All for a good cause

We, as consumers, have been living through a period of economic uncertainty for a while now. As a result, many of us are afraid to commit to expenditure that, in easier times, we wouldn’t have thought twice about.

Therefore, as manufacturers, suppliers and retailers we need to think about the changes we are seeing and adapt whilst considering if this is a permanent shift in attitude to the marketplace. In this piece I would like to explore how this may impact on our support of charities, good causes and the environment in the future.

Certain products have been sold in aid of charity for years. For some buying ‘charity cards’ is habitual; they buy the pack because of the charity link. Great British Card Company is a card publisher who produces charity Christmas cards and, since 2007, they have raised over £2.7m for charity from the sale of their cards alone. This staggering figure continues to grow and they expect to contribute another £259,000 from their 2018 retail sales. One of their new packs this year is the Almanac Gallery Christmas pack from the Jennifer Rose Gallery for the Woodland Trust which is likely to be a best-seller.

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Licensed cards often use images from an archive which has a link to a charity and this is a good way to raise funds as well as spreading awareness of the treasures in their care, be they historic buildings, artefacts or wildlife. A great example of this is The Wildlife Trust’s Water Vole card. These images are an effective way to raise funds for charity whilst spreading their message.

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Interestingly enough, there has been a change over recent times of how we donate to charity. The increasing trend in giving to a cause is by buying something, which is now the 2nd most popular way of donating money. Of course, cash donations are still at number one at 55% and buying a lottery ticket in 3rd at 40%. (Charities Aid Foundation UK Giving Report 2018)

Is this new donation trend born out in the card and gift market? Well, if the Stationery Show 2019 Launchpad winners are representative of the market, then the answer has to be yes! Two of the eight winners of this year’s Launchpad are businesses where a purchase from them triggers a donation to specific charities related to their product

A prime example is VENT for Change, whose design-led eco-friendly stationery supports existing children’s education projects worldwide. The projects, run by Plan International UK, help children affected by war, conflict, natural disasters and extreme poverty get back to school and receive the education they deserve.

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Secondly Stib, which stands for Sparking Thinking in a Box, is a purposeful business aiming to inspire young hearts and minds, based on a belief in the potential of all children to do amazing things. Stib donates 10% of profits to WE.org, which supports education projects for vulnerable children in the UK and overseas.

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But it doesn’t have to be a charitable contribution, products can also raise awareness of an issue through imagery, messaging or design. A really good example of this is a range from We Are In Good Company who are ‘on a mission to make space for sober’ with cards and gifts designed to support, encourage and celebrate not drinking – a really hot topic at the moment.

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Design isn’t the only way a company can raise attention on an issue though – it can also be the way a product is made. There is definitely an increasing focus on us in the card industry to respond to society’s desire to reduce our impact on natural resources and the use of plastics.

During a recent conversation with Michelle Mills at Windles she mentioned that publishers are more conscious about their carbon footprint and, as a result, are sourcing boards that are more locally sourced to reduce the carbon emissions from transportation.

A board like Incada Silk, which is made in Cumbria in a mill which operates self-sufficiently fuelled by their own biomass plant, is now in huge demand. The material is FSC GC1 recyclable, making it ideal for Christmas cards and photographic images because it prints well with a good surface, shade, rigidity and smoothness. Previously this type of board would have come from India or Canada but can now be made in the UK!

Today design led greetings are often produced on lick coated, uncoated and textured boards because designers want tactile products and these materials are often sourced from boutique mills across Europe. The cold foil process which has become synonymous with the greetings industry works perfectly with lick coated materials.

Recently, there has been increased interest in boards with a unique recycled content like cotton, poo, grass and coffee cups but, because many of these are still handmade, they are still relatively expensive and are often not commercially viable for greetings cards.

Fenner Paper, an independent specialist paper merchants, is a market leader in the supply of papers and boards manufactured from recycled and alternative fibres including the Colorset, Crush, Remake and Shiro ranges.

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The Colorset 100% Recycled range has become more popular over the last few years because of the increase in Letterpress printing for greetings cards and the versatility in its 36 colours in the range. Made from 100% post-industrial fibres, Colorset has had the ‘Blue Angel’ environmental certification for over 40 years (the European standard for sustainable and environmentally friendly products.

Crush and Remake are innovative ranges of board, which use recycled pulp and by-products from fruit, nut and leather processing to make beautiful tinted boards. Crush Grape uses the grape residues from wine makers, and Crush Olive residues from olive oil production, their distinctive feel and organic credentials are a popular choice for handmade greetings cards.

Shiro Echo 100% FSC recycled, is suitable for both litho and digitally printed greetings cards. It is the highest quality recycled board, produced from 100% post-consumer recycled fibres.

More cards are being bagged in biodegradable and compostable materials but it is really difficult for consumers and waste management companies to identify these materials from other films, which means at the moment most still end up in land fill. Many larger retailers are offering cards with no bags at all and publishers are developing various types of tab to keep the card and envelope together when on display.

The fantastic thing about all of these initiatives is that charity causes and the environment both benefit. In some cases, those in the supply chain will make a smaller margin on this type of product too as they part fund the donation, material or process. What it does do for businesses is create a positive halo of corporate responsibility for brands for offering these types of products. Completing the cycle is the consumers, who get pleasure from supporting good causes in addition to buying the products they want.

It really is a win, win, win ,win situation for everyone !!

AND THE WINNER IS…

I have worked in the retail industry for 35 years and there is still one thing that shocks me.

The amount of businesses - be they retailers, manufacturers or suppliers - who don’t enter their industry awards is shocking. For me, wherever you are in the supply chain, entering awards is a great way to raise the profile of your products and brand whilst getting your offering under the noses of the right people.

Awards organisers work really hard to get an esteemed panel of industry experts to be a part of their panel, thanks in part to their influence on the market, knowledge and profile. How often would you have a free opportunity to get your products evaluated as part of a curated group of buyers?

Whilst you’re impressing buyers involved in the awards itself, the additional credibility a product gains from being a finalist or winner increases its appeal to other potential stockists.

For retailers, viewing products in a judging setting can be helpful because it narrows down your field of vision to new products, often from suppliers you’d simply walk past at a show.

From a personal point of view when I am a judge across the cards, gifts and stationery industry, it is very common for me (and others) to note down what they see whilst judging, before following up on relevant stands or contacting the suppliers about products of interest.

There are often additional benefits to entering awards. For example, The Stationery Show gives entrants an opportunity to showcase their products to all visitors on the new product stand at the entrance to the show.

In 2017, the London Stationery Show set a new competition called Launchpad – hoping to sky rocket existing businesses opportunities on the back of their attendance at the show.

Aimed at new businesses who have not exhibited at the Stationery Show before, Launchpad’s eight winners get the opportunity to have a stand at the show for free - a great opportunity that could have been otherwise unaffordable.

Some examples of people who won Launchpad include Bloom, a Dutch greeting card company who entered the competition as part of their UK launch strategy. Having won a stand in 2019, they are now taking orders every week from UK companies as a result. What an incredible way to enter a new market!

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From 2019, Cardshit were another winner of Launchpad who gained three strong leads from national retailers at the show, one of whom has ordered already - definitely a case of great product, in the right place at the right time!!

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Whilst the London Stationery Show’s opportunities continue to open doors for retailer, entrants for the Giftware Association’s Gift of the Year allow manufacturers showcase their products on the GOTY website from the date the entries open for a full twelve months until the same time the following year. Imagine it; a virtual showroom open to any retailer to view whenever or wherever they wish.

The Handcrafted Card Company won the card category at GOTY in 2019. As part of their launch strategy, they enter awards regularly and it’s clearly paid off for them in the last twelve months, receiving orders for their award-winning range immediately after winning the prize, from both existing and new customers whilst partnering with a new distributor to upscale their business.

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There two award models are great but, of course, every award works differently. Judges at the Henries Greeting Cards awards judge the categories not knowing who the publishers are, but are able to request information on publishers of specific cards they liked after the event.

Cinnamon Aitch were winners of a 2018 Henrie Award and find that awards extend the marketing of their new ranges. Whilst there is no correlation between winning and orders, Cinnamon Aitch’s win has been mentioned by buyers they’ve spoken to and it gives them a really positive brand endorsement.



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Whether it’s a Henri, a Launchpad award or something else you’re shortlisted for (or hopefully win), you’ll be guaranteed an appearance in exhibition brochures, websites, featured in listings in industry publications and more. So instantly, without minimal work, the visibility of your business and product becomes much more visible within your sector and the wider industry too – invaluable PR without any major outlay.

Whilst the entering the award is important, celebrating your win is important too. Ensure you share your win with existing customers, keeping your contact lines open and allowing them to feel connected to your business. An award win (or even a shortlisting) gives you an opportunity to re-engage with some former sales contacts – it might tempt them to place another order !!

There are a selection of awards that can work really well for retailers too. As the high-street is slowing and retail spend is considerably down, it is really important to create a point of difference for your business. Entering -and hopefully winning awards -can be a really good way of raising your profile, be they a local award or awards for your industry.

Not only is it a great shot in the arm for your business, it is a great morale booster for your team too.

Aga Gabrysiak, Owner of Highworth Emporium, won an award at the 2019 Greats said: “We all work really hard to make sure we have the right stock, nice selection of cards, attractive displays and a social media presence. Sometimes it can really tough and you often think that your efforts are going unnoticed. Being awarded with such a great prize has given us an immense dose of extra energy and pride.”

Following their win, Aga and the Highworth Emporium team have taken the opportunity to celebrate with customers, local press and trade press. We’re sure that the local media coverage they achieve will help them gain new customers in the future.


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Business is getting more and more difficult for all of us so why wouldn’t you do something to help you stand out from your competitors? Entering awards is relatively quick and inexpensive but the benefits of being a finalist or winning can be significant. Surely, it’s a no brainer!

Ultimately, it’s time to reward your gold star efforts with an award of your own – who knows where it will lead?

It’s like great French footballer Zinedine Zidane once said: “It doesn't matter how many times you win an award, it is always very special.”

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