Theo Paphitis reveals cards ‘passion project’

Retail entrepreneur’s Ryman Design greetings concept to expand into Scotland

 

His personal love of greeting cards, plans to disrupt the online greetings sector, a rally call to revise business rates, how AI has “thrown a massive bomb into the melting pot of retail” and how retailers need a “reason to exist” to woo the “promiscuous” consumer were just some of the topics retail entrepreneur and former tv Dragon Theo Paphitis covered from the Inspiring Retail Stage at Spring Fair last week.

Above & top: Retail entrepreneur Theo Paphitis was a huge draw at Spring Fair earlier this week, in conversation with facilitator Natalie Berg
Above & top: Retail entrepreneur Theo Paphitis was a huge draw at Spring Fair earlier this week, in conversation with facilitator Natalie Berg

After his interview by Natalie Berg, a retail analyst, author and host of podcast NEK Retail, about the opportunities and challenges for retail businesses, PG Buzz was fortunate to be granted a backstage pass to chat with this leading light of retail.

And Theo divulged some of the development plans for his Ryman Design retail concept as well as how he is on a personal mission to make waves in the greeting card scene.

Having owned retailer Ryman for almost 30 years, Theo got back involved with the running of the business in October 2022, and the development of the Ryman Design retail concept was his first step on the greeting card and design-led stationery front.

Above: Soula Zavacopoulos has known Theo since 2011
Above: Soula Zavacopoulos has known Theo since 2011

With two stores already trading in London at Marble Arch and Bishopsgate, and one in Birmingham’s Grand Central shopping area, Theo revealed to PG Buzz that growth is on the cards, confirming: “We are looking at opening our next store in Scotland in the next few weeks.”

And the entrepreneur was also been personally involved in the launch of the Artists’ Collective By The London Studio greeting card collection as part of Ryman Design’s Christmas offer, featuring designs by 38 artists, the brainchild of Soula Zavacopoulos which has now been expanded into Valentine’s Day.

The London Studio founder Soula and Theo have known each other since 2011 when she was a winner of his Small Business Sunday Twitter competition, and in her consultancy role she was heavily involved in the launch of the Ryman online greeting card app announced last week.

Theo proudly states his intention of “disrupting” the online greeting card sector by offering consumers the option of ordering a personalised card online to collect within the hour at one of Ryman’s 190 stores across the UK.

Above: PG’s Jakki Brown was invited backstage to interview the greetings retail ‘disruptor’
Above: PG’s Jakki Brown was invited backstage to interview the greetings retail ‘disruptor’

As to how far he is intending to go in the greeting card space, Theo is aiming high: “All the way,” he stated with a wry smile.

Six months in the development, Theo said the whole premise of the new greeting card app is “to drive people back into the stores, giving them another reason to shop with us. It is all part of our evolution”.

And he remains optimistic about the role and relevance of greeting cards, believing they will endure, in just the same way that stationery has.

“I bought Ryman in 1995 when there was all the talk of the paperless office. People still like to grab a pad and pen and write things down. I’m dyslexic and I do it!”  said Theo, who revealed he’s about to teach his 16-year-old grandson how to improve his handwriting.

Above: Theo making a point at Spring Fair
Above: Theo making a point at Spring Fair

On greeting cards specifically, Theo professed his love for them to the packed audience at his keynote talk at Spring Fair: “They are such an important and tangible way of showing you care,” and he acknowledged it is one of the last bastions of the handwritten message.

To read more about Theo’s speech at Spring Fair, head to PG Buzz’s sister site GiftsandHome.net by clicking here.

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