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!


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