Yorkshire does greetings proud

County’s newspaper covers industry issues in special Amanda Fergusson GCA interview

 

The Yorkshire contingent does greeting cards proud, with many businesses based in the UK’s biggest county, and its local newspaper has been backing the industry in a special feature.

With Hallmark based in Bradford, UK Greetings (Dewsbury), Cardfactory (Wakefield), GF Smith (Hull), Loxleys (Sheffield), Wendy Jones-Blackett (Leeds), Pigment Productions (Harrogate), Jessica Hogarth (Whitby), Stephanie Davies (York), Lola Design (York), Heyyy Cards (Rotherham), Janie Wilson (Pudsey) and TeePee Creations (Keighley) among the best-known publishers, retailers, paper merchants and printers in the county, the acclaimed Yorkshire Post newspaper has just featured GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson in its 900-word Weekend Interview slot.

Above: The special Weekend Interview piece appeared in the Yorkshire Post
Above: The special Weekend Interview piece appeared in the Yorkshire Post

Talking to deputy business editor Greg Wright, Amanda explained how “greeting cards create really powerful connections between people” and that it’s “a really friendly industry” where everyone pulls together and supports each other.

Having covered her own 30-plus years in the industry, from starting working in a greeting card store at 15 to five years as Hallmark’s head of marketing and corporate communications, Amanda added: ““In the late 1990s I was often asked if we were about to see the death of the greeting cards industry due to the internet but that’s not happened.

“The British love sending and receiving cards and we are now particularly seeing growth in customers aged 16-24. The industry is constantly innovating. to ensure that we have the cards that reflect our diverse culture and that consumers want.”

Above: Yorkshire-based publishers get together at PG Live – front row (from left) Katie Ibbetson, Pigment; Wendy Jones Blackett; Fiona Pitt, Hallmark; Jessica Hogarth. Second row: Steve Baker, Pigment; Dan and Yvette Clarkson, Heyyy Cards, Stephanie Davies; Amanda Fergusson, GCA. Third row: UK Greetings’ Lee Gale, Louise James, Lorna Connor, and Ben Whittington. Top: Adriana Lovesy, GCA, and Toni Pilling, Teepee Creations.
Above: Yorkshire-based publishers get together at PG Live – front row (from left) Katie Ibbetson, Pigment; Wendy Jones Blackett; Fiona Pitt, Hallmark; Jessica Hogarth. Second row: Steve Baker, Pigment; Dan and Yvette Clarkson, Heyyy Cards, Stephanie Davies; Amanda Fergusson, GCA. Third row: UK Greetings’ Lee Gale, Louise James, Lorna Connor, and Ben Whittington. Top: Adriana Lovesy, GCA, and Toni Pilling, TeePee Creations.

Explaining how the industry is working with a children’s bereavement charity to ensure wording in cards is appropriate for youngsters who have lost a loved one, she moved on to the current issues with Royal Mail and Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský’s £3.57billion bid to buy its parent company International Distribution Services (IDS) through his EP Group.

“People keep around 50% of the cards they receive from close loved ones,” Amanda told the paper. “The greeting card sector is a massive creative industry. Many people work out of their back bedrooms and Royal Mail is so important to them. They need a service that’s affordable. reliable and provides next-day delivery.”

The IDS board indicated at the end of May that it would accept the takeover bid which will see EP Group pay 370p per share, while offering “contractual commitments and intentions” to protect Royal Mail’s legally-binding universal service obligation to provide a six-day-a-week postal service across the UK for one price, and keep the company’s branding and British hq.

Saying that many of the small businesses which make up the greetings industry fear for Royal Mail’s future because the guarantees are only fixed for five years, Amanda stressed that GCA members are “concerned that the undertakings being proposed by EP Group in relation to its takeover of Royal Mail are inadequate and short-lived”.

Above: Wendy and Amanda’s pic from PG Live was picked for the feature
Above: Wendy and Amanda’s pic from PG Live was picked for the feature

She said: “Five-year commitments to support an institution with over 500 years of history appears to fall short. The Government and regulator must insist on lock-tight, long-term undertakings on affordability and reliability and the protection of our national service before approving this deal.

“Any future reform of our delivery service must be dependent on Royal Mail meeting the performance targets they’ve already signed up to. Daniel Křetínský gave an interview in which he said he was committed to making long-term investments in Royal Mail which have provided some reassurance.

“The key issues are around accountability and affordability – cards need to arrive on a special date and provide a vital connection with loved ones, especially for many housebound people.”

As the general election is looming, the industry association has written to the leaders of the major political parties to ensure they understand the concerns of a thriving industry which contributes £1.5bn to the British economy each year – and there was a story in Monday’s Daily Mail that the takeover is a threat to second-class post with the GCA, British Independent Retailers’ Association, and Federation Of Small Businesses all sounding the alarm, fearing the service frequency will be slashed by first-class stamp prices will soar.

Above: Amanda also had pictures taken at PG Live for the Yorkshire Post article with Pigment’s co-owners Martin Powderly and Steve Baker, as well as Graeme Karavis, Hallmark’s group md for UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand
Above: Amanda also had pictures taken at PG Live for the Yorkshire Post article with Pigment’s co-owners Martin Powderly and Steve Baker, as well as Graeme Karavis, Hallmark’s group md for UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand

Amanda told the Yorkshire Post Brexit has also caused issues, with frustrations over exports since the UK left the European Union, as it now takes longer to process EU orders, with higher costs on both sides leading to some continental customers choosing to buy from non-British suppliers because it’s easier.

And she finished by saying: “We need a national, reliable and affordable postal system to support the small businesses that make up our industry and to ensure card senders can connect with their loved ones.

“We also need the new government to understand the issues small businesses face as they try to build up the international trade again.

“And it’s very important that we celebrate the diversity of British society and understand the consumers of tomorrow.”

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