The fact that I am writing this President’s Message is indeed a surprise. And it is a privilege that I do not take lightly! Of course, it is typically the sitting President who has the honor of addressing the GCA membership. But as the past few months have brought many surprises for the GCA, the fact that this month’s column falls to me might not be as surprising as some of the other recent developments.
I suppose now is a good time to mention that I have previously served as President of another organization for three years. But the responsibilities assigned to the President of the Greeting Card Association go far beyond what I was charged with during my tenure. Our association’s recent leaders, including Susan January, Steve Doyal, Carlos Llansó, and Christy Kaprosy, have all felt the weight of the world on their shoulders from time to time, and have experienced the challenges associated with an ever-changing industry. With challenges come rewards, however. And these same leaders have been at the helm during an exciting time that has seen an apparent resurgence in our category.
With this resurgence comes an opportunity to make the association even better and, at the same time, more responsive to members’ needs. We already know that the pace of change is accelerating, both for makers and for their suppliers. The GCA must respond to our colleagues’ needs for the latest information, new industry tools, and new opportunities for sales. Otherwise, we are doing our friends a disservice.
And we are responding! Who would have thought that we would be celebrating the recent completion of our first-ever trade event in May which was supported, developed and led by GCA members and many other industry colleagues? The results from our 2019 Noted: The Greeting Card Expo® event were so positive that we are already well underway with planning for the 2020 event. Exhibit sales for new companies are slated to begin in mid-August, with attendee registration to follow soon after. And who would have thought that our second annual event would be held in San Francisco, which is just about as far away in distance from our typical meeting location as possible?
What else is surprising? The fact that our membership has grown by nearly 20% in just one year is incredible. We have not seen this kind of growth in a dozen years. And I was privileged to meet and talk with many of our new members at Noted in May. We’re glad they made it to Brooklyn. And boy, did they have a lot to share! This is a great thing, of course, because though much of the experience at Noted 2019 was quite positive, there is much more to do to make Noted the long-term success we all know it will be. This participant feedback, and their participation in future planning, is crucial to our success. One of the overarching messages we heard was clear. The status quo is no longer acceptable. We get it. And we agree.
Speaking of things that are far from the ordinary, we are only weeks away from our re-imagined Annual Convention. After 70 years, the time has come to breathe new life into this event. And we have done so, changing far more than just the name. Our 1st Annual Workshop & Retreat in Naples, FL will bring new opportunities for learning and discovery, not to mention a little fun. It’s likely that the “Retreat” portion of the name comes from the casual beachfront setting of Naples. And yes, we will even have poolside education! Attendees will have the chance to escape from the normal routine, and brainstorm with fellow GCA members on how to improve and grow their business, while still making this rewarding trip affordable for most members. The lineup of presenters is nearly complete. Click here for a recent interview with Susan January that explains the vibe and goals of this event. And it’s an international lineup of speakers, by the way! We are pleased to welcome my colleague from the UK GCA, Executive Director Amanda Ferguson, who will share the latest greeting card trends from across the pond.
I would like to close by reminding you that the USA / UK connection doesn’t end there. Executive Committee member Nicky Burton and GCA’s PR and Communications Committee, led by Dave Phipps, have been hard at work preparing for our second Annual Thinking of You Week, originally launched in the UK and due to begin on September 23rd. This year, Thinking of You Week volunteers will come to Washington, DC and take part in an uplifting activity at the National Postal Museum, just steps from Capitol Hill. Remember that Thinking of You Week was primarily developed for you, your retailers and their customers, as a great way to celebrate the joy of sending and receiving hand-written notes and greeting cards as the holiday season approaches. YOUR involvement in this activity will make all the difference. And it’s easy to participate! Visit www.thinkingofyouweekusa.com for more details and our publisher’s toolkit.
Peter Doherty, CAE, Executive Director