Friday, October 26, 2007

Running on Empty and Loving It!

I had the best 30 hours in London! Sounds crazy, I know, but I went to attend the Henries, an event named after Sir Henry Cole, a 17th century civil servant who founded the English Christmas Card (he’s also the pioneer of the Penny Post and the director of the renown V&A museum). The Henries, presented by Progressive Greetings magazine, is the greeting card industry’s awards program that honors outstanding card ranges, recognizes excellence in service and pays tribute to key leaders.

The event was FANTASTIC. And, whomever thinks the English are not up to the task of partying and celebration, I’m here to tell you this was a night – and late early morning - to remember! The James Bond theme threaded throughout all aspects of the program. From the Mylar-sealed invitation, marked “Top Secret”, to the martini glass motif, to the phenomenal score, décor, favors and eveningwear, we shook and stirred the night away! We ate “Prawn Connery”, “Moon’Racker’er of Lamb” and if you were a vegetarian, “Pierce’D Pepper”. The “Halle Berry Brulee”, actually, was to die for!

Jaqui & Warren in their Bonded best!

The wonderful Red-tailed Master of Ceremonies

The brother and sister duo who run the large chain of Clinton’s and Birthdays shops accepting their Achievement award

Jaqui Brown and Warren Lomax, editor-in-chief and publisher respectively, were the hosts of the 1000-person dinner. Glamour, sizzle and laughter carried the evening through with the awards presented by a wonderfully talented comedian whose name escapes me – and I did know it! A dignified, elegant and very funny emcee kept things moving. This nearly SRO event begin at 6:45 pm and continued well until 3 am! Of course, no one worked that next day!

England is the second largest card-consuming country in the world, next to the United States. The English send cards for every occasion and largely “just because”. Personal communication is a core value in their culture regardless of the pace of life. The industry is healthy and the future looks very strong, this according to Jaqui and Warren and to the General Manager of the Greeting Card Association in the UK, Sharon Little.

Patti and Sharon getting punchy after 5 hours of touring and 2 hours of sleep

The second best part of my 30 hours was spending the day with Sharon doing a retail tour. Selfridges, Clinton’s, Cards Galour, The Paper Chase, Harrods (actually did Harrods on my own). I wanted to see different interpretations to merchandising cards, as well as trends, store content, visual merchandising and commitment to the category. The two department stores reinforced the extensive love of the category, with some 5,000 square feet devoted to the broad range of social stationery products – from cards and custom invitations, to extensive writing instruments collections, to ribbons, giftwrap, boxes and so much more.

Images of Harrods and Selfridges merchandising concepts – look how much space is devoted to the stationery department!

A glimpse of the 1st floor of Paper Chase.
Not shown here are the extensive hip school supplies, ipod/cellphone accessories and the café.

Paper Chase, a dynamite chain of specialty stores, housing 3 floors of fabulous. The theme colors were fuscia and silver, starting early for the holidays. And, the card shops were jammed packed with such a wide selection of greeting card choices – elegant, modern, embellished, rectangle, square, no fold, single fold, large format, metallic, foils…the kids’ cards are just great and humor appears to be the category that receives the most square footage. The choices range from hilarious to edgy, to political to r a u n c h y!!! It’s all in fun.

A tiny sample of some of what’s selling big in the UK

All told, it was a super stimulating, educational, exhausting and fun trip. Can’t wait til next year!


Friday, October 19, 2007

And the winner is…(Arque’s Getting Personal Update)

As you might imagine, I know a lot of companies in this business, I love the industry and love what I do. So, I was very excited about embarking on the search for the perfect moving announcement! I enjoyed researching and finally deciding on the design direction, but boy was I surprised at how hard it was to settle firmly on one concept. There were so many that felt like “me.”

I looked at many websites - Colors By Design, Cid Pear Stationery, Dabney Lee Stationery, CardsCreative, Cat Seto, Bell’Invito Couture Stationery, Anna Griffin Incorporated, Birchcraft Studios, InScribe, and Cielo Blu Studios. All of these companies presented unbelievably great choices! In the end, though, I went for something from This was after Olivier posted a reply to my blog. And when I checked out his site, I zeroed in on one in particular that not just felt like me, but was me!

Here’s the winning design; it’s by Rainboworld:…

(Sorry I didn’t scan this exactly straight!)

I spoke with Olivier, and he put me in touch with Jessica (not our Jess from NSS girls) to help me navigate the site. Once there, I quickly narrowed my choices down to 7 designs that best reflected my personality and the style of my new abode. This design was presented with different wording, but I got to “mix & match” . I always like to get second and third opinions on big decisions, so I polled a select few GLMers (mnemonic for employees of GLM) and my sister to get their opinions. The design that received the most votes would be the winner! Below are a few of the runner-ups (all from Invitation Consultants):

Thank you to all who participated: The NSS girls- you know who we are from our blog, Lori (former NSS Show Manager), Candace, Melissa, Annie, and my sister and BFF, (best friend forever), Kenda. Kenda also gets a special thanks for catching the typos in my home phone and cell numbers! Rule of thumb here, never proof read your own work. I was the lone proof reader and missed both! I must have been so excited by the navy blue typography that I forgot I actually needed to check what was written on the announcement.

I have received a lot of compliments on my announcement, and sending it helped me feel a great sense of accomplishment and ownership – did I mention that this is my first-ever real estate purchase? Now I expect to receive all my holiday cards from friends and family at the new, correct address. I‘m sure they have actually stashed the announcement in their address book, or hung it on their fridge! (Isn’t it just too cute to toss?)

And to those of you who emailed me curious about how I got my name, here it is, short and sweet. I was named after a good friend of my maternal grandfather. Her name was Arque Owens, and Mrs. Owens’ mother got the name from a nurse in the Chicago hospital where she was born So I owe my unique name to my grandfather, who just loved the name Arque and whose name was also unusual -- Alta Lee McCarthy, Sr. I come from a family of people with unique names.

Uh oh, I think I feel another blog coming...

Until next time,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ready to Give!

Last weekend, I shopped for presents for a number of friends and family (birthdays, parties, etc.). It was so nice out (with temperatures in the 80s!), that I decided to go to several shops that are within walking distance of my Scarsdale apartment. What really made my shopping trip great was that each store packaged my gift very nicely. This meant no extra work for me once I got home!

First on my list? A gift for my best friend Susan. There’s a store on my street called Sol La, which specializes in handmade gifts, and I found something perfect (can’t tell you what…) for Susan here. The item I bought comes in a cute little box already, and the owner of Sol La made it ready for giving by placing the box in his store’s signature brown bag surrounded by lots of tissue, then “tied up with string.” The store’s name, address and phone number are on the bag, (in foil). Of course, this is great marketing, and my friends love the gifts I get them from there. And yes, I got a greeting card here, too – handmade from Tori Higa. I plan to show it to you in another posting!

Next on my list was a housewarming gift, so it was off to La Dentelliere a wonderful specialty store that carries gifts for the home, paper products and personal care items... The last gift I bought there was a beautifully-designed outdoor thermometer. This time I bought a cheese board and spreader. The signature gift wrap at La Dentelliere is a decorative cellophane bag with colored tissue surrounding the gift and enclosed in the bag. They always include a silk flower tucked into the ribbon. Their boxes are equally fabulous, an earthtone box filled with colorful tissue and embellished with a silk flower. The signature styling is part of their branding. When one sees the package, it’s clear that it’s from La Dentelliere!

Yet another gift on my list was something for my soon-to-be 8-year-old nephew, my sister told me that he’s into “Spy Gear” – whatever that is! So off I went to Learning Express. Lucky for me, this store had loads of “Spy Gear” sets. After calling my sister for approval, I selected the laser tag game. As I was paying for this nifty item, the young woman behind the counter asked if I would like it gift-wrapped. Of course! At Learning Express they have their own logo’d gift wrap paper. And it’s cute! (Their branding is reinforced by the circular sticker with a “to/from” feature that they place on the package). I will just need to add my own ribbon or bow. (For me, this will not be a problem, as I have quite a stash of bows – I just can’t see throwing them away!!)

Finally, for the last gift on my list, I headed back towards home to a store called Folio Per Se, which is well known for its distinctive wrapping. (The owner, Josh, can wrap just about anything!) The store specializes in beautifully designed Italian-made products. I purchased a frame for a friend I’ve known since high school. To make the gift complete, nothing else would do, but a Florentine patterned paper! Here it is.

One reason I like to purchase products from stores with their own wrapping is to demonstrate my commitment to local stores and boutiques. I wholeheartedly believe in supporting small, local stores. These folks are my neighbors, I see a couple of them each day on my way to and from the train station, and I always get (and give) a friendly wave. Their stores add a little something special to my neighborhood, and I like to buy from them when I can. I know I’m like many consumers who highly value the customer service aspect provided by small retailers – like in-store gift wrapping (just perfect when I am pressed for time). I particularly like that the recipient of my gift can immediately see that the present I’m giving came from a great store.

I wonder: for you retailers reading this, what kind of packaging options do you offer your customers? Do you have a store bag with your name on it, or some other distinctive packaging? We all on the NSS team would love to see photos of what you do! Please reply with a photo or two!


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fall Into Action

Am I the only one that’s in shock that it’s fall already? In the world of the NSS girls that means one thing –the 2008 National Stationery Show is officially in motion! Post-show analysis is complete and exciting promotions are in the works. So is the planning for seminars, special events and other activities to make the show fun, interesting, exciting and productive. On the admin and customer care front, fall also means meetings galore to be sure we’ve covered all of the bases in our communication to customers! Most notable in my role as Show Coordinator, is that contracts and deposits are pouring in (the due date was yesterday – October 3) from returning exhibitors.

So what’s the inside scoop?

Looks like NSS 2008 is going to be great! Sure, it’s only October, BUT our long-standing exhibitors are returning and expressing plans to unveil new booth displays, and many of last May’s first-timers are asking to double their booth space or upgrade to a corner! From my point of view, this means they had a REALLY strong first Show. And I can’t forget to mention that we have more applications for the 2008 Show than we have had at this point in the past 3 years, with lots of brand new companies as well as some former NSS favorites looking to return to the market with new product collections to debut!

The boss (Patti) tells me that my instincts are right on; that these are important indicators of the strength of last year’s show and the confidence that May 2008 will provide the return on investment “ROI”, she says, is key to their decision making. I have learned a lot about the business in my first full year on the job. One thing I can say for sure is that it is an exciting business, and our industry is filled with fantastic, creative people.

I hope you’re looking forward to the Show as much as we are! If you’re considering applying for exhibit space, I recommend doing it now – the small booths are going fast! And if you’re an Attendee – did you know that you can register to attend AND book your travel plans already? Just click here to get started. Get the best deal at your favorite hotel before it fills up – might as well do it now -- I know I’m going to!