Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cards, Cards, Cards!

Yesterday I received my first holiday card of the season in the mail at home. Exciting! And, thank you, Louise! I love this time of year, and one of the biggest reasons is because of sending and receiving holiday cards. I always hear about the “mail moment” and “happy mail” at Greeting Card Association meetings. I would say that holiday time (for me, it’s Christmas) is my biggest “mail moment” time of the year. (Also, my birthday is in December - Yay!) I love opening my mail box and getting all different colored, and shaped, envelopes. I receive about 40 holiday cards each year which also means that I send at least that many.

All of the cards I receive from friends and family (both near and far-flung) end up being favorites. I love that each card was chosen by the sender because I really do believe that the card carries the personality of the sender. So whether it is religious, funny, hopeful (with the message of “Peace”), or something in-between, I love them all!

I especially love receiving letters inside. I have had a pen pal since 4th grade (if you know how old I am, you’ll realize this is a long time!) Ellen lives in Missouri, and I’m in New York, and our lives sure have changed over the years. We don’t communicate much during the year anymore (regrettably) – just an email exchange or two in the summer– but at this time of year, I look forward to receiving her update and new pictures of the kids. I know it takes some time to write one of these updates, and I, for one, appreciate that the writer has set aside the time to do it.

I also have to admit that I am a “flipper!” Ever since that Hallmark commercial (years ago) taught us to flip the card over to see the maker, I have been flipping my cards. These days, I get to see the names of companies I know and work with, and that just adds to the excitement of opening the envelope!

Now, I have just one problem, and I need your help! For years I have been “displaying” my holiday cards by taping them to the arched entryway to my living room. Well, I painted last year, and I just don’t want to do this again. How are you displaying your cards at home? My mom uses a basket shaped like a sleigh. Nice, but you can only ever see the top card. I want to see them all! Write back with ideas. I know you are more creative than I am!

I can’t wait to see what you come up with. In the meantime, I wish you joy during this holiday season!

- Kelly

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Just Say Thanks!

It’s said that we spend more time with our business colleagues than we do our family. So why is it that we spend so much time giving thanks for our family and friends, and not the people that we see Monday-Friday, 9-5, and sometimes weekends too!

This Thanksgiving, I’m making sure to give thanks to those who get to see my smiling face on a Monday morning and my tired eyes at the end of a trade show – namely my boss and teammates. I also think it’s important for companies to thank its, employees, reps, vendors, customers, service providers…you get the picture! Take a minute from your “to do before vacation” list and make sure your colleagues know how much you appreciate them! Here are a few ways to say a quick, but meaningful, THANK YOU:

1 – Send out greeting cards (don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming!) Hearing “thank you” from your boss is great, but the words will soon fade into a distant memory. Cards can be hung in cubicles, stored in files and brought out again and again to help keep a smile on an employee’s face, day after day – not just in the spirit of the holidays. You should see my bulletin board!

2 – Give a gift basket or gift card. Many times it’s hard to buy a present for a business colleague. How much is too much? Or too little? Will they like it? Gift baskets and gift cards are the way to go! No matter how much you spend, it’s always a nice and appreciated gift.

3 – Have a pre-Thanksgiving lunch with your boss/employees. There is nothing like a lunch with co-workers that is done in the spirit of thanks to make your point.

I’m sure you can come up with many ways to say thank you. The most important part is that you say it in your own way. Thanksgiving is about appreciation and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to feel appreciated.

So on that note, the National Stationery Show Team (NSS Girls!) would like to thank its exhibitors, attendees, industry friends and faithful blog readers. We wouldn’t be here if not for you!

- Patti, Kelly, Arque, Rosanne & Jess

We would love to hear the ways that you showed your appreciation this week. Please leave us comments filled with your stories!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I’m in Gear for a Big Card Sending Year!

I feel it in my bones – and I know it in my heart. This is going to be a big year for holiday card sending. Why? Because human beings crave connection more than ever today, and the greeting card industry is THE industry that enables people to stay in touch in the most personal way. You know how you approach your mailbox, thumbing through to find the envelopes that are hand addressed? This is the “happy” mail, the mail that delivers the warm, personal messaging that, well, make us happy! At holiday time, happy mail is a daily treat!

Another reason I feel this way is because while greetings cards are low tech, they are high touch. They help us convey our appreciation, our feelings toward the people who have made a difference in our business and personal lives Holiday time is the perfect opportunity to express these sentiments. As a business message, the season provides a wonderful way to thank and acknowledge our customers, vendors, employees and others without whom we couldn’t do quite the same job. And, in our personal relationships, the holidays provide a natural opportunity to reach far and wide, so dig out the threadbare phone/address books and reconnect with old pals, former coworkers and others from your past – and of course embrace your family and new friends. I find that I really long for a reason to call those long lost buddies or write throughout the year, but I don’t always get to it. Holiday time is when I draw the line.

So, here’s my 10-step plan

1. Make your personal list, and be sure to involve the kids and the spouse to
be sure you’ve included everyone!

2. Assign someone in your business to pull together your business holiday card
list. Be sure that person checks with all of your key people so the list is

3. Input the list into the computer. You can do this in a simple word
document. Then convert it into a label program.

4. Shop for your cards at your favorite store (or pick from your designs, of
course, if you are in the greeting card business). There is still time to
personalize if you do this within the next week – 10 days.

5. Shop for stamps. You can do this on line through You can
still order custom stamps, and you can also do this through the postal

6. Get photos processed, if you’re including them.

7. Get your letter written, if you’re one who likes to include a family update.

8. Have your kids label/handwrite and stamp the envelopes.

9. Have your staff person label and stamp the envelopes for your business

10. Write your cards and get’ em in the mail!

If you’re one who needs to have your cards delivered during the month of December, then they should mail by the second week of December. I like sending New Year’s cards. Most of us are still in holiday mode, and later in December my cards stand out! Bottom line, it is never too late to share your cheer with the ones in your life that matter most.

‘Tis the season,


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Trend Talk with Kelly and Jess

It’s that time of year – the time of year we can’t wait for – placing new exhibitors into the Show. All summer long, the applications come in over the web, by fax and in the mail. This week we excitedly began unraveling the future of the National Stationery Show – our newest exhibitors! Now, the real excitement begins as our team starts finding booth space for all of these companies.

Here’s Jess with the more than 300 companies wanting to come into the Show!

We live and work around these applications – representing real people, with great product – throughout the summer and right up until the beginning of November, when we can begin placing these companies onto the floorplan.

Every application goes in a folder, and is organized by date of application and requested booth size.

Here’s Kelly checking off a booth for someone.

It’s a fun time of year, because as we work with each application, one right after the other, we start to see trends. And, we are seeing a few notable trends right now. First off, remember last year’s HUGE polka dot trend? We have to tell you, we did not really see polka dots. Seriously, almost none. This is interesting, as polka dots have been so strong for a number of years.

So what have we been seeing?

Most surprisingly, the combination of blue and orange – we don’t remember seeing this color combo last year! The blue is a lighter shade (sometimes turquoise-y) and the orange is usually straightforward, or leaning toward orange-red. We can’t show you any pictures (we have to protect our new companies and their brand new ideas) but we can tell you that these colors have been seen on many different types of products ranging from greeting cards to office products to personalized plates.

Another trend that is continuing is florals and flourishes. The flowers are big and bold, and we’ve seen them as photography, watercolors, and graphic design – and always with very strong, vibrant colors. The flourishes are often just that – swirly designs, but also still lots of damask patterns.

Ribbon embellishments are still big - solids and patterns both; letterpress is going strong, and (as if you couldn’t tell by entering ANY clothing or home furnishings store) brown is still hot.

We’re so excited by the creativity in this industry! We can’t wait to meet all of these new exhibitors at the Show. (May seems so far away right now).

If you are someone who’s been thinking of applying to exhibit in the Show, you should apply now, as space is definitely limited, now that we are placing all of these great companies on the floorplan. And on that note – if you have already applied to the Show – you will be hearing from us within the next few weeks regarding your space.

If you are a retailer, make your plans to attend now! You can register today, and make your hotel and travel (link) arrangements for the May Show. Take our advice, plan now; your favorite hotel will book up fast! You will want to spend 2-3 days at the Show in order to explore the entire Show floor, have great conversations with the new exhibitors, and place your orders for your stores.

Perhaps May isn’t so far away after all!

Well, it’s time to get back to the floor plan! Until next time…

Kelly and Jess

Thursday, November 1, 2007

My experience at the Greeting Card Association Convention

Each fall, I attend the GCA’s annual convention. This year, was the 66th Annual Convention (yes, it is pretty well-established) and the theme was “Mapping Our Future,” using a Highway 66 sign as the logo for the event. Carlos Llanso of Legacy Publishing was the chairman of the Convention this year, and he did a great job.

I love going to the Convention every year, because it is a great chance for me to spend quality time with NSS exhibitors and suppliers in the industry. I also don’t mind that the Convention is always held at a nice hotel or resort. This year, the Convention was held in Naples, FL at the Naples Grande Resort and Club the second week of October, at a time when it was just getting chilly here in the NYC area.

But, as I said, the true highlight of the event is spending time with some of the great people in this industry. A welcome reception kicks off the event, with lots of hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. It also is a time when people are scrambling to meet each other and get their signatures! A few years back, a GCA member came up with this great idea of facilitating attendees chatting with each other. We all get a signature sheet (really 3 pages, front and back) that includes the names of all speakers and attendees. As there were more than 100 attendees, this was quite a challenge! Everyone gets pretty “into it” as there is fake money to be won here – this year, Frenchies- named for outgoing GCA president, Don French, of Paper Magic.

As you can see, Don has a good sense of humor!

The money is used on the last night to bid for great prizes in the live & silent auctions – fun!! The real point, though, is to talk to folks, and this little signature thing really works! The reception is lively, people get to meet each other on the first night, and they have a reason to introduce themselves to each other! I love it!

Here’s Rick Ruffner and Chip Owen from Avanti, on the second night, after getting back from a dinner cruise in the gulf:

And here’s David Hutchison of BrightMARKS with his wife Connie (love her!) in the hotel bar’s lounge area after the cruise:

Of course, the program also features a good number of presentations and committee meetings. This year’s line-up was stellar, and the highlights for me were Ed Tate, a professional speaker who inspired the group reminding us to say “yes” to our potential; and Mary B. Lucas, who talked about succeeding in the people business. Mary wrote a book of lessons she learned from her dad, things that helped her in her business. Her dad owned a butcher shop, and so the book is aptly called “Lunchmeat and Life Lessons.” My favorite lesson is “look for the like”; that is, look for something that you like in every person (in Mary’s case it was a tough client). Not that I have any tough clients, of course!! Hallmark sponsored Mary’s presentation, and even bought each and every attendee Mary’s book. Thank you! I’ve shared it with Patti, and will pass it around to the rest of the team members when she is done. Two other speakers I enjoyed were Sue Buchta from American Greetings, and Margaret Walch from the Color Association of the United States.

There are other get-togethers throughout the event, and some down-time, which I enjoyed with Dorene VanHouten, publisher of Greetings etc.

Here’s Dorene with Susan January of Leanin’ Tree:

Some of the people I got to know better during the Convention included Nicky Burton, from Calypso Cards (who’s exhibited in the NSS since 2000, but this was my first chance to really get to know her – she’s great – and has led an interesting life!); Sheila O’Hara from Avanti (so involved in her community); and I always make sure to talk with Richard Evans from Birchcraft and his wife Catherine, as well as Tom and Cyndee Otto from Exclusive Bordering/Harry Otto Printing. These are all fun and accomplished people – it’s work, but it doesn’t’ feel like it!

Here’s Catherine, Cyndee and Tom:

The final night features a dinner dance, but only after the auction, led so very well by Mark Vando of National Envelope and his lovely wife, Yolanda. Here’s Mark with Jack Withiam, executive vice president and general counsel here at GLM and also a GCA Board member:

Mike Oleskow of Max & Lucy has been attending the GCA Convention since 1999 (he’s a great dance partner, btw) and here he is with Jodee Stevens, of Cardthartic, who attended the Convention for her first time this year.

Okay, I know this one is really scary, but here is April Durrett, of B. Shackman wearing her auction prize, a fantastic mask from the Paper Magic Group.

Pretty great, right? I wonder if she scared any Trick–or-Treaters at her house last night. I would probably turn around and run! But April is much better looking than this! Here she is with her mother-in-law, Johanna:

See, much better!

If you are a greeting card publisher, or a supplier to the industry, and you haven’t attended the GCA Convention, you might consider it for next year. The event is a lot of learning, sharing and fun. And, because this is the greeting card industry, after all, you will find every attendee more than welcoming, happy to see you, and interested in what you do! For more information, visit the GCA’s website.

Hey, and this is not supposed to be a plug! But truthfully, as a person working in the greeting card industry (even if it is from the show end) I really believe in the Association and in the value of attending this Convention, and I thought I’d share some of my highlights with you!

- Kelly