The show was a hotbed of newness, fun, business and togetherness
Aaaaaaaaand relax! Progressive Greetings Live 2023 was one to remember, crammed full of newness, chat, fun, gossip, cuddles, deals, and competitions – as well as lots of business too over the two days.
Retailers of all shapes, sizes and locations flocked to the show, which took place over Tuesday and Wednesday, 6-7 June, while there was also a very strong international flavour with a whole host of overseas distributors visiting, as well as the largest yet number of exhibitors from overseas.
Among the many retail buyers who were inspired by the awesome selection from the 200-plus exhibitors were Cardzone, Oliver Bonas, Card Factory, Scribbler, Tesco, WHSmith High Street, Sainsbury’s, Clintons, TJX Europe, Paper Source, Morrisons, Fortnum & Mason, Waterstones, Ocado, Asda, John Lewis, WHSmith Travel, Postmark, Moonpig, Harrods, House of Cards, Robert Dyas, Garsons, Thortful, National Trust, Jarrold, Barnes & Noble, WJ Daniel, Nottcutts, Temptation Gifts, Dobbies, Morleys, and Elphicks as well as a veritable who’s who of leading indies.
“The show was so very good and we came away completely inspired!” commented Sam Ody, Tesco’s lead buying manager everyday cards, who was there with a whole team. “You could really tell there had been a real bounce back post-pandemic.
“Everyone we saw brought their A game to the show. There was lots of inspiration, newness and clears points of difference between the stands! Next year we’ve already said we will come both days as there was so much to see.”
Publisher Wendy Jones-Blackett had “such a great three days in London, working but great fun burning the candle at both ends too”, and added: “Really fab, what a great time we had, best one so far I reckon!”
The Gold, Silver and Sunshine tickets for The Retas, Greats finalists’ vouchers and Cardgains’ vouchers were very much in evidence at London’s Business Design Centre with retailers happy to spend them – Dandelion Stationery scored the first from Pete Whiteman, from Amore and DzoDzo in Woodbridge, who headed straight to her stand to place his order within 10 minutes of doors opening!
Abacus Cards and Clare Maddicott’s annual show offer was particularly tasty this year with plenty of bottles of their special label gin being handed out for each order taken over £300, and the PG Live tote bags they sponsored were also very popular.
Among the other special offers were vouchers from Ohh Deer and Brainbox Candy to spend on their ranges, while Penguin Ink’s Roll A Dice brought the fun to its stand, and Tatty Teddy was on hand to show off Carte Blanche’s Spin To Win wheel.
The star of the Me To You brand wasn’t the only character visiting as UK Greetings’ loveable pup Boofle put in an appearance, Danilo had the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles there while Hallmark’s Forever Friends bear was on hand both days as the publisher sponsored the lunchroom with a fabulous handmade display of over 700 paper flowers using board donated by paper company James Cropper.
And Graeme Karavis, Hallmark’s new md for the UK & Ireland and Australia, got his first taste of the British greeting card industry in full flow as he helped man the publisher’s stand.
Among the newbies up in Springboard and Springboard Intro was recently-retired international stand-up comedian Stuart Francis who has just launched his own business publishing greeting cards featuring his own hand-drawn cartoons – and changed the name from Hammersmith By Stuart Francis to Cards By Stuart Francis as the show opened.
“We just had our first order with Fuego from Lyme Regis and he paid cash!” he told PG Buzz. “I’m very excited as it’s made my show and is worth the two days here. I’m over the moon and he’s a lovely man.
“We also had Scribbler looking – we didn’t know who they were but they were absolutely lovely people, and when they’d gone others told us it was John and Jennie Procter, the co-founders of Scribbler!”
In fact Scribbler was also at the show as an exhibitor for the first time, showcasing its designs to retailers as well as showing off its instant greeting card kiosk developed in partnership with photographic print pioneers FujiFilm, which offers retailers around 1,600 of Scribbler’s bestsellers from a machine with a footprint of less than a metre square.
There were some interesting conversations among the international exhibitors as talks commenced for UK distribution deals, with Avanti Press returning to the fray and getting together with its own licensees in the shape of Simson Cards for Australia, Cromo from Italy, and Germany’s Obpspacher.
For Greeting Cards From Lowlands Studio’s vice-president Gerhard Diepeveen it was the Dutch company’s fifth time at the show, and he said: “We’re mainly looking for exports because we don’t have a distributor in the UK so we’re talking to companies about them taking us on.
“But we’ve had people from Italy, France and the USA visit us here and we’ve made new contacts as there are lots of international visitors. Last year we had our best order ever here, over half a million cards for Germany.
“It’s the most exciting show for us in the UK, it’s only greeting cards, and the vibrant feel is totally different, plus it’s in London!”
It was the first proper PG Live for Thomas Zschiesche, art director of German publisher Perleberg. He said: “We’ll definitely be back, because I’m very much inspired here, and the feeling of the show is so lovely. At other shows it’s very much like everyone has their own castle and those outside are the enemy, here it’s like family.”
A very happy Dom Early, of Earlybird Designs, added: “I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a trade show more than I did this week. From the vibe, location, orders, feelgood factor, major leads, key accounts, it all seemed so right.
“I wish all shows were like this – electrics, teas, furniture, lunch, lights, water coolers..you know how to look after us all. I have lost my voice because Tuesday was a relentless day of talking, selling, talking, laughing!”
Having wowed the show with the appearance of flamboyant designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen to launch the licensed collaboration with Great British Card Company, David Byk, ceo of parent company Swan Mill, was incredibly pleased with the outcome for his publishers GBCC, Ling Design and Penny Kennedy.
He said: “We got so many orders this year plus nine tickets from Retas finalists which was amazing. It wasn’t only LLB that worked well at the show, we also had a great launch of our Cath Kidston stationery and gift packaging plus Iain Hamilton from Bewilderbeest loves the cards we’ve done as part of our collaboration with him. Add new Ling Wildlife cards and photography and we had an amazing show!”
Anita Thorpe, of Brixton’s Diverse Gifts, commented: “I had a lovely time discovering new cards and stationery at PG Live – Streetgreets was the recipient of the Sunshine ticket we received as a Retas finalist.”
Sandra Jervis, of Lampeter’s Creative Cove, spent her ticket with newbie Sian Summerhays, and said: “This is my first time at PG Live as I’ve never been able to make it before because my husband wasn’t retired but he’s with the three kids under seven and I’m having fun – I mean working hard!
“I absolutely love it, it’s beautiful, friendly, relaxed, there’s such a buzz in the air. The senses are filled from all angles and almost overwhelmed but in the best way. Everyone is friendly and all the cards are different – and everyone is here under one roof.
“My most exciting one was Lottie Simpson, really bright, really modern and they’re really engaging, so should work well for me. I love shaking up customers in my town, they come in looking for the traditional versey cards which I don’t do, then come back for the modern ones.”
It was a good show for Sarah Laker, of Stationery Supplies in Marple and Wilmslow, with at least nine orders placed: “At Ohh Deer and Brainbox Candy where I had their vouchers, and Ricicle Cards got my Golden ticket because I’ve been watching them for a while and saw them at Dragons’ Speed-Dating..
“A Silver ticket went to the Paperclip Cards from Lucilla Lavender and I broke my own rule of not buying on the first day and went for the Meccano gifts for Father’s Day from Coach House Publishing – that’s my wildcard order, I always do one. I never usually order on the first day but that was done before 10am!”
Having completed his trade show tradition of a daft selfie with Sarah, good sport publisher Dean Morris commented: “The show has been absolutely fab – standard PG Live! Lots of gossiping with industry friends and orders. I’ve had orders from old and new customers, including one who hasn’t ordered for 10 years.”
Small publisher Robert James Hull proved to be one of the hits of the show, collecting no less than five tickets for his animal-tastic offer.
No14 Ampthill’s Jo Barber enthused: “I love Robert James Hull! I’ve ordered everyday and Christmas, and spent my vouchers with them, Dandelion and Megan Claire. I like Heyyy Cards and I’ve ordered their new sign language ones as I do have some regular deaf customers. I’ve ordered from Marina B – haven’t ordered from her for years – plus Ohh Deer and Brainbox. I’ve not done day two of the show before but I’m glad I did because it’s quieter but more focused.”
Kaye Thurgood, of Sincerely Yours in Shenfield and Hornchurch, concentrated on new talent: “It’s lovely to network with the publishers we’ve dealt with for a long time but we’ve specifically come for the newbies. I particularly like Robert James Hull with the animals and pompoms, he reached out for us to visit him at the show, so we thought we’d take a look and have ordered with him as a lot of our customers have dogs.
“Raspberry Blossom we found here last year and I like their tie-up with Widdop. Rush’s large cards still do very well. I very much like Cath Kidston from GBCC and Penny Kennedy, that jumped out to us because we recognised the name and our customers will too. And we looked at the LLB stuff too – we come prepared with a list!
“The show sets us up for the next 12 months really – we found Raspberry Blossom last year at the show and we’ll expand it. It’s why we like the show.”
And finally, one of the quotes of the year must be Sean Austin, who explained he’d found quite a few new suppliers for Malvern’s Austin & Co: “A couple I saw at the Dragons’ Speed Dating in 2022 and have been following them – and finally committed! That was Mifkins and Oliver Stockley. And there’s new orders with Ohh Squirrel, and I’ve replenished with Bewilderbeest, Ricicle, Penguin Ink and Poet And Painter.
“If there’s one place you have got to come to buy cards, it’s here – the show was definitely worth missing Celine Dion for!”
The dates for next year’s Progressive Greetings Live have been confirmed as Tuesday and Wednesday, 4-5 June, 2024.