Very happy bunnies

Celebrations continue for The Retas 2024 winners

 

Being an outstanding greeting card retailer means having to be of the time, making Beatrix Potter the perfect theme for this year’s Retas Awards.

The author, artist, and businesswoman was ahead of her time as she came out top in what was very much a man’s world – starting her commercial endeavours with Christmas cards and striking her first licensing deal in 1890, surprising everyone by undertaking the negotiations herself.

And that spirit lives on in the world of greeting card retail where the top shops are always looking ahead, totally in tune with the nuances of their customers’ tastes while adapting to the challenges of the day, be it changes in footfall, Royal Mail issues or cost-of-living constraints.

Since the winners were revealed at The Retas lunch on Thursday, 4 July, at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, PG Buzz has been catching up with those who took the trophies home.

Up in Cockermouth, Wishes’ owners Victoria and Fiona Robinson have kept with the theme as they’ve already dressed their window in Beatrix Potter-style, as can be seen in the video below, complete with silver lady Retas trophy in pride of place.

Screenshot 2024-07-10 at 12.41.28-fotor-20240710124410
Having won the Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer North West category, sponsored by UK Greetings, Victoria said: “What a day it was! These two happy bunnies headed back to Cumbria and couldn’t have been more proud or excited to tell our Tale Of The Retas!

“So truly surprised and absolutely overwhelmed with joy to have won. Mum’s tears were testament to that! Neither of us actually remember hearing our name read out on stage – it’s all a rather happy blur. But we’re so very grateful to everyone who put us forward for the award and to the judges for awarding us the win.

“We’ve been so touched over the weekend by all the messages of congratulations we’ve received. Today I’ve been redressing the window, an award won at a Beatrix Potter-themed awards ceremony needs a Beatrix Potter-themed window display to celebrate it!”

Sharing their views from down on the Kent coast Tim and Annie Gould, co-owners of Objectables, said: “We both had a brilliant time – winning helps obviously but it was still brill!” was their reaction from Folkestone, with their shop named best indie in the Hallmark Cards-sponsored Home Counties & South East category.

“How do we feel about the award? Bloody great! Obviously, we have had a few nominations since we won Best Newcomer a few years ago so we were really glad to win this time.

Above: Objectables’ Tim and Annie Gould (left) and a very happy Serge Sumerling from Nor
Above: Objectables’ Tim and Annie Gould (left) and a very happy Serge Sumerling from Nor

“Having said that, our move to our new shop has been a complete game changer. We’ve always been the best shop we could be in the old unit, but the new bigger space has really let us create something magic and we are so proud of the shop we have grown into. To be recognised for that is amazing.” –

In London, thanks to sponsor Ohh Deer, Serge Sumerling celebrated with fiancée Aisling Stephenson after his Nor store won the category, and he said: “The Retas event was really special and very enjoyable from start to finish. I will always remember it as it made me feel a very proud dad and future husband.”

Pete and Jelena Whiteman own Dzodzo in Woodbridge, which was awarded the East Anglia title, sponsored by Abacus Cards.

“Our first thoughts on hearing the news was absolute delight,” they said. “We feel so privileged to have hit such dizzy heights for a second time as it reflects all of the hours of hard work and dedication that the team puts in. Time to celebrate before the hard work continues!”

The party was still going in Highworth after The Highworth Emporium co-owner Aga Marsden got home with the trophy for the South West, sponsored by Rosie Made A Thing, telling PG Buzz: “What a fabulous day and the win was just the icing on the cake. I love the trophy – it’s so beautiful and it means so, so much!

“I was trying to creep in quietly at 11pm but, as soon as I opened the door, my husband Richard made me really jump as he let party poppers went off.”

Above: Dzodzo’s senior sales advisors Tracy Buck and Anna Wroblewska with the £150 Golden Ticket to be spent at PG Live 2025, and Highworth Emporium’s Aga Marsden is in the pink with PG’s Jakki Brown and Warren Lomax
Above: Dzodzo’s senior sales advisors Tracy Buck and Anna Wroblewska with the £150 Golden Ticket to be spent at PG Live 2025, and Highworth Emporium’s Aga Marsden is in the pink with PG’s Jakki Brown and Warren Lomax

In the Midlands the International Cards & Gifts-sponsored trophy went to a delighted Stuart Delahoy, co-owner of Set in Leicester.

“Well, that went well didn’t it! Smashing day and, of course, the right shop won!” Stuart joked. “After Tim and Annie from Objectables won on our table we thought it’s not going to be our year. So, the announcement was one of complete surprise and delight.

“As this award comes from within the industry it means more. To be recognised by your suppliers is particularly satisfying, they know what they’re talking about. The public vote with their wallets every day and our buoyant sales mean we know we are winning that one!

Thanks especially to Grace Podmore, my fantastic card buyer. It’s a cliché, but I really couldn’t do it without her. It was such a shame she was on holiday in Cornwall the week of The Retas.”

Above: A gleeful Stuart and Lisa Delahoy (right) from Set, and Strickland And Holt’s Mishi Holt and Bryony Richardson celebrate with independent sales agent Mike Rignall
Above: A gleeful Stuart and Lisa Delahoy (right) from Set, and Strickland And Holt’s Mishi Holt and Bryony Richardson celebrate with independent sales agent Mike Rignall

With Strickland And Holt taking the best North East indie title, sponsored by Wendy Jones-Blackett, it’s capped this year’s celebrations for marking the Yarm store’s 170th anniversary, with company representatives Mishi Holt and Bryony Richardson collecting the shiny trophy.

And buyer Sophie Wilson admitted: “We’re so shocked we actually won! I wish I could have been there myself to enjoy the day but, at eight months’ pregnant, it didn’t feel the best idea to travel to London!”

Edinburgh-based Nikki Halliday made the most of her trip to London, rocking out at an AC/DC gig at Wembley before rocking up at The Retas to pick up the best indie trophy for Scotland, sponsored by London Stationery Show, for her brace of The Bay Tree Company stores.

“I had a lovely time and it was absolutely amazing to have won,” Nikki said. “We’re absolutely thrilled and delighted. It was wonderful being there to be presented with the most amazing trophy which now has pride of place on the desk in the Bruntsfield store where we can share the joy with our customers, which is what I’ve spent today doing!

Above: A fruitful trip from Scotland for the Bay Tree Company’s Nikki Halliday (left) and Cards & Moor’s Sally Swift is a very pleased newbie
Above: A fruitful trip from Scotland for the Bay Tree Company’s Nikki Halliday (left) and Cards & Moor’s Sally Swift is a very pleased newbie

“Tomorrow, I’m taking it to the Hanover Street shop so the girls can spread the fun and excitement there. I’m absolutely thrilled to have won for my staff, our independent suppliers and our customers – it is really very special to have achieved this honour for our little stores.”

The Best Greeting Card Retailer Newcomer winner, sponsored by Carte Blanche Greetings, was Sally Swift, owner of Cards & Moor in Yelverton, and she said: “What a wonderful event. I can’t believe we won, so very grateful to have received the award.”

Sponsored by Woodmansterne Publications, the Best Independent Bookstore Retailer trophy went to Kemps General Store & Bookshop in Malton, with owner Liz Kemp commenting: “The theming was charming and I had fab table mates too. Icing on the cake was to win – cannot believe it!”

And Luke Proudfoot, manager of home and garden for the Proudfoot Group, commented: “We’re thrilled we’ve won a prestigious Retas award for Best Non-Specialist Independent Retailer Of Greeting Cards North.

Above: Liz Kemp and the lady are off back to Kemps, and Proudfoot’s director Valerie Aston with Luke Proudfoot
Above: Liz Kemp and the lady are off back to Kemps, and Proudfoot’s director Valerie Aston with Luke Proudfoot

“This achievement is testament to our quality Hallmark greeting card offering and departments across all stores, supported by our valued colleagues and customers. It’s so lovely to be acknowledged in these hard times,” he added, having collected the trophy from category sponsor Lucilla Lavender.

In the south, the Pigment-sponsored Best Non-Specialist title went to Stationery House, in Clevedon, Somerton and Wrington, where directors Malcolm and Sally Adams said: “We feel very proud to be the winner. It recognises all the hard efforts that everyone has put in to achieve this result and the day job of having well-presented greeting card sections in our shops. We need to thank and acknowledge the huge support we receive from our various suppliers and their reps/agents.”

Above: Morley’s Marianne Carter, and Malcolm and Sally Adams, from Stationery House
Above: Morley’s Marianne Carter, and Malcolm and Sally Adams, from Stationery House

Marianne Carter is the buyer at Morley Group, which won the Best Department Store title sponsored by Spring & Autumn Fair, and she commented: “We’re thrilled, it’s always such an honour to be nominated so to win this year was amazing, especially when we were up against some incredible retailers. We wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of our amazing suppliers who all make it possible.”

The supermarket category, sponsored by Danilo, was won by Sainsbury’s where cards and wrap buyer Shar Grothier said: “We were so thrilled, winning the award was a real team effort and we are so thankful to everyone at UK Greetings and all our publishers for their continued support in helping us to make our card ranges the best they can be!

“We’re always so proud of the cards we offer to our customers, so the award was a real cherry on top for the amazing work all our teams do. Thank you so much to all those who voted, the award means the world to us.”

Above: A thrilled Sainsbury’s team of assistant buyer Bethany Priestley, buyer Shar Grothier, head of buying Abi Wilson and senior buyer Sanjit Pooni, and Waterstones’ buyer Megan Douglas and senior buyer Hazel Walker
Above: A thrilled Sainsbury’s team of assistant buyer Bethany Priestley, buyer Shar Grothier, head of buying Abi Wilson and senior buyer Sanjit Pooni, and Waterstones’ buyer Megan Douglas and senior buyer Hazel Walker

“What a fab day!” was the reaction from Hazel Walker, senior buyer of Waterstones, having won the best non-specialist multiple retailer title, sponsored by Cath Tate Cards.

“As always, we had so much fun and winning our very own Retas trophy was a lovely surprise – we’re thrilled! It’s amazing to be recognised within an industry full of so many great retailers. We were up against some very strong competitors and were not expecting a win.

“We’ve already shared the news with the wider business and all our shop teams and are looking forward to sharing the award with everyone in the office – it will be going proudly on display!”

Paperlink sponsored the best specialist multiple category won by Cardfactory, where chief commercial officer Adam Dury told PG Buzz: “We’re all absolutely delighted to pick up such a fabulous award. As an entire business we work tirelessly to do our very best for all of our customers. To then be recognised by the industry is the icing on the cake and it is something we all very grateful and proud to receive.”

And buying manager Samantha Bradley added: “What a fantastic afternoon and it’s amazing we won, just to add to the wonderful experience of the awards event. There was such a fantastic buzz in the room and what a great opportunity to spend the day enjoying the greeting card industry. We loved every minute of it! We’re honoured by everyone who voted for us. It’s such a fantastic achievement.”

Above: Cardfactory’s buyer Charlotte Green and buying manager Samantha Bradley celebrate, and Yarnton’s Celia Leeson-Cox had a fabulous afternoon
Above: Cardfactory’s buyer Charlotte Green and buying manager Samantha Bradley celebrate, and Yarnton’s Celia Leeson-Cox had a fabulous afternoon

For Celia Leeson-Cox, head of creative at Yarnton Home & Garden, it was a “fabulous afternoon” picking up the trophy for being the independent garden centre retailer, sponsored by Museums & Galleries.

And she added: “We’re beside ourselves with excitement to be bringing our new Retas award back to the team. Woweee! It was another fabulous afternoon, celebrating with the best of the retailers who had made it to the finals. Congratulations all. We are so grateful for all our suppliers who together have contributed to our much-loved new department and to this most coveted award – and, to everyone at YH&G, this is for you!”

In the multiple garden centre category, sponsored by W Select from Woodmansterne, the trophy went to Notcutts where buyer Tracey Pennell commented: “A big thank you for a fabulous day! Notcutts is delighted to win the award, particularly as we were up against some big names in the garden centre industry.

“We have worked closely with our key partners Woodmansterne and Glick who have helped us to achieve this. Despite the lack of summer, the gifting categories in Notcutts have had a strong season and we are looking forward to a positive autumn/winter.”

Above: Notcutts’ buyer Tracey Pennell and Gemma Bennington, merchandising associate, were all smiles, and Presentation’s Andrea Pinder was very happy too
Above: Notcutts’ buyer Tracey Pennell and Gemma Bennington, merchandising associate, were all smiles, and Presentation’s Andrea Pinder was very happy too

Helping others earned Presentation Cards & Gifts the Best Greeting Card Retailer Initiative title, sponsored by N Smith Packaging & Display, for the Barrowford store’s Mother’s Day and Easter charity initiative with the Open Door drop-in support centre.

Owner Andrea Pinder said: “My initial thoughts went straight to Open Door. What a fantastic moment – I was filled with such joy and happiness.”

The Best Greeting Card Wholesaler trophy, sponsored by Xpress Yourself, went to BGC Wholesale, while the best indie in Wales was Paperweight in Cardiff, sponsored by Progressive Greetings Live.

Paperweight’s co-owner Deb Carne cheered: “Wow! Wow! Wow! It feels absolutely amazing to have won a Retas award – what an accolade! We really weren’t expecting it and were totally shocked but delighted when our name was called, I think our huge smiles said it all.

“Winning the award has given us such a boost with our plans moving forward now that Jess has returned from maternity leave. We are set to be a winning pair and take our shop forward to be better than ever!”

Above: Akhtar Zahid, ceo of BGC Wholesale, holds his shiny trophy, and Paperweight’s Deb Carne with daughter and colleague Jess Carne
Above: Akhtar Zahid, ceo of BGC Wholesale, holds his shiny trophy, and Paperweight’s Deb Carne with daughter and colleague Jess Carne

And for Postmark there were double celebrations for the second year running as the 14-strong indie chain again took both the Best Small Multiple title, sponsored by Ling Design, and the prestigious overall Greeting Card Retailer Of The Year trophy, sponsored by The Art File.

“We were looking forward to catching up with industry friends and having a fun relaxing afternoon,” Postmark co-founders Mark and Leona Janson-Smith said. “Winning an award was the last thing on our minds so, when our name was called out for Best Small Multiple, we were very much caught off guard and not quite sure what to do with ourselves!

“To say we’re thrilled wouldn’t cover it as winning this award again really means a huge amount to us. There have been many stressful moments over the last 18 months and times when I think we both thought ‘have we taken on too much’ but we’re so lucky to have such an amazing team around us and together we’ve managed push through and really start to shape the business the way we need to, to ensure future success.

Above: Double celebrations for Postmark’s Mark and Leona Janson-Smith
Above: Double celebrations for Postmark’s Mark and Leona Janson-Smith

“It was just unbelievable, literally out of this world, and we couldn’t quite believe what was happening when our name was called out the second time. We were just so shocked to be recognised in such an incredible way and the fact that our suppliers have shown such confidence in us to vote for us again this year means so much to us.

“It really hasn’t sunk in yet but just to say again none of this would be possible without our amazing team who have worked so hard to help us achieve this success.”

Announcing the retailer of the year, The Art File md Ged Mace said: “This award goes to a retailer that is a real stand out not just for their greeting card selection, but how they have taken risks to grow their business, scaling up, venturing into new territories, yet always keeping their feet on the ground.

“The last year has seen them put in a lot of hard graft to settle their hugely-expanded retail portfolio without letting the challenges of logistics get in the way of ensuring a superb product offer and customer service.”

Above: The winners celebrate joined by (front left-right) host Andrew Ryan and PG’s Jakki Brown, Warren Lomax and Tracey Bearton
Above: The winners celebrate joined by (front left-right) host Andrew Ryan and PG’s Jakki Brown, Warren Lomax and Tracey Bearton
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