Noted: the Greeting Card Expo

by John Smyth, A. Smyth Co.
Co-Chair, Noted

Our Noted Greeting Card Expo is now the GCA’s signature event—but it is much more than that.  The inaugural Noted in Brooklyn in May was a new type of event that has fundamentally changed what a “show” in our industry should be: a community of makers, producers, and retailers.

The community feel of the event was terrific, and the GCA team — staff and volunteers — did a terrific job with all the details, ensuring that all felt welcome and heard.  The event came off quite professionally, looked great, and generated a lot of positive feedback.  The one negative was significant:  we wish more retailers had been there! But working together, we will get to meet many more in 2020.

Planning is now well underway for Noted 2020 in San Francisco (May 2-4; mark your calendars now!), and we are bullish about the second Noted for many reasons:

  • We have a full year to market it, AND the strong word of mouth that the inaugural Noted generated answered most questions about it.  Those publishers and retailers who took a “wait and see” attitude are largely convinced that Noted is for real, and an event that anyone involved in our industry needs to attend.
  • There is not a competitive show in the region.  Most retailers attend trade shows within 500 miles of their store(s), and San Francisco is a market ripe for a strong greeting card event.
  • The venue is fantastic—light-filled and in a great location in San Francisco. From the show floor, you’ll be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
  • We have learned more (much more!) about what makers and retailers alike want from Noted, and we will adjust the event to show that we are listening!
  • Exhibition space was available to returning exhibitors at the 2019 price through August 15th. After that, new exhibitors may apply at a higher price.  Based on interest level, and the fact that the Noted space in 2020 is roughly the same as the Brooklyn Expo Center, we are fully expecting a sell-out. And members will still receive their discount! 
  • Finally, I need to advise that through diligent research, and involving significant weight gain, George White was able to successfully find the finest donut in San Francisco. We will be greeting every exhibitor with Bob’s Donuts, along with a cup of coffee or bottle of water, each morning during Noted. Because nothing says you are a valued exhibitor like a round cake of sugar in the morning.

As I said, planning has already begun! That said, we need the help of every GCA member to ensure Noted 2020 is as successful as possible. 

Specifically, we are looking for assistance in these areas:

  • Sign up to exhibit. It is worth your time! And if every GCA member exhibits, the hall will be nearly full before even opening Noted 2020 up to non-members. Every GCA member should be exhibiting Noted. And the GCA is committed to helping new exhibitors make the best showing possible. We had many new exhibitors in 2019. Your company could be next!
  • Peer-to-peer marketing will be crucial to secure new exhibitors. Makers are the most effective sellers to other makers about why Noted is so valuable.
  • We’ll send social media posts and re-posts to drive interest among retailers. We hope you’ll join us in promoting the event!
  • Direct mail, email, and other marketing should be sent to your retailer lists to push attendance. If each and every exhibitor drives even a few retailers to Noted, we will easily fill the hall.
  • Also, Fort Mason Pavilion decorations and branding. Up With Paper enjoyed building the card tunnel in Brooklyn, and we look forward to handing the baton over to publishers with new ideas!

There’s still time for you to get involved in the planning! Just send me a note or contact GCA’s office (juana@greetingcard.org) to join the Noted Committee. We have projects for you, even if you only have one hour to give!

Thank you in advance for your help in making Noted 2020 the greeting card event of the year, and see you in San Francisco!

Public Affairs

by Sarah Moe
Chair, GCA Public Affairs Committee

Draft USPS 10-Year Financial Plan Poses Challenges for Greeting Card Mailers

The United States Postal Service’s deepening financial crisis has prompted the return of cost saving measures including the reduction of delivery days from 6 to 5 days.  As of May 2019, losses for the fiscal year amounted to $5.2 billion, almost $2 billion or 61% more than projected.  Even worse for the struggling agency, the most profitable first quarter holiday season is already on the books, providing little opportunity to recoup the losses for the year.  Package volumes are running more than 6% below projections and traditional mail was 1.3% below plan. 

The Postal Service is working on a 10-year financial plan to address these challenges.  While details have not been finalized, initial reporting indicates that it will include a number of politically challenging proposals including greater pricing authority, cuts to employee benefit programs and a move to 5-day delivery for traditional mail, including greeting cards.  Package delivery would continue to be provided 7-days a week under the draft plan.

These proposals, if adopted, would put greater strain on greeting card mailers who are already struggling to absorb the largest rate increase in stamp prices in the Postal Service’s history when it jumped a nickel in January.  GCA is waiting to see the final plan and details, but all our past research has indicated that the combination of higher prices and reduced service quality are unlikely to produce projected savings and will result in declining mail volume.  It will be interesting to see when data is available whether the additional mail volume losses the Postal Service is experiencing are an unintended consequence of the stamp price hike.

An equally challenging issue is the discriminatory service being proposed for packages and mail. There is no basis for the Postal Service to provide different levels of service for the two product types.  The proposal has not been well received by Members of Congress and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) who is the Ranking Member of the House Oversight Subcommittee that supervises the Postal Service. Meadows told Postmaster General Megan Brennan at a recent hearing to “quit wasting our time” with such a proposal.  This is in large measure due to the strong support GCA has generated in cooperation with our industry allies for the 6-day delivery standard, including passage-proof majorities for House resolutions supporting it in each of the last three Congresses (262 cosponsors are on so far this year) and inclusion of the legislative requirement in the annual appropriations bills in the House and Senate awaiting action.

Hopefully, the feedback from Congress and the strong support for 6-day mail delivery will convince the Postal Service to eliminate the proposal from the final plan. But GCA is prepared to fight it, if necessary.

Meanwhile, our collaboration with the Postal Service’s marketing team is stronger than ever, with plans to support ‘Thinking of You Week’ in September and promoting greeting card sending in the 2019 holiday marketing plans.  These efforts have contributed to measurable increases in both holiday and non-holiday greeting card volumes according to the Postal Service’s annual Household Diary Study by an estimated 52 million mailed cards from FY2017 to FY2018.  We will work to maintain that momentum and ensure that greeting card mailers have access to affordable and reliable universal service 6-days a week.

Oceans of Opportunity:
GCA Introduces the new Workshop & Retreat!

by Susan January, Chair

As the Chair of the GCA’s first ever Workshop & Retreat, I’m excited to update everyone on the plans currently taking shape for this year’s event – Oceans of Opportunity!

Why the name change?  If you’ve ever attended a GCA Convention in the past, you’ve probably left the event struck by the friendliness and collaborative interactions of what is essentially a room full of competitors within the industry.  You’ve also probably walked away with all kinds of new insights, understandings and observations about the industry, as well as some tried and true strategies shared by fellow publishers that are going to help you run your business more efficiently.  What we do for 3-days each fall just doesn’t really feel like a “convention” in the truest sense of the word.  We spend that time together networking, learning, interacting and having fun along the way.  We connect, share and uplift.  We relax together and laugh a lot.  It’s a learning and networking event, and “workshop and retreat”, while just words, more effectively reflect what’s happening over the course of our time together.

The speaker line-up this year is focused on talent from within the industry – this is a workshop to talk specifically about the business of cards – and who better to speak to the industry trends than our own industry insiders.   Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Sadie Piller, Marketing Director for Paper Source, will talk to us about why the card category still matters to consumers and how Paper Source works to bring the best variety of lines and product innovations to their customers.
  • Patti Strong, Senior Director of Marketing Services for American Greetings, will address why it’s more important than ever to talk to consumers in 2019. With the explosion of digital communication and rapidly changing social norms, it is more important than ever to know how consumers are thinking about and using greeting cards.  Patti will discuss the greeting card consumer of today and provide helpful suggestions on how to use data that you already have as well as cost effective tools to gain feedback and insights to guide your creative development and grow your business.
  • Amanda Fergusson, Executive Director of the UK Greeting Card Association, will present the trends, changes and innovations happening in the UK market, which remains the largest greeting card consuming population in the world, and how those trends affect the category worldwide.
  • Kristy Lewis, National Marketing Director for Hallmark Cards, will share insights as to how greeting card usage is changing across demographic segments and how to make sure you’re reaching all your potential consumers with your product and marketing efforts.
  • Lindsay Henry, Inklings Paperie, will share how the “heart and hustle” she’s put into building Inklings has made it a leader among the independent publishers, known for its on-trend products focused on a passion for detail, a love of whimsy and a heart for people.
  • An impressive panel of postal experts will address the marketing initiatives the USPS is undertaking to help promote and preserve the mail delivery for greeting cards, as well as what the future holds for the ongoing collaboration between greeting card publishers and the postal service.

In addition, there will be panel discussions featuring independent retailers who will address the greeting card category and its relevance to their business and customers,  a panel of sales experts who will help us learn how to find, hire and keep productive sales reps, and an opportunity to hear from the industry suppliers who help make sure we have access to the latest and greatest printing, finishing, and envelope processes.

There will also be time for attendees to meet and have an informal hour with the GCA Mentors, who will be ready to take on relevant industry questions or topics, join a discussion session around the GCA’s new trade show “NOTED”, and to have some Q&A with the GCA Executive Committee to hear about what challenges face the Association in 2020 and beyond and what new initiatives are underway.

All work and no play?  NEVER!  As a group, we look forward to a fun sunset cruise around Naples’ luxury home communities and the Gulf of Mexico followed by a fun, casual dinner on the water.  And the hotel provides the perfect setting for a little beach or pool time, a morning sunrise walk or jog, and a beautiful beachfront dinner on our closing evening.

You do not want to miss the “Oceans of Opportunity” that await in Naples.  Reserve your hotel and register for the event here.

Thinking of You Week

Co-Chairs,
Nicky Burton, Calypso and Dave Phipps, Avanti Press

Thinking of You Week is only a month away (September 23 – 29, 2019)! Retailers continue to sign up to get involved, and there are plenty of ways for you to participate. Find inspiration and ideas by visiting the Toolkit on the official TOYW site here. Our campaign will once again be supported by a USPS postmark “Thinking of You. Mail a Smile” during the whole month of September. Last year this postmark reached HALF A BILLION households! This is a great opportunity to get involved in your local community and raise the profile of sending greeting cards! For more information, visit https://www.thinkingofyouweekusa.com/.

If you are interested in joining any of our committees, contact GCA Executive Director Peter Doherty.