Associates Update (Phil St. Germain, GCA Associates Chair)

Last month, six GCA Associate members displayed their company’s offerings at the GCA cocktail reception during the Atlanta Gift Mart.  Many of the Associate members (myself included) at the reception were asked to help with various sourcing challenges facing GCA members and prospective members.  Thanks to everyone who attended and took the time to problem-solve and meet new companies.   The reception was fun as there were many new and interested companies — and some surely will become GCA members.

The Associates Directory is about to arrive on the desks of GCA members.  We hope you find this a helpful reference.  Many GCA Associate Members have unique and hard to find services which will be highlighted in this directory.   I encourage you to look through the Directory and use it as a reference for your printing, paper, embellishment and related needs.

All the best!

Communications & PR Committee (Joel Gryniewski, Chair)

One of the committee’s working groups is developing the second annual GCA/Stationery Trends survey; please look for the survey later this spring.  Thanks to John Brandt and John Smythe for their leadership on the survey.  Over the coming months, we will be strengthening our presence on Instagram – with thanks to Avanti’s Dave Phipps for getting the ball rolling.

The Membership Committee (Alan Friedman, Chair)

We are pleased to report that more than half of our members have already renewed – and 14 new members have joined the GCA since the start of the new membership year.  On behalf of GCA leadership, thank you for your investment in our industry and for helping to strengthen our collective voice.  And if you have yet to renew, you can login and renew online, call us at 202.216.9627 or send us an e-mail at

GCA Convention (Glen Biely, Chair)

Planning is in full swing – and thank you to the Madison Park team for creating the beautiful starburst logo for the GCA’s 76th Annual Convention.  Can’t wait to share more news about speakers – and some good San Diego fun — in upcoming issues of Card Talk. The GCA’s 2017 Annual Convention will take place in San Diego, California on October 11-14. GCA members and non-members are welcome to attend, and we encourage you to secure your hotel room at the Andaz San Diego, by Wednesday, September 20, 2017 to receive a discounted rate of $215 per night.

LOUIE Awards Committee (Nicole Hite-Heleniak, Chair)

We have more than 930 entries across 231 companies – which is slightly higher than last year in the number of entries and participating companies.   We’re really excited about the level of participation and I want to extend a THANK YOU to all of the participating companies!

Our esteemed panel of 19 judges – representing publishers, retailers and suppliers — was busy for two days earlier this month.  On behalf of the GCA, thank you to:

Leta Areski (Viabella)

Sue Charlier (J.S. McCarthy Printers)*

Janette Emmerson (formerly of CPWM)

Erin Fogarty (Calypso Cards)

Alan Friedman (Great Arrow Graphics)*

Fern Gimbelman (Designer Greetings)*

Chandra Greer (GREER Chicago)

Chris Harrold (Mohawk)

Laura Haselden (American Greetings)

Cathy LLansó (Legacy Publishing Group)

Nicole Mercer (UEI Group)

Michael Schultz (Cursive NY)

John Segal (Crane Stationery)

Michelle Steiner-Woods (Hallmark Cards)

Patti Stracher (former NSS Show Director)*

David Wilke (Leader Paper)

Kyle Williams (Paper Source)

Audrey Woolen (Urbanic)*

Wendy Ziegler (Bridgeman Images)

*Blue Ribbon Panel

And we have had such an awesome outpouring of support from our in-kind sponsors for the materials produced to date.  Thank you to these seven companies for their generosity – and beautiful work: BrightMARKS LLC; Exclusive Bordering Company; Infinity Foils, Inc.; J.S. McCarthy Printers, Leader Paper Products; Neenah Paper and Universal Engraving, Inc.

There are more opportunities for GCA Associate members to show their support of the LOUIE Awards:

We are considering creating wonderful “swag bags” for Gala attendees.  Two ways to participate: produce an item on our wish list to be included in the “swag bag” or fund a sourced item (from foil stamped note pads, to stainless steel water bottles to foil stamped, frameable “art.”  Contact Associates Chair Phil St. Germain for more information or if you would like to show your support!

Postal Affairs Committee (Sarah Moe Meyers, Chair)

Everything Old is New Again

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head?  With apologies to Peter Allen, as I think about the new 115th Congress, I just can’t get “All That Jazz” out of my mind.  While we begin a new year with a new president and a new Congress, the greeting card industry faces the same challenge of getting legislation to stabilize the Postal Service enacted in time to achieve a favorable outcome in the Postal Regulatory Commission’s rate review.  We also have many of the same key decision makers at the table including Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) who, while no longer Ranking Member on the Committee, has been tapped to push postal legislation in the new Congress.

Fortunately, many of these Members have hit the ground running.  Chairman Chaffetz has laid out an ambitious plan to move postal legislation in the first 90 days of the new Congress.  I had the honor of hosting his Democrat counterpart, Elijah Cummings, in Kansas City in January and he echoed this timeframe and commitment to passing reform.  Strong bipartisan support will be critical in keeping to this schedule, but by all accounts it exists at the leadership level of the Committee.  Also helpful is the fact that the new Ranking Member of the Senate Oversight Committee, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), has signaled her willingness to let Senator Carper continue his effort to move compromise legislation forward.  This is an admirable display of leadership on her part.  Many incoming committee leaders might be inclined to recreate the wheel, but Senator McCaskill recognizes the hard work Senator Carper put in generating broad support from the mailing community for his bill.  His effort to push the legislation across the finish line at the end of the year fell short, but produced a proposal to offset the modest increase to Medicare costs in the bill that could be a game changer.

Sadly, many of the same obstacles to this legislation also remain.  Many conservative think tanks, dedicated only to privatizing the Postal Service, have lined up to oppose the bill.  House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) must still green light the Medicare integration provision central to providing needed savings.

In spite of all these challenges, I continue to be optimistic that a bill can be enacted into law by the summer.  The current legislation has unprecedented broad support from unions and mailers.  It has received a favorable score from the Congressional Budget Office and the framework has generated strong bipartisan support.  While some Members of Congress continue to view the Postal Service as an antiquated relic, allowing this historic and economically vital institution to veer into insolvency would be a critical mistake.

Here are closing lines from Mr. Allen’s song… And I am sorry if you get them stuck in your head, too:

Don’t throw the past away,

You might need it some rainy day.

All our dreams will come true again,

When everything old is new again.

If you are interested in joining a Committee, contact GCA Executive Director Peter Doherty



Ask an Expert

“Ask an Expert” is taking a break this issue and instead, Card Talk asked several GCA members for their impressions and insights from last month’s America’s Mart:

From The Madison Park Group:

  • Artist-based businesses are continuing to feel very important; the concept of knowing who created the item you are holding, and tying it back to their story … the fact that PEOPLE as individuals matter.
  • Focus on hand-drawn, hand-crafted and painterly artwork; a trend going forward, as other industries evolve into using robots/automation, people will have more of a desire for thoughtful, tactile, inspired, hand-drawn art — especially hand lettering and calligraphy.
  • Less digital.
  • More political messaging as well as inspirational quotes.
  • Blush color.
  • Gold foil.
  • Neon colors.
  • Critters that continue to be on-trend: fox, hedgehog, badger, llama or alpaca, sloth, narwhal, unicorn or Pegasus – and mermaids.
  • Messages of strength, empowerment, compassion, empathy, and friendship. More personal sentiments.
  • Incorporating more black into holiday designs.
  • More kinetic and engaging designs.
  • Enamel pins.
  • Cat cards and gifts due to Women’s March as a symbol of empowerment and feminism.

From Carlos LLansó, CEO, Legacy Publishing Group:

  • The overall takeaway… Positivity!
  • Our buyers were almost unanimously positive –about the holiday season they just completed and their outlook for 2017. This translated (beyond just making the ten days at a trade show more enjoyable) into an increase in our sales over the January 2016 show.
  • Maybe it’s related to the positive mood…I felt the designs (in our category as well as everything else) were brighter. Golds, greens, blues and a lot of foil and sparkle.
  • Attendance felt good but I thought buyers were generally there for shorter chunks of the show. For example, we had some of our busiest days on the first and second day of the show (this is not typical) and many of those buyers were coming in to buy early and leave before the weekend.

Ross Van Burkleo, Neenah Paper:

  • Many connections being created at the GCA Reception; everyone has a passion for the Greeting Card Industry.
  • Heard discussions about the increase in postage costs that the government put into place.
  • In the short time I have been with the GCA, I’ve seen that there are a lot of passionate and helpful people that want this to grow.  It is important to continue to partner with the USPS, to continue to show the value of greeting cards, and to engage with the non-card buying public.

Dave Phipps, Avanti:

  • The mood at the show was positive and upbeat. In our showroom, buyers were confident and ready to buy.
  • Three things pleasantly surprised us: 1) retail attendance; 2) order writing; 3) sales rep. attendance. All three were outstanding as we launched a permanent showroom.
  • When it comes to trends, we don’t pay much attention – but we did notice a definite trend for happy hours in showrooms – cocktails and cupcakes seem to be in.
  • In terms of innovative/creative work, other than Avanti’s, someone on our team singled out Lifeguard Press for innovation.
  • Buyers have a keen appetite for fresh and new products; their confidence seems predictive of solid sales in the year ahead!

Observations from Up With Paper’s Creative Team:

  • The show was an exciting place to be. We are always excited to check out new products from companies that we already know and love and this show did not disappoint.
  • We will always be amazed at the size of this show and how many companies are represented.
  • We see a lot of companies, stationery companies, toy companies, clothing companies, all getting into more practical product design. We have been seeing a lot of products beautifully designed such as drinking flasks, water bottles, glassware, etc.
  • Thought we might see more pins and patches. There seems to be an underground market for these right now but have only seen few companies branching out into this product.
  • We really are loving the company Illume right now. We love their design aesthetic and the brand is very cohesive from product to product. Their packaging is just stunning per usual.
  • One trend: a lot of stationery companies are really starting to branch out into new products and not just stationery. Having a wide array of products draws in a much larger crowd than just stationery alone.