Noted: the Greeting Card Expo
by George White, Up With Paper
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. Noted has helped drive GCA membership to a 10-year high, and we have proven that we can run a professional event.
Expectations are high for Noted 2020 in San Francisco, and our Noted committee of volunteers is hard at work to ensure we deliver.
There’s one very important item that we need to mention, to make sure everyone is aware. The dates for Noted 2020 in San Francisco, co-located with Blue Print, are Friday, May 1 through Sunday May 3. Shortly after we announced our original event schedule of May 2-4, IBM announced a company-wide sales conference for the week of May 4 in San Francisco, which immediately sucked up a huge percentage of hotel rooms in the city, driving hotel prices up by 3X or more which we thought was untenable for our exhibitors—and for the retailers attending. Fortunately, we were able to move the show back by one day, opening on Friday morning, and we will close the event a bit early on Sunday (4 pm) to ensure people can get late-night flights, or depart Monday morning, without getting gouged on hotels.
With the May 1-3 dates confirmed, and hotels obtainable at a reasonable (for San Francisco) rate, work is on to ensure we meet high expectations.
The floor of Noted will have quite a different look this year. In addition to the fact that Blue Print will occupy half of the floor, the Noted side of the fabulous Fort Mason Pavilion overlooking the bay will be divided into multiple pods, each centered by a sponsored lounge (thank you Hallmark and American Greetings for stepping up to sponsor the first two lounges already!). Each lounge will then be surrounded by a neighborhood of publisher exhibitors, all with matching walls in 6 and 10 foot exhibition spaces. In addition, the LOUIE Awards will take place on Friday night, in the Noted venue, ensuring maximum attendance and impact.
We have already sold more than 50% of the exhibit space, with most going to renewing publishers, from Ninth Letter Press to Warren Tales. We have now opened up space to new exhibitors, and those spaces are selling as well (welcome Good JuJu Ink and Blue Mountain Arts!).
Most importantly, we are engaging a rapidly growing list of retailers, including independents and larger accounts, to generate a significant boost in retailer attendance in 2020. We have an active Instagram account (@Noted_Expo) which has grown to more than 1,600 followers (as of this writing), and an excellent new forum for discussing all things Noted online, through Mighty Networks.
We feel good about where we are—way ahead of where we were for Noted 2019 as of now!—BUT we very much need the help of every GCA member to ensure Noted 2020 can be as successful as possible. Specifically, we are looking for assistance in these areas:
- Sign up to exhibit. We really need every GCA member to be part of our signature event.
- Encourage another member colleague to sign up as well! Makers are the most effective sellers to other makers about why Noted is so valuable. We have a growing list of publishers who would like to join us, and we are happy to add any that you would personally like to see in San Francisco. It is simple math: if every GCA member exhibits and sells one exhibit space, we would be way oversold! Let’s make that happen.
- Help us promote the event, with social media posts and re-posts to drive interest among retailers and buyers.
- Share direct mail, email, and other marketing with your retailer lists to push attendance. If each and every exhibitor drives even a few retailers to Noted, we will easily fill the hall.
- Contribute your retailer list to the Noted master list of retailers. My company did. This list can ONLY be used by the GCA and Noted, and may not be used by other publishers, nor will it be sold or given to any others. If interested, please contact GCA Headquarters for more information and instructions.
Please contact the GCA staff or me to advise how you can best offer assistance in the above areas—or in a way you think can be of benefit. Thank you in advance for your help in making Noted 2020 the greeting card event of the year, and see you in San Francisco!
by Sarah Moe
Chair, GCA Public Affairs Committee
Greeting Card Mailers Win Big in Appellate Court Decision Rejecting the Nickel Stamp Price Increase
Last month the District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit handed down a decision that represents a huge victory for greeting card and household mailers. It upheld a challenge to the nickel price increase that was imposed on the Forever Stamp in January of this year. This was the largest rate hike ever applied to the stamp price in history. It also hit our customers with a 10 percent increase well above the 2.5 percent rate cap allowed for First Class Mail. This was only possible by the Postal Service giving large volume mailers increases well below the cap limit.
Doug Carlson, a private citizen who has advocated on behalf of individual postal consumers for many years, appealed the Postal Regulatory Commission’s decision to approve the discriminatory price structure in May and recently, the three-judge panel unanimously upheld his challenge and vacated the increase. In addition to accepting Carlson’s arguments, the judges also relied on arguments made by GCA in the regulatory proceeding on the increase, quoting them prominently.
The immediate impact on the Forever Stamp price is uncertain depending on whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) appeals the decision and the fact that the Postal Service is expected to propose new rates later this month. The DOJ has until late October to decide, but the long-term victory is really in the process changes the decision will require. Until now, the Postal Service has not been required to adequately support their rate change proposals and certainly did not in this case. The Postal Regulatory Commission for its part interpreted its role to only assess the compliance of proposed rate increases with the price cap, deferring any questions of fairness and justification to a review that does not begin until nearly a year after the rates change or a difficult complaint process. As a result of the decision, the Postal Service will have to provide much more information justifying increases that disproportionately impact consumers and the Commission will be required to consider any challenges to rate increases immediately.
The GCA has begun the process to file a complaint challenging the rates at the Commission to address issues with the rate structure beyond those Carlson raised in his complaint. The goal will be to ensure that the Postal Service adheres to factors in the 2006 postal reform law that requires that rates increases be “just and reasonable” which the nickel increase clearly was not. Our legal counsel has requested a meeting with the Postal Service legal department to discuss our concerns and to determine if it is possible to reach an acceptable agreement without the need to pursue the complaint. We are awaiting their response. If the USPS declines to meet or if a satisfactory resolution cannot be negotiated, the complaint proceeding will go forward at the Commission later this fall. GCA will continue to work to ensure that consumer rights are protected in a fair and equitable oversight process. Stay tuned for further updates as we go forward.
Oceans of Opportunity, the New Workshop & Retreat: A Recap
by Susan January, Chair
The GCA’s first-ever “Workshop & Retreat was a resounding success, as publisher and associate members gathered in Naples, Florida in September to explore the “Oceans of Opportunity” awaiting all players within the US greeting card industry.
Chaired by Susan January (Leanin’ Tree) and Dave Phipps (Avanti), this year’s meeting was meant to be an in-depth look inside the industry, with all of the 2-1/2 days worth of meetings and presentations focused on what’s happening inside the category among publishers, retailers, sales reps, and industry suppliers. Speaker highlights included the following:
- Sadie Piller, Marketing Director for Paper Source, addressed 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. In addition to sharing insights about how our brains respond to tactile shopping experiences and why things like the texture and weight of the paper we print on matters, Sadie also highlighted her Ten Golden Rules for greeting card publishers to know and follow if they want their products to resonate with Paper Source customers
- Patti Strong, Senior Director of Marketing Services for American Greetings, told us why it’s more important than ever to talk to your consumers in 2019, and gave practical and inexpensive ways to gather and interpret the data your customers are giving you — through their purchases, their social media interactions and their shopping habits and behaviors. Patti discussed at length the greeting card consumer of today and provided a helpful checklist for the “Six Features of the Perfect Greeting Card” and shared why customers respond to certain cards and the tools that are available to publishers for listening to customer feedback.
- Amanda Fergusson, Executive Director of the UK Greeting Card Association, presented 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. Amanda highlighted how the UK’s brokerage model is helping independent publishers work more collaboratively to place their products, the documented successes of the UK’s #CardtoKeep campaign and Thinking of You Week, what’s happening as UK publishers “Go Naked” and the backlash against cello-bag packaging, and the can’t miss trade shows for those interested in distributing their products in the UK. Amanda also shared the continued growth of the UK’s Henries Awards, with this year seeing more than 14,000 entries and a panel of 50 retailer judges for the 2019 event happening in October. Also highlighted were the implications to the industry from BREXIT, and what the UK GCA is doing to highlight their 100 Year Anniversary this year.
- George White (Up With Paper, and the new GCA President) and John Smyth (A Smyth Company) shared a comprehensive overview and recap of the GCA’s first-ever tradeshow, “Noted – the Greeting Card Expo.” In addition to looking back at the highs, and lows, of putting on a brand new show for GCA members and the industry-at-large, George and John shared exciting plans for Noted 2020 in San Francisco, May 1st – 3rd, which will include many of the same exhibitor perks as well as the affordable exhibit space that was offered this year in Brooklyn. Other major highlights for Noted 2020 include the addition of the LOUIE Awards, which will be held on-site at the Ft. Mason Pavilion, as well as the co-location of the Blueprint Show, an art-licensing and selling show for artists and agents who provide art and content for greeting cards and social stationery. Be sure and secure your space for Noted 2020 now — as we are expecting a sold-out show and booth space is selling quickly for San Francisco.Kristy Lewis, National Marketing Director for Hallmark Cards, share invaluable insights into how greeting card usage is changing across demographic segments and how publishers can make sure they’re reaching all your potential consumers through targeted and product and marketing efforts. Among the Hallmark initiatives that Kristy shared were details and strategies associated with their recent “Just Because” card introduction, the “Good Mail” and #FreeCardFriday programs, and the “Cards Do More” marketing campaign — all of which are designed to discover and grow new ways to inspire consumers to send more cards and to continue their roles as “caring connectors” as they build important relationships through card sending.
- Lindsay Henry, Inklings Paperie, shared her “heart and hustle” success story, and presented how Inklings has become a lifestyle brand known for its passion for detail, love of whimsy, and a heart for people. Undoubtedly a star on the rise, those in attendance are anxious to watch and see what Inklings does next and how they top their LOUIE-winning ways in their brand new headquarters building in Michigan.
- Chris Karpenko, Director of Brand Marketing for the United States Postal Service shared 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. Sarah Moe Meyers from Hallmark advised publishers on the GCA’s role in lobbying Congress for common sense postal reforms and what each publisher and associate member can do in helping educate their member of congress on what’s important regarding the future of the USPS, and Doug Carlson shared an awe-inducing presentation about how he, as a single citizen representing the interests of the general public, was able to successfully influence the Postal Regulatory Commission’s decisions on both postage rates and service proposals.
GCA Members also enjoyed panel discussions featuring independent retailers who shared important feedback on the greeting card category and its relevance to their business and customers, as well as a panel of sales experts who shared the ins and outs of how to find, hire and keep productive sales reps and how to keep their attention on your brand and product to make sure it’s enjoying maximum placement at retail. A fun new session was added this year in a speed-dating format that engaged the GCA’s Associate Members – an important group of industry vendors who help make our products better through their offerings of the best paper, finishing techniques, display options and marketing solutions for greeting cards. The Speed Selling session allowed our industry suppliers to make multiple 5-minute presentations about their products and services to the industry publishers, as well as share promotional materials, product samples, catalogs and contact information. It was a fun and interactive way to engage the two groups responsible for making and keeping our products looking and selling their best — our industry publishers and suppliers!
The beautiful LaPlaya Hotel and Resort in Naples was the perfect setting for this relaxed and casual few days of meetings. Attendees enjoyed beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico from their beachfront hotel rooms, as well as delicious meals with waterfront views and gulf breezes. Attendees also enjoyed a cocktail hour cruise around Naples and it’s beautiful and lavish beachfront homes, with a picture perfect sunset, and dolphins who appeared ready for great photo-ops. Those who chose to stay an extra few hours or an extra day on Saturday and Sunday took advantage of the time available for a little R&R at one of the LaPlaya’s pools or the private beach, as well as a little shopping or dining on Naples Fifth Avenue.
If you were unable to attend this year, you missed a fantastic time of learning, networking and problem solving with your industry colleagues in a relaxed and comfortable setting. Please put this event on your calendars for 2020 when we’ll be “Making It” in Detroit, Michigan next September. Our hosts, Avanti Publishing, will be putting together a robust group of speakers, influencers and trendsetters from the Midwest who will inspire us to think bigger and smarter about our businesses and how to grow the industry overall. See you next year in Detroit!
Thinking of You Week
Nicky Burton, Calypso Cards and Dave Phipps, Avanti Press
Thinking of You Week 2019 took place the last week of September and reached far more people than we could have hoped! Social media – especially Instagram which turned out to be the platform of choice – exploded with stores and groups planning events as well as the general public responding. The #thinkingofyouweek hashtag was used 4,000 times during the week and our Instagram page was visited 1,400 times! Paper Source fully embraced the week with a banner in their consumer magazine, and individual stores posted events to support the week. The USPS “Thinking of You. Mail a smile” postmark spread the word throughout the month of September. The week wrapped up with an event in the National Postal Museum in Washington D.C. as part of Capitol Hill Day, when the public was invited to select a donated card and write it there. People of all ages fully engaged with the activity, proving once again that the joy of sending and receiving greeting cards is alive and well!
In just two years, our campaign has delivered many smiles and is snowballing with more and more people recognizing the value of connecting through hand-written notes. As members of the greeting card industry, we are in a unique position to engage in and encourage this connection! The Thinking of You Week committee will take a break until April 2020 and then gear up ready for Noted. We welcome anyone who would like to join us to help us brainstorm and implement ideas for Thinking of You Week 2020. For more information, visit https://www.thinkingofyouweekusa.com/.
by Alan Friedman, Chair
Happy Fall from your GCA Membership Committee. We are so excited to see Halloween and Thanksgiving greeting cards everywhere. At our Workshop and Retreat in Naples this past September we shared the exciting news that our GCA community now numbers 190 member companies. This is our largest number in a decade! Join us in welcoming our newest members: Bench Pressed, Black River Letterpress & Paper Co., Fine Moments, Giggledoon, Gotta Get Up, KB Paperie, My Darlin’, Ormolu Press, Pen + Pillar, Redback Cards, Shannon Cohen, Inc., Studio Vcky, Umlaut Brooklyn, Wild Card Creations, and Yardia.
We are hard at work preparing for 2020 annual renewals, and planning content and events for the new year. Whether we see you in person at Noted in May, or virtually on one of our new webinars, we hope that you will take advantage of some of the member benefits being offered. Looking forward, we are actively working to deliver education direct to your inbox in the form of recordings that, as a member, you are able to take advantage of at any time. Currently being offered is the ‘The Expo Experience’ with Lindsay Henry, John Smyth and our moderator Carlos Llansó. Keep an eye open for new recordings and webinars coming soon!
President, Great Arrow Graphics
by LOUIE Awards Committee
First things first. We want to recognize our 2019 Consumer’s Choice Winner, Warren Tales, for their submission in the Most Humorous category! Their card was liked over 430 times on social media and shared 42 times. Congratulations Lindsey and team on this achievement!
We congratulate all of the winners from the 2019 program and invite you to view them here.
Secondly, we are excited to let you know that the 31st LOUIE Awards Call for Entries are now OPEN! We have made a few changes to the LOUIE Submission process and have added a new category into the mix. The Paper Engineering and Innovation category recognizes innovation and engineering of a card. We are looking for cards demonstrating outstanding utilization of paper engineering which may include, but is not limited to, the use of pop-up’s, sound, and lights. Special attention will be given to innovation, print and production quality, and overall attention to detail and elaboration. Limit to 1 entry per company for this specially recognized award. To review the 2020 categories, visit here.
Whether you are new or established within the greeting card industry, the LOUIE Awards should be important to you. Established in 1988, these prestigious awards recognize the most outstanding greetings cards, invitations and announcements marketed in the U.S. In homage to Louis Prang, the German-born Boston lithographer credited with the birth of the U.S. Christmas card in the 1870’s, the LOUIEs have been around for over thirty years! We hope you join in the celebration of the greeting card industry by submitting an entry to the 2020 Program – Left My Heart at the LOUIEs’. To learn more about the history of the LOUIE Awards, visit here.
If you are interested in joining any of our committees, contact GCA Executive Director Peter Doherty.