Counting is under way after live judging round – awards finalists announced tomorrow
The greeting cards have been scrutinised, quality felt, and votes cast – now the counting is underway thanks to the hard work of the 100-strong retail judging panel for The Henries Awards 2023 in the two-stage process.
Hundreds of cards were on display at London’s Business Design Centre yesterday, 1 August, so the retail judges from across the country could get their hands on the shortlisted 314 ranges in 21 categories plus 15 giftwrap collections and an impressive array of mood boards for The Lynn Tait Best Young Designer award category.
It was the live-action second round of judging for this year’s Henries Awards following the online event where 65 retail buyers from specialist multiples, supermarkets, garden centres, small groups and leading indies logged their votes to arrive at the shortlisted ranges having sorted through entries from 287 different publishers.
And at yesterday’s live judging event Jakki Brown, md of Max Publishing which owns and organises The Henries, told the judges: “Your collective expertise means that the integrity of The Henries awards is in your safe hands,” and she urged everyone to consider each of the shortlisted ranges against the criteria of design execution, production quality, suitability for market, and value for money.
Tesco, Card Factory, John Lewis & Partners, Waterstones, Scribbler and WHSmith were among the multiples to join over 35 buyers including owners and buyers from indies and small chains such as House of Cards, Postmark, Bailey’s, Red Card, Cardies, The Card Collection, In Heaven At Home, No.14 Ampthill, Highworth Emporium, Medici Gallery, First Class Greetings, LoveOne, MiMi, Jane Armour Trading, and Milford Cards & Gifts, to do what they do best – pick the very best greeting cards.
Each judge was asked to select what they considered were the top five in each category, with points attributed accordingly – five points down to one point with these votes are all being counted for the finalists to be announced tomorrow, August 3.
The winners will be revealed at the colourful Mardi Gras-themed awards night on 5 October, at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel.
Commenting on his first experience as a Henries judge, John Lewis’ and Waitrose’s Jason Billings-Cray said: “It has been a wonderful experience. What a fabulous way to see so many publishers and to appreciate the great selection of design handwriting in the sector. Having an in-person judging is so worthwhile.”
Scribbler’s Tori Heath-Smith said how impressed she was with how product quality has moved on over the last year: “There are so many new ranges with publishers having really pushed on with their designs, finishes and formats. My favourite categories to judge were Occasions & Relations, a crucial part of our industry, and humour.”
Tesco’s buying manager for cards Gemma Smith said: “Today has been a great opportunity to see new publishers I might not have known before, I’ve got lots of ideas and my phone is full of photos and I have lots of emails to send when I get back.
“My favourite category was Valentine’s Day because there was lots of humour and I took a picture of one from Bold & Bright to send to my husband – it just put a smile on my face.”
Cathy Frost, owner of LoveOne in Ipswich, commented: “My favourite thing from today is seeing everything in one place because when you see it online it doesn’t have the same impact, it’s so much better in the flesh.
“And there’s so much variety out there – when you buy for the shop you have a certain look that you go for, so seeing the sheer variety is great – that’s why I really liked the photographic category because I don’t sell a lot of photographic.”
And Kaye Thurgood, owner of Sincerely Yours in Shenfield and Hornchurch, pointed out: “The Henries judging offers a unique opportunity to see the best ranges in a particular category altogether, side by side, so you can make comparisons.”
As to her favourite categories to judge, Kaye is in no doubt: “I really like both the Words & Sentiments categories, both traditional and contemporary, though I was also very impressed with the 3D category.”
The sheer talent on show was the best thing for Penny Bailey, from Baileys in Ainsdale and Crosby, as she admitted she’s amazed at how designers come up with all the ideas.
Fittingly, her favourite category was The Lynn Tait Most Promising Young Designer or Artist: “There’s so much talent in there. I found it the most challenging to judge too as the talent is incredible.”
Longest trip of the day award went to Sarah Holmes, who travelled from her Pencil Me In store in Elgin to add her expertise, as she “really enjoys” the judging process which lets her see new collections and brands.
Sarah added: “Valentine’s Day was definitely my favourite category – I’m a massive sucker for love!”
For Jo Sorrell, owner of Cardies in Stevenage, the opportunity “to meet with fellow retailers as well as appreciate the immense creativity of publishers” coupled with “witnessing how sustainability and being environmentally-friendly is now such an important consideration for publishers, yet they have found ways of still making the cards very special.”
It was the Best 3D, Handmade or Hand-finished category that hit the top spot for Nigel Williamson, co-owner of Home Counties’ House of Cards group: “There’s less of the handmade around these days, and there’s so much innovation with the 3D, it’s really come on and is an area we need to develop.
“I love talking to other retailers here and, obviously, actually seeing the product that we stock – it’s nice to know we sell the best! What I judged online has come through, so I know I’m not out of touch!”
For WHS’ Louise Chambers being a Henries judge was “great fun, but also an incredibly valuable way of seeing so many carefully curated ranges”.
Mary Singleton-Jones, owner of St Albans’ Panda Cards, commented: “I just loved seeing the ranges that I’d been judging online as some were challenging because I don’t sell that type. And I love the interaction with the card people I’ve met here.
“Humour was my favourite category, we sell a lot of humour. I’m just having a revamp of the store and might be able to put more of these out on display now.”
John Barratt, owner of The Card Centre in Felixstowe, said his enjoyment of being involved in the judging was amplified as he found “several publishers that I’ve never heard of and, having felt the quality of their cards, will be looking to stock them.”
As to his fave categories, John was drawn to three: “The art and photographic ones were stunning, but I also was so pleased to see how the Best Male Range had some really strong contenders.”
Roy Beswick, co-owner of The Card Collection in East Molesey, loved seeing all the physical cards in one place and said: “It was nice realising how much different product is out there and how much choice there is because we’re looking at the best of the best. I must admit, humour was my favourite category as there’s not enough laughter in the world.”
For Card Factory’s Charlotte Green, The Henries judging marked her very first day as a card buyer for the retail giant. “Having come from the design side of our business this was a great way of gaining so much insight. Not only that, but to get to speak to so many great indies was brilliant.”
All winners of The Henries 2023 will be announced at a lavish awards event, the industry’s big night at The Royal Lancaster Hotel in London on Thursday, 5 October, 2023, where The Henries 2023 awards event will be a vibrant affair as it will take on a colourful Mardi Gras theme this year!
To book tickets click here. It will be a fabulous opportunity for the greeting card community to get together and celebrate its creative excellence as well as its strong sense of camaraderie.