Blue Eyed Sun

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Greeting Card Blog for Retailers

Blue Eyed Sun Blog

  • 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. 


  • How export has helped Blue Eyed Sun to generate more revenue


    Here is a video of my latest talk on Export at the UKTI theatre at Spring Fair International. Click on the play button to see it.


    Below are all of the interactive slides from the talk. The links and logos are clickable and the hyperlinks will take you to the respective websites relating to export for card publishers looking to distribute abroad.


    Export is one of many subjects covered in the Ladder Club seminars for new card publishers organised by Lynn Tait and held in Leigh-on-Sea in the Autumn. For details contact Trudi on 01702 480 180 or email


  • Gift of the Year 2015 Winners and Finalists

    The Gift of the Year 2015 award winners were recently announced at an annual ceremony run by The GA and sponsored by Spring Fair International organisers i2i Events. Below is a list of winners and finalists. 

    Body, Bath and Spa

    Product to complement and enhance personal health and welfare, frame of mind.

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    WINNER: Waggledance Collection

    Entered by: beefayre

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Compact Lenses

    Entered by: IF (that company called)

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Modern Apothecary Candles

    Entered by: Stone Glow Candles

    Branded / Character

    Any licensed product gifts for kids, adults and the home.

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    WINNER: Fascinations Star Wars 3D Metal Construction Kits

    Entered by: Professor Puzzle Ltd

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    Entered by: Ravensden Plc

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Rubiks Cube™ Light

    Entered by: Paladone Products Ltd

    Card and Wrap

    Cards and wrap for any occasion aimed at independent gift and greetings card shops - often handmade / one off design.

    Product image


    Entered by: The Art File

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Coaster Cards

    Entered by: The London Studio

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Speedy gift wrap for awkward shaped gifts

    Entered by: Lux-Wrap Limited

    Commemorative and Collectable Gifts

    Product that as a unique piece or part of a range / collection would be considered a collectable.

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    Entered by: Treat Gifts

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Iconic Bookchairs

    Entered by: Thinking Gifts Ltd

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: National Geographic Picture Playing Cards

    Entered by: IF (that company called)

    Eco Friendly

    Environmentally friendly green gift for responsible consumers.

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    WINNER: Felt Animal Puppets

    Entered by: Sew Heart Felt

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Building Blocks

    Entered by: Lanka Kade

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: WeWOOD Kappa Chocolate

    Entered by: WeWOOD UK

    Fashion Accessories

    Scarves, bags, belts etc for men, women, children, pets, cars!

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    WINNER: Love the Glove

    Entered by: Burgon & Ball

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Collier Campbell Shoulder Bag

    Entered by: Quintessential

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Compact Lenses

    Entered by: IF (that company called)

    Fashion Jewellery

    Gift jewellery

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    WINNER: Branch Out

    Entered by: Martick Jewellery

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: keep me jewellery

    Entered by: keep me jewellery

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: WeWOOD Kappa Chocolate

    Entered by: WeWOOD UK

    Festive and Seasonal

    Decorative product related to Christmas and other seasonal celebrations including Valentine’s day, Mother’s day, Easter, Father’s day and Halloween.

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    WINNER: Skeleton Crew

    Entered by: Talking Tables Ltd

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Reusable Gift Box Crackers – Hellebore design

    Entered by: Keep This Design

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: The Great Egg Hunt

    Entered by: Talking Tables Ltd

    Garden and Outdoor Living

    Any accessories for alfresco living.

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    WINNER: Citronella Wood Wick Patio 'n' Picnic Candles

    Entered by: Enigma

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    Product image


    Entered by: Gift Republic

    Gift Food

    Gifts which include food products for any occasion.

    Gifts for Men

    Gifts with Men in mind.

    Product image


    Entered by: The Lagoon Group

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Gentlemens Hardware

    Entered by: Wild and Wolf Ltd

    Product image

    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Ridleys Games Room

    Entered by: Wild and Wolf Ltd

    Home Accessories

    Any accessories for the home interior – modern, classical, country or urban living.

    Product image


    Entered by: Amber Bright Creations

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Goat Flower Vase

    Entered by: Quail Designs Ltd

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Woodland Trophy Hooks

    Entered by: Transomnia

    Home Fragrance

    Fragrance designed for the home - scented candles, reed diffusers, incense sticks, potpourri, oil burners and elegant room sprays.

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    WINNER: Modern Apothecary Candles

    Entered by: Stone Glow Candles

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Art Collection Lime & Mandarin

    Entered by: Stone Glow Candles

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Fired Earth Earl Grey and Vetivert large twin wick

    Entered by: Wax Lyrical

    Hot Novelty

    The latest must have silly gift.

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    WINNER: Rubiks Cube™ Light

    Entered by: Paladone Products Ltd

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Comedy Bandana

    Entered by: Bluesky designs

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: King For The Day

    Entered by: NPW


    Gifts for a baby, child or teenager.

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    WINNER: animal toothbrush holders

    Entered by: j-me

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: RSPB Small Singing Birds

    Entered by: Ravensden Plc

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Takes and Adders

    Entered by: House of Marbles

    Kitchen and Dining

    Everyday products or those designed for social and special occasions, including tableware, glassware, cutlery, table decoration, utensils and cooking / preparing products / materials.

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    WINNER: CrushGrind Optic Mills

    Entered by: T&G Woodware Ltd

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: HOST Chill Cooling Pour Spout

    Entered by: Brightcore Ltd

    Made in UK

    Any product made in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.

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    WINNER: Hinchcliffe and Barber Songbird Grey Ceramics

    Entered by: My Gifts Trade

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Spode Delamere Rural

    Entered by: Portmeirion Group

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Victors Drinks - Ciders and Ales

    Entered by: Victor's Drinks


    Product related to any special occasions including gifts, gift-wrap, gift stationery and accessories (eg: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, christenings, confirmations and other religious/cultural ceremonies/festivals, passing exams/driving test, graduation)

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    WINNER: Photo Booth Prop Range

    Entered by: Ginger Ray

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Blossom and Brogues

    Entered by: Talking Tables Ltd

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Christmas Origami

    Entered by: The Lagoon Group

    Premium / Luxury

    Luxury brands, more expensive gifts for those for whom money is no object!

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    WINNER: Cassini Terrestrial MOVA Globe

    Entered by: Turtletech Design Inc

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: BassBuds 24 Carat Gold Collection

    Entered by: Electro Box Ltd

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: New Supersize Aztec Gem Terrarium

    Entered by: The Urban Botanist


    Diaries, calendars, note books, scrap books, photo albums, notelets, pens etc

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    WINNER: Ted Baker Ladies Stationery

    Entered by: Wild and Wolf Ltd

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Meal Planner

    Entered by: Busy B

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    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Set of 36 pencils Mr Badger

    Entered by: Rex international ltd

    Under £10

    Suitable as a gift that retails for under £10 stocking fillers, Secret Santas etc.

    Product image

    WINNER: animal toothbrush holders

    Entered by: j-me

    Product image

    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Essential Tools

    Entered by: Burgon & Ball

    Product image

    HIGHLY COMMENDED: Line Markers

    Entered by: Thinking Gifts Ltd



    The Judges' Choice award (the judging panels' favourite gift across all winning products) at Gift of the Year 2015 went to Songbird Grey Ceramics by Hinchcliffe and Barber.


    NB. The brochure is 4Mb to download. Contact Christopher Munns at the GA if you would like a hard copy. Retailers can get exclusive discounts to many of these products and more by joining the Giftware Association. Click to join the GA.

    Award winning advice for entering awards like Gift of the Year

    See all of the winners and finalists at the recent Henries greeting card awards

  • Make better decisions using six thinking hats

    Six Thinking HatsIf you’ve ever sat in meetings thinking that they could be more efficient or if you often grapple with making decisions with your partner (or as an individual) you may find Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats system useful. Here's how you can make your decision making processes more effective:



    The problem with thinking


    The main difficulty with thinking is that we tend to try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope and creativity all crowd in on us. Personal agendas, politics, egos and power struggles can also create further confusion. The Six Thinking Hats allow thinkers to do one thing at a time, focussing on what can be rather than on what is, and on how to design a way forward - not on who is right and who is wrong. Essentially it is a game that everyone plays to reach a defined goal. It lays arguments side by side, avoids confusion, creates focus, removes ego, saves time and is a neutral, objective way of creating a comprehensive map and making decisions easier.


    The Colours


    Remembering the colours helps recall the function of each hat:


    White is neutral and objective. The white hat is concerned with objective facts and figures.

    Red suggests anger and emotions. The red hat gives the emotional view.

    Black is sombre and serious. The black hat is cautious and points out weaknesses in an idea.

    Yellow is sunny and positive. The yellow hat is optimistic and highlights the strengths of an idea.

    Green is vegetation and fertile growth. The green hat sparks creativity and new ideas.

    Blue is cool and calm. The blue hat controls the organisation of the thinking process.



    Using the Six Thinking Hats


    You can use the hats as symbols on their own to request a particular type of thinking.  E.g. “I Think we need some green hat thinking here”. The hats can also be used in a sequence. You don't have to use all the hats and can use each as often as like. Generally, one minute per person present on each hat forces concentration and reduces waffle. The leader indicates change of hats.



    White Hat Thinking


    The white hat focuses on objective information. Like a computer, facts and figures are given as requested, without interpretations or opinions. There are usually two tiers: The first is where the facts are checked and proven to be accurate: “Our shop’s turnover this year was £305,413 and is down 8% on last year”. The second are believed to be true, but need to be checked. Often these are beliefs and should be framed as such: “we believe our shop’s decreased turnover was due to the ailing economy.” Facts also range from ‘always true’ to ’never true’. It’s fine for information to be included under the white hat as long as the appropriate frame is used to highlight the likelihood of the fact. White hat also defines what information is missing and needed: “we need to analyse our shop’s sales to discover likely causes of the increase”. You must also distinguish between facts and interpretation or extrapolation from facts. All facts are laid side by side on the table, even if they conflict.



    Red Hat Thinking


    Wearing the red hat is short and brisk and gives you and your team a chance to express feelings without the need to explain or justify them. In business we’re not supposed to allow our emotions in, but they often enter anyway - disguised as logic. The biggest challenge when using the red hat is to avoid justifying or explaining our feelings as many of us are brought up to do. Feelings can change, so it can be useful to have red hat thinking at the beginning and at the end of a meeting. Red hat is always done on an individual basis and is relatively quick. Manager: “Give me your red hat thinking on lowering prices in our shop.” Staff member: “I feel that lowering prices will not increase our sales and could damage our shop’s brand.”



    Black Hat Thinking


    The black hat is used for caution, for being careful. We have to consider risks, dangers, obstacles, potential problems and downsides. Overuse of black hat thinking can limit us. One of the advantages of the six hats method is that it limits the amount of time spent on cautious and critical thinking.


    “I don’t like the idea of lowering prices” is red hat thinking. Black hat thinking is not emotional, it must be logical. What are the reasons why lowering prices is not liked as an idea? They must make sense. Black hat is the opposite of the yellow hat, which looks for advantages and upside. The black hat answer is: “In our past experience - which I can demonstrate with sales figures - lowering prices has not resulted in enough extra sales to offset the reduction in profits.”



    Yellow Hat Thinking


    Yellow hat thinking looks for the benefits. It’s about positive assessment, which can range from logical and practical to dreams and hopes. It’s harder to wear than the black hat as you have to develop ‘value sensitivity’ rather than our more natural tendency towards ‘danger sensitivity’ (black hat).


    Yellow hat is concerned with the generation of proposals, the positive assessment of them and their development. It is not directly concerned with creativity (green hat). Just as black hat thinking can pinpoint a fault and leave it to green hat thinking to correct that fault, so yellow hat thinking can define an opportunity and leave it to green hat thinking to come up with some novel way of exploiting that opportunity. 


    Value and benefits are not always obvious, so be disciplined and thorough with using the yellow hat. Yellow hat: “Lowering retail prices at certain times of the year, like January, is believed to drive 20% extra recorded footfall into our shop and our customers say that they love a good deal.”



    Green Hat Thinking


    This is the energy hat. Think of growth, creativity, new ideas, options and alternatives. Under the green hat we seek to modify and improve suggested ideas: “We want to be able to lower prices and grow sales without losing profit, can you green hat this for me?” The value of the green hat is that specific time is set out for everyone to make a creative effort. Creativity isn’t just about the ‘ideas person’ at the table whilst everyone sits ready to pounce on an idea. 


    You may get a lot of green hat ideas and possibilities that are not possible to explore in your meeting. The red hat can then be used to pick out ‘low cost ideas’ and those that are easy to implement. Someone needs to collect green hat thoughts and the ideas then need to be taken through yellow, black and red hat consideration in order to assess what is actionable.



    Blue Hat Thinking


    The blue hat is the conductor of the orchestra. It manages your thinking and suggests different hats at different stages: “OK, we have some great suggestions for lowering greeting card prices in new ways, lets red hat our feelings on them.”  


    At the start blue hat defines (why, what, goal, direction, sequence plan) and at the end it summarises (outcome, conclusion, design, solution, next steps, etc). Having a structure to your thinking will make it more effective. This is not just about ordering the use of the other hats, the blue hat can also be used to organise other aspects of thinking like assessing priorities or listing constraints. The blue hat pulls into shape what may appear to have been a chaotic discussion. It also provides overview updates and draws together final conclusions.





    The six thinking hats system simplifies thinking by dealing with one thing at a time. It also allows for a switch in thinking to prevent it becoming bogged down in one mode (usually black hat). Importantly, it does this without threatening ego.


    One of the most striking things about using the six hats system is that decisions seem to make themselves. When you come to the final blue hat, the answer seems obvious to all present. Solutions also present themselves quickly, even after previously having spent hours considering the subject in question. Even when it seems that decisions can’t be made it can become clear that more information is needed, a path that considers various options is required or a red hat feeling must decide on the way forward. Whichever it is, the 6 hats method will give you a clearer idea of the lay of the land when you decide.  



    Jeremy is speaking on Digital Marketing and Social Media for Retailers at Spring Fair on Sunday 1st February at 12:00 in Hall 4 and again on Monday 2nd February at 15:45.


    He is also speaking on Growing your Export Sales on Tuesday 3rd February at 14:00 in Hall 4 in the UKTI theatre at Spring Fair.



    Read more:


    Six way our minds deceive us


    Why customer complaints are good for business


    Looking back from perfect - How to achieve your goals


    Visit Edward de Bono's website

  • Spring Fair 2015 - The Essential Information

    Spring Fair 2015 Essential InfoAbout Spring Fair 2015

    Spring Fair International runs from Sunday 1st February until Thursday 5th February from 09:00 - 18:00 each day and brings together an inspirational showcase of over 350 British greetings card publishers in Hall 4 at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) Birmingham. This is the biggest trade show of the year for our industry. It attracts buyers from all over the world and is the leading showcase of innovation and creativity in the global Greetings Card market. Spring Fair attracts over 70,000 visitors and features a massive range of products, so don't miss it!

    ‚ÄčRegister for FREE tickets to Spring Fair 2015 by clicking here.

    Download the Spring Fair App for your phone or iPad here.

    Where to Stay at Spring Fair

    Accommodation can be tough to find when the show is on and places get booked up months in advance. Also hotels close to the show charge much higher rates during this week. A useful tip is to look at hotels in Birmingham City Centre (which is a short train ride from the NEC) and also consider hotels that are 30 minutes away by motorway (people don't usually book these as they look far on the map, when actually they are quite close because the roads are fast). If you are travelling by car it is worth getting in early to avoid the Birmingham rush hour.

    How to get to Spring Fair

    Travel to the show is easy with excellent rail and motorway links. The NEC post code is B40 1NT (if you use a sat nav). You can park for free in several car parks on site, all of which have 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. You can also click on the map below to plan your journey.

    Where to Eat at Spring Fair

    Read 5 Great Restaurants near the NEC. There's also a lot of good choice in the city centre for restaurants. 

    Seminars at Spring Fair 2015

    Improve your business at Spring Fair 2015. Click here for a full list of seminars. Blue Eyed Sun are speaking at:

    Digital Marketing for Retailers on Sunday 1st February at 12:00 in the Ecommerce Theatre in Hall 4.

    Digital Marketing for Retailers on Monday 2nd February at 15:45 in the Ecommerce Theatre in Hall 4.

    Growing your Export Sales on Tuesday 3rd February at 14:00 in Hall 4 in the UKTI theatre.

    What's New from Blue Eyed Sun at Spring Fair 

    Blue Eyed Sun are launching a brand new range called Enchantment which features 45 embroidered designs by textile artists, Jo Corner. We also have 24 new additions in our best selling Vintage range as well as our latest Christmas designs for the 2015 season. All this and a huge selection of best selling, award winning hand finished cards in our Allotment, Picnic Time and Gorgeous ranges. You can also top up on last minute Valentines, Mother's Day and Easter orders.

    When you get to Spring Fair do remember to come and say hi to us on Stand 4L66.

    Quote coupon code: SFB15 when ordering during the shows (online or offline) for FREE CARRIAGE until 15th 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 4L66 in Hall 4 on the show map below:

    Spring Fair 2015 NEC Hall Plan

    View Larger Map

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