Blue Eyed Sun

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Greeting Card Blog for Retailers

Blue Eyed Sun Blog

  • Blue Eyed Sun grow best selling Enchantment range of cards

    New Enchantment Range

    Blue Eyed Sun have added nineteen lovely new designs to their gorgeous new Everyday Enchantment range.

    Based on original machine stitched artworks by market leading textile designer, Jo Corner, they are all hand finished with jewels. These beautiful new Enchantment cards include numbered birthday milestones, key occasions and birthdays. The Enchantment range is also available in a wonderful selection of 32 Christmas cards as well as twelve beautiful Mother's Day cards.

    Cards in the Enchantment range all come cello wrapped with a coloured envelope that is 165mm x 165mm square. Sold in sixes the designs are available for trade customers to order through our agents, by brochure, at shows or on our website.

    You can see them all first in person at the events below:

    PG Live at the BDC in London 2-3 June 2015 - Stand 524

    Discover 7 Great Reasons to visit Progressive Greetings Live

    Home & Gift at the HIC in Harrogate 19-22 July 2015 - New Stand DP5-57

    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 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 an overview of Blue Eyed Sun ranges click here.

    Enchantment Range of Cards

  • 7 Great Reasons to visit Progressive Greetings Live

    7 Reasons To Visit PG Live

    Progressive Greetings Live opens it's doors on Tuesday 2nd June at 09:30am and runs until 4:30pm on Wednesday 3rd June at the Business Design Centre in London. This International Greeting Card Show is the only card specialist show of its kind in the UK for retailers, distributors and trade buyers looking to stock the finest greeting cards in the world.

    Here are seven great reasons why you should visit PG Live:

    1. Admission is Free!

    As long as you pre-register for Progressive Greeetings Live, admission is free to retailers, distributors, wholesalers, retail sales agents, licensors and all of those wishing to buy products or license designs from exhibitors attending.

    Click here to pre-register for PG Live 2015

    2. It's Easy to Find

    Located 10 minutes away from Kings Cross St. Pancas International and a short walk from Angel tube station in North London, PG Live is easy to get to. It's located in the Business Design Centre, a beautiful hundred year old glass building that's flooded with natural light and the perfect venue for viewing greeting card designs.

    Click here to find out more about the Business Design Centre

    3. The Food

    Your delicious lunch at Progressive Greetings Live is on us. Yes. It's FREE! Plus, there is a wonderful selection of restaurants to enjoy in Islington after the show. Treat yourself after a lovely day of buying at the show.

    Discover 5 Good Restaurants near the Business Design Centre

    4. It's Quick and Easy 

    You can walk this show in an few hours and get a full appreciation of what's new from your favourite publishers as well as sourcing new talent. It's onl;y on for two days so no long trekking around halls trying to find great products.

    Read Testimonials from other Retailers

    5. Be the First to see What's New

    The show is full of new product being launched at the show. There are a million greeting card designs to choose from at the show from over 200 exhibitors.

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

    6. Special Offers

    Everybody loves a deal. It's one of the great reasons for any retailer to visit trade shows. PG Live is full of great deals, give aways and special offers. Many offer free carriage on all orders at the show, so it's a great opportunity to do small top up orders without having to worry about the added cost of post and packaging.

    Blue Eyed Sun offer FREE CARRIAGE on all orders during the show including online orders using coupon code: PGL15

    7. Source New Talent

    Lots of lovely new publishers that I have helped through the Ladder Club over the last ten years are exhibiting or launching at PG Live in the Springboard section. There are some real gems in there, so be sure to check it out.

    Click here to find out more about the Ladder Club

    If you are still not sure, click here to watch a short video of Progressive Greetings Live. The show has a wonderful buzz about it and is attended by many of the UK's leading retailers. If you've never been, perhaps it's time to check it out?

    Do remember to come and say hi if you visit.

    Blue Eyed Sun are on Stand 524 at Progressive Greetings Live

    Click here to visit the Progressive Greetings Live website

    Click here to order Blue Eyed Sun cards online

    PG Live

  • The Greats Awards 2015 Winners and Finalists

    The Greats 2015 Winners Congratulations to all of the finalists and winners of the Greats Awards 2015 for Gift Retailers. It's a wonderful thing to be nominated for awards. We hope that you enjoyed the day and would like to thank all of you who stock our cards. We consider ourselves very privileged to be serving such a fine host of loyal retailers. 

    The Greats Awards 2015 Winners are:


    The Honourary Achievement Award went to Mike Burgess from Parlane International.


    Mandy Elliot, retail supervisor, Giant's Causeway Gift Shop, National Trust Ireland is Retail Employee of the Year  

    FinalistsMike Burgess - The Greats Awards 2015
    David Brooks, creative sales assistant, Bluestone, Glasgow
    David Budd, department manager Oxford Street, John Lewis
    Anne Connolly, shop manager, Velvet Moon, Glasgow
    Katie Daw, sales assistant, The Stationery & Gift Boutique, Ampthill
    Linda Hoskins, till operator, Hawley Garden Centre, Dartford
    Gemma Pickervance, buyer, Cliftons, Lytham

    Charles Farris, Battersea won Independent Gift Retailer of the Year - London (inside M25)

    FinalistsCharles Farris - The Greats Winner 2015
    Gift, Crouch End
    Grand Passions, Clapham
    The Loft, Teddington
    Map Gift Shop, Archway, N London
    Tickled Pink, Wandsworth Common and Earlsfiel


    Forget Me Not, Stubbington won for Home Counties, South and S East
    Feather & Fern, Dorking, Surrey
    Maddy Moo's, Totton, Southampton
    Paisley Cat, Farnham
    Red Card, Petworth 
    Something Special, Edenbridge


    Inside Out, Cheltenham won Independent Gift Retailer of the Year - South West

    FinalistsInside Out - The Greats Awards 2015
    Bickleigh Mill, Tiverton
    Bloomsbury, Bath
    Emporium, Cheltenham and Winchombe
    Gifts, St Ives
    Sugar Loaf, Cheltenham


    Love It, Stamford and Bury St Edmunds won Independent Gift Retailer of the Year - East Anglia

    Daisy Chain, Histon
    Glyph, Hitchin
    Lottie Mutton, Saffron Walden
    Rapport, Stamford


    Marmalade Meringue, Hinckley won Independent  - Midlands and WalesMarmalade Meringue - The Greats Awards 2015 Winner

    The Bottle Kiln, West Hallam
    Flint, Groby, Leics.
    Lavender Blue, Market Harborough, Leics.
    Village Crafts, Bets y Coed
    Wonder Stuff, Treorchy


    Retro 36, Scarborough won Independent  - North and Northern Ireland

    FinalistsRetro 36 - The Greats Awards 2015
    Bigwicks, Chesterfield and Barnsley
    The Bottom Drawer, Co. Armagh
    Mantons, Isle of Man
    Saffrons of York and Little Saffron, The Shambles
    Utility (3 shops), Liverpool and London


    The Old School, Beauly won Independent Gift Retailer of the Year - Scotland

    Bijou, Elgi
    Bluestone, Glasgow
    Brodie Country Fare, Brodie, By Forres
    The Granite House, Fort William
    Velvet Moon, Glasgow


    The Country House Gift Company, Winscombe won Best Gift Retailer - Newcomer South and Wales

    FinalistsThe Country House - The Greats Awards 2015
    The Dinky Dove, Chertsey
    The Indigo Tree, Streatham
    Mrs Robinson's Store, Worthing, West Sussex
    Polkadot Home, Keynsham, Bristol
    WOW, Hythe

    Rhubarb, Malvern won Best Gift Retailer - Newcomer North and Scotland

    The Brotique, Edinburgh
    A Little Mooch, Derby
    GiftsMade4u, Northants
    Quirky Coo, Dundee
    Tilly Mint, Crosby, Liverpool


    Temptation Gifts won Best Specialist Multiple Gift Retailer

    FinalistsTemptation Gifts - The Greats Awards 2015
    Aspire Style (5 stores)
    Love Aroma (4 stores)
    Sass & Belle (5 stores)
    Time & Tide (6 stores)
    Vinegar Hill (7 stores)


    John Lewis, Oxford Street won Best Department Store Retailer of Gifts

    Sasse and Belle - The Greats 2015Sasse and Belle - The Greats 2015

    Barretts of St Neots
    Dawsons, Clitheroe and Skipton
    Debenhams, Oxford Street
    Housing Units, Failsworth
    Rossiters of Bath and Cardiff

    About Living, Giffnock, Glasgow won Best Non Specialist Retailer of Gifts

    Bay Tree Books and Gifts, GlossopAbout Living - The Greats Awards Winners 2015
    Foyles, London
    Loch Leven's Larder Gift Shop, Kinross
    Retro 36, Scarborough
    Scape Interiors West, Bournemouth

    Armstrong Ward Lifestore, Kendal won Best Gifts Lifestyle and Homewares (interiors)

    Homer, Edinburgh and Aberfeldy
    JOY (multiple)
    Oliver Bonas (multiple)
    Orange Tree, Topsham
    Sparks Yard, Arundel


    Bluestone - The Greats 2015 Winner

    Bluestone, Glasgow won Best Gift Retailer of Jewellery

    Bertie Brown, Perth
    Cliftons, Lytham
    Metalyka, Stony Stratford and Leighton Buzzard
    The Olive Tree, Londonderry
    Pippin, Edinburgh


    Whitehall Garden Centre, Bristol and Lacock won Best Garden Centre Retailer of Gifts

    Hawley Garden Centre, Dartford, Kent
    Mains of Drum, Banchory
    Smiths Nurseries, New Denham


    Aspire Style - The Greats 2015

    Chester Zoo Diamond Jubilee Gift Shop won Best Visitor Attraction Gift Shop

    The Battle of Bannockburn Gift Shop
    University of Glasgow Gift Shop
    New Forest Museum, Lyndhurst
    Stonehenge Visitor Attraction
    V&A Shop


    Aspire Style won Best Retail Display

    Emporium, Cheltenham and Winchcombe
    Forget Me Not, Stubbington
    Aspire Style - The Greats Awards Winners 2015
    Lynn Tait Gallery, Leigh On Sea
    Old School Beauly, Beauly
    Pippin, Edinburgh


    Cliftons Jewellery won Best Online Gift Retailer, to include Mail Order

    The Brilliant Gift Shop
    Gifts From Handpicked
    The Inside Man
    The Present Finder
    Temptation Gifts/Campus Gifts


    Loch Levens Larder, Kinross and Pert won Best Retailer Initiative for Cinderella's Gone Missing in store promotion.

    Finalists:Loch Levens Larder - The Greats 2015
    The Brotique, Edinburgh - Tashe, Trims and Tears fundraiser for Mo'vember.
    Manton's, Isle of Man - Full colour catalogue initiative.
    Oliver Bonas - 21st anniversary programme of events.
    Orange Tree, Topsham - Decorate Your Christmas Table workshop.
    Retro 36, Scarborough - The First Snowfall of Christmas - A Christmas Story


    Winners of Best Service to the Independent Retailer

    Joe Davies won Gold

    Widdop Bingham won SilverLynn Tait and JakkiBrown - The Greats 2015

    Gisela Graham won Bronze

    Finalists 2015 (in alphabetical order)

    Now in their thirteenth year, The Greats Awards have become the accolades to strive for and the Awards event itself has become one of the most exciting and vibrant in the country. It brings together the entire British gift industry for a day of celebration.

    The Greats Awards are owned and organised by Progressive Gifts & Home Worldwide (published by Max Publishing). They recognise and celebrate not only the top independent and multiple gift retailers regionally and nationally, but also one-off niche retailers, garden centres and supermarkets as well as outstanding retail employees.

    The Greats Awards ceremony for 2015 was held on Thursday 7th May at The Savoy in London celebrating their 13th anniversary of The Greats with a 'Tropical' themed event which included and cocktail reception, lunch, awards and entertainment.

    Wherever possible the names of the shops are clickable for you to be able to see finalists website and social media links.

    All gift retailers who have been named as a Greats winner or finalist over the past 10 years of the Greats are invited to attend a special Greats Party at PG Live next month on Tuesday June 2nd at 3pm at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Contact Ian Hyder through the PG Live website for details

    See previous winners of the Greats Awards

    Discover which British gift suppliers won at the Gift of the Year Awards 2015

  • How to create best selling greeting cards

    How to Create Best Selling CardsI recently spoke to the Brighton Illustrator’s Group about the greeting card industry. Talented designer, Ilona Drew from I Drew This, invited me along to join her and James Emerson from cutting edge card publishers, 1973, as we dissected how to create best selling greeting cards.


    If you are going to design cars for a living, youd better be sure to drive them first. Its the same with cards, so its worth buying and sending cards as well as considering the following question before you begin:


    What is a greeting card?


    Despite all of our new, widely adopted forms of communications, like social media and emails, there is still a strong demand for greeting cards. Enough to see a constant influx of talented new publishers flowing into the industry, one in six retailers stocking cards and UK consumers spending more on cards than tea and coffee combined each year.


    How is it that a thick piece of paper folded in half can still be so important to so many? Ive often thought of cards as bridges between people. In choosing or designing our cards we are celebrating these bridges and choosing personal expressions that give them form.


    Relationships and strong connections between people are as important today as they were when Henry Cole commissioned the first ever greeting cards. In an age where it is so easy to dash off a text, Facebook message or tweet, it is the cards people receive on special occasions (and the people that send them) that recipients are most likely to remember because they take more time, effort and consideration. Those who want to be closer to their customers would do well to remember this.


    Studies have also shown us that our brains elicit greater feelings of happiness towards greeting cards received than digital messages. Greeting cards are portable, they can be hung up in ones home or gathered like a group of friends on your mantelpiece. They are tactile and sensory. Perhaps its because they are made from a natural, sustainable product like paper that we enjoy the feeling of them in our hands. Theres also something special about the journey they make through the post and their arrival through our letter boxes that still seems quite magical.


    How to start thinking like a card designer


    At Blue Eyed Sun we always like to design with a person in mind that wed like to send each card to. Its a good place to start. If you are a designer looking to license your work its worth having a publisher in mind too. Youll still want to cultivate your own style that would sit together with that publishers ranges.


    Most retailers display storiesof products in their shops, so you need to think in terms of ranges or of designs that work well together. You also want to make it easy for retailers to buy from you, so make sure that they can reach a carriage paid order (or minimum order) without difficulty by offering plenty of choice. Create enough designs to put together a £100 - £150 order worth of cards (assuming a retailer will only order two thirds or less of what you offer them).


    Consider the text you are using on your cards. Is the font right for the message or sentiment you are conveying? If it isnt, it probably wont sell as well. Similarly, colour choices can affect the sales of a card. For example, certain yellows are best avoided on get well soon cards as they can look sickly, which gets in the way of what the card is trying to do (help one to feel better). Its also worth taking time over the phrases used for the captions you cover. To my lovely husbandis slightly too feminine for a husband card, whereas to my wonderful husbandtends to perform better.


    Make sure you think about the costs of production when designing cards. Its always lovely to use the best board you can find, but not always practical for making a profit. Unusual sizes of envelopes and cards also push the cost price up. A balance between quality and saleability is needed. 


    Lastly, its always worth having the next range in mind, as it takes the pressure off having to come up with new ideas to a deadline, so keep thinking about new ranges throughout the year.


    What makes a good seller?


    In my opinion good selling cards are usually best designed to work as a card. Sorry if this sounds like Im stating the proverbial obvious, but it surprising the number of new publishers and designers who forget this. Even if there is no text, the sentiment of the design is key. You have to be able to send it, so ask yourself, who would I send this to.Try it out on every design and see how it feels. If you cant think of someone to send it to then it probably wont sell. As my wife used to own a shop herself, she always asks herself, would this sell in my shop?Another useful question that you can test your designs with.


    It was interesting hearing from 1973 on this subject as they are well regarded for pushing the boundaries of experimentation with greeting cards. In a similar example, their Sony Music license, using lyrics from famous songs, mostly didnt work because the cards were difficult to send. Interestingly their best seller in that range was their Wild Thing card which had the lyric I love Youat the bottom - a sentiment that is always strong on cards because there is a reason to send it. 


    Humour is also a great way of connecting and there is certainly room for more design in this niche of the card market. Good new humour companies often perform well, although our British humour doesnt always travel abroad. If a card sparks joy when you hold it in your hand, humour or no, then it is likely to sell well. Hold your finished cards in your hand and see how they feel. Give them to others and watch their reactions.


    If you are designing a card you want to sell well abroad I recommend keeping the card size to 120mm x 170mm (or similar) and having the flexibility to change the text to other languages. Design in portrait style rather than landscape as there are more pockets in shops that can cater to this. Square formats still sell abroad, so it doesnt all have to be rectangular. I recommend starting from the off the shelf sizes of envelopes and working backwards to the card sizings using specialist printers. This will save on production costs and help with cash flow.


    How to approach the market


    The card market is a constantly on the lookout for new product that is different and will sell well. This doesnt mean reinventing the wheel. Your range just needs to be different from whats currently out there. 


    You have to decide if you are going to self publish or license your work to a publisher. If you opt for the latter, dont just blanket approach publishers. Do your research and target those that your work would sit well with or who are strong in the niche your cards fit into. Sharon Little at the GCA is very knowledgable on card publishers and can point you in the right direction if you get stuck on who to approach. 


    Make collections or stories (ie. card ranges) and have enough designs in them. Try to minimise repetition of artwork in your ranges. Make sure that there is enough variety within them. Open birthdays are the most popular general occasion and blank cards that can be sent at any time also sell well. If you can, try and cover the key card sending occasions like weddings, new babies, anniversaries and key relations like husbands and wives.


    If you are considering self publishing or would like to find out more about the card industry and getting started I recommend you contact Trudi or 01702 480180 or email about the Ladder Club Seminars for new publishers in the Autumn and try and attend. They are excellent and will save you loads of time, money and stress.


    Click here to read more Ladder Club posts


    See the slides from my Brighton Illustrators Group talk


    Six ways to track greeting card trends



  • Declutter your home and business with Marie Kondo


    Decluttering with Marie KondoHave you ever found it difficult to stay on top of your belongings either personally or in business? We’ve been testing the KonMari method of tidying by Marie Kondo and it’s transforming our lives. Spring has just arrived so I thought I’d share it with you, along with some thoughts about how it might be used in business.


    The true goal of this method is to establish the lifestyle you want once your home or business has been put in order, so visualise your space as you’d most like to live or work. Then make your tidying an ‘event’ that you focus on, rather than doing it bit by bit.


    Does It Spark Joy?

    What’s most important is that you sort by category, not by location. Beginning at home, start with clothes first. Lay them all out on the floor in one room. Turn off all distractions like music and the TV. Usually when assessing our stuff we rationalise, which gets in the way of us discarding things. "I might need it" or "It's a waste to throw it away,” we say. The purpose of the exercise is to listen to your internal dialogue between your intuition and your belongings.


    Start with off season clothes. Pick up each item one by one and ask yourself "does this spark joy for me?" Listen to your heart and if the answer sings “yes”, it goes into your wardrobe, if it's “no” or “maybe” then it’s discarded. It doesn't matter how old it is, how much it cost or who bought it for you.


    The Importance Of Touch

    It's important that you hold each item in your hand, as our bodies sense the energy and excitement of objects that spark joy for us. The idea here is to fill your wardrobe with clothes that energise your being. After you have sorted, fold your clothes carefully and store them well. When you put your clothes back into the wardrobe make sure they start with heavy dark items like jackets and coats on the left rising up through to lighter shirts, blouses or skirts on the right. You will feel pleasure opening your wardrobe when you have filled it with clothes that spark joy and are ordered in this way. 


    Your Product Offering

    It’s always been important to get products into customers’ hands when selling. Try this exercise with each product you sell. How do you feel holding it? Separate the gold from the dust and revitalise your offering. Do your products bring joy for your customers? If not, what do you need to do to change this? Once you have sorted your offering, group them in collections or stories to make them pleasing to your customers’ eyes.


    Things Need To Be Enjoyed

    Next up were books and trade magazines. Get them all onto the floor in one room. Pick up each one and ask “does this spark joy?” I was astonished to find myself clearing out 300 personal books at home and 100 business books at the office. Don't start reading the books, this causes confusion. There are few books that we will never read again. Some that I had not read or half read had still served their purpose, which was to teach me that I didn't need them. Plus if I ever wanted to read them I could buy them again. Pass unused books onto charities for others to enjoy. Most trade magazines can recycled and accessed via archives online.


    The Order Of The Process

    Starting with clothes followed by books gave me a good sense of iwhat objects spark joy for me. Next up were papers. Bleurgh. Excluding old personal diaries, Marie Kondi's method is to discard everything, which I found a little frightening at first. Especially at work. But I guess there’s not much joy in paperwork is there? Legally, businesses need to keep their financial records for at least six years. My bank holds statements online back to 2002, so I clicked a button for online statements and burned the paper ones. The same with utility bills, after digitally storing an image of the initial contracts on my computer. I also chucked old course notes, along with credit card statements, expired warranties and instruction manuals. Most can easily be found online.


    Of the papers that had to be saved I split them into those that need attention and those that should be saved, such as contracts and tax returns. I then digitised the bare essentials using a ScanSnap S1300i which is a brilliant device that scans paper documents to PDFs. At work we are also minimising the digital storage of data to the bare essentials, so we don’t have huge swathes of unnecessary emails or data to search through for what we need. When work feels neat and tidy it’s easier to get on with your job.



    Next up are what the Japanese call Komono, which means miscellaneous knick-knacks. Again, keep only items that spark joy. We cleared a load of old CDs, DVDs, health care products and accessories. If they were gifts, remember that once a gift has been received it has served its purpose unless it continues to spark joy. Get rid of all mobile phone packages, you don't need the cd or the manuals either. I got all of our electrical cables and items together and found we had eight gangway adapters! A load of cables we never use or need went to the recycling centre. At the office desks were cleared down to the essentials. All the stationery is now together in one place to make things easier to find and prevent over ordering. 


    Dead Stock

    Foyles bookstore recently cleared £1 million of slow moving stock to replace it with best sellers. Clear anything that you have over ordered. If you can get money for it, set a time limit for selling it. Then recycle or dispose of it to make way for better more profitable or joyful use of the space. At home clear your excess stocks too. You don’t really need more than a month’s worth of anything.



    Photos are the most difficult, although my practiced intuition made it easier to tackle sentimental items last. Hold photos one by one to see if they spark joy. You don't need more than five photos of a special day or event. With keepsakes, if they don’t spark joy then discard. After this stage you should find something starts to click - this space and the number of items feels right for you.



    Next, things need storing. Simple storage works best. All items of the same type must go in the same place. Don't scatter your storage space. For example, keep all electrical cables, batteries and electrical related bits and bobs in one place. At work put your best sellers in prime locations and make your storage pleasurable to look at. 


    Nothing should be stored in piles, everything is best stored vertically as it’s better for the items and easier for access. The secret to reducing clutter is to have storage that reduces the effort to put things away, not storage that reduces effort for taking things out. Having the same type of things in one place also means they are easier to find, which will make your home and your business more efficient.


    Let It Go

    Reasons for not letting go of stuff are usually to do with a fear of the future or attachment to the past. It can also be a fear of acknowledging failure, for example, holding on to stock that cost a lot then didn’t sell. It feels great to be freed from all this and my mind is more in-tune now with what sparks joy for me and what I need to keep or discard. I can see clutter being less of a problem going forward as a result. I’ve been feeling more creative and I also find I can now appreciate our belongings more. Our home feels better to live in and our office is a nicer place to work. A joyful space also affects the choices we make about how best to use our time.


    Imagine if all businesses focused on creating products or experiences that spark joy for their customers, staff and even their suppliers. It’s an exciting idea. I can’t wait to see how the process transforms Blue Eyed Sun and Ivy Ellen going forward.


    Click here to learn how to make better decisions


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


    Read the book ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo

  • Brighton Illustrators Group: Greeting Cards Seminar

    BIG Greeting Cards Seminar

    I recently had the pleasure of speaking to the Brighton Illustrators Group about how to create best selling greeting cards.

    The evening kicked off with an insightful talk from greeting card illustrator Ilona Drew, from Brighton publishers I Drew This, who cut her teeth with the likes of Tiger Print, Watermark Publishing and Carte Blanche Greetings. Having designed over 1,000 cards during her career, she talked through some of the things to bear in mind when designing cards and how to get the most out of illustrating for cards.

    My talk followed with a brief history of Blue Eyed Sun, followed by tips on how to think like a card designer, what goes into creating a best selling card and how to approach the card market by licensing or self publishing. We also took a brief look at the nature of greeting cards themselves, how they came into existence and why they are still used today, despite the advent of email and the social media.

    Last, but by no means least, James Emmerson from cutting edge card publishers 1973, gave a brilliant disection of a number of his previously published ranges. An honest account of his successes and failures helped those attending get an idea about the nitty gritty of what makes some cards work and others fail. It was a fun evening and lovely to meet and support such an interesting group of local creatives in Brighton.

    Brighton Illustrators Group is run by illustrators for illustrators. It supports and advises freelance illustrators living in Brighton and the surrounding area. Formed 22 years ago, the group shares information about professional practice through emails, events and newsletters. The Brighton Illustrators Group blog and website also promote the use of illustration and the work of the group.  

    Here are the slides from my talk which are interactive and contain hyperlinks to relevant websites:

    Click here for updates on the Ladder Club Seminars for new Card Publishers

    7 Magnificent Business Tips that have stood us in good stead

    Read 6 Ways to Track Greeting Card Trends

  • New Christmas cards for 2015 from Blue Eyed Sun

    Enchantment Christmas CardsChristmas falls on Friday 25th December 2014, and we like our retailers to be prepared well in advance of this key retail period, so here's what Christmas cards are new from us this year...

    ENCHANTMENT (pictured above) are based on beautiful original machine stitched artworks by Jo Corner. Hand finished with jewels, the range includes 32 gorgeous Christmas designs to complement our best selling everyday Enchantment cards. These wonderful Christmas cards all come cello-wrapped with a red envelope and are 160mm square.

    LITTLE LIGHTS (below) are based on adorable, delicate illustrations by Jo Corner and feature hand finished jewels as little christmas lights on the card. This stunning new range includes 32 designs including all the top selling Christmas captions. These beautiful 160mmm square Christmas cards are blank inside and all come cello-wrapped with a red envelope.

    We have a large selection of Christmas cards online in the trade only section of our site, including many that are on special offer. To stock these ranges 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 or you can 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.

    Click here to see these Christmas cards in person at PG Live at the Business Design Centre in May.

    Little Lights Christmas cards

  • Marketing Then vs Now

    Marketing: Then vs NowId like to introduce you to two fictional independent retailers: Hank and Bob. If you met them in a social setting, like a party, youd have completely different experiences of them because they both operate in contrasting ways. By the end of this post you should have a better idea of the differences between marketing then vs now as shown by Hank and Bob.


    Meet Hank

    Hank is a real salesman and has a lot of drive and focus. He loves to make money and his business is his means for doing this. He sees most people as an opportunity to make more sales. Hell think nothing of buttonholing someone at a party, whilst he takes them through the benefits of purchasing whatever it is hes selling that week. Hes learnt all the key sales techniques and is very good at it. Sell the sizzle, not the steak and all that jazz. Unfortunately, hes often so in your face that hes the one many of us might seek to avoid. Hank represents the old style of marketing: loud, annoying, interruptive, insensitive and impersonal.


    Meet Bob

    Like Hank, Bob is passionate about his business. He has a hardware store and has always loved working with his hands and helping others. Bob is known in his community as the go to guy for DIY. If you met him at a party you might never even find out what Bob does unless you asked. Hes more likely to put you in touch with his Chiropractor to help you sort out your bad back than he is in selling to you. Bob is funny, endearing, interested in you as a person and in helping others. Bob is how marketing is evolving: hes engaging, meaningful, relevant, informative and personal. Hes also more lovable than Hank.


    Social Media is like a party

    What most people dont get about social media is that its not like old marketing of the past. Youre better off being more like Bob than Hank at these online gatherings. Actually, I think social media is better than a normal party because you can join in the conversation with anyone there discussing any topic you are interested in at any time. Youre not restricted by location and you dont have to get buttonholed or caught up in irrelevant chit chat if you dont want to. Even when you do, it could still benefit your business as users of social media are more likely to visit brandswebsites and are more likely to purchase than those who arent using these tools. On some social media platforms, like Pinterest and Instagram, users also tend to spend more than others.


    Whats important to remember when using social media is that it is not about selling and shouting out your wares like youre at a fish market. Most businesses using these tools are standing with a bullhorn blaring out special offers, deals and product offerings. Who cares? Imagine doing this at a party! Youd just be annoying.


    Social media is about engagement with a community that is relevant to your business. So, if you are a retailer in a small town for example, it helps to connect with other businesses on your high street as much as it does to build your own list of consumer followers. You can then cross promote (rather than just self promote) by sharing things with like minded people across your networks and helping to put people in touch with one another. If you want to enjoy a party and show people a good time be fun, be interesting and be genuinely helpful.


    Customer Experience

    Were living in an age of commerce where experience dominates consumerssensibilities. Customer experience is the predominant way businesses can add value to the goods or services they sell. Most importantly authenticity of experience affects who consumers buy from and what they choose to buy. Our stories are a way of communicating this authenticity. Lets take another look at our retailersstories:


    Hanks Story

    Hank grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. His mother raised him single handedly whilst holding down two jobs after his father left them. They never had any money for treats or nice toys. As Hank raises his own kids, he wants a better life for them and this drives his focus on sales. His story is one of rags to riches. Because Hank is ashamed of his past, people miss out on his authentic self. This is a pity as it could be inspiring for others and it could draw customers to him.  


    Bobs Story

    Bob grew up building things with his father who was very handy and could fix almost anything. His mother was a nurse. Bob learnt his handyman skills from his dad and his compassion and community spirit from his mum. He has a son of his own whom he likes to surprise with new bits and pieces of DIY kit from his store when it comes in. He and his son enjoy building tree houses, go-karts and the like together just as he did with his father.


    The effect of narratives on our brains

    How do you feel about both of our retailers having read a little bit more about their stories? Do you find yourself endeared to them? Do you feel closer to them? Does anything about their stories resonate with you? Perhaps you didnt like Hank as much at the start and now that you understand him a little better you can relate to him. You might even think Bob could learn a thing or two from him about selling and perhaps Hank could learn about contribution from Bob.


    Our brains are hardwired to relate powerfully to stories. Character driven tales consistently cause something called oxytocin synthesis. Studies show that the amount of oxytocin released by the brain as a result of narratives predicts how much people are willing to help others. Oxytocin is often referred to as the trust hormoneand building trust with customers is essential to all businesses.


    They say that trust is won in inches and lost in miles. Kind, considerate, helpful information and interaction with your community are the foundation stones of building trust in this new era of marketing. As we experience more of Bob and Hanks stories this sense of connection grows.


    Authenticity is more important than spinning a good yarn about your business that isnt true. You dont have to be warts and all, but you do have to be real. Its more important to understand the story of your organisation (and then focus on fitting that into your marketing strategy) than simply setting up social media accounts and blaring out offers in the hope of boosting sales.


    Your story has to resonate, have meaning and engage with your audience. People want more personal experiences with their favourite brands. They want to share passions, experiences and values with your business. How much people engage with you, your brand and the story of your business affects trust levels and repeat custom. 


    New Marketing

    This new environment opens up a host of opportunities for smaller retailers to win against the big boys. Think about what drove your organisations founders to take the risk of starting the business. How they hoped it would benefit their community or even the world at large.


    Use narrative techniques like surprise (show something unusual that arrived in stock in your shop this week) or suspense (what secret launch you are planning next week). Think about the stories of your staff, suppliers and customers and how they fit with your brands story. Use these to engage your audience and add value to your communities.


    Use your social media accounts to be helpful by posting things that people in your community want to see or will enjoy. Engage with them by asking questions, answering questions and sharing. Its ok to say what you do and to mention that you have special offers from time to time. Just dont ram it down peoplesthroats with every post. Marketing is not what it was and its time to adapt and reap the benefits of offering your customers and community a more valuable experience of your brand online. 


    See all the slides from my recent talk on Marketing your Retail Business


    Click here to read all of our blog posts on Social Media

  • Spring Fair International 2015 Highlights

    Spring Fair 2015 HighlightsSpring Fair International 2015 was recently held at the NEC in Birmingham and featured over 300,000 new products across 13 sectors and many inspirational features. Here are some of our highlights from this popular trade show:

    Digital Marketing Seminar for RetailersSpring Fair 2015 Ecommerce Theatre

    On Sunday I had the pleasure of speaking to an audience of over a hundred retailers about digital marketing and social media. My talk included case studies of independent retailers who use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to engage with customers and grow their sales. All the slides of my talk contain links to the case studies:

    Click to see the slides for 'Innovative Ways to Market your Retail Business Online'

    Meeting Mr MoshiSpring Fair 2015 Michael Acton Smith

    I also had the privilege of warming up the audience for Michael Acton-Smith, founder of Mind Candy - creator of the hugely successful Moshi Monsters phenomenon and Firebox the online retailer, who spoke shortly after my seminar. Despite some initial set backs, his business has seen incredible growth. It was fascinating to hear his story and to see some of the new projects he is working on including World of Warriors and PopJam. He's a lovely guy and was kind enough to sign a picture for my son, Sam, who is a big Moshlings fan. 

    Gift of the Year 2015The Art File - Gift of the Year 2015

    On Sunday evening the Gift of the Year 2015 awards were held at the show and featured a wonderful array of innovative products. The event is always great for networking and catching up with industry friends, several of whom were up for awards including Soula Zavacopoulos from The London Studio and Ged and Karen Mace from The Art File who picked up the award for Best Greeting Cards this year with their lovely pop up cards: Form. The evening was compered by design guru Sebastian Conran.

    Click here for a complete list of Gift of the Year 2015 Winners

    One Minute Product Pitch

    Spring Fair 2015 Pitch Judges

    I was invited to be a judge in a new feature at Spring Fair International 2015, which involved assessing pitches from several different gift companies at the show. My fellow judges included Isabel Martinson from The GA, Sally Robinson from Mrs Robinson Store, Jane Hudson from mail order retailer Qwerkity. Eight exhibitors each had sixty seconds to pitch their products for our feedback. We scored them and the winner won a bottle of champagne. My favourite pitches were Rocknife and Mous - the overall winners of our session with their clever phone cover that neatly stores your headphones.

    Click to watch the pitch from Rocknife. Click to watch the pitch from Mous. 

    Buyers Power List Awards 2015

    Spring Fair Buyers Power List 2015It was a busy week for events with lots of exciting ideas from the show organisers i2i Events who keep trying new things. One of these was the Buyers Power List Awards which were held at the show for the first time. The awards aim to recognise influential buying teams and individuals. We were thrilled to see our lovely customers Temptation Gifts win Best Independent Retail Buyers. John Lewis won Best Multiple Retailer and Gillian Leahy of Ocado won the Overall Power 30 Award. I was lucky enough to be invited and had a great time networking with retailers and catching up with Tracy Bearton from Greetings Today and Jo Barber from the Stationery Boutique.

    Export and International Distribution

    Spring Fair 2015 UKTIAfter judging the pitches I had to leg it over from Hall 20 to Hall 4 to give a presentation in the UKTI theatre on Export to fellow publishers and suppliers. We've been successfully growing our business internationally into fifteeen different countries since 2012 and have learnt some valuable lessons. This seminar was a chance to share our experience with those planning to sell beyond our shores. This seminar follows on from a talk I gave in the UKTI thatre at Autumn Fair International last year and was blogged in Overcoming the Challenges of Exporting Overseas.

    Click here to see the slides from my Talk on Export at Spring Fair

    New Products from Blue Eyed SunBlue Eyed Sun Allotment Spinner

    We also launched over a hundred and thirty new products at Spring Fair International 2015 including our new everyday Enchantment cards and additions to our best selling Vintage greeting cards. We were also very excited at the response to the sneak preview of our Christmas ranges for 2015. Our large Allotment cards were also very popular at the show

    RETAILERS: Click to WIN a fully stocked Blue Eyed Sun spinner worth £750

    It was lovely to catch up with so many of our wonderful customers and industry friends. Even though the NEC isn't our favourite destination, we miss the hustle and bustle of it already. We'll be back in Birmingham for Autumn Fair later this year and again next year for the newly revamped and edited Spring Fair International 2016.

    Click here to see which other trade shows we are attending this year

    If you missed us at the show you can request a login to access our trade only store and see all of our designs plus order online. You can also request a brochure by clicking here. Remember to quote coupon code SFB15 on all orders until the 15th February 2015 for FREE CARRIAGE.

    12 Tips for trade show visitors

    Are trade shows still worth it?

  • Innovative Ways to Market your Retail Business Online

    Slides from my digital marketing seminars at the 2015 Spring Fair International trade show. Learn how to market your retail business online using social media and other innovative ideas. This presentation is interactive. Click on images, logos and underlined text to go through to relevant webpages on the internet.
    Please feel free to share it with anyone you think would be interested. 


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