• Top five charity Christmas card packs

    Posted by Mark on 27/11/17

    With December 1st later this week Christmas is officially about to begin. Although we've been preparing for months we only start putting out Christmas stock in early November with Advents and Christmas card packs first.

    Charity Christmas card packs are hugely popular, and rightly so, as they are not only great to give to friends and family but also support a huge number of brilliant causes across the UK.

    Choosing one can be hard when you're faced with a big selection so here's our top ten.

     

    Woodmansterne - Conducting Christmas 20 pack of Christmas cards

     

    5. Woodmansterne - Conducting Christmas

    A fantastic box Christmas cards, designed by Quentin Blake, with proceeds supporting Childline UK.

    Great value too at £7.99 for 20

     

     

    ArtPress are incredibly proud to be launching their Royal Academy Collection. The Royal Academy is an independent institution led by distinguished artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate. This wallet contains 10 cards with matching envelopes of Ian Ritchie's Mary on a Mule with Joseph.4. ArtPress - Ian Ritchie 'Mary and Joseph'

     

    A very popular charity Christmas card set at Postmark, this simple yet striking design is from Ian Ritchie and is in support of the Royal Academy of Arts

     

     

     

    Art File are immensely proud to support CLIC Sargent and their outstanding work they do across the UK for children with cancer. For every Charity pack sold, 48p will be donated to CLIC. Each pack contains 6 cards and 6 matching envelopes.3.The Art File - Festive Llama

    Next year's big thing, Ilama's have made an appearance this Christmas including this fun and festive pack from The Art File. Supporting CLIC Sargent this pack of six cards retails at £4.99

     

     

     

    2: Caroline Gardner - Christmas Tree Caroline Gardner's wonderful Christmas charity packs are a great way to help support Meningitis Now. For every pack sold 30p is donated to the trust. 5 cards are included in each pack with 5 matching white envelopes. The cards are printed on FSC board with a foil and embossed finish.

    This wonderful Christmas charity pack supports the work of Meningitis Now and impress family and friends this Christmas with each card enjoying a foil and embossed finish. £5 for five cards.

     

     

     

    An exceptional Christmas card charity pack from The Almanac Gallery, helping raise much needed funds for The Royal Marsden Charity. 8 high quality cards are included this pack with matching white envelopes1: The Almanac Gallery - Collection 

    The Almanac Gallery produce a fantastic range of charity Christmas cards each year including this wonderful traditional set. Supporting a wide range of charities they card packs come in a variety of sizes 8, 12 and 20 and range in price from £5.50 - £8.50

  • Independent Thinking.......Spooky thoughts with Postmark

    Posted by Mark on 01/11/17

    Hi all,

    Hope you all had a fun Halloween.

    Here's the latest in our 'Independent Thinking' article for PG Buzz

    See you next time

    Mrs PM

    Independent Thinking: Spooky stuff from Postmark


    Leona (centre), Aoife and Dannan Janson-Smith,
    all geared up for Halloween – no sign of Mark!

    Mrs Postmark (Leona) is a huge fan of Halloween. In fact as I’m writing this she’s happily decorating the house with bats, huge fake spiders, skulls and a whole host of other spooky creatures ahead of our annual Halloween get together with neighbours and friends before we head out ‘trick o treating’ with the kids who share her demonic enthusiasm in equal measure.

    I honestly couldn’t understand her passion for it when we first met until she explained that growing up in Ireland Halloween was a really big thing. “American rubbish” I’d say, but of course, as she happily pointed out, I was very wrong. Halloween is in fact deeply rooted in Celtic culture and has its origins in the Irish festival of Samhain, all of which found its way to the US.

    Postmark is a fan of this Pango Productions’ Halloween card.
    Postmark is a fan of this Pango
    Productions’ Halloween card.

    She’s got a whole stash of stories about hacking Jack O Lanterns out of turnips (very hard apparently, no pumpkins in Ireland in 1982), wishing for the ring in the Barm Brack and always getting the rag (don’t ask me, it all sounds a bit crazy) and roving around collecting money and sweets dressed in a variety of costumes which seemed to be almost entirely based around a black bin bag sprayed with left over Christmas snow and a cheap plastic mask.

    However, her enthusiasm for the 31st of October is a bit infectious and since we’ve had the kids it’s become a very fun time of the year for us. And we don’t seem to be alone. Halloween has really taken off as a calendar event for UK retailers in the last five years, with consumers expected to spend almost £500m on decorations, food and costumes this year alone.*

    The stockrooms are piling up with Christmas cards ready to go out on display when the time is right.
    The stockrooms are piling up with Christmas
    cards ready to go out on display when the time is right.

    There still isn’t much call for Halloween cards, and I doubt it’s ever going to be a huge card giving event, but in solidarity with Mrs Postmark’s love of the scary season, this year we decided to stock a very small selection of the cute Pango Halloween cards, which have gone down really well with our customers.

    Aside from all the spooking goings on this is also the time of year when many smaller retailers start thinking about putting out Christmas stock. We’re pretty traditional at Postmark and try to wait until the week of November 1, but in the last few years we’ve seen an increase in requests for Christmas stock in some of our shops from about mid-October onwards.

    I know for a lot of retailers the decision of when to put out Christmas stock can be really tricky and getting it right is a real art. Go too early and you risk annoying those customers who are fed up with Christmas lasting four months, go too late and you’ll lose out to competitors.

    Timing it just right to turn the shop festive is something Mark Janson-Smith wrestles with. Seen here (right) with Scribbler’s Eliot James (left) and House of Cards’ Nigel Williamson at the judging for The Calies, UK Calendar Awards.
    Timing it just right to turn the shop festive is
    something Mark Janson-Smith wrestles with.
    Seen here (right) with Scribbler’s Eliot James (left)
    and House of Cards’ Nigel Williamson at the judging for
    The Calies, UK Calendar Awards.

    We hold back mainly because that is what the majority of our customers want. They are pretty clear that they’re happy to wait and will actively say how nice it is to come into the shops and not have to look at Christmas in October. However, as already mentioned, there is a small, but significant, number who are asking for Christmas cards, sometimes as early as September.

    To help balance all these needs we’ve started to direct any early Christmas shoppers to our website where we open our Christmas shop in late September. Plus, we also keep a selection of Christmas cards to hand for them to browse instore if they ask.

    This does mean getting our Christmas orders in and processed as early as we can (late August/early September) but this online/instore division seems to be working well for now. However that’s not to say in future years we won’t find ourselves staggering our Christmas roll out at different dates in different stores to ensure our customers are happy.

    Christmas is coming… to Postmark.
    Christmas is coming… to Postmark.

    Apart from customer feedback, one of the other major reasons we don’t put Christmas stock out until as late as possible is the impact it has on everyday card sales. Shelves packed with Christmas stock may generate interest but unless they are selling through it means less space for everyday items, which people are keener to buy there and then. Getting that fine balance right – gauging the point when a Christmas bay will generate more revenue per day than everyday stock in that same space is always front of mind for me at this time of year.

    To my mind, whenever you decide to set the Christmas ball rolling is really down to when you think you can start selling it. For me I’m happy to hold back as long as I can and then see the sales come through right from day one of the roll out. Admittedly, this can be hard to do when you’re facing a stock room full to bursting, but I think it’s a decision customers appreciate it is one that will benefit in the long run.

    Halloween may be when you are supposed to be spooked out, but for me ensuring you get Christmas right is far more scary!

    https://www.retail-week.com/data/data-halloween-retail-spending-poised-to-hit-472m/7013345.article

  • Independent thinking......Getting to grips with HR

    Posted by Mark on 12/10/17

    Our latest article from PG Buzz on getting to grips with HR.....

    Judging by the amount of stock amassing in the stock rooms at Postmark, Christmas is well and truly on the way. Which also means lots of time organising everyone to be where we need them to be, making sure the shops are looking good and well stocked and customers are filling their baskets. It’s not rocket science, but as we all know any tasks that involve staff, rotas and holidays always takes time and a little (absolutely tiny) bit of swearing!

    In my previous life I never had to worry about rotas or managing the needs of more than two or three team members so I had no idea how much time I was about to start spending doing jobs like this when I started at Postmark.

    The Postmark team celebrating winning two Retas awards.

    The Postmark team celebrating winning
    two Retas awards.

     

    Now don’t get me wrong I love spending time with the team but any sort of formalised HR seemed a bit OTT for a business of our size and besides as long as the shops were open everything was fine. Right? Well not exactly.

    Like lots of other small businesses by being a bit relaxed about how we managed our staffwe were in danger of breaking a few laws and harming our business by not having full control over what our employees did and how they did it.

     

     

     

    In fact the top five HR pitfalls that business like ours face are:

    1. Employing the wrong people (a costly mistake I’d think we’ve all made).
    2. Not creating clear job definitions or job descriptions.
    3. Ignoring performance issues.
    4. Not understanding basic employment law (shared maternity anyone?).
    5. Owners not acknowledging the need for HR (insert little red face here).
    Leona Janson-Smith travels by bike between Postmark’s shops to visit staff.

    Leona Janson-Smith travels by bike
    between Postmark’s shops to visit staff.

    I personally would add another, which I think is above and beyond the five mentioned above – time. With so many other things to do you ask yourself why bother and if you do want to bother where do you start? It can really seem daunting but it seems to us, the best thing to do is keep it simple otherwise you’ll never keep it up.

    Communication is King. Which is where I started. It helps that we love a chat at Postmarkso it didn’t take much to formalise it a little bit. We did this by putting in regular catch-ups with senior staff and encouraging our managers to give feedback as soon as possible – positive and negative – as this nips any staff problems in the bud or praises great work when it is still fresh. Those who felt nervous or unsure about this process I spent time going through various scenarios with them, which was both very funny and eye opening at the same time.

    Formalising HR matters has reaped rewards for Postmark.

    Formalising HR matters has reaped rewards for Postmark.

    We also put in place an appraisal planand wrote up some proper jobdescriptions for everyone. It is time consuming, but it really does make a huge difference. Staff now feel looked after, listened to and in return we get a chance to encourage development and think about delegating more responsibility to those who are keen, which can only be a good thing.

    We’ve recently also put a performance-related bonus scheme in place to reward great performance and encourage our staff to go that extra mile for our customers. It’s all new and worked out using something that I can only describe as the ‘MJS equation’ (MJS = Mark Janson-Smith), but acknowledging the great work our staff do is something Mark and I feel very strongly about and we hope will have a really positive impact on our business.

    It also helps to get organised. When I first joined Postmark the HR files were… well, they didn’t exist. So, one of the first things I did was spend a bit of time sorting out a very simple contractwhich everyone now signs that clearly sets out their hours, wages, holiday allowance and notice period and making sure we recorded evidence of right to work. On the training front we worked out a checklist for new starters, which has really helped our managers ensure everyone is given a proper induction and trained to maintain standards.

    Of course all this extra HR was all a little bit weird for everyone at first, as it wasn’t something we were used to doing. However it has really taken off. Our managers now feel more confident dealing with any staff issues that come up; everyone has a clear idea of what they are supposed to be doing and to what standard and there is lots of feedback and support.

    The MJS (Mark Janson-Smith) Formula for a good start to the day – a cuppa!

    The MJS (Mark Janson-Smith) Formula
    for a good start to the day – a cuppa!

    For us it’s meant we now have a clearer line of communication with our staff and some of the things they’ve fed back to us have been really interesting and surprising. Sometimes it can be hard to hear but it’s important that they feel they can tell us when things are going right and more importantly, when they’re not.

    The changes we’ve made over the last few years haven’t been revolutionary, but they’ve definitely had a big impact on how we all work. Looking after the team can be frustrating at times but it’s definitely worth it, especially when we get feedback from our customers about how great the service was or how fab the shop looked. It makes us very proud of all the hard work the teamput into our businesses and for that we think they deserve the best we can give them.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Independent Thinking.....Sale or return - what harm is it doing the card industry?

    Posted by Mark on 05/09/17

    The latest from our regular column 'Independent Thinking..' over at PG Buzz

    For a huge number of the card buying public sending a card is linked to an event, in particularly those big Spring moments - Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Prompted by a reminder that it’s an ‘occasion’ they head out pick up a card and off it goes.
    Mother's Day card - Alice Scott Mother's Day - safe but at what cost?

    For retailers, like us, these occasional customers are a huge source of income and we always go out of our way to encourage them to send a bit of happiness

    Valentine's Day in danger? Valentine's Day in danger?

    through the post a couple of times a year, spending hours sourcing and buying an appealing selection of cards for them to choose from for just these occasions.

    So rumours that some publishers are considering halting production for less profitable seasons is a hugely worrying.  It’s being said that those publishers considering dropping these occasions are mainly pulling out of Father’s Day, Valentines and Easter but will continue to produce cards for the more profitable Mother’s day. The reason? They feel they just can’t make any money from the poorer performing Spring occasions as so many retailers expect full sale or return, especially through brokerage. Once discounts are taken in to account and then the returns, there is no margin and often even a loss.

    This is a sad state of affairs for the industry if it is true.  Without great designs coming through putting together the appealing collection we need to attract as many ‘ocassion’ card buyers as possible will become next to impossible and over time these occasions risk becoming forgotten or being lost to niche markets. Markets like Etsy where thousands of cottage industry publishers can offer customers the most precise of caption and a depth of offer that traditional store like us just can’t offer.

    Gathering too much stock? Gathering too much stock?

    If this is true is then industry needs to change and us retailers need to start taking more responsibility for the products we buy. If you have a box of cards that are on firm sale and a box of cards on SOR, it is obvious which box will get the prime shelf space. I have heard of horror stories of entire orders being returned that haven’t even been opened which, in my opinion, is just not acceptable and makes some of these publisher’s decisions to pull out of these seasons understandable. I also often hear of people blatantly over ordering so there are shelves are full until the very last minute but at the publishers cost.

    Looking at it objectively it is a strange state of affairs, with the burden of financial loss shared very unequally. One of my favourite industry stories is well respected man who many  years ago had a meeting with a national retailer. He showed them his designs and the buyer asked if he could return what he didn’t sell. The publisher sarcastically said ‘hang on a second, let me ring my printer and ask if he will take back what we don’t sell.

    The buyer didn’t pick up on the sarcasm and said, ‘really? Would you do that for me. Before the publisher barked back ‘Of course I won’t, I am here to sell you cards, not lend you cards’

    Funnily enough, the publisher didn’t last much longer as it had become so expected for SOR in our industry and yes it does give a degree of comfort knowing that one bad decision won’t end up in piles of dead stock but we do need to take some responsibility.

    Our number one factor in our decision making when buying is design. If we LOVE the design then we will buy it whatever the margin or terms are. If we like the design then, yes, the margin and

    Getting the buying right Getting the buying right

    terms will play a bigger part as the offering out there is of such high quality that if it is a close call between one range or another but one offers a higher margin or more flexible terms, then naturally we will lean towards the more favourable one.

    All this said, I do still believe that it is in all of our best interests to work together. We need publishers and publishers need us. Without each other, the industry doesn’t work and these occasions are so important to keep the wonderful gesture of sending a card in the mainstream public eye

    Even the greatest buyer is never right 100% of the time, or if they are, I have never met them!

    What we often do these days and I feel is the right way forward is an agreed percentage of sale or return.

    I feel this works for everyone as the publisher knows where they stand and what their maximum liability is, orders are likely to be slightly higher as buyers can be slightly more bullish. It also shows a level of belief in their own products but the buyer also has a buffer to work with so they are not left with loads of end of lines which can also work in the publishers favour as it is likely to result in more orders the following years.

    It does mean that you have to try and work out your numbers beforehand, to gage what will be hot and what won’t be quite as hot but isn’t that the fun in being a buyer? The joy when you get it right and the ‘what is wrong with customers these days?’ when you don’t!

    Mr PM

     

  • We only went and won - Postmark named UK's Best Greeting Card Retailer!

    Posted by Mark on 17/07/17

    Well what a week that was!

    Last Wednesday we packed the kids off to school, donned our glad rags and headed off to the very swanky Dorchester Hotel for the annual RETAs awards. These are basically our industry awards as they recognise the importance of retailers - like us - to the greeting card industry which is said to be worth around a whooping £1.7bn a year, that is a lot of cards!

    We were very excited to be up for two awards, Best Independent Retailer (London) and Best Initiative for our Feel Good Friday campaign and are so excited to say that not only did we win the Best Initiative Award we also scooped the big one, the best overall, to be named the UK's Best Greeting Card Retailer!! It was absolutely phenomenal, when they read out our names it felt like we'd won the Oscar's, we really couldn't have been happier and I was a little bit overwhelmed.

    Postmark has been named the Greeting Card Retailer of the Year. Picture of Postmark Team picking up award Woohooo we did it! Card Retailers of the Year

    It's been almost a week now and it's still sinking in. When Mark opened Postmark almost 13 years ago winning an award like this wasn't even a dream, it was that far off the scale so to have been named best in the UK is such a fantastic feeling  and will definitely motivate us on to bigger and better things.

    Mark and Leona Janson-Smith are all smiles after picking up their RETA naming them Best Greeting Card Retailer UK All smiles after our win!

    We could never have done it without our amazing customers who've supported us over the years and the incredible Postmark team. And as if by serendipity our Summer Party is taking place this Sunday evening, we're off bowling (Strike!) so I'm sure there'll be a few glass of bubbles raised and lots of hugging.

    The Postmark Team after the win The Team after the big win!

    Not sure we'll be as warm and happy on Monday but shhh don't tell the boss!

    Until next time

    Mrs PM

     

     

  • Independent Thinking.....EPOS systems, do they work for small businesses?

    Posted by Mark on 21/06/17

    Mark Janson-Smith, md of London specialist card retailing group, Postmark spends the day at PG Live discovering new ranges for the shops, but also discussing EPOS.

    Spending our Golden Ticket with The Grumble & Co Spending our Golden Ticket with The Grumble & Co

    For me PG Live is the best trade show of the year.  Over the last nine years it has really proven its worth, attracting a very strong selection of publishers and new talent. So when it comes into view on the calendar and the reminder emails are coming thick and fast I always get excited about what the day will hold, and this year did not disappoint.

    The weather on the other hand, wow, what was all that about?! But soggy or not we arrived along with hundreds of others, ready to get back ache from carrying a ton of brochures and work up a thirst for the all-important after show drinks. As always we headed to Springboard first, bumping into agent Jake Tibbs along the way who announced he’d (finally!) gotten engaged to his girlfriend. Fantastic news and a great way to start the show.

    For us, Springboard has proven very fertile ground over the years, introducing us more recently to the likes of Tache, Rosie Made a Thing and Louise Mulgrew. This year was no different. There were lots of talented newcomers and more familiar faces with some great new lines.

    The stand out for us was The Grumble and Co, with whom  we chose to spend our Golden Ticket from last year’s Retas. We’d been aware of the guys before the show, as they’d contacted us through social media, but at the time we didn’t feel their products were right for us. However meeting them in person and seeing where the brand was going first hand changed our minds and we’re looking forward to introducing them instore very soon.

    As we made our way around one of the topics of conversation that kept coming up throughout the day was EPOS systems and the importance they’re beginning to play in the industry.  Ten years ago very few retailers, particularly small independents, were using them but now as more cost effective, and monthly subscription systems, become available this is beginning to change.

    Bright new designs from Portfolio
    Bright new designs from Portfolio

    The knock-on effect of this rise in popularity for publishers is that more EPOS means more data requests. Being ready to send product data to retailers quickly and efficiently so they can upload new products to their systems and ensuring all of their products barcoded.

    Unusually we’ve been using an EPOS system since we first opened in 2004. At that time we were probably one of the first single shop outfits to invest heavily in an EPOS system. Was it the right decision? For us, absolutely but I’ll be honest and say there has been a lot of trial and error with it over the years. That said it has played a vital part in our growth,  allowing me to track trends, manage stock across one and then multiple sites and to build an automated ordering system which has saved me a huge amount of precious time. It would also be impossible for us to run a multi-channel business without our EPOS system as our website is linked to the stock levels of our Dulwich store.

    This all sounds great and it is, but I think it’s important to be clear that EPOS systems do take work and you really need to maintain it to get the best out of it. This means regularly clearing off old SKUs and making sure you’re on top of what lines are being discontinued. Without this you will end up with a database that is out of date and spend time trying to order stock that is no longer being produced.

    So is it right for you? If you’re running a single shop you should weigh up the pros and cons carefully as no matter how cost effective a system is, installing and running it will cost you time and money.
    The cons, and this is where you’ll need to be honest with yourself, is the time you’ll spend uploading new products and maintaining the system.  Will it add value to your business? If not then the answer is most likely no.The pros have to be the incredible insights it will give you into your sales patterns and trends, as well as control over your stock. If you’re thinking of growing in the future or want to move online then you’ll definitely need some sort of EPOS system.

    Clearly it’s not for everyone. In fact at PG Live we were discussing just this with a well-respected retailer who runs a very successful business across four locations on a ticketing system.  We were totally amazed and baffled by her system and how intricate it was, as she was by ours.  She had tried EPOS but it was not for her, so it really is about what works for you.

    Postmark is an award-winning independent card retailer based in London.  Run by Mark and Leona Janson-Smith they currently have four Postmark shops in south and west London as well as an online shop at www.postmarkonline.co.uk

  • Independent Thinking...the value of good employees

    Posted by Mark on 21/06/17

    The second of our regular columns for PG Buzz...

     

    Independent Thinking… from Postmark
    By Mark Janson-Smith
    4 May 2017

    The Stationery Show The Stationery Show

    There’s always a buzz about going to a trade show and last month’s Stationery Show didn’t disappoint. It was a great start to a run of trade shows for us and I found inspiration to change the way I organise myself in the most unlikely of places.

    I’m not a fan of ‘to do’ lists, possibly because I never get to the end of them, possibly because I totally forget about it once I write it down and start doing ten other things. Either way they’ve never been for me. However I’ve been totally gripped by the ‘Bullet Journal’ which I was introduced to by Tracy Schotness from Leuchtturm which has its own special Bullet Journal edition.

    The bullet what you might ask? The trendy answer is an ‘analogue notebook for a digital age’ (yeah, I didn’t get it either). My answer is a very clever ‘to do’ list that combines tasks, events and ideas. I know; it all sounds a bit much, but for me it’s been a revelation, helping me to gather my many thoughts in one place. Once you start

    Feel Good Friday - nominated at this year's RETA's Feel Good Friday - nominated at this year's RETA's

    you can see the beauty of it but explaining it (as I’ve just tried) is bit difficult.

    On a professional level it’s also an exciting new stationery trend, helping to explain an uplift in sales of our Leuchtturm notebooks as popularity grows. If you’re interested in knowing more I’d recommend www.bulletjournal.com for simple explanation of how it works and why it’s proved so popular.

    We were also delighted to have our Retas-nominated monthly campaign ‘Feel Good Friday’ fall during National Stationery Week. This is where we invite customers to send a card for free to anywhere in the UK, just because. We’ve had such a fantastic response to the campaign from our customers and across social media and this month was no different. It just goes to show the power of a handwritten note to make a connection not possible by email or text, something that’s been rightly celebrated throughout National Stationery Week.

    Cycling in Brighton Cycling in Brighton

    In between revolutionising my ‘to do’ lists and promoting Feel Good Friday we also managed to squeeze in a few days away in sunny Brighton to celebrate our wedding anniversary and my lovely wife Leona’s birthday. Getting away is never easy when you own a business but we’re very lucky to have some great people working for us who can take over the reins when we want to step back for a bit.

    Good staff like this are priceless and the bedrock of what we do. Without them we simply couldn’t grow or maintain the quality of our business as it is today. When I first

    The Lovely Postmark Team The Lovely Postmark Team

    started Postmark back in 2004 it was just me and the till but as we’ve grown we’ve definitely had to become more professional in our approach to HR.

    I’ll be honest and admit that I simply didn’t see the value in a lot of it and felt that a more hands off approach (ie I don’t need to put it on that ‘to do’ list I keep ignoring) was best. Leona, quite rightly, disagreed with me and when she came to work at Postmark full-time, just over two years ago, she set about on her own quiet revolution, taking all HR away from me telling me diplomatically that it wasn’t one of my ‘strengths’.

  • Independent Thinking......The Art of Buying

    Posted by Mark on 21/06/17

    A couple of months ago we were delighted to be asked to contribute a regular monthly column to PG Buzz the new online magazine from the guys at Progressive Greetings.

    We've done three so far ( the first one is below) and we're getting into our stride now.

    It's great to be able to share some of our thoughts on business and the industry although when we sit down and bring up that empty word document we do sometimes wonder what the hell we're going to fill it with!

    Hope you enjoy

    Mrs PM

    Spring is in the air....

    Caroline Gardner -Valentine's Card Caroline Gardner -Valentine's Card

    Spring is definitely in the air here at Postmark.  Even I’ve been bitten by the cleaning bug and finally started clearing out some of the catalogues fighting for space in my office.  Mrs PM, who has the luck of sharing the office with me and my mountains of paper, is very happy but I’m not so sure our binmen will feel the same way.

    Flipping through them before they are bagged and sent on their way to be pulped, reshaped and reassembled, it’s hard to imagine that only a few months ago their arrival was met with excitement and anticipation, their contents yet to be unleashed on the Postmark customer.  Hours were spent scanning the contents, looking at samples, working out just the right collection for our big Spring hits.

    Take Valentine’s this year. The quality of product was great yet our STR’s were lower than last year. The reason? Monday, specifically Monday 13th February.

    February 13th is our busiest day of the year in terms of transactions. In 2016 it landed on a Saturday. For independent suburban businesses like ours this is basically a Valentine’s jackpot with regulars and new customers from the area wandering in on their Saturday amble to buy their Valentine’s card, relaxed, happy in the mood for love.

    This year it landed on a Monday. Cue death kneel of romance and a loss of sales for suburban businesses with a much higher proportion of people (men and women, let’s not get sexist here!) being unprepared and grabbing a card on their lunch break or on the way home at a supermarket.

    Given that our buying for this year was influenced by last year’s bumper Valentine’s we took a bit of hit. STR’s in 2016 were a meaty 95% while this year it was a bit leaner at 81%.

    Now compare this to Mother’s Day, which of course always lands on a Sunday, giving you the Mother’s Day jackpot every year. With a STR of 99% we literally can’t keep up with demand and every year we buy more and sell more.

    Are there lessons to be learnt here? Yes most definitely. For me the fact that Valentine’s is set to be a weekday event for the next four years will have an impact on how we buy although I think STR's will improve the further along the week it moves.  Mother’s Day while successful is trickier. As much as you may want to stuff your stockroom getting that balance between too much and too little right is a fine art.

    But no matter what you buy or how much the other key factor in all of this is your nerves. It can be alarming to see so much stock arriving and for many retailers just thinking about how they're

    Art File - Mother's Day Card Art File - Mother's Day Card

    going to shift it all can cause a few jitters. Which is why it's more important than ever to just steady yourself with the knowledge that sales always come later than think.

    For us, looking back at the last few years, over half of our Valentine’s cards sold in the four days before the event whereas for Mother’s Day it was a third (we seem to be a little bit better prepared for the Mum’s!) and at Christmas we generally find the majority of our stock (excluding packs and advents) disappearing off our shelves in the two weeks before the big day.

    Buying isn't an art but it's definitely something you never stop learning, and as for the catalogues well they may give my binmen a hernia but they remain an integral (if heavy) part of the process.

    Mark Janson-Smith

    Postmark

  • Postmark Staff Picks

    Posted by Mark on 20/06/17

    In order to work at Postmark you have to like cards, better still you have to LOVE cards!! One of our longest serving members  (and Retas 2016 winner of Best Employee of the Year) img_2486

    Emma Cole absolutely adores cards!! So we asked her to choose her top 5 and here are favourites.

     1: Cardmix Irene and Glady's 'Weatherspoons' - just because!

    A superb choice from Cardmix’s ‘Irene and Gladys’ range. Two golly pensioners critiquing the worlds most famous art works. Their quick-witted observation will have you in stitches.WEATHERSPOONS

    2: James Stevens 'Happy Birthday' Kapow - glitter for boys

    A fun range from the talented illustrator Nicola Watson, a bold illustration has been placed inside a clear bag and filled loose glitter and confetti. Everyone loves a bit of glitter – even the boys! KAPOW

    3: Rachel Ellen 'Beautiful Daughter Flamingo' - pink & fabulous

    From Rachel Ellen’s Scribble range, this bright and colourful card has been printed on textured board, using vibrant neon inks and has a sprinkle of gold glitter.   Special cards for your special people.DAUGHTER

    4:Paperlink 'Pulled Pork' E - one card, so many reasons to use it

    If you are looking for a card to cheer someone up with or just for your secret card stash – then this is the card for you. Illustrated by the clever cartoonist Will McPhail with a clever little caption from his fantastic A Colourful Mind range.  PULLED PORK

    5: Pigment ‘What The Cluck’ 

    A quirky little illustration with a funny caption from Pigment’s Etched range, simple yet hilarious. CLUCK

     

    Thank you Emma for your fabulous selection of cards.

     

    Until next time Mrs PM x

  • Introducing........Louise Mulgrew Designs

    Posted by Mark on 14/06/17

    Louise Mulgrew Designs Louise Mulgrew

    At Postmark we are always searching for new and exciting cards, so when we stumbled across Louise Mulgrew at PG Live 2016 we instantly knew she would be a hit.  As it turns out it was her first trade show! As a new comer to the industry we thought we should find out a little bit more about Louise and what inspires her to draw her quirky little creations.

     

     

     

    Brighton's North Laine Brighton's North Laine

     

    Where do you do most of your creative work?

    In my studio in the North Laine in Brighton.

     

    When you design a card, do you plan it out or is the process spontaneous?

    I lots of scribbly, sketchy plans that I tend to ignore.

     

    Pufferfish card from Louise Mulgrew Designs at Postmark Online Puffing favourite card

    What is your favourite card or range and why?

    ‘Have a blow out – puffer fish’ because he’s adorable.

     

    What training did you have before starting your company?

    I did an Illustration Degree at Loughborough University.

     

    What was your motivation to go into business?

    Giraffe card from Louise Mulgrew Designs at Postmark online Hi up there!

    I actually sort of stumbled into starting my business but it came from just loving to draw my characters. Insert image of zebra WL08

     

    What was the biggest hurdle you had to jump to set up your business?

    Funding my first trade show felt like an outrageous expense… and risk haha!

     

    Peacock card from Louise Mulgrew at Postmark Online Hey good looking!

    Describe your business in less than 50 words

    Louise Mulgrew Designs creates quirky, illustrated cards.  As a massive animal lover, most of my designs feature playful, pen and ink characters and delicate hand-written typography; perfect for celebrating all occasions!  My ever-growing range of colourful, arty cards are designed, printed and packaged locally in the UK.   Insert image of PEACOCK FF13

     

     

    If your employees were to be asked to cite your biggest weakness, what do you think the answer would be? And your greatest strength?

    Having just consulted my employee (also my Dad), we came up with an extensive list of weaknesses… I won’t name them all.  Top of the list is my attention span: I get distracted by clouds.  Greatest strength?  I hope, my illustrations!

     

    If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?

    Sloth Card from Louise Mulgrew at Postmark Online Just hanging out...

    I’d be in charge of cuddling all the cats at Cat’s Protection.

     

    If you were a movie star, who would it be and why?

    I don’t think I’ve ever been compared to a movie star… do animations count?  I’d be the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland.

     

    What’s your favourite way to relax?

    Listening to the Harry Potter audio books.

     

    If you won 4 VIP tickets to any city you like, which would it be and who would you take?

    I’d love to go to Istanbul with a few friends.

     

    Romantic or humorous: what card do you give your loved one on Valentine’s Day?         

    Humorous!

     

    Bear card from Louise Mulgrew at Postmark Online Thanks for stopping by

    If your partner was asked what is the most infuriating of your characteristics, what would they say? And your most loveable quality?

    Infuriating: I’m not very good at sharing food.  Loveable: my very awful Geography skills.

     

    Thanks Louise for answering our Q&A.  If you would like to see more of Louise’s wonderfully original cards head over to one of our stores or  have a look online

     

     

    Until next time,

     

    Mrs PM

     

     

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