Blue Eyed Sun

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6 ways to track Gift, Stationery and Greeting Card Trends

The UK card market is world leading and acknowledged to be up to 10 years ahead of other greeting card markets. Being aware of trends in the card and gift sector can help your shop stand out from the crowd and drive customers to your door. I'm not just talking about trends where leopard print or certain colours might be in fashion, although it useful to adopt these in your marketing and shop design each season. What we all need to be aware of are trends in products that are selling well or are about to sell well in our market place.

Whenever I speak or write about trends in the card and gift industry, I'm often struck by how they make sense in wider sociological, economic and political situations we find ourselves in. Experienced marketeers can tune into this and almost feel what might come next. If you don't have time to pay attention to these things yourself you can always take the following short cuts.

Here are six useful ways retailers track trends in our market:


1. Trade Magazines

The editors of the major trade magazines often write on trends in the marketplaces they cover. Magazines like Progressive Gifts and Progressive Greetings by Max Publishing both have What's Hot sections where retailers list out best selling products and top suppliers in different categories. The companies that are doing well often advertise in them too, Gift Focus is a bi-monthly publication that adds their advertisers from their trade magazine to their online directory on their website. They also regularly write on trends in the gift industry. Greetings Today magazine and Gifts today by Lema Publishing have regular columnists like John Ryan and myself who comment on trends and retail issues. Greetings Today also sends out useful emails if you subscribe to their list. All of these magazines are now available to read online via the links in this section.

Trends at Trade Shows 2. Trade Fairs

Another good place to keep an eye on trends is at trade shows. You can pick up a visual clues by wandering the halls, reading the show guides and attending free seminars. Clarion Events organise the design led Top Drawer trade shows in London in January and September which are great for cutting edge design. They also organise Pulse in May and Home & Gift in Harrogate in July and have one on one surgeries where you can get advice from experts. i2i Events organise Spring Fair and Autumn Fair and are good at producing buyers guides and organising useful seminars on trends. They also have excellent websites that have great supplier listings with lots of images. There's even the specialist London International Card Show called PG Live held in London in May. You can see all of the shows Blue Eyed Sun attends by clicking here.

Trends At Awards 3. Trade Awards

Trade Awards tend to be judged by leading industry players and can give you a good indication of which products and suppliers are ones to watch. The Gift of the Year awards are organised by the Giftware Association and held at Spring Fair each year. Winners will often develop point of sale material that can help boost sales in your store. Here's a list of last Gift of the Year 2013 Winners and Finalists. For greeting cards, The Henries Awards are held in October each year and have an excellent cross section of leading publishers. Here's a list of the Henries Finalists 2013. It's also worth paying attention to retailers who win awards at The Retas for card shops and The Greats for gift shops. Check out the shops who are short listed to learn what has made their businesses successful. They often have a close eye on what trends sell well.

Trends via Trade Associations4. Trade Associations

The Giftware Association has been serving the gift and home industry since 1947 and is open to both supplier and retailer members. Retailers can benefit from discounts and special offers from supplier members at shows as well as various other benefits. They also have an excellent new directory show casing suppliers and an inspiring annual Members Day where you can learn from and network with industry pros. Members of associations tend to be more proactive with their businesses and pay closer attention to trends and products that sell. The Greeting Card Association is another great organisation that has a very good web directory of it's members.

Trends via Sales Agents5. Sales Agents and Reps

In many industries sales people are often regarded as focussing on their own interests to the point where customers have become wary of them. Blue Eyed Sun have had so many agents and reps (that are not our own) refer customers to us over the years that I really believe the card and gift sales folk to be different in this regard. For the most part they are genuinely focussed on helping their retail customers. It's worth grabbing a coffee with them and picking their brains on what's hot in the market place in addition to what their own best sellers are.

Trends via the Internet6. The Internet using Social Media and Blogs

I find tracking twitter activity at trade shows a great way of keeping up with what's going on in the market place. Social media can help with engaging with your customers and other retailers (who don't directly compete with you) to find out what trends are hot and what's selling well. Gifts and Greetings Review is an active trade blog that keeps you up to date with industry news and trends. I also like the Card and Gift Blog which regularly features up and coming card publishers. Print and Pattern is also worth keeping an eye on. So there you have it six ways to track gift, stationery and greeting cards trends: Trade magazines, trade shows, trade awards, trade associations, sales reps and the internet. Check out my other recent posts on trends and retailer buying habits below.

Read UK Greeting Card, Stationery and Gift Market Trends 2013.

Read How retailers are changing their approach to Buying