Blue Eyed Sun

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Blue Eyed Sun Blog

  • Mothers Day Cards 2017 from Blue Eyed Sun

    Vintage Too Mother's Day - Blue Eyed SunWith Mothering Sunday on Sunday 26th March 2017, it's time for retailers to start thinking about getting their Mothers Day cards and Valentines cards ordered before Christmas. We have two wonderful new ranges for Mothers Day 2016...

    Pictured above is our Vintage Too Mother's Day selection, based on original stitched artworks by Jo Corner. These delightful cards are 160mm square and hand finished with jewels.

    Pictured below is our Tahiti Mother's Day selection, based on original illustrations by Jo Corner. These delightful cards are 160mm square and hand finished with jewels.

    Sold in sixes to trade buyers only, all of our Mothers Day cards are blank inside, barcoded and cello-wrapped with a matching envelope. All Blue Eyed Sun Mothers Day cards are printed on beautiful thick boards from sustainable managed sources. Retailers can order online from our  large selection of designs in the trade only section of our site.

    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  www.blueeyedsun.co.uk 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.

    See our cards in person at Autumn Fair - Stand 4D03

    Click here to see our 2017 Valentine designs

    Scientists prove that cards are good for your Mother

    Tahiti Mother's Day - Blue Eyed Sun

  • Blue Eyed Sun meet the Queen

    Jeremy Corner and Jo Corner at Buckingham PalaceBlue Eyed Sun founders, Jo and Jeremy Corner, recently attended a special event at Buckingham Palace in London that was held for the select companies who won Queen’s Awards this year.

    “It was an incredible honour to meet the Queen and to present her with one of our 90th Birthday cards and tell her a little bit about Blue Eyed Sun. The reception was attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, The Princess Royal , Princess Eugenie of York, The Duke of Gloucester, The Duke of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Michael of Kent, who we were also lucky enough to meet. It was a fun and exciting evening.” - Jeremy Corner, MD.

    Blue Eyed Sun was awarded the Queens Award for International Trade in recognition of their continued export growth over the last three years.

    "Our Queen's Award is testament to the hard work and dedication our fantastic team and the wonderful partnerships we have with our fantastic distributors in the many countries we export to around the world.” - Jeremy Corner, MD.

    The award was especially significant for Blue Eyed Sun in the year where the Queen is celebrating her ninetieth birthday and has received over 80,000 greeting cards congratulating her on reaching her birthday milestone.

    Read more about Blue Eyed Sun's Export Award Win

    Read about our visit to Downing Street

    Advice on winning awards

    Blue Eyed Sun - 90th Birthday Card

  • The Retas Awards 2016 - Winners and Finalists

    The Retas 2016 - Winners and FinalistsCongratulations to all of the finalists and winners of the Retas Awards 2016 celebrating Greeting Card Retailing in the UK. We would especially like to thank all of you who stock our cards! We consider ourselves very privileged to be serving such a fine host of retailers.

    Waterstones won The Retas Award for Greeting Card Retailer of the Year

    The Retas Awards Winners 2016:

    Emma Cole, manager of Postmark, Balham won Greeting Card Retail Employee of the Year

    Finalists 2016
    Monica Bagley, manager of CGX Accessories, Piccadilly, LondonPostmark - The Retas 2016
    Pat Green, assistant of Hallmark Celebrate, Chigwell
    Matthew Anderson, manager of 1st Stop Stationers, Reigate
    Shelly Frost, sales assistant of Country House Gift Company, Winscombe
    Emily Huntbatch, assistant manager of The Wishing Tree, Codsall
    Gillian Jack, area manager of Hallmark Thorntons, Dumbarton store
    Vicki Waltho, sales assistant of Calliope Gifts, Dorking

    Supersales - Belvedere won Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer - London

    Finalists 2016
    Cherry Cards - Upminster
    Etc - Islington
    Greetings - Dulwich
    Rhymes With Orange and New Frames - Marylebone and Soho
    Snap - Bow

    Creased Cards - Brighton won Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer - Home Counties

    Finalists 2016
    Darwins - Olney and Northampton
    The Gorgeous Gift and Card Company - Biggleswade
    Paddock Wood Cards - Paddock Wood
    Quirk - Brighton
    Really Fab Cards - Eton

    Dzodzo - Woodbridge won Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer - East Anglia

    Finalists 2016
    Cards R Us - South Woodham Ferrers
    Just Cards and Abigail’s - Norwich, Sheringham and Dereham
    The Osokosi Gallery - Holt
    Sincerely Yours - Shenfield
    Spots - Southwold

    Romantica - Bristol won Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer - South West

    Finalists 2016Romantica - The Retas Awards 2016
    Cilla & Camilla - Bridport and Beaminster
    Country House Gift Company - Winscombe
    Jane Armour Trading - Taunton
    Lorelei - Truro
    Saltash Cards - Saltash

    Celtic Cards & Gifts - Welshpool won Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer - Wales and the Midlands

    Finalists 2016
    Crown Cards - Matlock and Rowsley
    Daisy Daisy - Cardiff
    Doodlebug - Cwmbran
    Halls - Llandaff
    The Tutbury Present Company - Tutbury

    Love Letters - Hull won Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer - North and Northern Ireland

    Finalists 2016Love Letters - The Retas Awards 2016
    Butterfly Kisses - Harrogate
    Cool! Cards and Gifts - Skipton
    Design@Six - Wetherby
    Greetings of Haxby - York
    Hallmark Reflections - Nantwich and Rugeley

    Present Boutique - Edinburgh won Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer - Scotland

    Finalists 2016
    Best Wishes - Ellon
    Cloudy Blue - Aberdeen
    Papyrus - Glasgow
    Polka Dot - Dumfries
    Quirky Coo Edinburgh - Dundee

    Hallmark Celebrate - Chigwell won Best Greeting Card Retailer Newcomer Or New Branch – South

    Finalists 2016
    The Card Shop - Portishead
    Card Stop - Bletchley
    Castle Card Gallery - Chepstow
    Memories - Twickenham
    Sweet Autumn - Buckingham

    Little Paperie - Ashbourne won Best Greeting Card Retailer Newcomer Or New Branch – North

    Finalists 2016
    Best Wishes - Lower Gornal
    Cariad Cards & Gifts - Denbigh
    Forget Me Not - Crosshills
    Joy! - Heswall
    Occasions - Thirsk

    Holman’s Bookshop - Whitby won Best Independent Bookstore Retailer of Greeting Cards

    Finalists 2016
    Barnes Bookshop - Barnes, Kew and East Sheen
    Gerrards Cross Bookshop - Gerrards Cross
    One Tree Books - Petersfield
    Review - Peckham
    Walkers - Oakham and Stamford

    Gallery 339 - Halifax won Best Non-Specialist Independent Retailer of Greeting Cards - North

    Finalists 2016Gallery 339 and Little Papery - The Retas Awards 2016
    Armadillo - Kings Heath
    Boroughbridge Post Office - Boroughbridge
    Dalesway Gallery - Ilkley
    Ivad Gifts - Paisley
    Marmalade Meringue - Hinckley

    Natsons - Barnes won Best Non-Specialist Independent Retailer of Greeting Cards - South

    Finalists 2016
    AG Flowers - Nunhead
    1st Stop Stationers - Reigate
    Hatch End Post Office - Hatch End
    The Loft - Teddington
    Utility - London and Liverpool

    Hallmark Thorntons/K&Q Trading won Best Greeting Card Small Multiple (4-20 Branches)

    Finalists 2016
    Bentleys – 4 stores in the Midlands
    Between The Lines - 12 stores in the south-east
    Maythers - seven stores in the south
    Occasions Cards & Gifts/M&P Cards - 16 stores nationwide
    Smart Ideas - 8 stores in the Midlands

    Bentalls - Kingston won Best Department Store Retailer of Greeting Cards

    Finalists 2016Dragonfly Cards and Jakki Brown at The Retas 2016
    Bratts - Northwich
    Browns - York
    Fenwick - Brent Cross
    Fortnum & Mason - London
    Liberty - London

    Sainsbury's won Best Supermarket Retailer of Greeting Cards

    Finalists 2016
    Asda
    Booths
    Morrisons
    Tesco
    Waitrose

    Waterstones - won Best Non-Specialist Multiple Retailer of Greeting Cards (4+ branches)

    Finalists 2016
    Marks & Spencer - 852 stores nationwide
    National Trust - 200+ stores nationwide
    Oliver Bonas - 54 stores nationwide
    Poundland - 700+ stores nationwide
    WH Smiths - 600+ stores nationwide

    Card Factory won Best Specialist Multiple Retailer of Greeting Cards (20+ branches)

    Finalists 2016
    Cards Galore
    Cardzone
    Clintons
    Paperchase
    Scribbler

    Beckworth Emporium - Mears Ashby won Best Garden Centre Retailer of Greeting Cards

    Finalists 2016
    British Garden Centres - 10 branches nationwide
    Garsons - Esher
    Klondyke/Strikes - 24 branches nationwide
    Longacres - Bagshot
    Webbs Of Wychbold - Droitwich Spa

    Dragonfly Cards & Gifts, Knaresborough won Best Greeting Card Retailer Initiative for its 10th Anniversary campaign

    Finalists 2016
    Early Bird, Stoke Newington, London - for its Thinking of you Week activity
    House of Cards, Home Counties - for its charity fundraising for Child Autism UK
    Mantons, Isle of Man - for its Small Business Saturday initiative
    Paperchase - for its On The Cards initiative
    Postmark, three shops in London - for its Millionth Customer celebrations

    Budget Greeting Cards won Best Greeting Card Wholesaler

    Finalists 2016
    Archway Cards - Norwich
    CAPS - Bury
    Crosswear Trading - Enfield
    Greetings House - Walsall
    Paul White - Leeds and Manchester

    Now in their twelfth year, The Retas Awards are established in recognition of the tremendous contribution that retailers - both large and small - make to the success of the greeting card industry. Launched by Progressive Greetings magazine in 2005, The Retas Awards recognise and celebrate not only the top independent and multiple greeting card retailers regionally and nationally, but also the new generation of retailers as well as employees of outstanding excellence.

    This year the Retas Awards, the ‘Oscars’ of greeting card retailing, was held at at a Moon and Stars themed luncheon at at The Dorchester Hotel on Wednesday 13th July, where the 2016 Retas winners were announced by comedian Tim Fitzhigham. Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists!

    Click here to see previous winners of The Retas Awards
    To visit the Retas Awards Website click here
    Click here to request more information on Blue Eyed Sun

  • Valentines Cards 2017 from Blue Eyed Sun

    VintageToo Valentines - Blue Eyed SunBlue Eyed Sun have launched two new ranges of Valentines Cards for 2017. Valentine's Day falls on Tuesday 14th February 2017 and you can order from us right up until the last minute. Lines do sell out so don't leave it too late! Here's what's new for Valentine's Day 2017:

    Pictured at the top of this post is Blue Eyed Sun's Vintage Too Valentines range, based on original hand stitched artworks by textile artist Jo Corner. These gorgeous new Valentine's Day designs are 160mm square.

    Also available is their new Charming hand finished Valentine range. Charming are also 160mm square.

    Sold in sixes to trade buyers only, all of our new ranges of Valentines Day cards for 2017 are barcoded, cello-wrapped with a red envelope and blank inside. Our Valentines cards are all printed on FSC board from sustainable managed forests. There is still time to order these cards for your store and we have a large selection of designs online in the trade only section of our site.

    To stock these Valentines Cards in your shop click here. If you'd like to see them in your local shop please tell them and point them towards www.blueeyedsun.co.uk or you can recommend a shop to us by clicking here. You can also visit our stockists page to find a stockist near you.

    See our cards in person at Home and Gift - Stand DP5-58

    Click here to see our 2017 Mother's Day designs

  • What is ORS Network Thinking?

    What Is ORS?

    My ORS journey began in 2009 when I started experimenting with social media and bought several books on the subject, one of which was by an entrepreneur called Penny Power (called Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me). Penny and her husband Thomas Power founded one of the first social networks for businesses in 1998. Called Ecademy.com, it built a sizable number of users in the UK and was a forerunner to LinkedIn, which was recently purchased by Microsoft for $28 billion.

    Penny’s book led me to the video below of Thomas talking about a concept called ORS or network thinking and the shift that organisations and businesses have to make to achieve success online using social media. ORS appealed to me and I thought that Thomas was onto something recognising the shift from institutional thinking to network thinking online.

    I also think that ORS thinking is natural for so many people in the card and gift industries, particularly for newcomers and millennials.  If you don’t fit into these categories it’s worth paying attention because it’s these new ways of thinking that are disrupting business models around the world.

    After meeting Thomas at the Sage Summit in New Orleans for the first time last year we have become friends and he was gracious enough to accept my invitation to speak at the Giftware Association’s Members Day, at which I recently became Vice-Chairman of the GA. I introduced ORS to the GA two to three years ago and we are currently using it as part of our strategy to modernise the organisation.

    What is ORS?

    The shift from institutional thinking to network thinking is marked by the shift from Closed, Selective, Controlling thinking (CSC) to Open, Random, Supportive thinking (ORS).

    Sitting at board level, Thomas noticed that organisations operated in a closed, selective and controlling way where directors are responsible for corporate governance and to their shareholders. In institutions you have to operate behind closed doors to protect the organisation, you have to be selective about what you absorb and how you communicate and you have to be controlling of everything. This is driven by the demands of public policy, shareholders, staff and the law. It’s institutional thinking or CSC.

    This is very different from how we operate inside of networks where we need to be open, random and supportive (ORS). You have to be open and accept everything that comes at you, you have to be random and accept the disorder that things come at you and you have to be supportive of everyone around you. That’s networking thinking or ORS.

    Thomas believes that we are transitioning from institutional thinking to network thinking this century. Having undertaken this journey himself he reckons it takes around ten years to adjust. He’s even devised a tool where you can assess your digital personality type to see how easy or difficult it might be for you to make this change. You can try it for free at: www.ima-digital.com

    Why ORS?

    As social beings we all know the benefits of having a good network of friends and acquaintances. Interestingly, studies have shown the benefits to be more powerful in the secondary network than those closest to us. That new job offer or business opportunity is more likely to come from a friend of a friend than one of your buddies for example.

    In the 1990’s British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. Dunbar’s Number proposes that on average most of us can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships with our current brain size (the number lies in a range from 100 to 250). This is the average number of people we know on and keep social contact with. It doesn’t include those we have ceased a social relationship with or that we know but lack a persistent social relationship with. The bigger our long term memory size the higher the number is likely to be. Assuming Dunbar’s number to be correct and assuming that we appear once in our close friends’ networks then the average maximum number for most of our secondary networks is 22,350 (150x149).

    With social media and other forms of communication this number can be much higher. In a nutshell you can maintain more active relationships than before and from there more secondary relationships and opportunities open up. In order to do this successfully we have to build trust. To do this quickly and effectively we have to be open, random and supportive.

    The Fear of ORS

    Thomas trains board level executives in how to use social media effectively and, as he himself knows from experience, it’s not an easy journey to make. Even though I regularly practice being random and supportive for me it is a continuing challenge to be more open.

    That’s because being more open can make us feel more vulnerable.  Being vulnerable is often perceived as weakness (particularly in the board room). Yet it is our vulnerability that is our strength. Through it people can see us for who we really are and begin to trust us. As TED speaker Brené Brown says:

    “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage...  The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you it’s courage. In me it’s weakness.”

    The fear we have of being ORS is that people will confirm the terrible idea which we may have about ourselves that we are somehow not worthy of connecting with. In its darkest manifestation it’s a fear that we are not really loved or loveable.

    The one thing that keeps us from connecting with one another is our fear that we are not worthy. It seems easier to protect ourselves by being closed, selective and controlling.

    ORS is really about looking within and challenging this fear. We must be courageous enough to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart. We must recognise that we are imperfect and let go of our illusions (or delusions if you prefer) of control.

    If you consider your feelings for a moment,we cannot live a full life keeping by treating them in a closed, selective and controlling way. You cannot numb these feelings. If you try to numb pain you numb joy.  If vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity and love then you can only really spread this through an ORS approach and it’s practically impossible to do so by being CSC.

    The Change

    We see ORS more and more online these days. The CEO that admits to the failings of their business publically and sets out how they will change to try and prevent these things occurring again is the one we trust over those that try and cover or hide their mistakes. There are business leaders that support new start-ups and the TV personalities that talk openly to random fans directly on Twitter.

    The truth is, in the new world of social media we are already naked and bare before the world whether we like it or not. Even if you personally aren’t online there are people online talking about you or wanting to engage with you (Just take a look on TripAdvisor). We can no longer hide, even if we want to. We have to be courageous and unafraid. We have to step up online and have courage.

    The companies that aren’t afraid to make mistakes, ask for feedback, listen to us (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant our questions) are the ones that are thriving and growing. These are the businesses we all want to buy from. These are the companies that millennials are drawn to.

    It’s important to qualify that not everything has to be online or open. We don’t necessarily post all of our trade secrets, accounts or patents online (although this has been happening in some industries – think of open source projects like Linux and Wikipedia).

    For my own part, writing this monthly column in Progressive Greetings magazine and this blog where I explore my failures and challenges publically has been a big part of my ongoing ORS journey. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

    9 Tips for Social Selling using Social Media

    Learn the importance of being authentic online

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  • Blue Eyed Sun meets the Start Up Van

    Blue Eyed Sun Meets The Start Up Van

    Thanks to my friends at Sage, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Graham Hussey and Mark McDonagh from The Start Up Van at their pop up shop in Shoreditch, London. The Start Up Van helps some of the most talented, fun and influential people in the start up community to tell their story. They have quickly amassed over thousands of followers on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook and are worth following if you love business and start ups.

    The interview was filmed in two sections. In the first short clip below I share the Blue Eyed Sun story. Watch it to hear how we set up our greeting card publishing business, how the business has changed over the years, what's next for Blue Eyed Sun and how we contribute to our industry through The Ladder Club and our involvement with the GCA and the GA.

    We also touch on the Looking Back from Perfect exercise which I will be sharing with  delegates at this year's Sage Summit in one of two talks I am giving in Chicago this July. The Start Up Van guys will also be there and I'm looking forward to catching up with them again soon.

    Click on the play button on the image below to watch the first clip:

    The second clip below is the Start Up Van's quick fire round where the Graham and Mark ask some fun short questions including: what valuable lesson we could teach start ups, which three people I'd have dinner with, what's been our hardest day running Blue Eyed Sun, what I love most about what we do, what musician inspires us, what's the biggest thing that's happened to us, what is our biggest regret and what motivates us.

    There's a funny moment where I completely embarrass myself answering one particular question that makes this one especially worth watching:

    Details of Jeremy Corner's Sessions at Sage Summit 2016 in Chicago

    12 Business Lessons I learned at last year's Sage Summit

    9 Tips for Social Selling that I learned at Sage Summit

    Visit The Start Up Van Website

  • Home and Gift 2016 - Essential Information

    Home And Gift 2016 - Essential InfoBlue Eyed Sun will soon be exhibiting at the Home and Gift trade show in the new DP5 Marquee by the Majestic. Officially launching at this well loved show are additions to our beautiful new 2017 Spring Seasons designs along with our new best selling ranges Vintage Too, Fleur, Alchemy, Tahiti and Crochet Critters so be sure to stop by and see us.

    Quote Voucher code HG16 when ordering during the show (online or offline) for FREE CARRIAGE.

    About Home and Gift 2016

    This annual trade show is a highlight on buyers' calendars for it's relaxed Summery atmosphere and great range of products on offer in the run up to Christmas. It runs for four days from Sunday 17th July to Wednesday 20th July from 09:00 - 18:00 at the Harrogate International Centre. It really is a pleasure doing business at this show, so don't miss it!

    To register for Home and Gift please click here.

    Where to Stay at Home and Gift 2016

    The closest hotels to the show are the Holiday InnTravel LodgePremier Inn and The Old Swan a short walk away with prices from £55-£150. However as the show opens next week they seem to be fully booked now. You can search a List of Hotels in Harrogate by clicking here. A good tip if you can't find a room is to stay in York, a short train ride away.

    Where to Eat at Home and Gift 2016

    Harrogate has many wonderful restaurants and cafes including the world famous Betty's Tea Rooms. We've sampled lots of them over the years and have short listed some of our favourites for you to try below:

    4 Great Restaurants near the Harrogate International Centre

    How to get to Home and Gift 2016

    The roads into Harrogate can get very congested so allow plenty of time if you are coming by car. The Harrogate International Centre post code is HG1 5IA and there are 400 car spaces on site with a daily cost of £13. These spaces get pretty full so you may like to use the park and ride scheme running from the Great Yorkshire Showground on the A61 (Post code HG1 5IA).  All parking will be available on a concrete surface, which will be safe for use for any visitors.

    Trains run every half hour from Leeds and every hour from York. There is a free shuttle bus from Harrogate train station to the show. You can fly to Leeds Bradford airport (20 minute drive from the show). Buses go every 90 minutes and take half an hour.

    For more information on travel for the show click here.

    How to find Design Point 5 at Home and Gift

    When you get to Harrogate do remember to come and see us in the new card marquee by the Majestic DP 5 - Stand 58.

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

    Home And Gift 2016 - Map


    View Larger Map

  • The EU Referendum - In or Out?

    EU Referendum - In Or OutOn Thursday 23rd June 2016 Britain’s electorate will vote in the EU referendum to decide whether or not we should remain in the European Union. The Union has long held a fascination for me, ever since I designed and patented an EU board game at school. At university I spent an exchange year in Amsterdam thanks to the ERASMUS scheme and, currently, Blue Eyed Sun is selling more and more greeting cards in Europe.

    A common complaint amongst business owners is that we don’t have enough information about the EU Referendum (aka Brexit) to make an informed decision. If you think about it, we can never have enough information. The data for any given situation is infinite. So, despite our best efforts, we could end up making a snap judgment based on emotions like fear (of the unknown or of missing out) or anger (at the idea of losing control or at being taken advantage of). If it works out alright we will forget the external variables that affected this and pat ourselves on the back even though it has very little to do with our conscious intent or control.

    Despite this seemingly frivolous outlook on how we make decisions, I’ve been brushing up on my history and weighing up the pros and cons of Britain’s EU membership to try and rationalise my thoughts. Here’s what I’ve learned:

    A Brief History

    The European Union is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries. Created post WWII, the thinking was that countries that foster economic cooperation together are less likely to go to war. After the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the EU created its own currency (The Euro), which is used by 19 members. The EU has a parliament to which member governments assign representatives. It sets rules on things like the environment, transport, consumer rights and human rights. The single market facilitates free movement of goods, services, capital and workers.

    Despite Churchill’s supporting of the idea of the EU, Britain initially stood on the sidelines at the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 held back by commitments to the commonwealth and the ‘special relationship’ with the US. Britain was one of few European economies that grew during the war. At the time, GDP per capita in the UK was significantly larger that the average six founding members of the EU; however by 1973 it had plummeted to 10% below average.

    After being twice rejected in the sixties (French President, Charles de Gaulle, was unconvinced of Britain’s commitment), Britain joined the EU in 1973 under Ted Heath’s Conservative government, desperate to prevent further relative economic decline. Harold Wilson’s Labour government held a referendum in 1975 when 67% voted to stay in the EU. After joining the EU our GDP per capita has been comparatively stable ever since.

    Should we remain, David Cameron has negotiated terms that mean that Britain will not join the Euro, migrant welfare payments will be cut, the City of London will be protected, British cash spent on bailing out Eurozone nations will be reimbursed and a ‘red card’ system will be implemented to prevent the EU imposing unwanted legislation.

    The Debate

    Whilst a lot of detail will be affected by the outcome of the referendum, broadly speaking the debate centres around two main areas, our sovereignty and financial implications.

    Sovereignty

    The right to control our own destiny is one of the lynchpins of the leave campaign. In my opinion, this control is somewhat of an illusion, as is the notion of a separate Great Britain. If you think about it, we are already European. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’.

    St George, our patron saint, was a Roman soldier born in Cappadocia, Turkey. English is Latin based and we were essentially under the moral authority of the Pope for centuries until the Reformation. Previously, Britain has been controlled by the Saxons (Germany/Denmark/Holland), the Normans (France/Scandinavia), the Vikings (Denmark/Norway/Sweden) and the Romans (Italy). For centuries French was the language of our Royal Court, diplomacy and the law. Several Royals have been German (Namely Hannover and Windsor - previously Saxe-Coburg). Immigration and the flow of people and ideas has always been an integral part of what Britain is.

    The flow goes both ways. Over a million Britons live in other EU countries and millions more visit each year. EU citizens can live and work were they like within the EU. Those voting to stay say that there is no guarantee that expats would be able to stay abroad after Brexit. The opposition say that International law protects expats from being forced to return.

    The issue of sovereignty is essentially about control. Leavers say that most UK laws are made in Brussels, whilst those that wish to remain say that only a minority of UK law derives directly from the EU; plus Britain retains a veto in many important areas. In any case, some sharing of sovereignty is crucial to enable fair trade across Europe.

    Britain is already a member of, and influenced by, a variety of external bodies including the International Monetary Fund, World Health Organisation, United Nations, NATO and G8. The toxic Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), banks and corporations arguably all have more powerful control over our lives than the EU.

    Financial

    About half of the UK’s trade is conducted in the EU. As members, trade negotiations with other parts of the world are conducted by the EU not individual states. Being part of the EU gives the group more negotiating power on a global scale. US President Barack Obama said as much in a recent interview.

    Those wanting to leave say that the EU bureaucracy costs Britain too much. For example, last year my friend Gemma Price at Superfood Market had to spend over £40,000 on new labelling to comply with EU changes. At a recent Sage EU Debate I attended, MP Anna Soubry asked the 100 business people there if their business had been affected by EU red tape and not one raised their hand. Certainly we are unaffected by this bureaucracy in the greeting card business.

    Those who believe we should leave the EU say that £billions of pounds would become available for other priorities. It is hard to know the true cost of leaving though. Some estimate this could also be in the £billions.

    Those wishing to remain feel that we save money being in the EU because prices are lower as a result. Flights and mobile phone charges, for example, are cheaper. They say the benefits easily outweigh the costs and that we might even have to pay to access the EU market if we left.

    Leavers say that trade would continue because we import more than we export from Europe. They cite non-member, Norway, as an example of how trade deals would work outside of membership. On the Remain side, it’s felt that leaving would cause an economic shock and slow our growth. We are more dependent on the EU than they are on us and we would still have to comply with EU rules when selling into the single market – my friend Gemma would still need the right labels if she wished to sell into the EU.

    The Leavers are concerned that unemployment is over 10% in the EU (almost double that of the UK) and worry that more people will flow into the UK putting financial strain on our healthcare and welfare systems. The UK currently gets £66 million for investment every day from the EU. Three million UK jobs are said to be linked to the EU.

    The Card Industry

    Blue Eyed Sun trades in Europe with EU members and without. Having less paperwork and less currencies to exchange saves us money. One of our best BES team members is from Spain and we’d hate to lose her. To be honest though, I’m sure we would cope whatever the outcome of the vote. It would be a problem if leaving badly affected our relations with our European neighbours.

    The diaspora of Brits abroad probably has a more important effect on the European greeting card market than we can quantify. For example, last year Blue Eyed Sun sold over 50,000 cards in Greece and I believe this is largely due to British influence. With more Brits abroad, more countries are adopting our practices. Would this diminish if we left the EU and had less flow of people between Europe and the UK? Whatever we decide, the EU Referendum is one of the biggest decisions our country has had two make in many years.

    Personally, I like being part of the EU. It protects our Human Rights. We have cleaner water and air and lower greenhouse emissions. The EU protects consumers and regulates on trading standards. We currently have a seat at the table with influence instead of being on the outside. I also like that the EU aims to stimulate competition and trade, increase efficiency, raise quality and cut prices. This makes good business sense to me.

    Register to watch the live #SageDebateEU Monday 13th June at 13:00 GMT

    Click here for the Government's Referendum website

    All you need to know about Brexit from the BBC

  • The Greats Awards 2016 Winners and Finalists

    The Greats Awards 2016

    Congratulations to all of the finalists and winners of the Greats Awards 2016 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 2016 Winners are:

    The Honourary Achievement Award went to Andrew Illingworth from Widdop & Co.

    Marina McManus, shop manager, Liquorice Tree, Edinburgh Airport is Retail Employee of the Year

    Finalists
    Lynsey Bolton. department manager, Cliftons, Lytham
    Shelly Frost, sales assistant, The Country House Gift Co
    Leah Grimes, sales assistant, Hallmark Celebrate, Chigwell
    Georgia Perkin, assistant manager, The Inside Man, London

    MAP Gift Shop, Archway won Independent Gift Retailer of the Year - London (inside M25):

    FinalistsThe Greats Awards 2016 - Map Gift Shop
    All Good Gifts, Battersea
    In Spitalfields, Spitalfields
    Rumbles, Ealing
    SMUG, Islington
    The Indigo Tree, Streatham

    MiMi, Hartley Witney won for Home Counties, South and S East

    Finalists
    One Forty, Cranleigh
    Box of Delights, Flitwick
    Dragonfly, Cheam
    Pussy Home Boutique, Brighton
    Something Special, Edenbridge

    Hyde + Seek, Exeter won Independent Gift Retailer of the Year - South West

    Finalists
    Bentleys, Stourpourt on Severn
    The Cedars, Bourton on Water
    The Country House Gift Co, Winscombe
    The Emporium, Devizes
    Just Delights, Penryn

    Feathering Your Nest, Rayleigh won Independent Gift Retailer of the Year - East Anglia

    FinalistsThe Greats Awards 2016 - Marmalade Meringue
    Gifted, Norwich and Cambridge
    Horizon Gifts, Hunstanton
    Osokozi Gallery, Holt
    Quest Gifts, Holt
    The Java Store, Norwich

    Set Design, Leicester won Independent  - Midlands and Wales

    Finalists
    Hamptons, Penarth
    Marmalade Meringue, Hinckley
    Narborough Hall, Narborough
    Selections, Port Talbort
    Skinny Whistle, Quorn

    The Bottom Drawer, Portadown won Independent  - North and Northern Ireland
    Finalists
    Libby's Chesterfield
    Oklahoma, Manchester
    Peppermint Pig, Clekheaton
    Saffrons of York and Little Saffrons, York
    The Imaginarium, York

    Maia Gifts, Glasgow won Independent Gift Retailer of the Year - Scotland

    FinalistsThe Greats Awards 2016 - Love Aroma Store
    Bijou, Elgin
    Cloudberry, Edinburgh
    Liquorice Tree, Edinburgh and Glasgow
    Papyrus, Glasgow
    Spirito, Glasgow

    We Built This City, London won Best Gift Retailer - Newcomer South and Wales

    Finalists
    All About Rose, Great Missenden
    Bibi's Home, Weymouth
    Coast & Country Interiors, Bude
    Panache, Yeovil, Taunton and Lyme Regis
    The Bump Company, Southampton

    Lily Blue Gifts, Hagley won Best Gift Retailer - Newcomer North, Midlands and Scotland

    FinalistsThe Greats Award 2016 - Lily Blue
    Embrace, Strathpeffer
    Penny and Black, Lundin Links
    Quirky Coo, Dundee
    Saffrons of Northallerton
    Serendipity House, Kirkham

    Love Aroma won Best Specialist Multiple Gift Retailer

    Finalists
    Between the Lines (12 stores)
    Menkind (40+ stores)
    Sass & Belle (5 stores)
    Time & Tide (6 stores)
    Utility (4 stores)

    Debenhams, Oxford Street won Best Department Store Retailer of Gifts

    Finalists
    Barretts of St Neots
    Bengalis of Kingston
    Fenwick of Brent Cross
    John Lewis
    Jarrolds, Norwich

    Robert & Ruby, Helmsley won Best Non Specialist Retailer of Gifts

    FinalistsThe Greats Awards 2016 - Robert and Ruby
    The Bristol Guild of Applied Arts, Bath
    Brodie Countryfare, Brodie by Forres
    Paperchase
    Potters of Hockley
    Zing Furniture, Willington

    Time & Tide won Best Gifts Lifestyle and Homewares (interiors)

    Finalists
    About Living (3 stores)
    Oliver Bonas (multiple)
    Orange Tree, Topsham
    The Old School Beauly, Beauly
    Love Thy Interiors, Thirsk

    The Herbary, Troon won Best Gift Retailer of Jewellery

    Finalists
    Celtic Company, Welshpool
    Harvey Willis, Glenrothes
    Macmillan of Penwortham
    Ruby Red, Milngavie
    Stacks, Wirral

    New Hopetoun Garden Centre, Broxburn won Best Garden Centre Retailer of Gifts
    Finalists
    Manchester Garden Centre, Durham
    Thetford Garden Centre, Thetford
    Whitehall Garden Centre, Lacock
    Van Hage, Ampel
    Redfields Garden Centre, Crookham

    Imperial War Museum Gift Shop, London won Best Visitor Attraction Gift Shop

    Finalists
    Chester Zoo, Islands Gift Shop
    Longleat Safari Park, Longleat
    Science Museum Gift Shop, London
    St Michael's Mount, Marazian
    Waddesdon Manor Gift Shop, Aylesbury

    Retro36, Scarborough won Best Retail DisplayThe Greats Awards 2016 - Retro36

    Finalists
    The Bottom Drawer, Portadown
    Gardenarium, East Molesley
    MAP Gift Shop, London
    Olive Tree, Wolverhampton
    Orange Tree, Topsham

    Gifts from Handpicked won Best Online Gift Retailer, to include Mail Order

    Finalists
    Firebox
    Handpicked Gifts
    JD Williams
    Love Aroma
    The Inside Man

    Spirito, Glasgow won Best Retailer Initiative for its jewellery initiative.

    Finalists:
    Loch Levens Larder, Loch Leven - For its SBS Campaign
    Cantons, Port Erin - for its SBS campaign
    Narborough Hall, Narborough - For its Pay it Forward Day
    Oliver Bonas for its Innocent Big Knit for Age UK initiative
    The Old School Beauly for its Mrs Old School blog

    Winners of Best Service to the Independent Retailer

    Widdop & Co won GoldThe Greats Award 2016 - Widdop & Co
    Joe Davis won Silver
    Ashleigh & Burwood won Bronze

    Finalists 2015 (in alphabetical order)
    Enesco
    Expressions 4 U
    Gisela Graham
    Lesser & Pavey
    Really Good
    RJB Stone
    Yankee Candle

    Now in their fourteenth 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 2016 was held on Thursday 5th May at The Savoy in London celebrating their 14th anniversary of The Greats with a special themed event which included and cocktail reception, lunch, awards and entertainment.

    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 May 11th at 3pm at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Contact Ian Hyder through the PG Live website for details www.progressivegreetingslive.com

    See previous winners of the Greats Awards
    Visit the Greats Awards Website
    Click here to request more information on Blue Eyed Sun

  • Freedom from Standard Thinking

    Freedom From Standard ThinkingNew publishers often ask me for business advice and a common phrase used is, “what is standard” in this or that situation in our industry. The implication being that there are set rules or procedures in any given business dealings.

    Of course there is etiquette in business and there are common practices in the card industry, but I always bristle at the use of the word “standard.” You see, when people ask in this way, what they don't seem to realise is that my authority is their authority. That is to say that they are the ones accepting my authority as some external objective truth, which it is not.

    The person asking the question is not necessarily choosing to think carefully about what is right for them or right for their customer in their situation and is instead wanting to be told what to do. Like asking a teacher or a parent for permission. What can follow is a lack of responsibility and the insidious abandonment of innovation and creativity.

    If we follow patterns and reduce things to ‘standard’ our products and processes become standard and our means of distribution become standard. As a result things can start to suffer.

    Take, for example, a recent conversation I had with a very successful and experienced retailer friend of mine about how to design the ultimate, best selling selection of greeting cards. He had a similar discussion with another publisher / broker who had dismissed his ideas because the cards wouldn't fit into the control system they had for displaying the cards. You read that right, “sorry, we can't design the ultimate selection of best selling greeting cards because they won't fit into our display system!” Do you see how our quest for what is standard can lead us down the path to mediocrity?

    To my mind this is even worse if we think not only of the money that could be made designing such a selection of best selling cards, but also of what the world wants and needs. This collection of cards could be improving the way that people connect and communicate with one another. It could be touching hearts and changing lives. Yet it isn’t, because the standardised racks won't accept some of these new ideas. These cards may have already been created and exist in the world at this very moment, yet they will be rejected by the buyers or brokers based on the display systems rather than how the end users of the cards feel about them. The brokers themselves or the buyers can divest themselves of authority by handing it over to their systems. Some teeth sucking and… “Oooh, we can't do that. It’s not our fault, it just doesn't fit with our systems.”

    You can see also how this problem regularly affects the wider world outside our industry where people are often resistant to change because “that’s just not how we do things around here” or “nobody else does it that way / everybody does it a different way.” Both of these examples are people divesting themselves of responsibility and leaving it instead to the status quo. They are not necessarily stepping back and thinking what is best for them and their customers in this era. Because, of course, times change and what was once the way things were done has now been superseded by better methods. In fact, times are changing faster than ever. I read recently that the first ten years of this century saw more technological advancements than the entire previous century and the last six years or so have seen more than the previous ten.

    Disruptive businesses are challenging how we do things across the planet: Tesla are redefining the car industry, Uber changing how we use taxis, AirBnB where we stay when we travel, YouTube how we watch TV, WhatsApp with how we communicate and Facebook with how we consume media and share stories. Whilst a lot of the disrupters are about saving money or time or both, it’s not all about what is cheapest. Despite these changes we still love to buy and share beautiful things. Not on the High Street and Etsy have been big drivers on the internet of this trend. We see it in the ever growing popularity of artisan food products and designer-maker gifts and cards.

    So we cannot sit still. We cannot keep doing things the way we have always done them. We need to challenge ourselves and redefine things constantly experimenting with new creative ideas and being prepared to fail. If we publish cards we have to explore new techniques and think carefully about what cards we like to buy and send in order to learn what works for people who still love to buy and send cards. We have to get to know our customers well and never stop asking them questions about what works well for them and what doesn’t.

    If we retail then we also need to know our customers. What sells well in our stores and why? What will surprise and delight? When buying new ranges the simplest question to ask is ‘would my customers buy this?’ If you’re not sure, would you buy it? Who would you send it to and why? Does the price seem reasonable? Price scales in relation to the former questions btw. If the designs are beautiful, different or you would love to send the card then it’s worth paying more for. It’s good to keep testing price brackets with products so that you don’t get stuck in a belief system that stops you growing your sales and profits (Eg. “My customers never spend more than £3 on a card.” Never say never). We also need to feedback to our suppliers so they can continue to improve our options.

    If we are in the supply chain we have to understand the needs of our publishers and retailers. We have to adapt and create new techniques and innovations for stock control. We have to stay mindful of the environment and support the use of ethical materials and print.

    If we are brokers we have to remember that every card needs to be judged on it’s own merit. Is this a card that people will want to buy? The greeting card should drive the planning, not the the other way around.

    We all have to innovate with ways we run our businesses and work with our staff, our customers and suppliers. We have to be prepared to experiment regularly and make mistakes. We need to think carefully about cards and our industry. We have to support new initiatives like Festive Friday and Thinking of You Week to keep banging the drums about how great it is to send and receive greeting cards.  We must continue to share stories of how important they are for maintaining that sense of connection with one another in the world, in a way that is still profoundly relevant in our digital age.

    I'm a huge fan of how systems have streamlined our business processes, but we have to be mindful that they do not become the tail that wags the proverbial dog. The systems need to have flexibility in what is essentially a creative business. We are not selling and distributing uniform fast moving consumer goods like cans of coke. Our systems need to be adaptable because there are a multiplicity of card buying consumers out there with a huge range of experiences and desires.

    It's so easy to talk ourselves out of taking risk and offering something fresh to the world because of what we think is standard rather than following our hearts or testing. Nature is always testing and trying things to see what works and then following its success with more of the same. Not enough to eat on the ground? Grow a longer neck to reach the juiciest buds on the trees. Food still scarce? Then grow a water storage system on your back to traverse large sections of the desert in the quest for another oasis of water.

    Whilst we have a need for certainty through things like systems and standardisation it is actually our need for variety that makes living so much fun. More importantly, as we see in nature, variety is essential for survival.

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