Upbeat mood at GCA conference full of #Cardmitment

Packed audience hears positive news of ‘resilient’ industry worth £1.45bn

 

Positive news from the GCA annual report amplified the upbeat vibe at the industry association conference yesterday, 28 September, with the confirmation that greeting cards are cutting through the cost-of-living crisis.

And the packed audience of 180 GCA members, including publishers, suppliers and retailers of all sizes, at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, heard that the association’s data tallies with that of consumer insights agency Kantar and greetings retail giant Card Factory to put the market worth at around £1.45billion.

Above & top: Card Factory’s coo Adam Dury backs up the £1.4bn valuation, and Sarah Laker explains how following her passion has led to media exposure
Above & top: Card Factory’s coo Adam Dury backs up the £1.45bn valuation, and Sarah Laker explains how following her passion has led to media exposure

Attendees were captivated by the speeches from indie retailer Sarah Laker, who shared her ideas for getting customers in front of the cards at her two Stationery Supplies stores in Marple and Wilmslow; Kantar’s consumer insights from 2023; the GCA annual market report presented by council member David Falkner, of Cardology; Card Factory coo Adam Dury on the market, publishers, suppliers and how the retailer works; and Wendy Jones-Blackett revealing the hobby that got out of hand to become the eponymous publisher.

And Adam also put in a very professional performance on sustainability, production and supply despite no preparation having stepped in to cover for Mark Jessett, of paper supplier G.F Smith, who was called away unexpectedly,

To cap it all, BBC Radio 5 was on hand recording at the annual conference and interviewing GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson about the greetings industry and the current #Cardmitment campaign as well as how important cards are to both Britain’s economy and mental health.

Above: Chris Bryan with his portrait gift and new president Darren Cave
Above: Chris Bryan with his portrait gift and new president Darren Cave

The meeting was opened by Amanda, who outlined the association’s aims and achievements over the past year, including the New Creative Talent portal on the website with links to colleges and universities, plus #Cardmitment which is aimed at re-engaging the public with Christmas card sending this year following the damaging postal strike issues during the last festive season, and the reminder to everyone about the 75p second-class stamp which allows a card to be sent anywhere in the UK for the price of a bar of chocolate.

The annual general meeting section followed with thanks to Rachel Hare, of Belly Button Designs; Caroline Gardner’s Carolyn Verderame, and Adriana Lovesy, of Mrs Lovesy, who had stepped down from the GCA council, and the introduction of new members Georgina Fihosy, of AfroTouch Design; Brainbox Candy’s Mark Williams, and Wendy Jones-Blackett.

Adriana is adding more hours to her role as the GCA’s membership and marketing manager, and led the organisation for the day, her introduction of mixing up the seating at lunchtime was very popular with lots reporting making new friends!

The event was also the swansong for outgoing president Chris Bryan, of Second Nature, after two years in the role, who was presented with a personalised portrait from new vice-president Karen Wilson, co-founder of Paper Salad.

Above: The packed audience had plenty of time to network over lunch and coffee breaks
Above: The packed audience had plenty of chances to network over lunch and coffee breaks

After two years as vp of the GCA, UK Greetings’ Darren Cave has taken over the top slot as president, and said: “I’ve seen the work done by past presidents in previous years in driving forward the sustainability agenda, sharing knowledge and experience, and making the GCA fit for the future, and I hope to make a similarly positive contribution from my time as president.

“Greeting cards play an important role in helping people to make connections and maintain connections, to show you care, to improve the way that someone is feeling, to share joy, and to celebrate.

“I see first-hand the great work the council is doing and continues to do in support of the tradition of card sending, this industry and its members, and it’s a privilege to be part of this next phase.

“Chris has already explained how we weathered the storm of the difficult pandemic years and that our accounts are on a strong footing. And now, with your continued support, we have the means to invest in initiatives that will further promote and strengthen our industry with an increased focus being placed on engaging with the consumer.”

Above: Amanda Fergusson tells BBC Radio 5 Live about the greetings industry
Above: Amanda Fergusson tells BBC Radio 5 Live about the greetings industry

Darren went into more detail on #Cardmitment and the Cards Build Connections campaign, which is being supported by celebrity designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, model Kelly Brook, and Notonthehighstreet’s founder Holly Tucker, particularly mentioning the Caring At Christmas aspect where GCA members are being asked to link with care homes to support the residents there with writing their festive messages.

There’s also the local retailer events side where the association has provided a toolkit with digital marketing assets and tips for how to get the best press exposure plus access to the GCA’s pr team at Arena PR.

And he said the Schools Project, which last year saw thousands of UK primary pupils become pen pals with Ghana schools as the industry helped pass on the tradition of card sending and encouraging children to express themselves through handwriting, now has a phase two where the focus will be on linking British schools with nursing and care homes in their local community.

Above: The day’s speakers (from left) Chris Bryan, past president and Second Nature; Sarah Laker, Stationery Supplies; Adriana Lovesy, GCA membership coordinator; Darren Cave, new president and UK Greetings; Karen Wilson, new vice-president and Paper Salad; Adam Dury, Card Factory; Wendy Jones-Blackett, Wendy Jones-Blackett; and David Falkner, GCA council member and Cardology
Above: The day’s speakers (from left) Chris Bryan, past president and Second Nature; Sarah Laker, Stationery Supplies; Adriana Lovesy, GCA membership coordinator; Darren Cave, new president and UK Greetings; Karen Wilson, new vice-president and Paper Salad; Adam Dury, Card Factory; Wendy Jones-Blackett, Wendy Jones-Blackett; and David Falkner, GCA council member and Cardology

“Despite the challenges and tribulations associated with trading in the current cost-of-living crisis, our industry continues to remain robust.,” Darren said.

“The tradition of sending cards is very much alive, it resonates with people. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to show you care. The strength of this tradition is in no small way due to the work of people in this room, your colleagues and those working in our industry. Continuing to engage the consumer remains key to us shared success, and I know by working together, we can ensure this fabulous industry continues to thrive.”

Detailed coverage of the presentations from Sarah Laker, Adam Dury, David Falkner, G.F Smith, and Wendy Jones-Blackett will follow on PG Buzz over the next couple of weeks.

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