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Clintons CEO leads AGM’s inspiring speakers as latest market report shows sales are up

A NEW president, fantastic views, the annual market report and inspiring and interesting speakers were the attractions for the biggest turnout yet at yesterday’s (Wednesday, September 30) Greeting Card Association AGM.

Clintons CEO Dominique Schurman was the star attraction backed up by Wrendale Designs Hannah Dale, pictured bottom left, while Sunday Assembly founder and stand-up Sanderson Jones, pictured bottom right, provided a light-hearted celebration of life and the business of spreading love, happiness and positivity.
Photos from the 96th GCA AGM – the first one was back in 1919 – are available on the Greetings Today Facebook page, including this one, top left, of retiring president Chris Houfe and GCA CEO Sharon Little.
Dominique, pictured top right with new GCA President Ged Mace, started by explaining how her life has been steeped in the greetings industry, with her parents setting up the Marcel Schurman Company importing cards as wholesalers, then opening the original Papyrus store in 1973.
She said: “My mother would say she pioneered the idea of greetings cards are like small works of art that need to be merchandised full face as though in a gallery setting.”
Dominique’s full speech can be read here.
Following a look at why people send cards, illustrated with family and personal history and anecdotes, Dominique compared the North American and UK markets noting that over here the industry is growing at three per cent, against one per cent in the US.
With 60m people in the UK the market is worth £1.4billion ($2.2bn) while the £3.9bn ($6bn) US market is shared across 330m people and she said: “I’m sure it’s no surprise to all of you, the UK is the highest per capita greeting card market in the world with 39 cards per year per person being exchanged. This is a wonderful fact, one that provides you with an incredible platform for creativity, expression and expansion.
“The markets in total represent over $8bn (£5.3bn) in retail sales – truly a staggering number that amplifies the fact that people love to connect with people in meaningful, lasting and personal ways.
“An email just simply does not replace this deeply-rooted need that we have to genuinely share our feelings with others.”
She then compared the channels where people shop for cards, noting that speciality card shops is the UK’s biggest market at 41 per cent but only 17 per cent in the US, with the mass market of stores like Clintons, Card Factory, Hallmark and Paperchase taking a 30 per cent share (US 63 per cent), and grocery 29 per (US 20 per cent).
And then comparing tastes and trends, the main point was that the UK has a much broader selection in niche captions – and Dominique said “in all my years in the US, I’ve never seen prom congratulations cards” unlike here in the UK – while the biggest difference is in Christmas cards with 22 per cent of total cards in the UK being single Christmas ones against five per cent boxed cards, while it’s 10 per cent single and 11 per cent boxed in the US.
More than 160 publisher and associate members made the trip to London, which definitely didn’t live up to its epithet of the Big Smoke as the beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies allowed spectacular uninterrupted views across the capital from Altitude 360 at the top of the Millbank Tower by the Thames.
Having torn themselves away from the windows the audience first had the serious business of the handover from outgoing GCA President Chris Houfe, of the Great British Card Company after his two-year tenure, to The Art File’s Ged Mace who steps up from being Vice-President.
Ceri Stirland, from UK Greetings, is now Vice-President, with Phoenix Trading’s Robin Bradley continuing as secretary and Blue Eyed Sun’s Jeremy Corner as treasurer.
Davora’s Raj Avora, Second Nature’s Chris Bryan and Postsnap Group’s Stephen Homer were elected as new council members to serve alongside Chris, Rachel Hare of Belly Button Design, Steve Wright of Hallmark, Jayne Myers of Paper Rose, Bill Greeno of Paperlink and Paul Woodmansterne of Woodmansterne Publications.
Ged’s first speech as President saw him thank Chris for his work, particularly helping establish Festive Friday and Thinking Of You Week, and he presented the overview of the 2014 Market Report showing retail sales are worth £1.4bn and retail sales by value grew by more than seven per cent – a full story on the market report will be released shortly.
Ged’s full speech can be read here.
In his vision for the future he said: “I’d just like to put one thing to bed as I start my presidency, it’s to do with a comment that was made at last year’s AGM. Someone suggested we only have 10 years left as an industry – I completely disagree with this statement.
“Looking around this room, I see talent, enthusiasm, experience and confidence and I know we have an incredible future because it’s up to us.”
The audience were captivated by self-confessed nerd Hannah’s story of her rise from mum and farmer’s wife to running a 13-employee £2million turnover card and gift business inside three years – with a background of earning a double first in animal behaviour and vertebrate evolution at Cambridge, followed by a master’s degree at Oxford, and five years as an investment banker looking at £500m portfolios!
Hannah’s full speech can be read here.
A delicious lunch followed, with the GCA council members each hosting a table so everyone had the chance to ask questions, and there were expert Q&A sessions on Agents’ Law, Export, Sales and Social Media to round off proceedings.

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