“It feels like my dream to become a card publisher really could become a reality – I feel so inspired and have a brain that’s fit to bursting with information and ideas,” was how Margaret Harvey, one of the attendees of the recent Ladder Club seminars summed up the event.
Held for the first time in London (at the Business Design Centre), the 2019 Ladder Club ‘graduates’ were treated to a jam-packed agenda into the ‘ins and outs’ of greeting card publishing – from what sizes to make their cards and how to cost out their products through to how to recruit agents and to measure from the top of your trade stand to ensure that your displays are level.
“We are a vibrant industry, holding its own in challenging times,” said Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA who was the first speaker of the day, setting the scene for the roomful of newbie and emerging publishers as to the size and shape of the industry. “And encouragingly 18-34 year olds are sending more cards than they were a generation ago.”
Bob Short, md of The Imaging Centre then delivered a superb top to toe whistlestop speech about the steps in a card’s production, from a design idea into an actual packed card, covering standard sizes, board thickness, printing, finishes through to storage.
Keeping up the pace Tony Lorriman, md of Loxleys then spent time on the “hot industry topic” of the environment, debunking some myths as well as sharing some eco-solutions.
“There has been a massive shift change. By 2020 64% of all single cards will be unwrapped in the UK, but we are all on a journey. There is no one solution that fits all,” he said.
In his talk Mark Jessett, greetings expert for GF Smith paper company picked up on the point that with the move to naked cards it means that the tactile nature of the board being used is more appreciated by the buyer. “If you are a chef and have gathered together some exquisite ingredients, delicately seasoned them that you are planning to arrange beautifully, you wouldn’t serve it on a polysterne plate, would you?”
In his talk entitled Scalable Growth, Ged Mace, md of The Art File highlighted that the industry is going through “seismic change’, but “where there is change, there is opportunity.” He highlighted how Coldplay’s Chris Martin recently praised Ed Sheeran, acknowledging how there are always newbies coming on the scene to challenge the established players. “You are the new Eds!” said Ged before sharing some of the key pointers publishers should consider when looking to grow their businesses.
“Eight years ago I was sitting where you are now,” began Megan Purdie, founder of Megan Claire in her talk in which she shared her story from dipping her toe into the greeting card water supplying through Not on the High Street through to her thriving design-led business today.
The afternoon session was marked by an incredibly inspirational talk from award winning retailer David Robertson, md of JP Pozzi which was a heady mix of insights about retailer’s requirements as well as the importance of self-belief, remaining “laser-focused” on your business. “There is no set path. Your stories will be all different, but do what you love and believe in yourself,” he implored.
Providing insights into the life and loves of being an agent, Rose Trow shared her ‘cake recipe’, highlighting how when looking for an agent you should check that they do not have too much of one ‘ingredient’ –‘not too many handmade card companies, or too many humour ones – you need a mixture.”
Explaining the rudiments of brokerage, Andy Paterson, sales director of Woodmansterne summed up the key to this mode of supply. “It relies on good relationships – with the retailer and with the brokered publishers.”
Certainly after spending the day together, the relationships between attendees and speakers had got off to a strong start.
As Sarah Bell of Chapel Street Gallery said of The Ladder Club: “It was not just the mass of practical advice we received as well as making us aware of things I had not even thought of, but the overwhelming friendliness from everyone involved. What a great day.”
* The Ladder Club annual seminar is organised and owned by Max Publishing (publisher of Progressive Greetings) supported by loyal sponsors who include The Imaging Centre, Loxleys/Sherwood, Enveco, GF Smith, GCA and PG Live.
Top: The speakers and sponsors of The Ladder Club 2019.