Retailers Share Their Henries Judging Insights

From top multiples to leading indies, buyers relished the challenge of judging The Henries 2018.

“I felt honoured to be a Henries judge,” stated Stuart Delahoy, owner of Set in Leicester (pictured second left in group judging photo below) who was one of over 50 retail buyers who made up the judging panel for The Henries 2018 greeting card awards. “A real strength of the awards is that they are open to all publishers and free of charge to enter. The fact that you are judging the entries ‘blind’ means that you have no way of knowing the publisher’s identity – they could anything from a large multi-national right down to an artist who makes the cards in her back bedroom. It is a true level playing field.”

The Henries judging in action.
The Henries judging in action.

As Sarah Lishman, buyer of Barkers department store said: “You think you know what ranges are out there, but judging The Henries make you fully appreciate the enormous breadth of choice on the greeting card front.”

Publishers up and down the UK have been whooping with joy since the finalists were announced via PG Buzz last Thursday afternoon (August 2), while the judges have had a bit of time to reflect on their collective decision making, which involved deciding which of the thousands of entries made worthy finalists.

Participating in The Henries judging for the first time, Andrew Webb, buyer of Scribbler succinctly summed up the whole experience as “exciting”. Elaborating, both he and his buying colleague Sarah Bertram couldn’t believe their luck with the timing of the event. “We are refreshing our occasions collection right now and so were delighted to spot some great new designs that we would love to introduce instore.”

Toasting the finalists after the judging (left-right) Kim Foster (Hawley Garden Centre), Scribbler’s Andrew Webb & Sarah Bertram and Natalia Kosterska (Oliver Bonas)
Toasting the finalists after the judging (left-right) Kim Foster (Hawley Garden Centre), Scribbler’s Andrew Webb & Sarah Bertram and Natalia Kosterska (Oliver Bonas)

Another first timer Henries’ judge was Ellie Kleinlercher, buyer of the Between the Lines group. “Judging the entries category by category provides such a good way of comparing different ranges and their merits. The sheer diversity even within the same category was staggering – there was everything from beautifully hand-embellished cards through to lavishly foiled designs as well as those that are more minimalist. All great though.”

Between the Lines’ Ellie Kleinlercher was so impressed by the variety of entries.
Between the Lines’ Ellie Kleinlercher was so impressed by the variety of entries.

Despite having been a judge of The Henries many times over the years Claire Castle, longtime card buyer of WHSmith says the attraction never wanes. “It is always great to be asked to judge. Not only does it provide a wonderful opportunity to see the sheer variety of ranges on offer from so many publishers, but it reinforces design trends that I have picked up on.”

Claire said that this year she was “surprised by the quality in the Valentine’s Day selection,” feeling it had stepped up a gear on last year’s submissions.

Kim Lewis, buyer for the Longacres Garden Centre group is another big fan of The Henries’ judging event. “I plan my holidays around it, I love it so much!” Kim revealed. “The Henries is a brilliant way of championing our publishers – from the largest to the smallest all being treated equally.”

Another garden centre buyer who shares the same Christian name, Kim Foster, company secretary of Hawley Garden Centre jumped at the chance to be a Henries judge. “This is the last day of my holiday, but didn’t want to miss it. It has been fabulous, though tough to balance your decisions between what you like personally with what would work commercially at retail.” Her favourite category was Best Cute Range. “The cute sector has changed dramatically over the years, but capturing that ‘aah factor’ whatever design treatment remains the key.”

Sally Matson, owner of Red Card in Petworth has nothing but praise for the array of contenders for the Lynn Tait Most Promising Young Designer category this year especially (which is sponsored by Paperchase). “It was astonishing how beautifully presented most of the entries for this category were. There is some strong young talent around that’s for sure,” said Sally.

Red Card’s Sally Matson gets a lot out of judging The Henries.
Red Card’s Sally Matson gets a lot out of judging The Henries.

A favourite of Oliver Bonas buyer Natalia Kosterska was the Best Contemporary Trend category. “It was difficult to judge as there are so many trends out there at the moment, but reassuring that the industry has them so well covered.”

Yasmin Twist, buyer of Gee Tees most definitely got a lot out of being involved. In her view: “Judging The Henries is better than any trade show…I could spend days doing this. It is such a wonderful proof of how inspiring the UK greeting card industry is.”

Once the hard work of judging was over, an al fresco lunch gave a chance for the buyers to discuss industry issues in a convivial atmosphere.
Once the hard work of judging was over, an al fresco lunch gave a chance for the buyers to discuss industry issues in a convivial atmosphere.
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