Monthly Archives: June 2017

  • 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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