP Luxe distribution – chatting at trade shows paid off again for the UK publisher as a PG Live meeting turned into its first classic distribution deal with the US-based pop-up specialist.

Cardology fixes up new licence – the 3D pop-up publisher earns one of the first deals to use the IP from TV phenomenon The Repair Shop.

What a walk, £39,000 raised for MNDA – Cardgains’ annual charity challenge smashes its target as 50 cardies complete the Look Out London trek in memory of David Hicks.

Above: The very best greeting card retailers of 2023
Above: The very best greeting card retailers of 2023


Widdop And Co mbo – brothers Stephen and Dan Illingworth completed a management buy-out to acquire outright their family’s wholesale gift and home décor company, which has licensing partnerships with publishers including Raspberry Blossom, Hotchpotch, Pigment and Meg Hawkins.

Taking pride in cards – glitter and flags were to the fore as the GCA’s first appearance at the annual Pride In London parade saw 10,000 cards handed out.

The Retas 2023 winners revealed – the UK’s very best greeting card retailers were officially recognised at The Retas 2023 greeting card retailer awards ceremony.

Thortful’s support for creatives – the online marketplace’s Instagram post persuaded Central 23 to step up to address the issues of greetings artists and publishers who believe their work is being copied.

Cardmitment campaign to boost Christmas card sending – the GCA called for industrywide support for its major consumer PR and marketing initiative.

Learning about litho – extolling the virtues of litho printing was the aim of a very successful GCA workshop in collaboration with print group Windles.

Woodmansterne to launch into gift packaging – the publisher revealed it had secured licences from Emma Bridgewater, Sanderson and Quentin Blake for its inaugural collection spanning roll wrap, giftbags, tissue paper and tags.

Greetings concerns over ai – artificial intelligence if the subject of much debate, so industry folk give their views on how the lack of laws governing its usage is affecting cards and publishing.

Bentleys’ big birthday – indie greetings retailer celebrated the 70th milestone year at the Stourport-On-Severn store.

Above: Seth and Paul Woodmansterne celebrated 70 years of their family business
Above: Seth and Paul Woodmansterne celebrated 70 years of their family business


Retailer roundtable bans drum for card sending – an impassioned speech from Sincerely Yours’ Kaye Thurgood brought the #Cardmitment campaign to life.

Regent Envelopes ceases trading – administrators were appointed at the Yorkshire firm, putting the business and assets up for sale as 60 redundancies were made.

30 years of eco friendliness – the Eco-friendly Card Company celebrated at Autumn Fair with a delicious chocolate giveaway.

Indie expansion continues – Stationery House and Utility opened new stores as Blue Diamond announced plans for a new garden centre creating 150 jobs.

Lionesses roar in calendar sales – fans make a date with Danilo’s licensed product as the England women’s team got further in World Cup than any side from the UK in 57 years.

Celebrating 70 years of Woodmansterne – the third generation greetings business marked its big birthday with a barbecue and cake.

Sir Cliff makes date with media – the 82-year-old national treasure went nautical for his 39th licensed calendar with Danilo, with pre-orders sparked by an appearance on ITV1’s Lorraine show.

Court accepts deal to save Clintons – the retailer’s owners agreed to provide a revolving loan facility if 38 non-profitable stores were closed in a restructuring plan agreed by the insolvency court which looks to have saved Clintons from collapse for at least a year.

Cardmitment pr ramps up for big birthday month – celeb designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen backs GCA campaign that celebrates Britishness.

Above: Cardfactory’s Adam Dury helped the upbeat mood at the GCA conference
Above: Cardfactory’s Adam Dury helped the upbeat mood at the GCA conference


£1.7m investment makes N Smith even speedier – cardboard engineering maestro triples capacity with state-of-the-art digital printer

80% of cards sold in UK now cello-free – Britain’s greeting card industry is continuing to make impressive strides on the sustainable front, as 80% of all greeting cards now sold in the UK are free of plastic packaging.

The Ladder Club is back! – news was warmly received that after a four-year hiatus, the in-a-nutshell one-day seminar aimed at would-be, newbie and emerging publishers was to take place on December 1.

Hyve changes its plans for Connect at Spring Fair & Autumn Fair 2024 – the show organiser announced it will not be continuing its connections programme following exhibitors’ and GCA feedback.

Upbeat mood at GCA conference fill of #Cardmitment – a packed audience heard positive news of the resilient greetings industry worth £1.45billion with the confirmation that cards are cutting through the cost-of-living crisis.

Peartree Heybridge decides to close its doors – directors at the long-established publisher announced their retirement with the company stopping accepting orders on 31 October.

Profits soar 72% at Cardfactory – a strong performance saw store sales grow by 10.5% as profits hit £24.7million, with the online dip “as anticipated”.

Above: The Henries winners and David Greaves
Above: The Henries winners and David Greaves


The Henries 2023 winners revealed – comedian and improvisation doyenne Pippa Evans hosted the Oscars of the greeting card sector, now in its 28th year.

Card publisher in £1.3m defamation lawsuit – Full Colour Black filed a claim against world-famous graffiti artist Banksy in its long-running trademark dispute, seeking at least £1,357,000 in damages and an injunction preventing further alleged defamation.

The legend that is David Greaves – the recipient of the 2023 Henries Honorary Achievement award was the Emotional Rescue co-owner.

Caroline Gardner marks 30-year milestone – it was party time for the enduring greeting card and gift brand born from a chance conversation about a Japanese shop opening.

Publishers sign up for sustainability conference – leading names in cards, calendars and major retailers joined an illustrious line-up of attendees the Sustainability in Licensing Conference (SiLC).

Goodbye to Murray Sim – Design Group UK announced the death of its long-serving account manager affectionately known as Muzza to many.

Papier broadens reach with b2b launch – the London-based direct-to-consumer stationery brand entered the wholesale market through an exclusive partnership with Selfridges department store.

Wendy’s art is on menu – card and wrap publisher Wendy Bell Designs is showcasing the artist’s alcohol ink work at her new restaurant, Terrace in Shrewsbury.

Shop Indie Day blasts out positivity on Instagram – independent card retailers created a buzz on social media about the joys of shopping in their stores.

Above: MP Elliot Coldburn was keen to sign his #Cardmitment pledge
Above: MP Elliot Coldburn was keen to sign his #Cardmitment pledge


Fruity move for Camilla & Rose – artist Sarah Boddy was over the moon that her characters from the Henry Cole Classic brand have a new home with Cherry Orchard Publishing.

M&S tv ad burns festive traditions – the High Street staple’s torching of Christmas cards in its festive commercial angered cardies.

Postmark and Stone Marketing fly high – the retailer and stationery distributor collaborate for a colourful children’s art event at Battersea Power Station.

Royal Mail urged to keep promises – the GCA stressed the importance after Ofcom fined the UK’s major postal service £5.6million for missing delivery targets by a “significant and unexplained margin” causing “considerable harm” to customers.

Green for go this Christmas – forest-friendly festive cheer was the aim of the Forest Stewardship Council UK’s campaign encouraging the public to send Christmas cards, but urging them to pick FSC-certified product.

Abacus’ hat trick of nostalgia and nature licences – the publisher has added collections for BBC TV series Wild Isles and Hornby Hobbies, with both the Airfix and Hornby model brands.

Paperchase brand resurrection – Tesco debuts its inaugural collection of greeting cards, stationery, celebrations and gifting products featuring the brand at 120 stores.

Winning women – Wrendale’s Hannah Dale led a quartet of female entrepreneurs to the latest business honours along with MiMi’s owner Julianne Moore, Sandra Jervis, owner of Creative Cove, and Georgina Fihosy, founder of AfroTouch Design.

MPs make #Cardmitment to send Christmas cards – the GCA’s event at Parliament saw numerous politicians’ pledge to support the industry association’s campaign to protect the Royal Mail’s universal service obligation (USO).

Above: It’s Sarah Laker’s name on the BOSS award but her retailer pals Ray Williams and Sandra Jervis were very happy to celebrate
Above: It’s Sarah Laker’s name on the BOSS award but her fellow retailer pals Ray Williams and Sandra Jervis were very happy to celebrate


Max Publishing acquires London Stationery Show  – Progressive Greetings’ owner bought the UK’s only event dedicated to the stationery, arts, crafts, paper and writing instruments sector along with Stationery Matters magazine/online and National Stationery Week.

Sarah’s the boss! – Stationery Supplies owner Sarah Laker, also the face of National Stationery Week, lifted the BOSS Federation’s Independent Retailer Award for the third year running.

Climbing the ladder to card success – “informative, fun and well worth attending” was the verdict on the revived Ladder Club from the 40 would-be and newbie greeting card publishers who attended.

Positive news outweighs bad – greeting cards hit the media with plenty of good stories balancing Royal Mail’s citing of “health and safety” for clearing packages first.

Cardfactory turns up volume for Christmas – the retail giant’s largest-yet radio and digital advertising campaign pushes #Cardmitment and promotes festive sending.

Wonderful winter windows – retailers went to town with their fabulous festive displays to grab the eye and generate maximum Christmas sales.

Sad loss of Derek Hanley – the industry stalwart dies suddenly of a heart attack aged 70 while at the gym after a 40-year career.

Final festive push and it’s looking good – Sean Austin rejoiced at his best-yet golden quarter in 13 years of Austin & Co, as buyers show they love small retailers.

See you in 2024 for plenty more news and views!


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