GCA Conference And AGM Keeps The Industry’s Heart Beating

“2020 has turned into the year none of us could have imagined, and we can still have some challenging months ahead. However again the resilience of the greeting card industry has shone through,” began Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA in her opening speech at the association’s recent Conference and AGM. Hosted digitally, the event brought together hundreds of retailers, publishers and suppliers, both from the UK and overseas. It over delivered not just on the content of the presentations and discussions, but through the sense of camaraderie of seeing so many familiar faces on the screen as well as the continuous interaction of attendees in the Chat feed.

‘Thank you to everyone today for making this GCA AGM happen. It’s been so nice to watch and hear how the industry is pulling us all through these tricky times together,’ wrote Steve Baker, sales and marketing director of Pigment summing up the sentiment felt by so many others attending.

Above: The holding slide at the GCA Conference and AGM that was hosted digitally on the Hopin platform.
Above: The holding slide at the GCA Conference and AGM that was hosted digitally on the Hopin platform.

From its representation of the sector to Government, Royal Mail and the media to its consumer-facing initiatives, such as Thinking of You Week and co-ordinating the Market Report which tracks the health and wealth of the industry, the GCA has done its members and the whole greeting card trade proud.

Rachel Hare, president of the GCA and founder of Belly Button Designs shared her company’s commitment to progress on the environmental front, transitioning to make all of its products plastic-free.

Above: The nation’s love of cards was reflected in the 160,000 Captain Tom received for his 100th birthday.
Above: The nation’s love of cards was reflected in the 160,000 Captain Tom received for his 100th birthday.

“Reducing plastic is not new to Belly Button as over the past few years we have gradually begun to reduce waste across the business – but the new ‘space’ we found ourselves in (due to the pandemic) highlighted that there was more to do,” said Rachel. While she accepts that there are still improvements to be made, her mantra is “that it is about doing what you can, small steps are OK and can be the beginning of change.”

One of the highlights of the agenda delved into another important area where change has been needed – that of diversity in the greeting card industry.

Above: UKG’s commercial director (and GCA Council member) Darren Cave presented the UK Greeting Card Market Report at the Conference.
Above: UKG’s commercial director (and GCA Council member) Darren Cave presented the UK Greeting Card Market Report at the Conference.

Expertly hosted by Mark Callaby, managing director of Ohh Deer, retailers (Hazel Walker of Waterstones, Jo Bennett of Card Factory, Pollyanna Bell of Paperchase) joined with new GCA council members Tineka  Smith (of Huetribe), Adriana Lovesy (of Mrs Lovesy) and Rachel Hare (of Belly Button) to discuss how while some much needed progress has been made on this front over the last six months, there is plenty more to come.

“It’s not about making a token gesture. Less novelty, more permanent,” implored Jo Bennett, who feels hopeful that just as there is now greater availability of card designs aimed at the LGBTQ+ community that it should also become “seemless” that cards that better reflect diversity will be more widely available.

Above: The GCA’s diversity meet up in the summer was a catalyst for change.
Above: The GCA’s diversity meet up in the summer was a catalyst for change.

Other major multiple retail names – from Cardzone to Sainsbury’s as well as many leading indies (including Postmark, Red Card and Mooch) were incredibly giving of their time and their insights, sharing what painted a “cautiously optimistic” picture that we were heading for a decent Christmas, had it of course not been for Lockdown 2 while another panel discussed the trials and triumphs of selling online.

(Full details of all the presentations will be covered in Progressive Greetings’ November edition which is published shortly).

Above: Just a snapshot of the media interest the GCA has responded to over the last year.
Above: Just a snapshot of the media interest the GCA has responded to over the last year.

The Conference also marked the launch of the much-anticipated brand new ‘whistles and bows’ GCA website.

Bringing the site to life, Raj Arora who owns Davora greeting card company as well as Nettl, the web design company that developed  it took attendees through just some of highlights.

Here he shares a handful…

The new website makes it easier than ever for members to find the content they are looking for. With its Google-esue search feature the GCA Library is now the hub of information for members to help them grow their businesses.

Members can now invite their colleagues to use the website too without separate subscriptions. That means multiple people in an organisation can access the tools and resources they need to help them.

Above: Paperchase buyer Pollyanna Bell, as she active on the retailer’s diversity and inclusivity forum was happy to contribute to the Diversity panel discussion at the Conference.
Above: Paperchase buyer Pollyanna Bell, as she active on the retailer’s diversity and inclusivity forum was happy to contribute to the Diversity panel discussion at the Conference.

By automating the administration of membership renewals, including the addition of automatic renewals, the GCA management will now have a lot more time to spend on promoting the industry and our members and organising more events.

The new Members Directory is an invaluable marketing resource, and a great way for our members to attract new customers. And members have full control over the information they put out on the directory.

The new website can grow with the GCA. Expect to see new features being added in the coming months, such as the ability to book online for events.

The Jobs board supports members who are looking for Artists, Agents or to grow their team.

As Amanda Fergusson quite rightly points out, “The website is a phenomenally powerful hub now for the entire industry. I urge all members to make sure their profile is updated as that alone will bring them business as well as having a good look at the wealth of resources that are hosted on it.”

Above: The new GCA website provides lots of opportunities for businesses to promote themselves.
Above: The new GCA website provides lots of opportunities for businesses to promote themselves.

And she also urges anyone involved in the greeting card industry who is not a member to join. “As the last year has shown, there is much to be gained by having a collective voice. For this voice to be louder and for us as an association to achieve more and help to perpetuate this wonderful industry, we need everybody on board. So come on retailers, publishers, suppliers, join up and get involved!”

Head to www.gca.cards to see the new site and email hello@gca.cards to join up!

Top: Second Nature’s Chris Bryan (centre top) hosted the discussion about online card selling with panellists being (left-right) Priya Aurora-Crowe (Lark London), Jo Barber (No.14), Francis Jardine (The Bottom Drawer), Jeremy Lune (Cards for Good Causes) and Rachel Dickson (Zaquarella).

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