Direct from Market: National Stationery Show

National Stationery ShowThis year's National Stationery Show, held at the Javits Center in New York City, was high in quality - from the high quality of the products to the creativity of the booth designs to the well-planned layout of the show floor - on both the wholesale and the retail side. Rain throughout the four-day run didn't dampen the spirits of exhibitors nor the excitement of attendees at this year's show - which drew some 11,000 buyers worldwide and featured nearly 900 companies offering the best in greeting cards and paper-related products.

Although for some vendors, the show may not have resulted in as many orders written at the show, they were happy about the contacts they made, and confident that good business would be the result. As Knock Knock's Randy Erlandsen noted, "At this show we get to spend more time with our key accounts and often get to meet with higher level managers." Trip van Roden of Wellspring noted that this year he had seen a lot more buyers at the show from Latin America.

Trending at the Show

One of the best places to get a quick overview of product, color and design trends at the NSS is at the Best New Product display, located in the Crystal Lobby. Winners of the 15th Annual Best New Product Awards were presented in eight categories: All Things Wedding - Pistachio Press; Celebrations - Design Design; Eco-Chic - Paper Parasol Press; Lifestyle - Got Skins; Luxury - Metalpress Designs; Paper Style - Sapling Press; The Desktop - M. Middleton; and Delegate's Choice - Haute Papier.

 Design DesignDesign Design Sapling PressSapling Press M.
 MiddletonM. Middleton Metalpress DesignsMetalpress Designs
 Haute PapierHaute PapierPaper Parasol Press
Paper Parasol Press
Got 
Skins
Got Skins
 Pistachio PressPistachio Press

Among the dominant trends seen in the Best New Product display - and throughout the show - was the continuing popularity of letterpress-printed products, which have now extended beyond cards and invitations to additional paper items. 9SpotMonk, for instance, offered a unique letterpress-printed paper wall clock, while Smock  carried 9spotmonkletterpressed calendars, Haute Papier had letterpress-printed coasters, and Pistachio Press introduced letterpressed "Woodland Animal Masks."

Party flags were another prevalent motif, adorning gift bags from Design Design, invitations from Anna Griffin, and cocktail napkins from The Madison Park Group. Banners, in general, were popular - and could be found on a wooden version from Figs & Ginger, letterpress offerings from A Favorite Design and on a die-cut banner greeting from Someday Designs.

Lifeguard PressLifeguard Press Dylans Candy Bar
Upscale partyware - far different than its mass-market counterparts - appeared in several booths, including Meri Meri, which is clearly putting an emphasis on this category and has added many new party items, including party kits, cupcake kits, table centerpieces and bunting. Partyware was a big part of the new Dylan's Candy Bar line from Lifeguard Press. For a more intimate party, Knock Knock introduced its Fete-a-Tete Mini Party for Two kits. Each kits comes with a party banner, two coasters, a wine label and a card.

Destination themes and imagery abounded at the show as well. Gooseberry Press showcased its whimsical maps on notecards and postcards – perfect for save-the-dates or just to say hello from somewhere – travel journals and totes.

Double BravoDouble Bravo
The company can customize their maps for weddings. Smudge Ink introduced a updated collection of its Cities and States lines of letterpress holiday cards featuring cityscapes or icons in snowglobes. Double Bravo Designs offered a line of letterpress city trivia-based wedding/anniversary and birthday cards. And new exhibitor, Three Line Greetings offered tri-fold greeting cards with photographic images taken from around world and messages that are aspirational and inspirational at the same time.

Products for Gen Y

One of the biggest issues facing the stationery market is how to appeal to younger customers in order to keep greeting cards and other paper items remain viable sellers, a concern that was also the topic of Sunday morning's second annual Future Conference, themed "Put it on Paper: The Importance of Pen and Ink in the Digital Age." Keynote speaker Seth Godin, a best-selling author, marketing entrepreneur and founder of Squidoo.com, captivated the audience of several hundred with anecdotes and advice on how to keep paper products relevant in a changing cultural climate.

The key point that Godin brought out in his presentation is that because of today's technology, we no longer need paper/stationery to communicate, therefore, we have to make people want it. A panel moderated by Pam Danziger, founder of Unity Marketing, that included a top retailer, several manufacturers, a trend forecaster and a popular blogger, reinforced Godin's message that stationery in today's world is still relevant because it delivers messages in a way that makes the recipient feel special.

American GreetingsAmerican Greetings Just Wink
Several companies at the show offered lines sure to help the texting generation become future paper customers. American Greetings led the charge, with a big introduction of its justWink line of paper greeting cards as well as virtual cards. The concept is both unique and tech-driven to appeal to Gen Y: each paper card comes with a code on the back cover that, when scanned by a smart phone, provides access to an app that allows the customer to create a different, custom, four-page greeting card online. The virtual card can then be sent to a recipient via text, email or Facebook. The app can also be downloaded from the android and iTunes stores.

Other companies are attempting to reach a younger demographic through graphics that appeal to these customers, such as TattooCards, which pairs tattoo-type imagery with unexpected verses. NobleWorks  introduced a line of licensed Weeds cards, featuring pot-related images and messages from the hit Showtime series. Several card lines also featured emoticons that younger customer can relate to, such as the "I <3 U" greeting from J. Ames Greetings.

Hi Tech Touches

There is no doubt about the impact that technology has in our daily lives and the role that it plays. Many tech-related products could be found at the show, such as decorative covers for iPods, iPads, smart phones and laptops, that are sure to attract Gen-Yers - and their parents. Some of the accessories are protective and practical, such as the cross-body bag from RoomItUp  with a smart phone pouch that allows the user to text or view messages without removing the phone from the pouch. Other accessories provide a way to personalize the phone such as the new Skins line, which won one of the Best New Product Awards.

Cultivating the Littler Customer

Notes & QueriesNotes & Queries Fantasia Felts
The youngest generation was foremost with a number exhibiting companies. Elum introduced a childrens' stationery kit. KinderKalendars presented a bilingual daily calendar designed to teach kids not only about days and dates, but also colors, numbers, animals and another language. The letterpress clocks from 9 Spotmonk, which come in four kid-themed designs, include three crayons so that they can colored in by the younger set.

Resource International has a new line of storage and organization accessories and playthings for little ones that are eco-friendly. Its new Amikins line of crocheted dolls and accessories are handcrafted from bamboo yarn.

Nude Fruit  introduced Sticky Ties and Sticky Wears. Kids can stick these reusable fabric decorative items to their clothing to add a little additional personal style. Nude Fruit's Sticky Cards have a greeting that can be saved and reused by peeling it off and sticking it to the recipient's surface of choice. The sticky adhesive will not harm the surface.

Crane & Co. presented a new book on manners by Mindy Lockard geared to kids and entitled Elle & Maggie. Notes & Queries introduced two lines aimed at the younger set: Fantasia Felts, greeting cards that come with have felt hand puppet, and Patch Pops, a line of cardboard puzzle cards.

Even Knock Knock, known for its very grown-up humor, is entering the kids' category with This or That, an activity book of choices, and a group of Playtime Pads.

A Place to Meet and Party

Rob Fortier and Meryl HookerRob Fortier and Meryl Hooker with their new book
The National Stationery Show is truly the industry's annual gathering place, with company and association meetings being held, seminars and product demos offered daily, and parties and special events slated each evening.

Prior to the show's opening, the Greeting Card Association held an open board meeting as well as several committee meetings on Saturday morning in the Javits Center. The GCA is now managed by GLM, which also manages the NSS. Many GCA members exhibited at this year's show; and several GCA associate members were exhibitors in the Supply Side - a division of the NSS featuring stationery-related suppliers and production resources.

Later that day, a champagne reception was held in the Glass Room of the Javits to celebrate the launch of Showtime! The greeting card and gift company's guide to trade show success - the second book penned by Rob Fortier, owner of the stationery company Paper Words, and "sales rockstar" Meryl Hooker of Meryl Hooker Sales and the Center Aisle Group.

Sunday night's Show Party, held at Battery Gardens in downtown NYC, is always a great networking opportunity ... the rain even stopped in time for partygoers to mingle outdoors and to enjoy the beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The highlight on Monday evening was the GCA's 23rd Annual International Greeting Card Awards, known as the "LOUIEs." This Oscars of the greeting card industry took place at Espace, an elegant venue within walking distance of the Javits (if it had not been raining!). Two "Card of the Year" winners were selected from among all of the winners in each of 53 categories. A new, gallery-like LOUIE display featuring all of this year's finalists was situated at the rear of the 3400 aisle.

Those whose feet were still holding out - and who were fortunate enough to score one of the limited number of tickets available - continued to party on Tuesday evening at the Greeting Card, Stationery & Gift Industry GURUs' networking event at Rosie O'Grady's in midtown Manhattan. Launched by Andy Meehan of Development Solutions Global, the GURUs is the industry's LinkedIn group, with several thousand members who regularly share information, advice and comments with one another.

A Good-Looking Show

Paper Runway
Paper Runway
 DCWV boothDCWV booth

Considering that the Javits Center is still undergoing extensive reconstruction and that the midsection of the main floor was closed off, making this show look good was no easy feat. "The Paper Runway": a display of gorgeous paper dresses and outfits strategically placed within an enclosed passageway connecting the two sides of the show separated by the construction area. What could have been an eyesore instead turned into a talked-about destination for visitors to view and vote on their favorite paper outfits - some of which were created by design students from LIM College vying for a $1,000 cash prize provided by Kate's Paperie; several others were created by cutting-edge fashion designers and four were contributed by NSS exhibitor DCWV Inc., which also featured three additional paper dresses on mannequins in their show booth, and proved an effective way to showcase the company's collections of decorative craft papers and embellishments.

CompendiumCompendium's Boogie Monster character
Other companies also added fun elements to their booths in order to draw attention to their lines. Design Design had a mime doing tricks with greeting cards; a costumed character greeted visitors to the Compendium Inc. booth; and Stephen Brown of One Hundred 80 Degrees' Glitterville  worked his booth dressed as colorfully and whimsically as his line of partyware and holiday accessories.

Adding to the festive atmosphere of the show, the tradition of "Happy Hour on the Hudson" was continued by several exhibitors who offered libations to visitors in their booth in the late afternoon. The NSS is not only a trade show, it's an industry celebration!

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