All things being equal, Simon Elvin would be in St Lucia right now with his family, celebrating his 80th birthday. But with that not an option, he knew where he wanted to be to mark his major milestone – in his office in Wooburn Green in Buckinghamshire progressing on the wholesale publisher’s upcoming ranges.
Arriving there last Friday (February 19), accompanied by his wife Janet (his ‘right hand woman’ in business and in life) Simon was delighted to be greeted to a desk festooned with cards, gifts and balloons from his work colleagues and many friends from the industry.
After spending well over 50 years being passionate about the greeting card trade, PG Buzz felt privileged to catch up with our industry’s superhero on his special day to ask a few questions…
How long have you been in the industry? “I should probably say “too many”! We actually started Image Arts in 1968, and then Simon Elvin Ltd in 1978.”
What are some of your industry reflections of the last 50+ years that come to mind? “When I started in the industry and became involved at an early stage with the Greeting Card Association, we were actively trying to promote the industry and the sending of cards. I remember being told, on an early visit to Hallmark in New York, that one of their early fears was that the telephone might stop people sending cards! Fortunately, the industry seems to have gone from strength to strength, primarily, as a result of having fantastic product and also the real pleasure of receiving a card through your letter box as opposed to an online message, which doesn’t start to have the same impact.”
What keeps you motivated? “In part my wife! and in part the challenge of designing a card that somebody is going to pick up and send, giving the recipient a lot of pleasure. It is all about putting the right design with the right words and making sure it is superbly produced. The problem is that what is ‘right’ keeps evolving and that’s what keeps me interested”
What would you say to your younger self? “My older self is very grateful I ignored the well-meaning advice from Peter Finzi of Delgardo Mansell who told me, when first exhibiting at the Spring Fair (which was held in a draughty Blackpool hall), to “get out now while the going’s good”.
I think my older self would also repeat the truism that ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’”.
Simon has continuously brushed off any suggestion that he might consider retiring saying that he had no intention of taking up golf and that greeting cards are his only hobby!
While he still a very active head of the wholesale publishing company he co-founded with Janet 43 years ago, it is now just over a year since The Simon Elvin Group – which includes Paper Rose, Nigel Quiney Publications, giftwrapping company Glick, own brand supplier Polytint and wholesale card and wrap business, Simon Elvin Limited – was acquired through an MBO by Paper Design Group, which has Ian Jackson at the helm as its chief executive.
As Simon stressed to PG Buzz last January the deal was done, “While Janet and I want to keep working here for at least another five years, we also wanted to ensure the future for our staff and customers. This is the perfect way for the Simon Elvin group legacy to continue.”
Simon Elvin has not only been recognised with an Honorary Achievement award at The Henries in 2001, but was also presented with a special GCA Outstanding Contribution to the Greeting Card Industry award at The Henries in 2019 (to tie in with the association’s centenary) in recognition of his enormous commitment to the greeting card trade.
Simon shared some of his memories of The Henries in a video at last October’s awards event (which took place virtually).
Click below to hear him…