Retail card buyers from leading multiples and indies cast their votes
“What a great way to christen my return to the industry after my maternity leave,” exclaimed Hazel Walker, senior buyer of Waterstones at the end of The Henries Judging Day on Tuesday, August 2.
“It was wonderful to see how much the industry has moved on, just in the time I have been away from it. There was certainly a lot to choose from, each exuding creativity.”
Hazel was joined by 34 other top retail greeting card buyers from leading multiples, small groups and indies to make up the judging panel for the final round of judging which took place at London’s Business Design Centre.
The day saw all contenders from The Henries 2022 shortlist – arrived at as a result of the online judging round in which over 60 buyers were invited to vote – being put on display for the first Henries live judging event since 2019.
The panel for the live judging event included Priya Aurora-Crowe, Lark London; Sean Austin, Austin & Co; Anne Barber, In Heaven At Home; Jo Barber, No.14 Ampthill; John Barratt, The Card Centre; Hayley Bastable, HBB Cards; Debbie Brown, First Class Greetings; Jerry Brown, First Class Greetings; Steph Burrows, Tesco; Laura Clarke, Paperchase; Megan Douglas, Waterstones; Samantha Gibbs, Nest; Shar Grothier, Sainsbury’s; Emma Hawkins, Fortnum & Mason; Tori Heath-Smith, Paperchase; Steve Howe, Petworth Bookshop; Mark Janson-Smith, Postmark; Liz Killick, Calladoodles; Sarah Laker, Stationery Supplies; Michael Laybourne, Henry & Co; Celia Leeson-Cox, Yarnton Home & Garden; Tabi Marsh, Papilio At Heritage; Caroline Ranwell, Hugs & Kisses; Sally Matson, Red Card; Evelyn O’Flaherty, Mooch London; Andrea Pinder, Presentation Cards & Gifts; Andrew Reid, The Card Centre; Tim Reynolds, The Medici Gallery; Cheryl Sandbach, Card Factory; Jo Sorrell, Cardies; Hazel Walker, Waterstones; Nigel Williamson, House Of Cards; Andrew Webb, Scribbler; Ruth Young, formerly of Clintons; and Soula Zavacopoulos, Funky Pigeon.
Hear what some of these esteemed buyers had to say about the judging…
Steph Burrows, Tesco
“Being a Henries judge at a live event was an absolutely lovely experience. Not only have I got so much out of seeing and holding the products from so many different publishers, including those I didn’t know existed, but also to spend the day with such a mixture of retailers, who all share such a passion for greeting cards, was just great.”
Andrew Webb, Scribbler
“Amazing, especially after several years of understandably having to judge The Henries entirely online. It is such a great way to track trends, such as the rise of neon inks and other innovations that are making our industry more sustainable. I spotted several very talented artists in the Most Promising Young Designer category who we will definitely be contacting.”
Hayley Bastable, HBB Cards, Newport Pagnell
“What a very lovely way to spend a day, judging The Henries. I loved meeting so many fab new people in this industry that I feel I’m really starting to be a part of. This year is one I’ll remember always – a Retas win and now being a Henries’ judge!
“The most difficult category to judge was the Best Young Designers because the wealth of talent on show was magnificent. I certainly struggled to make my choices. In the product categories, as well as seeing old favourites, I’ve saw some new exciting designs from other publishers that I’ve noted for the shop. It was so nice to see everything laid out, to touch and feel it properly – and I’m also thrilled to bits with my bag of card and wrap sample goodies that I selected to share with the girls in the shop. It was also good to hear about the GCA conference in September, defo one for the diary, and I’m keen to be a part of Thinking Of You Week.”
Celia Leeson-Cox, Yarnton Home & Garden
“It was wonderful to see so many brilliant cards, and I’ve found some that I might stock – I loved it! It was great to talk shop with such a wide range of retailers and, judging by the cards and designers shortlisted, I’m completely reassured that the greeting card industry is in very safe hands!”
John Barratt, The Card Centre, Felixstowe
“There was so much diversity among the ranges, and so much talent. It was a lovely place to do the judging, everything was so well arranged. Full marks to the two-stage judging process this year. I think to do the first-round judging online in order to come up with a shortlist has worked very well. Doing the final judging in the flesh and meeting the other buyers has been a joy. I’ve really enjoyed it and we’ve definitely seen a few things that I think would be good to stock in our shop.”
Nigel Williamson, House Of Cards, Home Counties
“Having done my homework with the online judging – and I looked at every category – it was a lot easier when it came to judging the shortlist. It was very pleasurable. The real standout for me was Stephanie Davies that I spotted online, and so to see her work here in the flesh was great. The venue was great and, as ever, the less corporate way makes it very friendly.”
Shar Grothier, Sainsbury’s
“It was such an amazing day. It was beneficial to not only see ranges that we do stock, but also find some that we don’t…yet! It reinforces just what a lovely industry this is, both the products and the people.”
Tim Reynolds, Medici Gallery, South Kensington
“I’m always amazed at the skill and talent of the people in the greeting card industry. As retailers we’re spoilt for choice and The Henries celebrates the best of the best. It was a very enjoyable judging experience, great to have so much room – and easier with a shortlist though, of course, the initial online judging was important. That bit took me a long time but I think it was really worth it when you saw the ranges that made it through to the final round.”
Sarah Laker, Stationery Supplies, Marple & Wilmslow
“This is the first time I’ve judged The Henries in real life. It was so good to know that we were judging the best of the best – and spending a day immersed in cards! It was very different doing it in real life than online because ones I thought I didn’t like online were much better in real life.
“The young designers’ boards just blew me away – so difficult to choose which were the best! The way they presented their boards was brilliant. I took away a little stash of designs that stood out for me. There’s such a surfeit of talent, there’s no industry like it. It was really difficult to pick my top five in each category as they’re all winners in my eyes. These are the best of the best cards out there and, blooming heck, there was some amazing talent. If only I had bigger shops to fit in all the ones I liked!”
Andrea Pinder, Presentation Cards & Gifts, Barrowford
“I think it’s much nicer to see the cards in the flesh and have a visual perception of how the cards really look, and the quality of the finishing touches. I much preferred the half and half online and in reality judging, it’s been much more relaxed and enjoyable with everything on view today and the atmosphere is great – and I found a few things for my shop too.”
Priya Aurora-Crowe, Lark London
“It was fantastic to see all the shortlisted ranges displayed their categories as it allowed you to make direct comparisons, something you’d not be able to do so easily and effectively at a trade show. And the Lynn Tait Most Promising Young Designers’ submissions were incredible.”
Anne Barber, In Heaven At Home, Market Harborough
“What a lovely day! It was wonderful to be able to get together and do this face-to-face again and meet and chat with dear friends in this industry, which is all about bringing happiness to others. The whole day brought back completely to front of mind the importance of being able to hold a card rather than see it online, and all the feelings and emotions that that brings. Writing and sending a card – a little thing that can bring such happiness to the recipient. There is so much talent and creativity in the card industry and it was just inspirational to see it spread out on the judging tables. It was delightful to be part of it.”
Debbie & Jerry Brown, First Class Greetings, Hadleigh
“We’ve been doing The Henries judging for 10 years or so and this year’s approach was certainly a lot easier on the feet! It was lovely to be back in a physical environment after the last two years of doing all the judging online. We just love the social side of things because this is such a social industry. We picked up some new product ideas for the shop, and we made some great people connections too.”
Jo Sorrell, Cardies, Stevenage
“How amazing is our industry?! It never stands still, there’s always something new and exciting to see and it’s always striving to improve, especially in terms of sustainability and inclusion at the moment, which is great to see. I believe it’s an industry that often leads the way. So wonderful to judge The Henries in the flesh again.”
Laura Clarke, Paperchase
“It was wonderful to see and appreciate such a variety of truly excellent card ranges. This is my first official card event and it has set the bar high! It was also great to meet and talk to so many fellow card retailers, and enjoy a lovely lunch together.”
Soula Zavacopoulos, Funky Pigeon consultant/buyer
“I love the variety of so many incredible designers, there is such breadth in our industry, and the undiscovered talent that I didn’t know about is fabulous as well as seeing how designers I do know have evolved. Also evident is the progress that has been made on the sustainability front – there is a lot less flitter. I’m proud to our industry has taken such strides in this direction.”