UKG ceo Ceri Stirland reveals positive research findings
The greeting card industry is in pretty good shape, so says UK Greetings’ ceo Ceri Stirland as she revealed some of the findings of the publisher’s latest research tracker report.
“The best news of all is that consumer participation in greeting cards is at an all-time high,” Ceri told PG Buzz, “our latest research tracker report shows 94% of the UK adult population has bought at least one card in the last year, up on previous reports. This is a positive for everyone involved in this great industry.”
Highlighting the channel shifts over the past few years, exacerbated by the pandemic, Ceri explained that grocers have gained ground on the market share front and online sales now account for around 16% of the market, way up on pre-Covid levels.
And she added: “I think 2023’s Spring Seasons greeting card sales generally have been better than expected. Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day sales were good and Easter was respectable while everyday has been solid, with special sends doing well.
“I always talk of cards being inexpensive gifts and this has been the case during the cost-of-living crisis.”
As the first female ceo at UKG Ceri is now three months into the role, having taken over from James Conn when he retired on 1 March.
She heads up a £100million-plus market-leading business employing 3,500 people across four sites, supplying over 10,000 retail rooftops with 20,000 of its own skus plus those of the 70 publishers it brokers into major retailers, as well as managing sales of its products everywhere outside of North America, plus looking after the franchised-based Card Connection arm.
Part of the legacy is Boofle, UKG’s loveable pup character who celebrates his 15th birthday this year, and Ceri has also firmly nailed her sustainability credibility to the mast by bringing manufacturing back to the company’s Dewsbury HQ.
As president of the GCA back in 2017, she urged publishers, retailers and trade suppliers to progress on the environmental front, something which UKG continues to champion while not losing sight of the need to create special greeting cards.
“By the end of this year we will have reshored 60% of all of our production to the UK,” confirmed Ceri, highlighting just one of the company’s many improvements on the environmental front.
As part of this, in something of an historic turnaround, the company is once again manufacturing in Dewsbury, having invested in printing, die-cutting, foiling, folding machinery for its greeting cards as well as a rollwrap facility.
“It was so great to be able to bring back a lot of the members of our old team who know, understand and have a passion for greeting card printing,” said Ceri.
And, to ensure the British love affair with greetings cards continues, this has coincided with challenging UKG’s creative team to be ever more inventive in their product design for greeting cards and wrappings that still deliver on specialness and value for money without costing the planet.
“Our focus on sustainability and how we reduce our carbon emissions will continue, because it is the right thing to do – for our customers, their customers and our planet, both now and in the future,” Ceri added.
In addition, she highlighted the promotion of Matthew James to UKG’s director of independent sales as part of the publisher’s commitment to the indies: “Our independent retailers are very important to us, especially as they’re all about the UKG brand. We have not had anyone in this role for five years, and Matt’s appointment will help ensure we continue to serve and support in the best way possible.
“We won The Henries Best Service To The Independent Retailer Gold trophy last October – we want to keep hold of that title!”
So, how does it feel filling James Conn’s shoes? The ever quick-witted Ceri responded: “Well, I have tiny size three feet, so I’d never be able to walk in James’ shoes but, as he was my mentor for 15 years and we had similar ways of thinking, I’ll do my utmost not to trip up!”
The full article about Ceri Stirland taking over as UK Greetings ceo appears in Progressive Greetings’ June edition, which can be read online by clicking here.