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!



  1. Sounds like you had an absolute blast! See you in New York!