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Blue Eyed Sun Blog

  • The Greeting Card Project on YouTube

    I'm really excited to present the first video from The Greeting Card Project, my video exploration into the buying and sending of greeting cards.

    I love people and I love greeting cards, the trouble is I really don't send as many as I'd like to.

    Despite actively engaging with friends on social media, I'd like to feel closer to some of them. So this year I have resolved to buy and send cards each week and to post a video on YouTube talking about my experience to see if the simple act of sending cards can enhance and improve my relationships.

    Please click on the image above to watch my first video on this project and subscribe to The Greeting Card Project channel on YouTube and via Google+.

    I started this journey at a lovely shop called Quest in Holt, North Norfolk looking for thank you cards to thank those that sent me Christmas presents. Do comment on the video and let me know what you think so that I can improve the videos each week. I'm keen to hear your feedback.

    You can watch the following two weeks of the Greeting Card Project below which include a visit to the very first shop Blue Eyed Sun sold cards to in Brighton, Malarkeys. I also visit Caliope in Haywards Heath with some amusing bloopers in Week 3. I hope that you enjoy watching the videos. Please do feel free to share, like and subscribe. I'd appreciate your support.

    Follow the greeting card project using the #TGCP on social media.

    Why New Year's Resolutions don't work

    How to get things done when you don't feel like it

    How to achieve your goals

     

     

  • Spring Fair 2017 - Essential Information

    Spring Fair 2017 - Essential Info

    Spring Fair 2017 brings together a huge range of products including an inspirational showcase of over 350 British greetings card publishers in Hall 3 at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham.

    Register for FREE tickets to Spring Fair by clicking here

    When is Spring Fair 2017?

    Spring Fair International runs from Sunday 5th February until Thursday 9th February from 09:00 - 18:00 each day.

    Watch a short video of Spring Fair Greeting Card Section

    Where to Eat at Spring Fair

    We've tried lots of different restaurants at Spring Fair. Here are some of our favourites:

    5 Great Restaurants near the NEC

    Where to Stay at Spring Fair

    Consider hotels in Birmingham City Centre (which is a short train ride from the NEC).

    Find accommodation for Spring Fair here

    How to get to Spring Fair

    The sat nav post code is B40 1NT. Parking on site is free. There are free shuttle buses to take you around the complex.

    Birmingham International Rail Station is a 5 minute walk from the show as is Birmingham International Airport. It is an 80 minute train ride from London Euston Rail Station.

    Save 25% on Virgin Rail Advance Tickets

    Seminars at Spring Fair 2017

    Improve your business at Spring Fair 2017. Click here for a full list of seminars. Blue Eyed Sun's digital marketing expert, Jeremy Corner, is running one on one social media clinics:

    Social Media Health Check for Retailers Tuesday 7th February from 13:00 in the Ecommerce Theatre.

    What's New from Blue Eyed Sun at Spring Fair

    Blue Eyed Sun is launching five gorgeous new greeting card ranges at Spring Fair 2017 on our new stand in Hall 3 near the cafeteria. Do come and say hi to us on Stand 3X31.

    Click here to see what's new from Blue Eyed Sun

    Quote coupon code: SFB17 when ordering during the shows (online or offline) for FREE CARRIAGE until 28th February.

    Can't make the show? Click here to request access all of our designs online.

    Read 12 Top Tips for Trade Show Visitors

    See if you can find Blue Eyed Sun's stand 3X31 in Hall 3 on the show map below:

    Spring Fair 2016 Floorpan NEC


    View Larger Map

  • Blue Eyed Sun launch new Fabricadabra cards

    Fabricadabra cardsBlue Eyed Sun are proud to present their colourful new range of 12 hand finished Fabricadabra cards.

    All Fabricadabra cards are based on beautiful original embroidered artworks by textile artist, Jo Corner. These gorgeous cards are litho printed, embossed and hand finished with jewels in the UK.

    Fabricadabra cards are all blank inside and all come cello wrapped with an envelope that is 165mm x 165mm. Sold in sixes the designs are available for trade customers to order through our agents, by brochure, at shows or on our website. All board used for Fabricadabra is responsibly sourced from sustained and managed forests by FSC accredited suppliers.

    You can see these wonderful Fabricadabra greeting cards first in person at:

    Top Drawer Spring 2017 at Olympia in London 15-17 January 2017 - Stand T42

    Spring Fair 2017 at the NEC in Birmingham 5-9 February 2017 - Hall 3 - Stand 3X31

    To stock these cards in your shop click here. If you'd like to see them in your local shop please tell them and point them in the direction of www.blueeyedsun.co.uk or recommend a shop to us by clicking here. You can also visit our stockists page to find a store near you that may be selling them. To see what else is new from Blue Eyed Sun click here.

  • Why New Year's Resolutions don't work

    new year's resolutionsIt’s that time of year again isn’t it? Where many of us set ourselves New Year’s Resolutions and then fail to reach them within weeks or sometimes days! Despite having the best of intentions most of us aren't ready to change our habits. There are a variety of reasons for this:

    We Don’t Like Change

    Sometimes, we are just too comfortable with how we are. Changing will have all sorts of ramifications within our lives. There are things we know that will change. Things that we know we don’t know, but can foresee in some way. There are also things that we don’t know we don’t know. The unknown can feel quite scary so it can seem easier to sit tight.

    It’s Not Us

    We can often have an idea of how we should be that is dissociated from who we believe we really are. As a result we can have unrealistic expectations of the ways we feel we ought to live. For example, we feel that we should be this way or that way based on things we read in magazines or see in the world around us. Because of this mismatch we fail because the resolutions aren’t really us.

    Owning our Shadows

    Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. Even when we might posses our own noble traits we can refuse them and project them onto another. We might want to be like a hero of ours, for example, and instead of embracing our own finest qualities within, our hero acts as a shadow substitute for gold that we could be opening up within ourselves. Again there is fear involved. Holding back from living fully can feel safer sometimes. We need to own our own shadow self to grow.

    It’s Not Smart

    Sometimes our goals just aren’t that SMART. They aren’t specific, measurable, achievable, relevant or time based enough. An example might be “I want to send more cards this year.” This goal is just too vague. If you want to have a smart goal it would be rephrased as “I want to send at least one card a week for the next 52 weeks.”

    Achieving goals

    If you really want to achieve your goals, be prepared to embrace change, make sure your goal is something that is yours and not for someone else, make sure that it’s a smart goal and then be brave in the face of fear or the unknown both externally and within. You never know, it may turn out a lot better than you fear. So, how do you make it happen?

    To be successful with your goals you’ll need to do the following:

    Find Your Why

    To be sure of sticking with your New Year’s resolutions we have to find a compelling reason to change. Your ‘what’ is your goal. I’m going to send a card a week next year” is my ‘what’. Your ‘why’ drives you towards your purpose. Find a why that inspires you. What is a cause that feels bigger than you? It should feel exciting and perhaps a little daunting. Listen to your feelings on this one.

    Commitment

    The word ‘resolution’ means making a firm decision to do or not to do something. Make a firm commitment to your decision at the point of making it. Then take action immediately to make it happen. Do not leave the moment of making a decision to change (that’s fuelled by a purposeful ‘why’) without doing something towards it’s attainment. If you want to send more cards, list out your friend’s birthdays, go and buy some cards, do something that moves towards this goal. Do it straight away and it will give you momentum.

    Keep it simple

    It’s better to choose one thing to change than creating a long list. Once you have achieved the first goal you can always add more later. If your list is too long it can be challenging to prioritise and get started. Long lists can also feel unachievable. Your resolutions must be achievable if they are going to be smart so keep it simple.

    Write it down

    Write down your resolutions on a piece of paper and put this somewhere that you can see it every day. The act of physically writing down your goals externalises them and registers them for yourself in a way that is different to simply carrying them in your head. I know this from my own experience and from successful people I have met in my life.

    Tell Someone

    Certain personality types respond better to this than others. Being an external reality person rather than an internal reality person, I tell those that I know will be supportive of my goal and I will sometimes tell those that I do not want to let down. I’m always careful not to do this with something unachievable as this will only make me look bad and feel terrible when it doesn’t work out.

    Carrots and Sticks

    Like getting a donkey to move forward, we can use carrots or sticks to move towards our goals. Using celebrations along the way as rewards for being successful can be great motivators. You can take friends out to dinner or book a holiday as a prize for yourself. We can also use sticks to leverage ourselves to make the change, like telling those important to us or sending money to charity for each day you don’t stick to your plan.

    Support

    It’s really important to enlist support from those around you to reach your New Year's Resolutions. Similarly, try to minimise contact with those who may want to hold you back from achieving them. You aren’t the only person afraid of change. Sometimes your loved ones can be afraid of losing you and can get in the way of your achieving your goals. Explain your ‘why’ to them so that they understand your motivations.

    Resolution Ideas

    I have a number of things that I have been mulling over as resolutions for this coming year. My ideal resolution would be something personal with cross over for my business. Something that scares me a little and something that will allow me to grow as an individual whilst benefiting others.

    One idea I’ve been thinking a lot about is how to improve our service to our customers. For the fist time in several years we dropped out of the top 25 publishers for customer service at the Henries. Our team is gutted and we are determined to do something about it. We’ve already started and are hoping we will be back on the list later in the year. Whilst this could be a resolution, it is not within our control. It therefore cannot be a smart goal, even though it is something we will be working hard on with new product, faster turnarounds and better communication. We will be specific and measurable in our improvements over the coming six months and then see if that has any effect on our standing in the Henries rankings.

    Other ideas I’ve been mulling over have come from daily gratitude and daily kindness exercises I have been doing in the last month or two. Being more grateful and more kind aren’t specific enough for my resolution though. Plus I practice these regularly anyway.

    Although I am very active in my involvement with our card and gift industry community through my work at the GCA and the Giftware Association, I still feel that there’s more I can do. I love social media, meeting new people and taking on exciting new challenges so I want something that would encompass all of these things for me personally. I’ve also been experimenting with video this last year and want to do more in this area.

    My Resolution

    So... I’ve decided to set up a YouTube channel, called The Greeting Card Project, that will run for one year and will include videos of myself and others writing and sending greeting cards to people. I’m going to commit to posting an average of one video a week throughout the year.

    This is actually an idea that I've wanted to do for a while. I want to send more greeting cards. I am inspired to see how this connects with others, how the experience enhances my life and I hope that it might have a positive effect on card sending around the world.

    OK. Now I’ve told you… I have to do it. If you want to support my project do get in touch.

    Watch the first video from The Greeting Card Project

    Looking Back From Perfect - How to achieve your goals

    How to get things done when you don't feel like it

  • Top Drawer Spring 2017 - Essential Information

    top drawer spring 2017

    Top Drawer Spring 2017 features many of Britain's leading design-led greeting card publishers. Here are the essentials you need for this top trade show for retailers:

    For free tickets to Top Drawer Spring please click here.

    When is Top Drawer Spring 2017?

    Top Drawer Spring 2017 runs from Sunday 15th January until Tuesday 17th January from 09:30 - 18:00 at Olympia in London and features a stunning edited showcase of over 700 suppliers. 

     Click here to watch a video of the card section at Top Drawer Spring.

    Where to Eat at Top Drawer Spring

    We've tried lots of different places to eat near Top Drawer Spring. Here are our favourites:

    5 Great Restaurants near Olympia and 5 Great Restaurants in Earls Court.

    Where to Stay at Top Drawer Spring

    Olympia is well serviced for hotels and there are good transport links to local London areas.

    Click here for an interactive map of hotels near Top Drawer Spring

    How to Get to Top Drawer Spring

    There's an overland train to Olympia Station to Top Drawer Spring 2017 from Shepherd's Bush (central line) or West Brompton (District Line)Click here for the TFL website.

    The Sat Nav post code for Olympia is W14 8UX for drivers. You can park next to the venue. Do book in advance as it is more expensive on the day. Click here to book parking at Olympia.

    What's new from Blue Eyed Sun?

    Blue Eyed Sun have two gorgeous new greeting card ranges at Top Drawer Spring 2017 on a new stand T42. You can also order any last minute Valentines, Mothers or Fathers Day cards.

    Click here to see what's new from Blue Eyed Sun

    New Greeting Card Talent

    Find new publishers at Top Drawer that have come through the Ladder Club.

    Look out for these Ladder Club publishers at Top Drawer

    Read our 12 Top Tips for Trade Show Visitors by clicking here

    To order Blue Eyed Sun's new designs for your shop or request a brochure click here.

  • Blue Eyed Sun launch new Broderie Greeting Card Range

    Broderie Greeting CardsBlue Eyed Sun are proud to present their beautiful new range of 48 hand finished Broderie cards.

    All Broderie cards are based on stunning original embroidered artworks by textile artist, Jo Corner. These gorgeous cards are litho printed and hand finished with jewels in the UK.

    Broderie cards are all blank inside and all come cello wrapped with an envelope that is 165mm x 165mm. Sold in sixes the designs are available for trade customers to order through our agents, by brochure, at shows or on our website. All board used for Broderie is responsibly sourced from sustained and managed forests by FSC accredited suppliers.

    You can see these wonderful Broderie greeting cards first in person at:

    Top Drawer Spring 2017 at Olympia in London 15-17 January 2017 - Stand T42

    Spring Fair 2017 at the NEC in Birmingham 5-9 February 2017 - Hall 3 - Stand 3X31

    To stock these cards in your shop click here. If you'd like to see them in your local shop please tell them and point them in the direction of www.blueeyedsun.co.uk or recommend a shop to us by clicking here. You can also visit our stockists page to find a store near you that may be selling them. To see what else is new from Blue Eyed Sun click here.

  • 14 Reasons to attend the GCA AGM

    GCA AGM 2016For years I didn’t often attend the GCA AGM. Life was always so busy with the business and one thing or another that I just didn’t prioritise it. I made excuses to myself that it was too far to travel or that the speakers didn’t seem that relevant to me. In the early days I might also have felt like an outsider that didn't know anyone.

    These days I don’t like to miss the GCA AGM and I’ve been thinking a lot about why this is. Last month’s was an especially good one and so I wanted to share some of my thoughts on what makes the annual meeting so special and why you might like to consider attending next year. It’s not just for card publishers, so if you’re a retailer or supplier you may also benefit from reading further.

    1. The Venues

    One of the things I like most about the GCA AGM is the wonderful locations Sharon Little (GCA CEO) discovers for us to all meet in. They are always an adventure in themselves. Recent venues have included the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Design Museum, the Ironmonger’s Hall and the National Space Centre. The 2016 venue was the magnificent Royal Horseguards in London. It’s an incredible Grade I listed building modelled on a French Chateau and steeped in history and opulence.

    2. The Speakers

    If you really want to get to the heart of what we are as an industry, whether you are a retailer, a publisher or supplier the speakers bring it all. I love hearing from leading retailers like Timothy Melgund (Paperchase), John Procter (Scribbler) and James Daunt (Waterstones). Publishers like Andrew Brownsword (Forever Friends) and others who’ve spoken are so inspiring to all of us. I’m always hugely grateful that they have made the time to share their stories, thoughts and experience with us.

    3. The Passion

    The passion in our unique industry is infectious. Hearing Dominique Schurman (Papyrus and Clintons) last year and more recently Giles Andreae (Purple Ronnie, Edward Monkton) really get to the essence of what we do in our business was really moving. Our industry is all about emotional connection. Cards are used to help people to feel more loved, more cared for, nurtured and supported in the world. It is a privilege to be a part of this and you can feel it in the air at the GCA AGM.

    4. The Community

    What other industry has such well attended break out groups in the afternoon where experienced publishers share advice on key subject areas like sales and marketing, product development, brokerage and business development? These are businesses helping competitors within their industry, both large and small. It really warmed my heart seeing these groups contributing to one another after lunch this year. They were all buzzing.

    5. Contribution

    Just by attending you are supporting and nurturing the industry. It’s also so important that our industry leaders attend this event, speak and share their stories and vision. If greeting cards are to survive and thrive it is essential that we nurture and support new generations coming through. It’s not just about the speakers though. It was so good to see retailers like Scribbler, Moonpig and Paperchase amongst the audience. Our association is for our whole industry and it’s vital we all work together to grow it successfully.

    6. The People

    Then I first attended I didn’t know people. It’s such a welcoming industry that it’s impossible not to meet one or two new people at the event. I’ve been fortunate enough to have made some lovely friends in this wonderful industry of ours; customers, suppliers and fellow publishers. It’s so nice to catch up with many of them at the AGM and hear how they are getting on. With my exploration into social media I have been using Facebook more and more for connecting with friends in business. It’s a great way of learning a little bit more about one another and for growing relationships.

    7. Networking

    It’s a word that puts the fear of God into some people and I’ve had an on/off relationship with the idea of it over the years. The truth is networks are important to all of us. The broader and more wide ranging, the more opportunities come to you. Studies have shown that it’s often the weaker links that are most valuable and bring us more opportunities. Although networking tends to be more suited to extroverts, I’d encourage everyone to talk to strangers at these events. You never know where it could lead and what opportunities may arise from a few words with someone new.

    8. Opportunities

    This year’s GCA AGM highlighted several business opportunities for Blue Eyed Sun as I am sure it will have done for others who attended. For some it might be a conversation wth a new supplier, a buyer, an agent or a broker. For others it might be hearing the CEO of Waterstones observe that the proportion of greeting card sales is lower in Waterstones than in his independent group of stores, signalling a focus on growing greeting card sales going forward. I’m looking forward to following our own opportunities up and am sure that the business generated will have been more than worth the time spent attending the event.

    9. Content

    Visiting the GCA AGM also gives me a great chance to discover and share some great greeting card focussed content on my blog and social media channels. My followers on Twitter love to keep up to date with what’s going on in our industry and I get likes, retweets and shares of my photos and posts from the event as well some insightful info from the speakers, which I can use on my blog.

    10. Video

    Recently I have helped the GCA out by videoing the keynote speakers at last year’s AGM and other events. If you missed any of them before I’d encourage you to visit www.youtube.com/GCAClips to watch them online. There are some fascinating insights from key industry figures. My preference is seeing the talks live and being able to ask the speakers questions or chat to them afterwards. If you can’t fit it in for some reason, the GCA YouTube channel is a great backup plan.

    11. Golden Nuggets

    Sometimes it’s one small nugget of information or a passing comment that shifts your thinking on something. This year I found it incredibly useful to hear how Nigel Willcock from Paper Rose analysed the cost of a sales agent visit to a shop versus a sales rep visit. Hearing how much this costs a company on average has shifted my perspective on field sales and the way I think about them going forward.

    12. Face to Face

    There is nothing like face to face meetings to grow your presence in a marketplace. If you want to be known within the industry the GCA AGM is a must. So many of the key players within our business attend and grow their relationships and businesses from there as  result.

    13. Bellwether

    The AGM is also a great opportunity to get a sense of where our industry is at and what to look out for on the horizon. You can see highlights from the GCA market report which is available to buy from £500 from the GCA (it’s free for members). I find it useful just to hear first hand from other companies as to how their businesses are doing and how they perceive the current economic climate.

    14. Attendance is growing

    What’s most exciting about the GCA AGM is that attendance is growing. More and more members are getting involved and engaging with our industry to improve it. This is great for all of us and exciting to be a part of.

    Blue Eyed Sun has been a member of the Greeting Card Association since 2003. Our membership has been invaluable to us over the years, not least for the support and help from CEO Sharon Little.

    What I love most about our membership, besides the great deals and benefits on offer, are the events. Moments in time where we stop working in our business and work on our business. Meetups where we look at the bigger picture and think carefully about the meaning of what we are doing. Places where we can carefully consider opportunities and threats to the card industry. Events where we can grow and learn. The GCA AGM has all of this and more. I hope to see you at the next AGM.

    Learn about GCA Initiatives like Festive Friday

    What is Thinking of You Week?

    Find out more about the Ladder Club for new greeting card publishers

    Watch Giles Andreae's great talk from the GCA AGM 2016 below:

     

  • Festive Friday 2016 at Blue Eyed Sun

    Festive Friday 2016 at Blue Eyed Sun

    It's Festive Friday 2016 this week, the day that kick starts UK Christmas card sending. A welcome antidote to Black Friday, when we take time to think of all those we care about and get busy writing and sending them Christmas cards.

    The UK Greeting Card Association launched the Festive Friday campaign three years ago to encourage card publishers and retailers to send their Christmas cards early to help remind everyone to remember to send theirs. There are around 100,000 people working directly and indirectly with the UK card industry. If each of us sends 10 Christmas cards to arrive in the first week of December it will have a fantastic ripple effect from those first million gestures. Last year had a fantastic effect on our industry and we hope that this fun initiative will continue for many years to come.

    At Blue Eyed Sun we've been getting into the Christmas spirit early and held a 'christmas card writing hour' for our team to write and send cards to their loved ones to support the Festive Friday 2016 campaign. We sponsored the cards, their time and the postage to support the GCA campaign. All our team had to do was to write as many cards as they wanted to in the hour. We managed over 200 Christmas cards between us, which will be making their way via Royal Mail over the weekend to their lucky recipients.

    Our team had a lot of fun on Festive Friday 2016 with Christmas jumpers and Santa hats to get us in the spirit. It's a wonderful feeling when we think about all of the love going out into the world from this short amount of time dedicated to card sending and we recommend it to anyone involved in the card industry.

    Even if you are not in the card industry, it is a special time of year to connect with your customers, friends and loved ones. Send them a nice Christmas card with a warm message in it expressing your gratitude and wishing them all the best for the New Year. We hope you enjoy spreading festive cheer around the world.

    Download a Free Toolkit for Festive Friday from the GCA website

    Cards can have valuable emotional impact in your loved ones' lives.

    There are only a few days left to get cards in the post though, so do get started this week. I've listed the Royal Mail's last posting dates below. Want to print this info out for your customers? Click here to download the dates in a PDF.

    Find out more about Blue Eyed Sun's Christmas cards for 2016 here. Available at all good card retailers.

    Festive Friday 2016

    Last Christmas Posting Dates 2016

  • The Ladder Club 2016

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 1

    The Ladder Club 2016 was one of the best I have attended in thirteen years of speaking at the event. This year's seminars for new and aspiring publishers were held at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea and featured a host of greeting card experts to help those starting out or seeking to grow their greeting card businesses.

    Founded by Lynn Tait and now organised by Jakki Brown, editor of Progressive Greetings Magazine the Ladder Club has been an incredible support for so many artists, creatives and newbies for the last 17 years helping them to save time, money and heartache. If you are new to the card industry and have never attended, I would highly recommend doing so.

    Here are some photos and a summary of the two days at the Ladder Club 2016:

    The Ladder Club 2016 - DinnerIf you ever attend the event it's worth staying over the night before and attending the delegates dinner at the Westcliff Hotel. Speakers are seated amongst delegates on every table. It's a great opportunity to network and pick up some informal tips from the experts.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 1

    Day 1 at the Ladder Club 2016 was for absolute beginners and those considering setting up a greeting card business. The day started at 9am sharp with an introduction from Lynn and  Jakki. After the speakers were introduced, Sharon Little the Chief Executive of the Greeting Card Association said a few words about the GCA and why it's worth being a member.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 1Karen Wilson and Claire Williams then gave a wonderful news reader style presentation of the highs and lows of their company Paper Salad. Then Jeremy Corner of Blue Eyed Sun (that's me) spoke on how to wear different hats within your greeting card business and the different ways of thinking needed to run a successful greeting card company.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Suppliers

    After a short break, Julie Brightley from Enveco talked us through the nitty gritty of envelopes. Mark Jessett from GF Smith gave an amusing talk on how to choose the right boards for printing your cards on. Bob Short from The Imaging Centre took us through printing digitally. His son Adam demonstrated their fantastic new online ordering and marketing system called Simplicity. Simon King from Sherwood Press spoke on litho printing. Sharon returned to wrap up the morning's session telling us what to include on the back of our greeting cards.

    The Ladder Club 2016 Day 1

    After lunch we learned about PG Live from co-founder Warren Lomax and Tracey Arnaud who runs the a section of the show called Springboard for new publishers. Jim Bullough then took us through the practical aspects of exhibiting at trade shows. I wrapped the section up with a short talk on how to evaluate the success of trade shows.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 1

    Midlands sales agent, Ian Bradley, showed us the inside a sales agent's brain. Miles Robinson from House of Cards shared the independent retailer's perspective. Finally, Ben Hickman and Mark Williams from Brainbox Candy talked about standing out from the crowd with effective marketing.

    Day 2 at the Ladder Club 2016 was for those who have already exhibited at a trade show or are turning over several thousand pounds. Day 2 is more about climbing the ladder once you are on it.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 2The day was filled with some fantastic talks from Ladder Club alumni. Jack and Hannah Dale of Wrendale Designs who have grown their business from £0 to £2.5 million in four years shared their story and insights. Tish Bas and Hazel Williams from Paperchase gave a large multiple retailer's perspective and answered loads of questions from an inquisitive audience. Jessica Hogarth spoke brilliantly on licensing and copying issues.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 2

    I shared my experience of export, cash flow and financial growing pains. Mark Coulson from Coulson Macleod discussed warehousing and fulfilment options. Gale Astley, Warren Lomax and Jakki Brown spoke on PR and how to generate sales and leads through PG magazine. The day ended with a panel Q&A session with the speakers and an interesting discussion on price increases that are expected in 2017.

    The Ladder Club 2016 was a fantastic example of the wonderful and supportive nature of the greeting card industry. I loved speaking at it and am so grateful to Lynn and Jakki for starting it. It has helped so many publishers and creatives over the years. If you are thinking about setting up a greeting card business don't miss it next year.

    10 Top Climbers from the Ladder Club

    10 Ladder Cub Alumni on their way up

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 2

  • How retailers can start selling online

    Selling online for retailers

    At Autumn Fair this year I chaired a panel on ‘Lessons learned from journeys into ecommerce' with two independent retailers who are successfully selling online. I was so impressed with the ways that my two panelists had made sales without spending big money on expensive websites that I thought I’d share them with you:

    Low Cost Digital Marketing

    On the panel were Alice Wheeler from Wonderland near Glasgow and Claire Rose from Miss Claire Rose in Harrogate. Both have bricks and mortar stores and both sell online. It’s worth following them on their social media pages, which have been a big part of their sales success. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via their websites.

    Both retailers have purchased their web domains and used free or low cost software like Weebly to get simple, responsive (shows well on mobiles) websites up. The sites show where they are, what they sell and have easy shopping cart software which enables them to take orders. This isn’t the bulk of where their sales come from though.

    Social media is an important part of how they sell. It really is as simple as taking photos of what they have on offer (often just using the camera on their phones) and posting them straight to their social media accounts. Their followers then like and share them across a larger audience than the retailers initial fan base. Customers will often order just by messaging them on these platforms.

    Selling on Facebook

    If you look at Wonderland’s Facebook page, for example, Alice has photographed images of products underneath which her followers will post comments. As customers ask questions, Alice then engages with them quickly (You can set your phone to alert you when customers message or  comment). The more engagement she has the higher her posts show on other FB news feeds and all of the Facebook friends of the customer potentially get to see the interaction.

    The median average number of Facebook friends is 200. Imagine the equivalent scenario in your shop. Someone browsing and asking a member of your sales team questions would have up to 200 people watching the interaction and seeing what you are both doing. If it’s a product that sells well you are very likely to get additional sales from this interaction.

    What’s important is that it’s all from the hip and quick and easy for Alice to do. She doesn’t prep high end photos in photoshop. She doesn’t put text on the image with pricing, colourways or dimensions. Less is more. You want engagement and you want customers asking questions and interacting on your page.

    If someone chooses to purchase they might then message Alice via Facebook Messenger. Payment can then be taken quickly and easily by Paypal or later if collected in person.

    Shipping to Your Fans

    Both retailers offer to ship their orders to customers for a small fee and use their local post office for shipping. As the volumes increase they can look to outsource this aspect or talk to suppliers about drop shipping. For now though they are up and running and selling online.

    One of the key things that struck me was how powerful a small local fan base of your shop is. Obviously you have to stock products that people want at a price that’s right and displayed in a attractive way. Once you get this right your fan base will grow and you need to build this base on social media. You don’t need lots of followers, just focus on people who love what you do.

    Your raving fans are easier to sell more to, give great reviews and constantly refer new customers to you. It’s better to have 100 good followers like this than 10,000 you paid for that don’t care. To get going it’s useful to encourage friends and family members to like you on social media. Then make sure your social media details are on your bags, till receipts, website and marketing.

    Negative Feedback

    One of the main fears retailers often have about selling online is negative feedback. The fact of the matter is that you can’t escape this. Even if you don’t have website you may already have negative feedback online. It’s better to engage with customers by being online. Then you can turn it around.

    Another important aspect of meeting customer expectations is to empower your team to be able to make decisions and take care of customers. At Blue Eyed Sun and with our wedding website www.IvyEllen.com know that if they can fix a problem for £50 or less then they can get on and sort it. That way they can act quickly to post out replacements for damages or missing items without causing our customers and delays or further frustration.

    Free Listings

    TripAdvisor was cited as a great way of dealing with feedback head on. It’s not just for hotels and restaurants, you can also register your store. Encourage your core fans and friends to write some good reviews to get you going. Because people use TripAdvisor to plan their trips (including where they will shop) you can increase footfall to your bricks and mortar shop. If you have not registered your store on there yet, it’s free and worth doing.

    Miss Claire Rose also links to her TripAdvisor page from her website which has over 70 positive reviews giving added reassurance to new customers.

    Make sure you also list your shop on Google so that it shows up on Googlemaps for keywords on products you sell. It’s free to do and again you can get reviews of your store on Google so that more people visit you online and offline. Visit www.google.co.uk/business to get started.

    Instagram

    Claire also uses Instagram to present a Smorgasbord of delicious product that she stocks in her shop. Images have to be nicer on Instagram and the app has a range of filters to help you with this. Using hashtags like #greetingcards will get your post seen by a wider range of people than just your followers because people use the hashtags to search for images on subjects they are interested in. Followers who like products can message you to order and like your photos to increase your marketing reach.

    Getting Started

    As anyone who retails online or offline, business is an ongoing exercise in improvement. What I found most inspiring about hearing from Claire and Alice is the way they just got on with it. So, if you have smartphone, what’s stopping you? If they can do it, so can you. Often we can hold ourselves back by trying to be too perfect. Their success shows how selling online can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page.

    9 tips for social selling

    How to get started with digital marketing

    10 things to do before using social media for business

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