As announced on a PGBuzz ‘Breaking News’ story earlier this morning (Tuesday March 6), reinforcing its commitment to growing and strengthening its presence in the greeting card market, Ling Design has acquired the goodwill and certain assets of design-led brand, Saffron Cards and Gifts.
The acquisition comes as a result of industry stalwart, Paul Steele, ceo and previous owner of Saffron, making the “difficult decision to retire from this great industry” after 40 years of his involvement in the card and gift trade.
Paul said that he “could not be happier that it is Ling Design that has taken over Saffron and I am sure they will go from strength to strength.”
Saffron is to continue as an independent brand within the Ling ‘family’ with Viv Barlow, Saffron’s highly popular national accounts manager joining the Ling team. Independent retailers can now order Saffron products from the Ling Design sales team.
Alessandro Arosio, managing director of Ling Design, said that when Paul made the approach about the possibility of buying the Saffron brand, he immediately recognised it as a perfect fit. “Both are dedicated to excellence in design and service. Saffron will bring an added dimension to our collections.”
The announcement comes hot on the heels of the company’s launch of The Curious Inksmith, at the Spring Fair, a distinct homegrown brand targeted at Millennials.
The Curious Inksmith was the 6th standalone brand within the Ling portfolio, but with Saffron it now has a ‘magnificent seven’! They join Ling Design, Talking Pictures, Velvet Olive, Rainbow and on giftwrappings, Penny Kennedy, thereby covering all tastes, from contemporary and edgy to traditional.
David Byk, ceo of Swan Mill, the parent company of Ling Design, added: ‘it is only three years since we purchased Ling and it has proven to be a fantastic decision.” Saffron is Ling’s second card acquisition since Swan Mill took over, the first being Velvet Olive. “We are very excited about the opportunities for this brand within the Ling and Penny Kennedy family,” adds David. He told PGBuzz that Saffron’s “strong international business, good distribution in nationals and attractive product ranges, such as those from The London Studio” added to its appeal.
As Saffron had been represented by Is It Art for the independent channel up until six months ago it had no long standing relationships with agents. Out of courtesy all the agents were informed of the change this morning (March 6).
The Saffron offices in Hersham, Surrey will cease to be operative from the end of next week with a full handover expected to have been completed by March 9.
For Paul Steele, this is his second attempt to retire from the greeting card industry. His first attempt was when he sold Hotchpotch (a company he bought in 1997, having seen an advert in PG) to Carte Blanche Group in 2011, but he missed the industry too much and was lured back, buying back Saffron when it went into administrative receivership in January 2014.
Commenting on the last few years, Paul told PGBuzz: “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, partly due to my health and partly due to the industry. I have loved my time in this industry” but adds that “there have been lots of high spots, including winning a Henries award for Joanna’s Pearlies in 2003.”
As to what advice he would give to his younger self, Paul said: ”I’d tell myself that it is a lot harder than it looks to succeed in this trade and that it’s all about the product and the people involved.”
He paid tribute to the many talented designers and colleagues with whom he has had the good fortune to work, including Viv Barlow.
Apart of a small shareholding in Eddingtons, a housewares company that Paul invested in along with former Carte Blanche directors Roger Murphy and John Coda, he says he is “definitely retiring.” Then he added…”Although, that said, I have recently taken out a three year subscription to Progressive Greetings and would be up for a well paid non-executive chairmanship!”