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Opinion: N&Q’s Alan Harnik’s US report

International perspective from America is seeing many positives

 

Travelling from overseas to check out the UK’s greeting card scene is now fully possible again, so PG has been catching up with some of the world’s leading card distributors and publishers to find out how trade has been in their corners of the globe.

In this latest edition from the international perspective, The Henries Honorary Achievement holder Alan Harnik, founder of Notes & Queries gives the American point of view…

Above and top: Alan and his wife Gillian in Ocracoke, North Carolina, enjoying some down time
Above and top: Alan and his wife Gillian in Ocracoke, North Carolina, enjoying some down time

How has trade been in the last year?

“Based on our business, and from what we hear from our industry colleagues, the greeting card business in the US grew in 2022. The growth of the past two years seems to have come both from key accounts as well as from independent shops outside urban areas.”

What have been some the main ups and downs?

“Our major challenges have been a repeat of 2021. Shipping continues to be one of our biggest distribution problems. Getting cards, giftwrap and stationery from the UK to the US, either by air or sea, is more expensive and takes longer. Also, some of our suppliers have experienced shortages in raw materials meaning that re-orders from some of our trading partners have taken longer.

“Lastly, we’ve had to incur significant price increases from our suppliers, reflective of the price increases they themselves have incurred. For Notes & Queries inflation, be it in the form of salaries, space rental, or insurance, they’ve all gone up – only my salary has remained the same!

Above: The cover of the first volume of Alan’s book Counting Cards: Confessions Of A Card Shark, and the second volume is now ready too
Above: The cover of the first volume of Alan’s book Counting Cards: Confessions Of A Card Shark, and the second volume is now ready too

“That said, the positives are many. We have a stable workforce and have hired a new VP of sales. We’ve kept our bad debts to less than 0.5%, plus added several new trading partners to our portfolio, namely Folio and Tache, with Stephanie Davies and select ranges from Abacus Cards coming onboard in January 2023.”

“Choosing design is what has made Notes & Queries distinguishable over our 42-year history and 2022 was no different. It’s our trading partners and the designs they produce that has allowed us to continue to be a market leader in the distribution of design-oriented paper products from the UK.”

Card buying habits

“Given longer lead times from some of our suppliers to fill our orders we’re putting more cards on the shelves so customers don’t run out of them. Our customers have continued to seek new, new, new from existing publishers as well as new resources that we bring in.

“We’ve seen sales of blank cards increasing and we’re not sure whether new independent shops are embracing this category to meet the needs of their customers or whether Notes & Queries’ blanks are just great!”

Above: Battenkill Books in Cambridge, New York, is one of Notes & Queries’ many indie customers
Above: Battenkill Books in Cambridge, New York, is one of Notes & Queries’ many indie customers

What is the key news from your company perspective over the last year?

“New for us in 2022 was additional personnel in the warehouse to meet the increased volume of business, the appointment of a VP of sales as well as new sales agent hires. For me personally attending The Henries and being awarded The Honorary Achievement Award, which sits proudly on my dining room table for all to see, was a key highlight – as well as the publication of my book!”

What are your hopes and dreams for this year?

“My hope for Notes & Queries in 2023 is to continue to transition ownership and directorship to my daughter Vanessa this coming year, a process which has been ongoing for the past two years.”

These international views also appeared in the February edition of Progressive Greetings magazine which can be read online here, or you can subscribe here to receive the magazine by post each month.

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