With Christmas trade better than expected for many, the New Year begins full of hope. And with it the January publication of Progressive Greetings with its gleaming pages of greeting card industry news, views, columnists as well as plenty of fresh product launches.
Gathering some words of wisdom, members of the GCA Council share their thoughts on the industry’s key challenges and opportunities, as well as their pleas to the newly elected government.
The push for naked cards and reducing plastic waste is very set to continue as a hot topic within the sector. “As a company that supplies not only the nationals but the independents too, it’s been hard for Really Good to find a solution for both sectors,” admits Lisa Shoesmith, general manager of Really Good/Soul and new treasurer of the GCA. “Nationals have demanded various options to ensure the reduction of single use plastics so for small publishers it’s a costly service that has forced us to pull out of brokerage for 2020. So many independent customers and garden centres are still requesting the cellowrap option so this really has been an area that has challenged us and will not move forward until all retailers are aligned,” she adds.
And with a newly elected government, Chris Bryan, general manager of Second Nature and GCA Council member feels, “We need a government which will give clear direction, rather than have its hands tied up in endless gainsaying! The whole business rates system seems broken and wholly unfair. It needs to be completely reviewed to take into account the changing retail landscape, including the growth of e-commerce activity.”
Find out more in January PG’s Viewpoints (click pages 35-37).
While there is much to be said from learning from those with bags of experience, vibrant new players also have much to share.
Starting her business five years ago selling her cards on Etsy, Lucy Nicholson, illustrator of Lucy Maggie Designs’ advice to those first setting up as a publisher is, “Be yourself. Don’t try to impress others or compare yourself to others on social media, you’ll just get depressed (but do make use of it for marketing, Instagram in particular is a great tool)! Focus on what you love to do and keep trying. Investigate all options to sell your designs – just get your name out there. Be brave and proactive, things won’t just happen, you have to make them happen, but it’s completely achievable if you set your mind to it. And take good product shots – don’t sell yourself short in this department.”
Discover more sound advice and lessons learnt from rising stars in card publishing in the Young Upstarts article in PG January (click pages 39-43).
When a toy and card shop in Port Erin in the Isle of Man came up for sale, Chris Beards couldn’t resist it as it evoked a strong memory of when he was a young lad, igniting his love of cards.
Already on his way to becoming an entrepreneur, six year old Chris had earned himself a few pennies trading football cards in the playground. However, walking with his mum on the way to visit his gran, on passing a card shop Chris felt the compunction to spend his money on a card for his grandmother.
“It wasn’t my gran’s birthday, but I just wanted to buy a card and write a message in it for her. Seeing her lovely reaction when I gave it to her and when she opened it is something that has always stayed with me, reinforcing the power of giving and receiving cards”, says Chris.
The shop, Mantons, is now a card and gift retailer run by Chris and his wife Debbie with great aplomb for years.
And with a new Responsible Business Award joining Mantons’ already full trophy cabinet, and Chris’ radio interview sparking the Christmas card-centric stamp collection on the island, PG took a trip to visit this savvy card retailer (click to pages 45-47).
With Newbank Garden Centre group acquiring the Trebaron garden centre in the affluent North West market town of Newton-le-Willows in September, the management wanted to transform the store to the group’s high standards in time for the Christmas trade. That transformation was to include a revamp to its greeting card department – and mark the first ever Tailored Planning Solutions (TPS) installation.
TPS is a collaboration of six significant card publishers – Second Nature, Abacus, IC&G, Paperlink, Pigment and MGML/Mint/Real & Exciting – who have joined forces to offer an alternative greeting card planning and supply option for retailers. Chris Houfe, who’s heading up the new collaborative TPS business, is keen to reinforce that TPS is not a brokerage, but “a new alternative” conceived to provide retailers with “an easy solution of a well planned collection of great selling greeting cards, into which they have total input, with the simplicity of being paid by a single invoice if they so wish.”
Discover more in January PG (click to pages 55-57).
Greeting cards are sold in one in six shops, yet the importance and awareness of branding is nothing like what it is in other consumer product sectors. However, with the growth of publishers’ branded card fastenings used instead of cellowrap, a trio of award-winning independent greeting card retailers share their view on branding within the greeting card sector.
“Branding is an interesting topic. It’s challenging trying to identify my feelings on this and work out whether they are based on being a retailer or being a consumer!
As a buyer, brands for me are an indication of quality. I have an expectation that certain brands are pitched at a certain price and will be of a certain quality. On this basis, I am affected by brand when ordering, because I have these expectations. The service from the brand also affects me when ordering – if I need a certain style of card in the shop in a hurry, then there are certain companies that will turn things around quickly – but that’s part of developing a brand too,” believes Sally Matson, owner of Red Card, Petworth.
Acknowledging the importance of ‘front of card’ branding for publishers, Mark Janson-Smith, managing director of Postmark, four shops in London, says, “I, of course, understand a publisher’s desire to promote their brand via their packaging but this needs to be subtle. The biggest selling point is the design itself and you should not be detracting from this by shouting too loudly about your brand. I’m also worried that if everyone starts trying to make their clasps stand out the most, we will end up with shelves that look messy and uncoordinated.”
Read retailers’ view on card branding (click to page 49-50).
The attendees of the recent Ladder Club seminar, held for the first time in London (at the Business Design Centre), were treated to a jam-packed agenda into the ‘ins and outs’ of greeting card publishing.
Newbie and emerging publishers at The Ladder Club event gorged on a smorgasbord of ‘nuts and bolts’ advice, powerful inspiration and ideas galore from suppliers, publishers, a top retailer, a well-loved agent and exhibition expert. They discovered what sizes to make their cards and how to cost out their products, through to how to recruit agents and to measure from the top of your trade stand to ensure that your displays are level.
Learn more about The Ladder Club 2019 (click to pages 51-53).
And, of course, January’s PG also includes new product pages Innovations (click to pages 59-67); wise words from regular columnists, card publisher Blue Eyed-Sun’s Jeremy Corner, who shares some tips on making 2020 your best year ever (click to pages 69-71), and David Robertson of Scottish retailer JP Pozzi, who takes stock of last year and uses his 20/20 vision to look positively ahead (click to pages 29-31).
All this in the pages of a lovely glossy magazine. Wouldn’t you like to hold a copy in your hands so you can flick through it and read it wherever takes your fancy. To SUBSCRIBE NOW go to www.max-subscriptions.net
However if you can’t wait, you can click here to read the whole PG January 2020 edition online.