Between The Lines, Garsons, Jarrolds, Postmark and Calladoodles commit to the Den
“Accept you won’t be for everyone and everyone won’t be for you – don’t take it personally, you will find your people,” assured Sarah Laker, owner of Stationery Supplies in Marple and Wilmslow, in an insightful presentation to publishers shared via Zoom to help them prepare for the GCA’s Dragons’ Speed Dating event on March 2.
In a fast-paced hour-long Prepare To Slay The Dragons seminar, GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson and marketing and membership coordinator Adriana Lovesy took attendees through the rudiments and logistics of the event, as well as how to make the most of it, before handing over to indie champ Sarah, who ran through her tick list of what she looks for in a greeting card publisher – her full notes are below.
“The event provides a key opportunity to network, to learn from your peers, to meet retailers, ask lots of questions and make the most of the business opportunities,” summed up Amanda.
And Adriana added: “It’s a great way to start building relationships for the future. Come positive, come happy, come willing.”
Continuing with a winning formula, the Dragons Speed Dating event will see 72 publishers each pitch their ranges and companies to a trio of the 18 retail Dragons which include buyers from Scribbler, Tesco, Card Factory, Between The Lines, Postmark, WHSmith, Jarrold’s, Diverse in Brixton, Stationery Supplies, Presents Sheen, Calladoodles in Carshalton, and Wishlist in Raynes Park and Garsons Farm.
In addition, the event will also include a panel discussion, which will see GCA members share insights into their businesses and answer questions. The panellists will include Abacus Cards md Nick Carey, Raspberry Blossom’s co-founder Rebecca Green, AfroTouch Design co-founder Georgina Fihosy, Stormy Knight founder Sarah Jackson, and Brett Smith, md of Emotional Rescue. And there’s a GCA legal beagle in the shape of Will Miles, of Briffa, on hand for all things IP and copyright.
Sarah Laker’s Tick List – what I’m looking for…
1 The Design – this is the most important element as that will be what catches my eye. The designs need to:
- Have a USP, echo a trend in your own style or be the first of its kind.
- Fill a gap in my shop or justify me taking another range out of my shop. I have a set amount of room on my card display so I need a reason to do this.
- Look good on the shelf or spinner – make sure you use all the space available! Designs or wording at the bottom of the card will not be seen on traditional racking.
- Fit size wise. I don’t want awkward sizes, cards that need explaining to the customer, or are difficult to display in any way, unless you’re offering me a display solution.
2 Back Of The Cards – don’t forget your back story. Include your info in a couple of sentences on the back of the cards. This could include:
- Who you are.
- Where you’re based, and/or where the cards are made. The likelihood is your cards will be printed in the UK, so include that on the back.
- Who is the artist, how have the designs been created.
- What are the cards made from – eg FSC, recyclable board, etc.
- Code – please do use codes, and use them on your invoicing too, it makes it easier to order, re-order, and track missing or damaged items from deliveries.
- Consider including barcodes. Some shops require them and won’t order cards without them.
3 Envelopes And Wrapping – don’t let your envelope let you down:
- Never forget, the envelope is the first thing the receiver sees and holds.
- Consider whether your envelopes are made from FSC or recycled paper.
- Will you be supplying cards naked or wrapped? If you’re cellowrapping, is it compostable, biodegradable or recyclable? Whatever you choose, make this message clear. No single solution will suit everyone – I personally don’t like card klasps!
4 Your Place In The Market – to sell to me and other retailers, you need to know:
- Your product – know where your company sits in the marketplace, are you aiming to be seen as a traditional, sentiment, or contemporary publisher? Who are your competitors?
- Your price points – know your cards are suitably priced for the market at which you’re aiming. Eg if you’re publishing children’s cards consider how many parents buy a year for children’s parties and don’t out-price yourself.
- Your target customers – accept you won’t be for everyone and everyone won’t be for you – don’t take it personally, you will find your people. Know what kind of shops you think your cards will fit in.
- Visit other shops, outlets, and trade fairs to help you know your competition, price points, and where your range will fit.
- Build on the belief – I like to know you’ve thought about the future. How will your range stay relevant? Can you add to it, adapt it, has it got longevity? Do you have plans for future ranges?
- Know how big you can go – can you meet demand and afford the print runs and finance?
5 Your Trading Strategy – I’m be interested in your terms and conditions/way of working:
- What’s your minimum order carriage paid? Make it achievable. Remember, no one will want to buy your whole range so make sure you give enough choices of designs for a retailer to still meet the minimum order.
- Is the first order proforma?
- Ensure your invoicing is very clear – use product codes.
- How will you chase late payers – sadly some people will see you coming as a newbie, so have this process ready.
- Exclusivity – this is really important to indies, they want to be unique, so consider if you offer this via postcode or towns, etc. And take your stockists’ list to trade fairs so you can check when a retailer comes on your stand to order.
- How will you deal with damaged cards from deliveries or shortages?
- Have you thought through delivery and costs?
- Have you got T&Cs?
- Make sure that you understand VAT and margins, do your sums. If there isn’t enough profit in it for me, I will walk away.
- Don’t wing it! I want to deal with someone with a business head.
6 Deliveries – hurrah! You have an order from me and have successfully ticked all my boxes and are now picking and packing the cards, now you need to consider:
- Give careful thought to how you pack your cards. Imagine the courier uses your box as a football. The box has six sides, it won’t stay the same way up throughout its journey, so protect it!
- Don’t use shredded cardboard which will make all my carefully chosen designs dusty and I haven’t time to brush them all off.
- Add a personal message, a small treat, a few card samples – it all makes for good customer relations and a nice experience.
- If there’s a problem and the delivery will be delayed, let me know.
7 Stay In Touch With Me – having ordered from you, keep that communication going, but:
- It’s a fine balance, I don’t want to hear from you every day, or even every week, but I do want you to keep in touch!
- Emails are great, but so is a physical catalogue of new designs and card samples.
- If you include card samples then put in the finished product, don’t leave me guessing what the envelope is like or how it’s wrapped. This also means I can sell the card, see how it looks on the shelf and is less wasteful.
- I want to see and know about your new ranges. I can’t buy it if I don’t hear about it.
- Keep an eye on your social media, if I tag you in a post then comment, share it, etc, don’t ghost me. We’re all in this together and the more brand exposure we both get, the better.
- Enter The Henries – they’re free and it’s not only great for industry awareness but also for reaching the buyers who are doing the judging! Also consider Gift Of The Year.
Final thoughts…I sell about 15,000 cards a year alongside my stationery and gift products. I deal with over 70 suppliers across my two shops. Connect with me, give me a reason to buy from you and to remember you when I’m buying. And make it easy for me – suppliers who have what I call the faff factor are low on my priority list.
Greeting cards in the UK are brilliant. By retailers and publishers working well together, we can ensure that more cards are bought and sent, delivering more smiles!
Top: There will be 18 Dragons bracing themselves to be slayed by publishers at the GCA pitching event on March 2