Thursday, February 21, 2008

Across the Pond - Spring Fair 2008

This industry is just so energizing, isn’t it? I recently attended Spring Fair at the NEC in Birmingham, England. What a show! I love attending Spring Fair – for the networking, (with old friends and new), seeing the creativity in the industry “over there,” and hearing about business in general.

One of my first stops at the Show is always at the stand of Progressive Greetings. Progressive Greetings covers the National Stationery Show each year, and you’ve “met” the editor Jacquie Brown and the advertising director, Warren Lomax in Patti’s blog after attending the Henries this past fall in London. Now here, please also meet Angie Bryant, who is also with Progressive. She’s actually waving to everyone! She and I met several years ago (we thought it was probably 2003) when she last attended the NSS. She is a blast, and she loves this industry. (How can you not?)

Greeting cards are a huge part of the British culture, and Hall 3, which housed the greeting card section of the Fair had about 500 companies exhibiting – almost all of them showing greeting cards!

As it turns out, the British send more cards than those of us in the States. According to information on the UK’s Greeting Card Association website, the average number of greeting cards sent there is at 55 per person per year. In the US, according to our Greeting Card Association’s stats, the average US household purchases 30 greeting cards a year, and the average person receive 20 cards per year. Wonder what we’re doing with the extra 10? Saving them, perhaps, like me, for an unexpected occasion? (It’s always good to have a few baby, birthday – and sympathy – cards on hand).

One of my goals of attending Spring Fair was trend-spotting. I have to say, I think that both sides of the ocean are on the same page, mostly! Again, black design – like a black damask pattern over another color, or a silhouette look – was strong here. I saw some great examples of this at Nella and at the booth/stand of a new company called Over the Moon. (And I was over the moon about some of this company’s products – little thank you cards specific to any occasion!) I thought about getting the one about the cat for my cat sitter! See cards from Over the Moon below.

I also got to talk with David Faraday, the Director of hiPP., a gift wrap/packaging company, whom Patti and I met at Spring Fair last year. This company will be exhibiting at the National Stationery Show for the first time this May, and I’m so excited. They have great gift bags and packaging – some with beautiful flocking. Look at these blue bags, below. Who wouldn’t want to receive a gift in one of these bags!

At Roger LaBorde (they’ll be back in the NSS this year!) I saw so many beautifully layered color combinations. In their “First Press” line I especially liked the “salon floral” grouping which featured bright flowers in pink and raspberry and a greenish gold with black silhouetting. The colors were layered on top of one another – a very lush look.

I also talked with Sarah Watts, the business manager of Penny Kennedy. Sarah brought Penny Kennedy to the National Stationery Show last year with its own booth. This year, the line will be at the Show, with certain products being distributed by the Nelson Line and others by Calypso Cards. Of course, Sarah will be at the Show, and will be found hopping from booth to booth in support of both her distributors!

I asked Sarah if she’d seen a trend in what her buyers were ordering at the Show. She told me that their metallics are really strong sellers, and the blue with silver papers always do well.

I also talked with a new company showing letterpress products. In the whole hall there were only two companies with letterpress – a hard concept for those of us in the States, I know, but letterpress (a process only some 500 years old) has not caught on in the UK the same way it has in the States…yet! I should say that one of the two companies with letterpress was from the US. The other was this new British company, Blush Publishing. I’m hoping Blush will join our Show, but if not, I plan on checking in with the owner from time to time to see how he’s doing with getting the British to love letterpress the way we do here!

One of the nights I was in town, I had dinner with Eli Nelson, of the Nelson Line. Eli has been a distributor in the industry for 20 years – in fact, his first NSS was in 1988! Eli has a good eye and has a lot of great lines as a result! After dinner, we met up with the 2 sisters behind the company desertRose – Vicky and Sandra Daniel. They’ve been in business for a number of years, and most notably, they have this fantastic white design on color – for example, their winter berry design on blackberry colored paper or their holly brand design on platinum – this look is different and beautiful! Here’s a picture of the group of us (that’s Sandra, on the left, Eli, Vicky and me). I hope we’ll see them in NYC this May!

Finally, thanks to the good folks at TPS for hosting me as an attendee of Spring Fair this year. It’s always nice to see the industry in action! I can’t wait for our Show this May!

PS – Did you know that Mother’s Day is not in May in the UK? It precedes Easter there! This year, it will be on March 2. Who knew? If anyone reading this knows why the dates are different, I’d love to know!


Friday, February 15, 2008

A Passion for Cards

I just got off the phone with a reporter from the New York Times Sunday Business section. She was exploring the impact Sandra Boynton has had on the greeting card industry, and was interested in my perspective on how the industry has changed over the years, where it is today and what the National Stationery Show means to the greeting card business. I had a lot to say!

I talked about the Show and its history – did you know the first Show was at the Hotel New Yorker in private suites? It then moved to the New York Coliseum formerly on Columbus Circle and remained there for at least 35 years. Javits has been its home since. The Show was started for the “carriage” trade – department stores primarily – to do business with greeting card companies. Norcross was among the early greeting card exhibitors, as was Gibson Greetings, Hallmark and American Greetings.

In any event, in reflecting on the last 20 years and Boynton’s impact, I commented that she fueled the alternative card movement. In the early 80’s hundreds of new card company companies entered the industry. These companies didn’t deliver traditional seasonal/occasion cards; they presented cards that talked candidly, tenderly, humorously, acerbically about the day to day “non-occasions” in our lives. Companies like Nobleworks, Paper Moon, Palm Press, Colors By Design, and Avanti were among the early leaders – in addition to, of course, Recycled Paper Products which published Sandra Boynton for 30+ years…

The industry has continued to grow, thrive and prosper – even in our “techy” age where thumbs and index fingers do the communicating. Cards help people communicate in the most personal way. And all reports for the industry are favorable; there is actually a backlash to the impersonalization of our social culture. Cards are the perfect antidote to this, and if we end up in a longish economic slump, cards serve an even greater purpose as gift and sentiment in one!

Do you send a lot of cards? What is your favorite kind of mail to receive? Leave us a comment to let us know! Personally, I love the “happy mail” – anything hand-addressed with a pretty stamp.

Have a great long weekend,


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Spreading Love: at the Shows & at Home

As many of you are aware the National Stationery Show is produced by GLM, the same company that produces the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF). So since we’re a fairly small company, we all help each other out in many ways throughout the year, particularly when the Show is soon to be up and running. That being said, I’m working in the Show Office at the Metropolitan Pavilion in NYC doing what I do best - helping brand new exhibitors figure out what to do, how to do it and where to go! This gorgeous building has 3 floors of the newest additions to the NYIGF.

It’s been a great experience because many of our exhibitors just got into this Show. I got to chat with Cat Fish Greetings,

try out a brand new pen by Yoropen (2007 Best New Product winner who exhibits in our Pen Pavilion)

hang out with the great guys behind Fusion Designs

discuss booth display ideas with Marsupial

and meet the artist/designer of one of our newest companies in Stationery, Jordy Blueprints

Now back to the world of stationery, I just realized that Valentines Day is only 7 days away! If you’re like me, you have not done anything to plan for it yet. But the February 2006 US Census Press Release brings me comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. It reports that nearly 50% of Valentines Day Cards are bought within 6 days of February 14th! See what else it says:

Top Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day (based on U.S. household participation)
Greeting Cards 65%
Date Night 44%
Candy 38%
Flowers 32%
Gift Cards 29%
Plush 21%
Other Gifts 17%
Perfume/Cologne 12%
Jewelry 11%
Sources: Hallmark/Retail Industry Leaders Association/NRF

Clearly greeting cards have the most impressive showing here, and it’s no surprise to me because cards can either stand alone or accompany a gift. But you don’t often receive a gift without a card (unless you’re receiving a gift from my brother – but that’s another story!)

According to the Greeting Card Association, 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second-most popular greeting-card-giving occasion. This total excludes packaged kids valentines for classroom exchanges.
I think all of us should take ½ hour today or tomorrow (ok, by Monday!) and shop for the perfect Valentine for the all of the loved ones in our lives.

Wishing you a wonderful Valentine’s Day!