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Foreign Correspondent: Susan January, vice president of product management of Leanin’ Tree reveals how the US card market is faring.

Susan January, vice president of product management of US publisher Leanin’ Tree, which licences designs from Pigment, Simon Elvin, Bright Art Licensing, Advocate Art, Ardea, and MGL, shares her views on Brexit as well as a summary of the US card market and highlights some of design trends that are currently prevalent.

Brexit reaction: “We are fortunate in that we don’t import printed product from overseas. Because we have our own manufacturing plant in Colorado, we produce, package and warehouse all of our own greeting card inventory. Most of our work with UK card publishers is in the form of licensing agreements, which allows our UK partners to transmit digital files to us without the expense of us having to bring in finished products to the US. The licensing relationship allows us to bring great UK product and design to our US customers without having the political ramifications of Brexit or tariff threats to deal with. We feel very fortunate that we can ‘control our own destiny’ in this regard as our #1 goal is always to bring the best product to our independent retailers across the US. We’re grateful not to be in a position of having to bring in finished goods from Europe or Asia amid the political unrest of Brexit or the threat of tariffs.”

Current US design trends: “Among the strong design trends we are still seeing here in the US include:

  • Alpacas and Llamas – These are often pictured adorned with Southwestern themed blankets, ribbons, and other autumn textures and colours.
Above: The march of the alpacas and llamas continues for Leanin’ Tree.
Above: The march of the alpacas and llamas continues for Leanin’ Tree.
  • Mermaids and Unicorns – These are used on cards for both young children and adult women consumers. They embody personal expression and pair so well with traditional greeting card embellishments like glitter, foil, and on-trend colours like coral, turquoise and iridescent rainbow or coastal colours.


Above: The mystical is still strong for US publisher, Leanin’ Tree.
Above: The mystical is still strong for US publisher, Leanin’ Tree.

* Other ‘mystical’ motifs – succulents, crystals and minerals are showing up in gemstone shades.

* Hand-lettering is still BIG – The ‘words as art’ craze continues, and covers everything from simple chalkboard styles (still!) to farmhouse rustic, to modern and graphic. Hand-lettering appeals to those who want a break from the digital fonts they’re assaulted with on their devices, and is a great reminder of the use of the written word and it’s visual impact!

Above: Phrasing is bringing home the bacon!
Above: Phrasing is bringing home the bacon!

* Rich and elegant floral patterns – These are both timeless and fresh, especially when placed against a dark background for contrast and added ‘pop’. The flowers are often simply drawn and brightly coloured, with highlights of soft gold for added sophistication.

* Jungle scenes – Both animals and lush greenery are exotic yet fun, with loads of colors that are right on trend and that leap off the page.

* All things ‘Western’ – In the US market, scenes depicting life in the American West often cycle in and out of style. Right now all things ‘Western’ are in, so products everywhere can be found with cowboy boots, antlers, mountains, feathers, arrows and even some Native American influences.”

Above: A still life that gives a nod to the Western influence.
Above: A still life that gives a nod to the Western influence.

How’s business in the States?: “We’ve had a very solid year, with stable everyday card sales and in the key account channel. The US card market continues to respond well to higher priced cards that deliver the ‘WOW’ factor for special card sending relationships and occasions. Consumers have not been shy about their willingness to pay more for cards that are printed on specialty papers and that have some combination of embellishments like multiple foils and glitter, add-on embellishments like jewels, ribbons, twine and die-cuts, and specially designed envelopes. Millennials especially are less price sensitive, as long as they are getting something that looks and feels unique and special. While birthday continues to be the most important of the everyday categories, encouragement cards (with heartfelt, sincere messages that speak to the heart and lift the spirit) are gaining in importance.  In a tumultuous political and cultural climate like the US has experienced recently, cards expressing care, concern, and messages of friendship are more relevant and important than ever.

Christmas card singles are on the rise as consumers look for cards that are unique and special for their most important relationships. US consumers also love photo personalised cards that tell a compelling visual story of someone’s year and that can now include die-cut, glitter or foil card designs and that often be ordered with matching envelopes, liners, envelope seals and return address labels.”

Top: Susan January, vp of product management of Leanin’ Tree.

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