Blue Eyed Sun

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Card Industry News

  • Do Trade Shows Have a Future?

    Do Trade Shows Have a Future?

    Along with many other areas of our industry, trade shows took a hammering last year. There’s been speculation on some closing down, Pulse has merged into Top Drawer and others are shadows of their former selves.

    I’ve personally exhibited at over 100 shows and last year, on the back of a huge surge in interest in eco-friendly products, Blue Eyed Sun was seen with our BambooCups and greeting cards at ten trade shows in total. We had one of our most successful years ever and had several record breaking shows along with an incredible number of enquiries and new accounts. Unfortunately, it’s not been like this for everyone and, for many, the card market has not been without its challenges of late.

    The format of trade shows hasn’t been radically disrupted yet. Whilst there have been an increase in Meet the Buyer events organised by associations like the GCA (Greeting Card Association) and the GA (Giftware Association), the niche PG Live show is probably the closest we’ve seen to disruption so far. For all their faults, there are still some things about trade shows that work well, some things that don’t and some that are just plain ugly.

    The Good 

    There’s no substitute for face to face meetings for retailers to get a sense of a supplier and vice versa. A place where you can get your hands on the products and feel the quality of them. This has proved especially true for our launch of BambooCup, which feels so good to the touch. It’s always been true for our greeting cards too, which look way better in the flesh than in a brochure or online. 

    There’s also something very efficient about being able see lots of great product from a huge variety of suppliers in one place over one short period of time. Its useful for buyers and suppliers to be reassured that the people they are about to do business with are credible. You can get a lot of this through the subtle nuances of the behaviour of the people on the stand, how the products are displayed and how well it is attended by other buyers. If a company cares, it shows at shows.

    In fact, I’d go so far as to say that just being at shows is a big part of showing the marketplace how much suppliers care about their business, the industry and their customers. We all know what a lot of effort and expense they are and there’s a certain sense of commitment you get when you see publishers and suppliers regularly attending trade shows. Shows are also great for following trends, learning about the marketplace and networking in general.

    What I love most about shows is the chance to see lots of reactions in one go. To have hundreds of conversations about what we do well and what we do badly. This is hugely valuable marketing information that helps us get a sense of where to adapt and improve going forward. With the best agents and reps in the world you don’t always get the full picture without shows.

    It’s obviously incredibly exciting when you get it right and can feel completely demoralising when you get it wrong. That’s business for all of us thought, right? We don’t always get it right, but shows do make it easier to give us a better idea of what is going to work and what isn’t, whether we are suppliers or retailers.

    The Bad

    For retailers there’s lots of walking with many miles to cover, especially at large shows. For suppliers, there’s lots of standing, which can also be hard on the legs. It’s tough being in a quiet spot of a show or on a small stand that might get missed. If you’re an established player, it’s hard when retailers skip out on your stand to find new suppliers as they feel they can catch up with you or your sales agent another time.

    It’s also bad when your marketing doesn’t hit the spot or worse when you don’t market at all and rely on the show to bring the business to you. One thing I’ve learnt about doing shows is that they are always improved by a strong combination of direct mail, PR, advertising, calling our customers, social media posts and email marketing.

    Similarly for retailers, if you don’t do you homework and hunt through your mail, your emails, your trade mags and show websites you can miss new treasures. You can also miss out if you don’t know your best sellers and make a note of what stock you are low on in store. Being organised prior to visiting shows can make the world of difference to your bottom line.

    Then there’s the bad food. To be fair it’s not all shows that suffer from this. I love eating from the Crussh concession at Olympia and the lunch at PG Live is not to be sneezed at. It’s the NEC that still seems to struggle with it’s food offering, despite having tarted its restaurants up in recent times. Eating healthily and well at shows is always a challenge.

    The Ugly

    Horrible shows are kind of like bad days in a retail store. No one wants them, they sometimes just happen. Since I started exhibiting, we’ve been at shows immediately after 9/11, mad cow and foot and mouth outbreaks, halls being flooded, fires and even snow storms. As one would expect, they were all ugly. You can’t always control the outside world and yet, if you’re not in the game, you can’t expect to win. Like everything in business, you pays your money and takes your chances. That doesn’t stop the experiences being ugly from time to time.

    Sometimes it’s not out of your control. It’s just down to the way a market sector works. For example, we’ve never exhibited at Glee before with cards. That’s because most of the good independents go to other shows and a large section of that market is dominated by brokerage. This year, we thought we’d try it as BambooCup had been going very well in garden centres and gift products don’t tend to be brokered. 

    The result? My word it was ugly. An absolute stinker (our first time there and our worst ever trade show to date - in a year of record breakers). With hardly any visitors in our aisle we could tell it wasn’t going well on the first day. We tried to see if the organiser would include us in their daily email shot to salvage what we could of the show. No help from them. So two of our team sat it out over four long days doing what they could with what few visitors walked by. Boy do those days seem long when it’s quiet at a show.

    Fortunately our horrid experience at Glee was salvaged by our best ever Autumn Fair and a decent enough showing at Top Drawer Autumn (on at the same time).

    The Future

    If you’re going to do well at shows as a supplier you have to keep developing and launching new product. It’s the number one thing buyers ask for at shows. Everybody is always moving forward. Getting the newness right is a challenge and I think it’s best faced by trying lots of new things.

    Which is what Blue Eyed Sun is doing at Spring Fair 2019. We have a new larger stand at the front of Hall 4 where we will be showing off new greeting card ranges, new eco-friendly bamboo products from chic.mic and our exciting new handmade quilling and popup card ranges from Italian sensation Origamo, which include a fantastic range of Disney licensed products. We even have small new ranges of framed prints and table lamps on display.

    As for the shows, they have to keep focussed on what buyers and suppliers most need: Introducing high quality suppliers with great innovative product to leading retailers that can bring their new products to the high street. The key is to make sure this is done in as cost effective way for everyone as possible.

    As long as it remains important for people to meet in person and for great products, companies and people to meet in person trade shows that have the right offering for their customers will remain in business.

    Jeremy will be speaking on the Main Stage at Spring Fair on Sunday 3rd February at 13:15 on the Rise of the Ethical Consumer and adapting to the Growth of the Green Economy.

    Click here to find out more about Jeremy's talk at Spring Fair

    How to make the most of trade shows

    Are trade shows still worth it?

    See us at Spring Fair 2019

  • The Rise of Customer Experience in Retail

    The Rise of Customer Experience in Retail

    Last month I had an ‘experience.’ It was fun, exciting, inspiring and adventurous. It was sexy too and stimulated my imagination. It gave me everything I wanted and more. It opened my eyes to new possibilities. Before you ask, no, it wasn’t that. It was something quite different, although we I may blush a little when I share some of my customer experience in a retail store with you.

    As modern retail adapts and evolves, one key area of focus is the 'customer experience.’ John Lewis launched its tech incubator J-Lab to find new was of improving the experience of the in-store shopper as a way of retaining customers and drawing them in to spend more. Last year they trialled an after hours ‘private shopping’ service at their Cheltenham store, where anyone spending £10,000 or more could have the entire store to themselves. 

    My experience was slightly less glamorous, but totally unforgettable. It started on a day out in Camden, which I have not visited for many years. The area attract 28 million tourists a year and the labyrinth of shops and stalls is a retail experience in itself. Wandering around Camden Market and particularly the Stables Market with its ornate wooden doors and equine effigies was an adventure and full of interesting things to buy and eat. It started when a friend coaxed me through a shop entrance flanked by two giant metal robots, with a silver sign above the door that read Cyber Dog.

    Cyber Dog

    Greeting us with a friendly smile as we entered was a girl dressed in cyber goth attire that was a cross between Blade Runner and a Japanese manga creation. In fact most of the store assistants were spectacularly dressed and made up in bright neons, facial piercings, tattoos and futuristic haircuts. 

    The heavy bass of dance music reverberated throughout the store which looked like a spaceship with life size cyborgs and silver robots in cryogenic pods high up on the walls. At the far end of the ground floor an escalator took us down into the bowels of what felt more like a night club than a shop. 

    As we descended the beat got louder and the lighting darker. Everything was bathed in ultra violet light to show off the fluorescent garments and items available to purchase for your next big club night. At the far end of the cavernous underground space, with his booth up on stage and backlit by bright neon stripes, a DJ hunched over the decks with his headphones propped over one ear.

    The basement was made up of different caves to explore. It reminded me of nights out at the End or Fabric in London back in the day. It was fun being in this shop. Things got even more interesting as I scuttled nervously through the adult section and emerged the other side only to turn an even darker shade of crimson when I spotted a woman pole dancing on a small stage in the corner. It caught me by surprise. I grabbed the nearest item to me and headed for the tills. It turned out to be fluorescent yellow thong. “For a friend,” I gabbled at the assistant.

    I later discovered that there are other platforms in the shop where clubbers dressed in store gear are hired to dance above the customers. Aside from my dubious shopping choice, the experience was unlike anything I’d seen before - and this from someone who spent a year of his life partying I mean studying on exchange in Amsterdam.

    What impressed me most was that Cyber Dog understands what it is, understands its customers and goes all in on their commitment to provide them with a retail experience unlike any other. 

    Translating the Experience

    So what can we learn from this experience that can be used in other retail stores?

    Your High Street

    Councils and city planners can definitely do more to encourage fun shopping areas like Camden that are filled with independents, have atmosphere and draw tourists in. The Shambles in York and the North Laines in Brighton both attract bring shoppers from miles around for the experience. Encourage yours to do the same.

    You can work together with other local retailers to create events like the Christmas light experience in Holt or late shopping hours on certain occasions, like House of Cards and other retailers on St Mary’s Street in Wallingford do. 

    Window Displays

    Lights and window displays are a great experience for customers. Gorgeous Hair Boutique in Hove has the tiniest shop with the most incredible window displays. I’m sure customers love seeing them and talking about them. Christmas windows at Selfridges have attracted visitors for years. The next part of their experience is entering the shop.

    In Store

    What does it feel like for customers when they walk into your store? Are they greeted by a staff member at the door? How does the store look from where they are standing? What are the sights, sounds and smells? How do the staff appear? What are they wearing? Is it in keeping with your brand? Do they smile or are they on the phone or gossiping?

    Are there any demonstrations in store? You don’t have to have your team pole dancing in a corner to generate interest, there are plenty of other ideas you can put in place. Christmas gift wrapping classes, greeting card personalisation or even calligraphy demonstrations are a few I know of.

    What is the layout like for your shop? Are the shop fittings tired and worn out or are they inviting and enticing. One of the loveliest shop fits I’ve seen is Arrowsmiths in Broadstairs, where the owner was smart enough to keep the Victorian wooden glass cabinet displays fitted by the chemist that first opened the shop. You can put anything anywhere in that store and it looks good.

    The Oyster Gallery in Mumbles zones their two upstairs rooms by colour and the rooms are laid out like dining rooms filled with products. Organising the colours like this helps customers to imagine how the products might all look and work together to create a feeling.

    The late Lynn Tait always invested heavily in a Santa’s Grotto experience at the Lynn Tait Gallery for the children of Leigh-On-Sea. The kids had a wonderful experience and the parents spent money in the shop. 

    Senses and Feelings

    What sort of music do you play in store? Is it the right experience for your brand? What about smells? Cafes in shops have a head start on others, but there are oil burners with pleasant fragrances that can have positive effects on the experience customers have of your shop.

    Even the things you say have an effect. A reminder that the customer has made a lovely choice helps to alleviate buyer’s angst. Even asking the customer if they found everything they were looking for today adds to the sense of a helpful experience and can increase sales.

    You might think you are already doing a great job, but ask yourself if there is anything extra special you would do if Tom Cruise’s rep called you to say Tom wants to visit your store. How would you make his experience incredible? Free coffee? Private shopping? A free gift wrap service? As marketing expert Geoff Ramm says, “create OMG experiences for your customers.” And as I always say, “Make them shareable.”

    Are you Shareable?

    When customers love the experience you give them, they want to share it with others, so make it easy for them too tag you and drive virtual footfall to you by setting printing your social media accounts on your till receipts, bags, etc. Don’t just put the Instagram logo, make it easy for them by using your @handle. Use calls to action that tell customers why they should follow you on Instagram.

    Change is Coming 

    There is undoubtedly a shift happening towards experience over products. Millennials are said to treasure experience over things, we are all conscious that the we are consuming more resources than our planet can handle. Our abundance of stuff is causing us stress and there is a growing trend towards minimalism. With it is an awakening of consciousness where many are discovering that our happiness and the happiness of those around us does not come down to material goods. By creating incredible retail experiences and selling useful products that people want to buy, use and keep, change is an experience that we can all look forward to.

    How to Future Proof Your Retail Business

    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Retailers

    The Importance of Brand Story for your Business

    Customer Experience - Cyber Dog

  • Festive Friday 2018 at Blue Eyed Sun

    Festive Friday 2018 - Blue Eyed Sun

    It's Festive Friday 2018 this week, the day that kick starts UK Christmas card sending and we take time to think of all those we care about and get busy writing and sending them Christmas cards.

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

    At Blue Eyed Sun we've been getting into the Christmas spirit early and held a 'christmas card writing hour' for our team to write and send cards to their loved ones to support the Festive Friday 2018 campaign. We sponsored the cards, their time and the postage to support the GCA campaign. All our team had to do was to write as many cards as they wanted to in the hour. We managed over 200 Christmas cards between us, which will be making their way via Royal Mail over the weekend to their lucky recipients.

    Our team had a lot of fun on Festive Friday 2018 with Christmas jumpers and Santa and Elf hats to get us in the spirit. It's a wonderful feeling when we think about all of the love going out into the world from this short amount of time dedicated to card sending and we recommend it to anyone involved in the card industry.

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

    Download a Free Toolkit for Festive Friday from the GCA website

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

    Find out more about Blue Eyed Sun's Christmas cards for 2018 here. Available at all good card retailers.

    Festive Friday 2018

  • The war on single-use plastic and how we can all help

    The War On Single-Use Plastic

    Dubbed “The Blue Planet Effect” shocking images of vast swathes of rubbish in our oceans in David Attenborough’s documentary aired on the BBC appear to have galvanised millions of viewers to take action in the war on single-use plastic.

    The Queen has announced a ban on single use plastics on the Royal Estate, both the BBC and Sky have pledged to eliminate them by 2020 and communities up and down the UK are planning to go plastic free.

    I spoke about this trend to retailers at Autumn Fair. The environment and socially conscious living are at the forefront of the minds of the biggest wave of consumers to walk the planet: Millennials. 

    Millennials

    With £4.4 trillion in earnings, millennials have more spending power than any previous generation. When it comes to traditional media like TV, radio or newspapers consumption is down by half, with most choosing to learn about the world via their mobile devices.

    They research products carefully and spend more freely when they choose to do so. They value authenticity in brands and retailers and will shun those they find disingenuous. They are obsessed with health, wellness and travel. Most importantly they have a passion for the environment.

    Part of the reason Blue Planet has resonated so deeply is how shareable clips of it have been online. Waking us all up to the effect our mindless waste is having on our world. Particularly plastic and why it is so problematic.

    Plastic Population

    Plastic bottles can take 450 years to break down, plastic bags are even worse. Packaging and cups made from styrofoam may be around forever (Americans currently use 25 billion of them a year). Single use coffee cups made from paper have plastic linings and 2.5 billion of them go into landfill each year in the UK (100 billion globally). There’s half a trillion single use plastic bottles produced in the world annually. We send 6 billion of them per annum to UK landfill sites.

    Plastic is everywhere 72% of European tap water is contaminated by microplastics. It’s pretty much impossible not to find them in the food we prepare in our homes and in the fish and meat we buy at the supermarket. Even the clothes we wear affect our environment. A typical polyester fleece, for example, sheds 250,000 micro plastics in it’s lifetime. Much of which is washed out to sea. So much so that there is now more plastic in the ocean than fish. 

    Plastic Problems

    Plastic are polymers derived from hydrocarbons which are mostly derived from oil. Oil is effectively made from the hundred million year old corpses of living things that came before us. Microplastics attract organic pollutants and then contaminate our food chain causing both animals and humans a host of health problems.

    BPA and Estrogenic chemicals in plastics have been linked to health issues like heart disease, hormone imbalance, increased caner risks, infertility, ADHD and even genital deformaties.

    What can we do?

    It’s not just Millennials that were affected by the images from Blue Planet, most of us want to do our bit too. There are four simple steps that we can all take to reduce the plastic we use in our lives.

    1. Refuse

    You can refuse unnecessary plastic packaging.The biggest one in our daily lives is food packaging. Plastic food packaging increased by 25% between 2004-14 using 800,000 tonnes pa only a third of which is recycled. Feedback to your supermarket that you don’t want it and choose fruit and veg that isn’t wrapped in plastic. 

    Share excessive packaging photos on social media to get companies to take action and make change. If you are company that people are doing this to then engage with them and take action. Talk through what is needed and how you can change.

    Some independent shops are now refusing to stock plastic bags. Even changing a single word at checkout can help customers to change. A retailer told me recently that they stopped saying “do you want a plastic bag” and asked instead “do you need a plastic bag.” The result was a huge drop off in single use plastic bags taken by customers.

    If you can’t eliminate plastic in your life then the next step is to reduce it.

    1. Reduce

    Laminate or cello glaze is not recyclable so try to reduce your use of them. The biggest source of this in most of our lives are Tetra Pak cartons which are laminated in polyethylene and contain a layer of aluminium which makes them difficult and costly to recycle. Most councils don’t take them at the moment. You can reduce your consumption of liquids using Tetra Paks or find alternative sources. 

    Glass milk bottles are on the rise again because of this trend. Similarly, SodaStream is seeing an uplift in sales as people reduce buying carbonated water in plastic bottles and make their own at home.

    The card industry is making real progress on reducing plastic packaging with trials in supermarkets selling ‘naked cards.’ Asda is removing cello wrapping from the vast majority of its cards and will save over 50 million cello bags annually equivalent to 100 tonnes of plastic. Unless the card requires a bag to protect delicate handcrafted elements it makes sense to reduce the reliance on cellos or shift to greener alternatives.

    1. Reuse

    It helps to reuse materials repeatedly, rather than discard them after a single use like we do so often after one use. That’s why it’s nice to enjoy your birthday cards or Christmas cards up around the house and even hold on to ones that have special meaning for you. 

    It’s the reusability that has a significant impact on single use items we get through everyday like plastic bottles, coffee cups and plastic shopping bags. Actively reusing reusable water bottles, reusable coffee cups and reusable shopping bags are small changes in habits that have a big effect when we all get involved and do our bit. There are fantastic commercial opportunities for retailers stocking these reusable products at the moment.

    You can also get involved at work by reusing items whenever possible. For example, we reuse pallets and cardboard boxes when shipping from Blue Eyed Sun. This little shifts all help to reduce waste. Share this with your customers and shout about it on social media.

    1. Recycle

    When it’s not recycled the plastic we use is either going into landfill and breaking down over hundreds of years or gets into the environment and winds up in the sea. It is estimated that we are effectively dumping a lorry load of plastic into the ocean every single minute.

    We need to recycle all of our plastic both at home and in the office. Councils don’t currently recycle polypropylene film so compostable bags could be a better solution, especially if we can get all councils to make industrial composting more accessible for consumers. Greeting cards themselves are an easy material to recycle as the majority are made from paper which is recyclable.

    Make sure you use your recycling bins at home and at work and encourage others to do so. If you are passionate about the environment recycling is a really important way to improve things. Small changes have a huge effect over time.

    What to do Next?

    Build environmental awareness and sustainability into your business. Take action, join the conversation and get involved. There are beach clean ups across the country you can join. Take little steps towards improving every month.

    One way to do this right now is to book your place at the GCA AGM on 17th October at Knebworth House. Sue Morrish from Glebe Cottage (aka the Eco-friendly Card Co) and Ceri Stirland from UKG will be discussing the card industry’s environmental issues and options open to publishers and retailers. You’ll have a chance to get involved and learn what’s best for your business as well as benefitting from all the other talks and seminars on the day. I look forward to seeing you there.

    Global waste produced whilst you read this blog post:

    3,350 plastic straws, 19 million plastic bags, 10 million plastic bottles, 41 tonnes of nappies, 10 lorry loads of plastic dumped in the sea - all of which take hundreds of years to break down.

    Read more about Business and the Environment

    Find out more about our Bamboo Products

    How to change your habits for good

    Click on the image below to see the slides from my talk at Autumn Fair:

  • Four Amazing Benefits of Thinking of You Week

    Thinking Of You WeekHow would you like to improve your mental and physical health, become more attractive and have more sex? Believe it or not these are some of the potential benefits of taking part in Thinking of You week this September.

    That’s because sending thinking of you cards is an act of altruism that is often rooted in empathy and/or compassion. Specifically, altruism is an action that benefits someone else. It’s different to empathy (our emotional experience of other’s feelings) and compassion (our emotional response to suffering and authentic desire to alleviate it). 

    If you have all three it can be good for you, good for others and even good for your business.

    It’s Good for You

    When we act generously towards others, we benefit as much as those to whom we are giving. The Dalai Lama playfully calls this “selfish altruism.” For example, a Harvard Study has shown that those who give contributions of time or money “are 42% more likely to be happy” than those who didn’t give  (Ask those who have contributed so far to my Mongolian fundraising and those that haven’t - the latter are definitely more miserable).

    For those that donate their time, psychologists have identified something called “helpers high”. Giving produces endorphins in the brain that produce a mild morphine type hit. Neuroscientists have even shown that the same part of our brain that lights up when we have sex is triggered by giving money to charity.

    It’s not just our minds that benefit, our bodies do too. Compassion can also protect us from stress, through a lower heart rate and lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) amongst other health benefits. Spending money on others may also lower blood pressure and those that volunteer have been shown to experience fewer aches and pains, better overall health and less depression. According to one study, older volunteers even have a significantly lower chance of dying.

    Taking part in thinking of you week might also improve your love life. One survey of 10,000 people across 37 cultures found that kindness is the single universal requirement and the most important criterion for choosing a mate. Altruists are considered more attractive than non-altruists and they also have more sex.

    Taking the time to focus on others rather than ourselves is undoubtedly good for us. What’s more important is that generous acts like sending a card are good for others too. 

    Good for Others

    None of us ever really know what’s going on inside other people’s minds. So often, those who appear to have everything we might might want in life, decide to end it all. These deaths are a tragic and important reminder for us to take care of one another and let each other know that we are loved. Even those who don’t go to suicidal extremes may still be suffering in silence behind masks of happiness, success, etc. If you love someone, care about them or think they’re great in any way then let them know. A few kind words in card can really brighten someone’s day.

    Royal Mail’s scientific study several years ago showed that mothers have a more positive emotional response towards greeting cards compared to electronic messages on social networks, via sms or email. They also felt twice the amount of happiness receiving a card or handwritten note to digital alternatives. Furthermore, a nationwide survey showed that a handwritten note is the main thing mothers want on Mothering Sunday.

    We all know how special it is to receive a handwritten card from someone who has taken the time to buy, write and post it to us. The 54 videos I made last year on the Greeting Card Project provides further anecdotal evidence of this. Card sending and acts of altruism in general have positive effects on the neuro-chemicals in our brains.

    Leaders that are generous, by giving time and energy for example, can alter the biochemistry of their team. Generous behaviour releases a chemical called oxytocin which creates intense feelings of comfort and security. What’s interesting is that oxytocin is released in the recipient, the giver and anyone who witnesses the sacrifice the leader makes.

    By this rational, the sender of a card the recipient and those that see cards on their loved ones mantlepieces might also all receive the same hit of oxytocin themselves. A great example of this is Stephen Kelly, the CEO of Sage Plc, who regularly sends cards to his team to thank them for projects they’ve worked on or contributions they’ve made. Many of them keep the cards on their desks for months afterwards. The knock on effects can be greater than first perceived.

    Sending cards is a powerful way to spread good feelings around the world and within businesses.

    Good for Business

    More and more consumers now want businesses to spread the love too. They want them to treat their employees and suppliers fairly, to be socially responsible in how they source their goods, sustainable with their impact on the environment, ethical in their behaviour and to contribute charitably to communities and causes they value. Essentially, companies that are kind are the more attractive and can generate more sales when this kindness is built into their brand dna.

    A study  published in the Journal of Business Ethics showed that charity might make corporations more valuable. What’s important in both business and personal altruism is that the gestures are not perceived as self serving. In other words, the altruism has to be authentic.

    Companies are using stories more and more to connect with their customers through their brands. People want these stories to reflect their values and the needs they relate to most. It’s important for businesses to recognise this shift and to embody values like contribution, community and the environment at the heart of their organisations. These are vales that resonate with all of us right now as we see more and more footage online and in the media on the effects of climate change, single use plastics and over consumption of resources. 

    Thinking of you week is a great opportunity for businesses to get involved and send cards to their employees, suppliers and customers to let them know they are special and appreciated. It’s a nice alternative to Christmas as it’s secular and not tied to a religious holiday. It’s simply a time to be grateful and kind to others.

    It’s Contagious

    Many studies have shown that altruism inspires more altruism. Even when the cascading ripple effects diminish over time the total result can be three times greater than the initial act of generosity. 

    In fact, I saw this first hand in my fundraising for the Christina Noble Foundation recently. One of my first donations was for £1,000. Soon after I had a second £1,000 donated by someone who was inspired by the first donation. This inspired others to donate higher amounts than I usually receive on fundraising endeavours. In line with one study on giving, the total raised was over three times greater than the initial large donation.

    Conversely, selfish behaviour can spread just as easily. When we behave selfishly this can have a negative effect on the behaviour of others that ripples outwards.

    So, we have a choice to make about how we live our lives and the impacts our actions have on others. 

    We can choose to be kind, generous and loving on a regular basis and have a positive ripple effect on those around us. We can do nothing. Or we can spread negativity.

    So, why not choose to spread a little love, send some cards during thinking of you week and create a ripple effect of love and kindness in the world. Who knows what might happen!

    5 Great Card Sending Initiatives

    Why Thinking of You Week Matters

    Free Downloads on the GCA Site

     

  • Gobi Desert Challenge for Christina Noble Foundation

    Jeremy Corner - Gobi Desert Motorbike

    Blue Eyed Sun MD and Giftware Association Chairman, Jeremy Corner, is embarking on a challenging 1,500km off road motorbike trip across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia from 2 - 11 July. Starting in Ulaanbaatar he will be riding with a group of eight friends and a support vehicle and staying in Gers (small huts) on a route that will cover distances of 150-200 miles each day.

    Riding KTM 450 6 Day Enduro off-road motorbikes on this self funded trip, he is aiming to raise £3,000 for the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation which helps street children in Mongolia. The charity helps youngsters in desperate need on streets of Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world where temperatures drop to -40 degrees Celsius and unemployment runs at 60%. The funds raised will provide the children with access to warm accommodation, nutrition and social support through the Blue Skies Village initiative which Jeremy plans to visit during his trip. If the target is reached it will be enough to purchase a new ger for the village.

    Jeremy is a keen supporter of children's charities having run several marathons for the likes of Barnardos, Save the Children, RockinghorseCLDF and UNICEF. He was inspired to support the Christina Noble Foundation after seeing Noble, a film about Christina's own life.

    "Having a son and knowing how vulnerable children can be makes it all the more important that we help kids in the most challenging of conditions. They are the future of our planet and it makes so much sense to show them that there is love, generosity and compassion there for them. In time and with luck they will grow into adults who share these values." - Jeremy

    The Gobi desert is the fifth largest desert in the world and Asia's second largest. It's 500,000 square miles with a mixture of terrains and temperatures ranging up to 30 degrees celsius in July. In addition to physical training, Jeremy has spent the last six months learning to ride a motorbike, passing his license and training on off-road bikes in the UK to be able to complete this trip.

    If you’d like to support Jeremy’s fundraising please donate what you can here: https://www.justgiving.com/gobidesertenduro

    Christina Noble Foundation Mongolia

    Gobi Desert Enduro

  • Jeremy Corner elected as Chairman of the Giftware Association

    Jeremy Corner Chairman The GA

    Blue Eyed Sun MD, Jeremy Corner, has been elected as the new Chairman of the Giftware Association (a.k.a. The GA). This follows two years of serving as Vice Chair to outgoing Chairman, Henri Davis, who will take over as Deputy Chair from Michael Pape from Ravensden. Gert Schyberg of Sebnini has taken over as the new Vice Chair.

    The GA is a trade organisation founded in 1947 with a rich history of contribution to the heart of the industry. Most famously it birthed Spring Fair and Autumn Fair as well as creating the ever popular Gift of the Year Awards. It boasts around 700 supplier and retailer members and is positioned at the heart of the Giftware Industry. It is a lifeline of support to it's members for its enormous range of resources, lobbying of government and offers a selection of discounts from key industry suppliers, small business services and trade shows.

    "I am honoured to have been elected as the new chairman of the GA. I'm excited to be working with Henri and Gert (pictured with Jeremy above), our experienced team of dedicated volunteers on the National Committee, our knowledgable BATF board, our talented Chief Executive, Sarah Ward, and our hard working in-house GA Team." - said Jeremy.

    "Our challenge is to continue to drive active member engagement and grow membership numbers. Improving our website, our blog, enhancing our social media activity and updating our CRM system will all help. As will increasing the number of members paying by direct debit or standing order to reduce wasted time chasing outstanding payments. If you are a member, you can assist us by automating your payments to enable the team to spend more time helping you and other members. You can also help by keeping us informed of the issues that matter most to you and what you need in your business right now. We are here for you, please do engage with us."

    Jeremy took on the new role at the GA Member's Day, held this year at the Mockingbird Cinema in Birmingham. The day included a talk on retail by retail expert Michael Wheedon and three informative panels discussing topics ranging from GDPR and legal compliance to awards and future proofing your business.

    Jeremy is also currently the Treasurer of the Greeting Card Association and an active mentor to small businesses in the card and gift industries through initiatives like The Ladder Club. Blue Eyed Sun has been a member of the GA since 2003 and Jeremy has sat on the National Committee since 2011.

    What is the point of Trade Organisations?

    What I learned from the Dutch Greeting Card Association

    Join the GA

  • Business Ambition with Peter Jones from Dragons Den

    Jeremy Corner Peter Jones

    Watch Blue Eyed Sun MD, Jeremy Corner, on a Facebook Live panel session with Dragon's Den star and tycoon, Peter Jones. The panel was led by Kevin Poulter and included Janice B Gordon, both fellow Sage Business Experts. Organised by Sage the broadcast on 13th June was part of their ongoing support for business builders.

    The discussion included topics like ambition, what makes British business great, brexit, greeting cards and BambooCups. The evening continued with a fireside chat between Peter Jones and Sage CEO, Stephen Kelly. Attended by Sage customers it was fascinating to listen to Peter's journey and to hear tips for businesses within the audience.

    Click on the link to download a free ebook on Business Ambition.

    You can watch the playback of the discussion by clicking on the image below:

    NB. There are some issues with viewing this video internationally. We are working on this.

  • Business and the Environment

    Business and the Environment

    Someone cynically once said to me that people can only be environmentally conscious when they can afford to be financially. It sounded like a reasonable argument at the time, although these days I’m less sure. That’s because there now appears to be real momentum for environmental change, despite that fact that we are not currently experiencing a boom in the economy. 

    Britain recently successfully implemented the 5p plastic bag levy, which has contributed to a 90% reduction in their use. We’ve literally slashed consumption of single use plastic shopping bags by billions and there’s even talk of introducing the levy in retailers with fewer than 250 employees.

    Single use plastic straws are now in the firing line with bars, restaurants and cafe’s around the world no longer offering them as standard in order to discourage unnecessary plastic waste. Single use plastic lined coffee cups may also soon be targeted with a latte levy. Waitrose are committed to removing all single use coffee cups from stores this year. Pret a Manger and Starbucks already offer discounts to customers using their own cups (more on cups later).

    Changing Habits

    What’s significant about these changes is that people are actively engaging with habit change. If you can carry reusable shopping bags in your car, rucksack or handbag then why not carry a spare reusable cup? Changing habits aren’t just limited to reducing plastic consumption they’re also affecting what we consume everything from goods to food to power.

    This is exciting for the world as we move to embrace environmentally friendly renewable energy sources like wind and solar. There’s also been a rise in the number of vegans and vegetarians. Netflix hits like Cowspiracy and What the Health have emphasised the importance of eating less meat in order to save the planet’s resources and reduce CO2 emissions. Viral internet hits like the Story of Stuff are affecting the way consumers purchase, with a shift from goods to foods and experiences.

    The most important thing to be aware of with these changes is that they are increasing as people get more comfortable with making these small adjustments in their lives.

    Ideal World

    I guess in an ideal world we’d completely reduce or offset our carbon footprints. Perhaps we’d stop consuming altogether and live more simple lives. We might reduce our number of fashion items like those taking part in Project 333 or we could even move into a tiny house or a van conversion to minimise our impact on the planet. We may even decide not to have kids (one fewer child per family is said to save 58 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year). 

    These extreme alternatives are also growing in popularity, especially amongst millennials. It’s important that we start to become aware of these shifts so that we can accommodate them in our business models and avoid losing valuable customers.

    What can we do?

    As someone who loves to buy and send cards, I personally don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. I don’t find Facebook messages and SMS’s nearly as intimate as sending a card (besides, even websites contribute to CO2 consumption). I find writing cards with my fountain pen a soulful and profound way of connecting with my fiends and loved ones. 

    I’m not just saying that because I publish cards. I genuinely love them and always have done. If you watch The Greeting Card Project videos I made on YouTube last year you can see the effect sending more cards has on us. For those that love to send and receive cards they have real meaning and importance.

    Having said all of that, the environment is important to us too. How can we reconcile these two seemingly polarised values? How can we reduce the impact we have on the environment and still enjoy doing something we love?

    Sources

    The first thing to figure out is what we are buying and where does it come from? For example, are the boards and papers ethically sourced from responsibly managed sources? At Blue Eyed Sun we have been using FSC boards since we first started although we don’t actively promote this on the backs of our cards (partly because we are design snobs and find the logo unsightly on the card backs and partly because administratively burdensome chain of custody requirements). FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council and is one of several organisations that promote responsible management of the world’s forests. It verifies that cetified cards are not made from rainforests.

    We are currently carrying out a company wide audit of all of our material components. Once this is completed we will be able to pinpoint areas for improvement. We’ll also be in a better position to communicate the environmental provenance of our cards to our fans and advise them on how best to recycle them when ready. 

    Communicating

    It’s all very well doing the right thing, it’s also important to spread the word and let your customers know the facts about your products so that they can make informed decisions. This includes being transparent on your website about where your products are sourced and how best to recycle them.

    Having environmental and social responsibility policies that you can share on your website helps with this sort of thing. Once we have all the facts about our sources this will be easier to communicate.

    Integrity

    Of course, being environmentally friendly doesn’t just stop with our products. How we run our businesses on a daily basis also affects our environmental impact on the world. Are your lightbulbs still tungsten based for example or have you switched to lower wattage alternatives? Our new production and distribution facility is fully equipped with LED lighting, which saves on electricity consumption. 

    We also recycle the majority of our waste at Blue Eyed Sun, which I thought was pretty good until I met Bruce Podmore from Windles at a recent GCA National Council meeting. His factory recycles over three tonnes of nails from his pallets each year and uses the wood from them to fuel his heating (reducing their bill by a phenomenal 85%). 

    Not only is Windles actively working to minimise their environmental footprint for the good of the planet, these actions are making good financial sense too. Their frequency controlled fluorescent lighting has reduced power consumption by 85% and saving money in the process. Their staff are more engaged with solutions and improvements. They’ve even won awards for their hard work in this area.

    What inspired me most about Windles is how they’ve  systematically identified areas for improvement throughout their business and are continually working towards reducing their environmental impact. This is the key I think. To start taking some steps. One at a time. Lots of small ones as many big ones as you can manage.

    For us, solar panels is the next big investment goal we are working towards to reduce our consumption from the grid. It’ll take time, but long term we will feel proud of making a difference using it.

    Working Together

    At the GCA we are working hard to try and improve communication of factual information surrounding the use of foils, glitter, recycling and so forth. There’s still so much to be understood and it’s important to share resources, learning and best practice. 

    It’s tempting for any business in the industry to use such knowledge to gain competitive advantage over others. To do this is to miss the bigger picture. We all need to work and act together to show how we can minimise our environmental impact on the world. We only have one planet after all.

    New Products

    As we continue to work hard to improve the environmental credentials of our greeting cards and the way we work as a business at Blue Eyed Sun, I’m also very excited about a recent exclusive distribution deal we’ve signed for a range of Bamboo Products. 

    BambooCup is an environmentally friendly alternative to single use plastic lined coffee cups, 2.5 billion of which go into landfill in the UK each year. Reusable cups are a booming category in retail and we are thrilled to be involved in a fast growing niche that’s making a difference to our planet.

    We still love publishing cards. Now we want to offer our customers even more.

    Find out more about BambooCup

    CelloBags and Recycling

    How to Change Your Habits for Good

  • Special Willie's Cacao Offer for Blue Eyed Sun Customers

    Willies Cacao

    At Blue Eyed Sun we love chocolate and our customers so much that, as a special treat, we have included a gift of Willie's Cacao truffles with every Valentine's greeting card order shipping in January. Click here to login and order.

    We've also persuaded our friends at Willie's Cacao to create two special intro offers for you:

    1. A Free case of Praline Truffles worth £26.52 for gift orders over £170.
    2. A free wooden display stand with 8 cases of 50g bars

    Discover the wonderfully tactile, artist sculpted golden cacao pod tins and astonishingly delicious praline truffles. For details contact Anna on mail@williescacao.com or call 01884 840 650. No minimum order. Free delivery over £170 + VAT.

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze, from Channel 4's Willies Chocolate Revolution, makes some of the best chocolate in the world. His aim is to introduce everyone to real chocolate with the pure, beautiful flavours of the world's great single estate cacaos.

    Willie's dream of making the world's best chocolate was born in Hacienda El Tesoro, his cacao farm high in the cloud first in Venezuela. With beans bought direct from farmers, he makes them into chocolate in small batches in his factory in England, using neither vanilla nor soya lecithin, so preserving the highly individual flavours of the beans. One batch may take up to 18 days, which is a hundred times longer then industrial chocolate.

    Don't miss out on this wonderful offer. We hope you enjoy the chocolates!

    Click here to find out more about Willies Cacao 

    See Blue Eyed Sun at Top Drawer - Stand T42

    See Willie's Cacao at Top Drawer on Stand FE443

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