The recent GCA Speed-dating with Dragons 3 sell-out event, hosted at London’s Business Design Centre, was memorable for all involved. It was an afternoon to be remembered for the newbies presenting their wares for the very first time to retailers; for more established players demonstrating how they have reinvented their portfolios; for retailers on the lookout for publishing gems; for how industry stalwarts selflessly shared their wealth of knowledge and experience and for the palpable sense of camaraderie that was all pervasive.
Here a trio of Dragons share their top picks from the afternoon:
Lisa Rutherford, buyer of greeting cards, stationery and special events for John Lewis & Partners:
What slayed you?:“My top pick from the Speed-dating with Dragons 3 event goes to Penguin Ink. The designs are simple but very charming. They ooze quality and come with a great CSR message too.
I also loved the vibrancy of Papagrazi. The colour and bold designs really make these cards stand out.
We will definitely be adding a couple of the publishers I saw at the event to our replan shortlist. The timeline we are working to is October planning for a February launch instore.”
What’s so good about the GCA’s Speed-dating with Dragons 3 event?: “There is huge value in being involved. It provides a great opportunity to meet publishers that I may not ordinarily explore, as well as being able to share knowledge and give advice to emerging talent. I also really enjoyed talking to some of my peers in the industry – super to have finally met Sainsbury’s buyer Carly Pearson who I read and hear about all of the time.”
Mark Janson-Smith, managing director of Postmark, a London-based group of four stores
What slayed you?: “There wereso many brilliant publishers participating, it was hard to pick just one when you went into the publishers’ ‘dens’. The format of the event means I only got the opportunity of one-to-one pitches from 12 of the 72 publishers who were there, but I am really looking forward to going through all my samples that were in the bulging goody bag that all Dragons were given.
Of the publishers who did pitch to me, I plan to look a lot closer at least two of them and have a follow-up meeting arranged with Blue Island Press.”
What’s so good about the GCA’s Speed-dating with Dragons 3 event?: “The event was great fun and very useful. It is such a great action-packed couple of hours with superb networking opportunities, not just with publishers but retailers too. I am always keen to try and find new products too so seeing everything like this and finding out more about publishers you wouldn’t necessarily speak to at a show is a big plus.”
Miles Robinson, partner of House of Cards, the Home Counties group of six stores:
What slayed you?: “The highlight for me was Little Elephants the designs of which are super strong. It is a great concept, with the books, prints and cards all being part of the brand.
I’ve been through the bag of samples, which took a surprisingly long time! Quite a few publishers impressed me with the presentation and personalisation of their sample packs – Plewsy and Emma Bryan were highlights on this front.
As to product I thought Just Gemma was superb while Laura Darrington and Jessica Hogarth (new Christmas dec cards) were also excellent.”
What’s so good about the GCA’s Speed-dating with Dragons 3 event?:“It feels good to be able to put something back into the industry by way of advice, although it is of course only my opinion!
Plus, we all love the opportunity of being able to spot the next little gems of publishers who have the potential to grow into something special.
It was great to see a good mix of established strong publishers as well as all of ‘the young ones’ so to speak.”
Top: (Right-left) Dragons Miles Robinson (House of Cards), Mark Janson-Smith (Postmark), Mark Rees (Penmark) and Paul Taylor (Cardzone).