As retailers are doing their final tallies of how the Christmas trade shook out in the end and publishers are gearing up for their first launches of 2021, PG Buzz takes a look back at just some of the news stories that made our ‘industry world’ in 2020.
Amid the cancelled events (including PG Live, The Retas, Home & Gift) and those that took place virtually (including The Henries, the GCA AGM and Conference, Top Drawer Online and Autumn Fair@Home), there were some sizeable achievements and developments. The most significant has to be how the greeting card community really pulled together responding to a real need and want for greeting cards to provide tangible connection at a time when hugging was severely curtailed.
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 been acquired through an MBO by Paper Design Group, a newly formed holding company which has Ian Jackson at the helm as its chief executive.
Independent card retailers started 2020 feeling cautiously optimistic with the results of the PG Retail Barometer showing that some 42% were expecting to see growth in 2020 over last year, albeit a marginal increase.
Noel Tatt Cards confirmed that, as a result of sales of its 2019 Help charity Christmas card range, it had raised an astonishing £1.7 million for the 32 charities that form the umbrella organisation, Helpcards.
Hannah Dale, founder and creative maestro of Wrendale Designs put her art where her heart is and led a charge to raise money for the WWF Australia Appeal to fund emergency care for injured wildlife and support the response, recovery and restoration teams in Australia caused by the ongoing bushfires. She raised £16,000 in just two days through the sale of a special koala print.
Second Nature secured a distribution agreement with Quitting Hollywood to represent a range of its greeting cards in the independent sector from April 1. This would supercede the arrangement Quitting Hollywood had in place with Words ‘n’ Wishes for the previous two years.
Acquisition of CSS further strengthened IG’s global position on the gift packaging front.
Following Bianca Mastrodomenico joining GBCC as head of brokerage of its Waterwells side, revamped displays (including designs from 25 publishers) were installed.
As the human costs of the coronavirus escalated in mainland China, uneasiness mounts about the the impact on the production of greeting cards, giftwrappings, calendars and giftware. No one had any idea of what would follow…
Retail expert Mary Portas; culinary celebs Mary Berry, Prue Leith, Michel Roux; Escape to the Chateau’s Angel Strawbridge joined the industry’s ‘famous’ faces at Spring Fair.
Providing a positive antidote to the doom mongering about the retail sector, sizeable greeting card stockists Scribbler, Utility and Between the Lines all revealed their plans to open more stores in 2020.
Some 83% of independent card retailers stated that environmental considerations had affected card buying decisions over the last year, up massively from the year previous.
Less love about for the first Spring Seasons event than had been hoped with sales hampered by appalling weather conditions.
Dayo Williams, founder of handmade card publisher Dayo’s Cards enjoyed a one-to-one with Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall using the opportunity to not only explain about her cards, but the importance of celebrating diversity.
Specialist greeting card printer, Windles forged an alliance with environmental charity, World Land Trust to offer four boards that are officially ‘carbon balanced’. Publishers using these boards have the opportunity of featuring the World Land Trust logo on the rear of these cards. Impress Publishing (sibling to Noel Tatt) was the first to commit.
Carousel Calendars and Danilo announced plans to collaborate on a long-term sustainability programme to improve the environmental practice within the calendar sector.
Compelled to do something to support “the amazing work that the NHS are doing”, Brainbox Candy’s co-owners, Mark Williams and Ben Hickman designed seven different posters which were free to download from the company’s website.
James Ellis pledged its support to the 1% for the Planet movement, in donating £1 from every £100 order it receives to the cause.
With an aim of ‘measured growth’ for Hallmark’s Gold Crown programme in 2020, a new Hallmark Gold Crown store in Maghull, Merseyside makes it a ‘hat trick’ for owners Penny and Simon Bailey, while Hallmark Newark (owned by Bob and Jill McGhee) benefitted from a £13,000 free refit, as a result of winning the Big Prize Draw at the Gold Crown conference.
Papilio at Heritage in Thornbury Junior Retail, launched an innovative ‘young apprentice’ scheme (also offering the programme out to other retailers to adopt) which saw plucky eight and nine year olds learning the fundamentals of retailing.
Card Factory opened 356 branded concessions across the entire retail network of The Reject Shop, Australia’s leading value retailer. The exclusive five-year supply agreement with The Reject Shop marked Card Factory’s first international partnership.
Greeting card retailers, publishers and artists agents were among those to bang the drum for International Women’s Day.
In a turbulent sea of negativity card retailers welcomed the first Budget by the then new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak confirming that retailers with a rateable value of £51,000 or below were to receive a business rates ‘holiday’ for 12 months.
Trade was rocking for Mother’s Day and with Lockdown putting paid to the last-minute sales.
Greeting card publishers Louise Tiler Designs and Rosie Made A Thing were among the first of many card publishers to make genuine gestures to help and support their independent retail customers during the time of crisis.
Royal Mail issued a press release with the backing of Public Health England (PHE) advising that people receiving cards and parcels were not at risk of contracting the coronavirus as a result of their post.
The heart and soul of the greeting card community really came into its own as publishers, retailers, agents and trade suppliers all sought to support each other financially, psychologically and practically in what was the first taste of the Covid-19 turmoil.
Alison Butterworth and John Fowey extend their roles to also become joint mds of Paper Rose.
Wonderful proof as to how the nation see the sending of greeting cards is the best way to communicate your affection and regard for your fellow man it was the 90,000 100th birthday cards that were sent to Captain Tom Moore for his 100th birthday.
Greeting card printer Windles diverted their attentions towards helping in the fight to stem the spread of Covid-19. They started manufacturing PPE medi-visors that are suitable for healthcare workers as well as providing protection for others in the frontline, including greeting card retailers and merchandisers. The PPE visors were sold at cost, with not one penny of profit going to Windles.
The GCA joined forces with other trade associations and relevant bodies to lobby government and the banking community so that the real concerns, worries and issues greeting card publishers, retailers and trade suppliers are facing during the stricken times will be heard.
At the first of several PG Buzz Zoom Meeting, Karen Hubbard, (then ceo of Card Factory), John Procter, md of Scribbler, Paul Taylor, md of Cardzone, Mark Janson-Smith, md of Postmark put their competitive positions to one side and spoke openly about how they were dealing with life and business in this Covid-19 dominated world.
Mike Wright, studio manager of greeting card company Bug Art, took action against how Facebook is riddled with advertising from online T-shirt companies selling products featuring stolen designs from greeting card companies.
As publisher’s push for their Business Interruption Loans, card retailers start to receive their Govt grants.
Instead of marking the 25th anniversary of Cherry Orchard Publishing with a party, publisher owner Jackie Collins commissioned a special poem for the industry, written by famous author Patricia Rose.
Santoro, the card, gift and licensing company was awarded a Queen’s award for Enterprise, the UK’s most prestigious accolade of international business success.
After a month’s interruption to service after the government lockdown, UKG started merchandising displays for Sainsbury’s and Asda.
Echoing PM Boris Johnson’s words at a Covid-19 press briefing: “We can only defeat coronavirus by our collective discipline and working together,” the greeting card industry showed its true mettle in helping humanity amid the turmoil.
Greeting card retail group, Scribbler announced plans to expand the reach of its own brand greeting cards, the majority of which are created by its in-house studio, by exploring the options of supplying a select number of other retailers on a wholesale basis. (See December news when a collaboration with Sainsbury’s was announced).
A cast of 30 publishers, retailers, agents and trade suppliers star in a wonderful new film entitled ‘Send a card, deliver a smile’, (commissioned by GCA and made by Lanther Black’s Jack Parker and Dominique Miranda) which rejoices in the reason to send and the joy of receiving greeting cards.
Hallmark gave away half a million greeting cards across the UK to help the UK public show gratitude and appreciation for the everyday heroes (eg. doctors, nurses, care workers, postal service workers, teachers, supermarket workers, cleaners, caretakers, delivery drivers) in an partnership initiative with Royal Mail.
Leading greeting executives from the USA, Australia, Holland, France, Germany, Switzerland and Malta ‘Zoom-ed’ in to share views and experiences on the card front from their part of the world at a ‘united nations’ meet up convened by PG Buzz.
Card retailers disappointed that all ‘non-essential’ retailers had to wait until June 15 to re-open – a full fortnight from the anticipated June 1 date that had been mooted as likely.
With the ongoing Covid-19 situation, in order to safeguard The Henries 2020 greeting card awards for this year, the entry and judging process moved to online only.
Card Factory’s ceo, Karen Hubbard left the business (by ‘mutual agreement’) after four years of heading up the UK’s market leading greeting card retailer.
The UK’s largest greeting card wholesaler, Budget Greeting Cards went live on its first ever fully-fledged e-commerce site (https://bgcwholesale.com/), offering over 7,000 different greeting card, giftwrap and party products, with thousands more to follow.
Greeting card publishers, Dayo Williams, founder of Dayo’s Cards and Georgina Fihosy, founder of AfroTouch Design (previously known as Special Touch Designs) were among those within the card trade to have spoken out since George Floyd’s death, urging everyone in the greeting card community to have much more open dialogue about eradicating racism and to look at ways that will result in better representation of black people on greeting card racks in many more stores.
Cardies saw a very encouraging start as non-essential shops were allowed to re-open after lockdown with a pent-up demand among the public to buy greeting cards sending tills ringing.
After 21 years of trading BrownTrout UK, the calendar and stationery company that was headed up by industry stalwart Jack Straw, announced it was to cease trading and entered the process of liquidation.
Re-opening less than a week before Father’s Day, indies made up for lost time, with many reporting amazing sales levels, helped by the fact that many multiples adopted a phased re-opening programme and some sizeable grocers did not have fully merchandised displays.
UK Greetings was among the first major greeting card publishers to commit to having its full field salesteam back at work (starting back July 1).
In what was a significant meeting for the whole industry and a starting point for change to happen, greeting card publishers and retailers attended a meeting convened by the GCA to discuss diversity in the greeting card sector and initiate improvements on this front.
“Utterly bowled over!!!” was how Sarah Hamilton, the founder of the Just A Card campaign described how she felt, having absolutely smashed all of its targets for an ambitious Crowdfunder. “I’m finally coming to terms with being someone who uses a lot of exclamation marks!!!!!”
The entire Carte Blanche Greetings sales team got back at work – their return coinciding with the launch of a raft of new products and a major marketing programme, which included a massive consumer competition offering £1,000 prize.
‘Dear customers, I face ruin, please come back’ was the urgent message from Rumit Shah, co-owner of Cards Galore that BBC News shared with millions of people, highlighting the plight of retailers in many UK cities.
North west sales agent Oldham-based Neil Greenwood (Reil Agencies) set up ‘The Virtual Tavern’ on Facebook, which took off big time. It attracted 39,000 punters worldwide in over 76 countries and territories in no time, with some of Neil’s retail customers among its ‘regulars’.
Scribbler announced it was launching a SupportBlackDesigners campaign to support the black card publishers it currently stocks, highlight the retailer’s diverse offering to customers as well as to encourage other black artists to get in touch.
Asda, Sainsbury’s, Paperchase and Card Factory are the major multiple retailer names to have pledged their support for this year’s Thinking of You Week (September 21-27) through various initiatives instore and on social media. They join Cardzone, which was quick off the blocks to commit to getting behind the GCA-instigated card sending event.
While Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister have been at loggerheads over a number of issues ever since he became Prime Minister, Bojo featured prominently at the SNP leader’s 50th birthday celebrations– with a Twitter post from her husband Peter Murrell, which focused on a birthday card (from publisher The Grey Earl) featuring a caricature of the PM, sparking a huge wave of interest in the media.
Card Factory unveiled its ambitious five-year strategy, with a stated intention of becoming the “world’s best greeting card retailer.” As part of a mission, which the team believe will see Card Factory increase its UK market share of the everyday card market to 45% (by volume) by 2024 (up 11% on its current position) and 31% by value (up from the current 20%), the retailer will look to open a few more stores, but largely the growth will come from building its online presence as well as forging retail partnerships with other brands.
As lockdown 1 eased, the flexi-furloughing scheme in operation and more of the greeting card community back to work, PG Buzz checked in Jo Wilson, founder and creative maestro of Derbyshire-based Dandelion Stationery to get her take on how the ‘new normal’ was panning out and what she thought it ‘tastes’ like.
The creative prowess of Ohh Deer, Paper Salad, Santoro and Little Posy Press shone out brightly across the Atlantic as these four UK publishers won Louie awards, the US equivalent of The Henries.
Cardzone announced it was on course to open 25 stores by the end of 2020 (taking the specialist group, to 160 stores by Christmas. Of these, around 20 stores were former Clintons’ units.
As part of an ongoing restructuring within the Paper Design Group a new merged Nigel Quiney/Paper Rose sales team offers products from both companies to the two companies’ independent retail customers.
Over three quarters of the UK adult population (76%) have purchased a greeting card in the last 12 months, head and shoulders above engagement in any other country in the world, according to findings from research commissioned by Card Factory.
Woodmansterne made public its decision not to exhibit at Spring Fair due to the uncertainty of ‘normality’ returning by the time of February’s 2021 show that would make its presence beneficial enough to customers or the business to justify the investment. (Show organiser Hyve cancelled the show due to Covid a few months later).
“There is no way any of us could have foreseen the immense upheaval which this horrid Covid-19 has and is causing to people’s lives, livelihoods and businesses,” said Jackie Collins, managing director and owner of Cherry Orchard Publishing as she announced that to safeguard the company’s future the salesforce would be made redundant. All elected to become sales agents for the company.
Card retailers put out Christmas displays earlier than usual due to changing shopping patterns and a fear of a second spike.
Retailers and publishers react to a soaring market demand for face coverings.
Paperlink ceases supplying independent retailers via brokerage schemes for the foreseeable future.
Waitrose’s card replan (which coincided with Woodmansterne taking over as its broker/category manager) resulted in an immediate double digit uplift in sales.
Bill Greeno sets up BG Consulting and starts working with Abacus/Clare Maddicott.
A judging panel of 60 retail buyers voted on the 1,800+ entries to The Henries greeting card awards to arrive at the finalists.
Views from the vast array of retailers who formed The Henries 2020 judging panel.
Online greeting card operator, Moonpig launched the largest ever publisher on-boarding programme in the company’s 20-year history.
Consumers reveal how the pandemic has affected their own card buying habits.
Miles Robinson, partner of House of Cards shares more about the ‘new normal’ for the Home Counties retail group.
One of the longest standing successful ‘double acts’ in the industry, Sara Burford and Sarah Fitzgerald, co-founders of Cinnamon Aitch reflect on the company’s silver jubilee.
As the UK responds to tightening coronavirus restrictions, the activity surrounding the GCA’s Thinking of You Week (TOYW), spread the love to millions.
It was announced that from December 1, Emotional Rescue cards were to be distributed to indies by the newly combined Nigel Quiney/Paper Rose independent sales team.
Card Factory sent out positive messages about how its trade been ‘better than expected’ since it has re-opened stores since lockdown.
Rock legend, Dave Grohl revealed on Sky TV that it was the receiving of a greeting card that was to mark the start of the Foo Fighters.
Ling Design’s recent launch of its new planning service comes with tasty incentives for retailers signing up – the promise of Fortnum & Mason hamper.
Tracey Colliston (of Ginger Betty and creator of Eliot and Buttons and Barley Bear) adds another claim to fame – her Owl’s Nest concept triumphed in the License This! competition.
In a U-turn from the Welsh government saw greeting cards elevated to ‘essential items’ status and as such were able to be sold by ‘essential’ retailers during the country’s ‘firebreak’ lockdown.
The GCA works to ensure that vital elements of Royal Mail’s postal service that are crucial to the greeting card industry remain in place.
The UK Greeting Card Industry Market Report, (commissioned by the GCA) revealed that the British public spent a massive £1.7 billion on greeting cards last year.
GCA unites retailers and publishers in campaign for greeting card retailers to be seen as ‘essential’ during lockdown 2.
Greeting card publisher, Megan Claire experienced some bittersweet success with its new Christmas lockdown collection, highlighting how posts on social media should acknowledge the source.
Discussions on diversity, retailing, industry initiatives and the new website made for a packed agenda at the virtual GCA AGM and Conference.
Hallmark ramped up its consumer engagement, on a commercial as well as on the PR front with a new B2C website and Letter to Santa tie-up with Royal Mail.
In a stand-out in industry practice, Emotional Rescue and Paper Salad, announce a collaboration on a huge launch of six card ranges, comprising a total of 150 designs.
A petition entitled ‘Non-essential’ shops should be allowed to stay open during the current lockdown’ (instigated by Cards Galore’s director Rumit Shah) was granted official status by the UK Government and was signed by thousands.
Digital printer and fulfilment company for hundreds of card publishers, The Imaging Centre to move into a state-of-the-art eco premises, with a brand new additional printing press.
Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh marked their 73rd wedding anniversary with the focus of the official photograph being a handmade card that was made by their great-grandchildren.
Publishers, retailers, trade suppliers, Royal Mail and Isle of Man Post all participated in the GCA’s Festive Friday initiative to kick off Christmas card sending.
Consumers return to card stores as Lockdown 2 restrictions ease in England.
In a year tinged by separation and restriction, more than half of Britons (55%) believe that sending Christmas cards to loved ones is more important than ever, according to the findings of new Royal Mail research.
To see some of the happy winners’ responses, click here.
Over 700 members of the global greeting card community were ‘out’ in force at The Henries – the industry’s ‘big night in’ which saw the winners crowned at an awards ceremony that was peppered with appearances from international well-wishers.
Small Business and Retail Minister Paul Scully and a select delegation from the IRC (Independent Retailers Confederation), which included Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA met to discuss what could be done to help retailers.
New retail concept from Penmark, Henry & Co debuts in Nottingham with more to follow in 2021.
Danilo’s 2021 official calendar chart showed it was a case of ‘Klop of the Pops’ this time around.
Royal Mail’s decision to raise stamp prices on Jan 1 made worse by supplies being hampered to avoid stockpiling.
Sound card from Really Wild Cards’ Politically Incorrect range given a shout out on breakfast TV programme.
Publisher aims to install 50 stock control planned displays over the next year.
It was always on course to be a Christmas like no other, but UK card retailers gave it a damn good go right until the final hour.
Darcy Willson-Rymer was been appointed chief executive officer of Card Factory. As well as having been ceo of Costcutter Supermarkets, Darcy was also ceo of Clinton Cards (2011-2012).
In a significant collaboration between two retailers, Sainsbury’s introduced Scribbler-branded greeting card displays into 280 of its stores on Boxing Day. In addition to the dedicated ‘feature ends’ (which are to remain in place for the next six months), the grocer has introduced various other Scribbler card designs into its main greeting card displays.
Ending the year on something of a ‘purple patch’ on the PR front for the greeting card sector, TV programmes, newspapers, radio stations and news sites were awash of late with positive media coverage about the sending of greeting cards.
So, as 2012 draws to a close. PG Buzz thanks all readers and contributors for their support and here’s to 2021 being much better all round.
Jakki Brown, editor of PG Buzz
All this and more has been covered in the pages of Progressive Greetings Worldwide, a lovely glossy monthly magazine. Wouldn’t you like to hold a copy in your hands every month so you can flick through and read them wherever takes your fancy.
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