A year ago we debuted at PG Live 2016 at the Business Design Centre in Islington with our newly formed Greetings Card Company Go La La. It was a whole new industry to us, and we didn’t really know what to expect; our stand felt a little bit home made and we only had around 60 cards to display; despite that we still had a lot of interest in our wares and were pleased to attract both our first few stockists and some really positive feedback. We also made a few industry friends.
We learned a lot from that show, and we learned even more at our second: Spring Fair at the NEC in February, and we learned plenty more in between, so now we are heading back to PG Live on the 5th and 6th June in a much more prepared state.
The past year has been a fast paced one; we have thought long and hard about our business model and have refined our ranges; ditched some that don’t really fit our image or portfolio and have lots of new stuff to launch at PGL 2017: additions to our first range Dramatic Paws, and even more to the more risqué Bawdy Banter and Love Handles. There are two new more mainstream ranges (Rules of Engagement and Jolly Hockeysticks); these are colourful cartoons and really stand out cards. There is also filthy phonetic fun with Gift of the GAB.
People have really started to notice our brand now, we have been promoting ourselves on Social media and have also been featured numerous times in the press. People are seeing that we offer something that is a little different from the norm, but also cards that are very eye catching and sellable.
As a result, we are finding ourselves in shops around the country – England, Scotland and Wales, and we are much more focussed than we were a year ago. There is a lot to learn in the Greetings Card industry, but we have found it to be very friendly and supportive and we have received plenty of help from the likes of the Greetings Card Association and the Ladder Club and we are now able to share our experience and advice with those new to the industry.
If you are attending PG Live 2017, please pop by and see us. You will find us upstairs in the Springboard Lounge on Stand 826, or check out our website www.golala.co.uk.
We laugh on average 17 times a day. Today, being Comic Relief Red Nose Day, there’s a good chance you might push the average a bit and find yourself giggling a whole lot more. Maybe you’re planning to settle down with a pizza for a night of CR night on the telly? Watching some top comedy while lurching between hilarity and despair at the Way of the World. And there’s the much anticipated Love Actually sequel being screened tonight.
Comedy is powerful stuff, as Richard Curtis demonstrates year upon year. What was the last thing that made you laugh or smile? What brings you to the point where you laugh so much you can’t stop? During times of doom and gloom (like this week, in fact), laughter seems all the more important in the face of what we’re feeling.
I was chatting to a friend of mine on private message yesterday. I sent her a preview of one of our new cards; an absolutely RIDICULOUS range of very silly, plasticine willies which have caused me untold hilarity and childlike giggling. Utterly puerile, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Anyway, I sent one to show her and had a series of ‘crying with laughter’ Emojis in return, and the message ‘That’s really cheered me up’.
While she had been hard at work, she’d been listening to the radio, and found herself increasingly moved and depressed by the horror of the terrorist incident in London. The arrival of the stupid willy card gave her (albeit maybe temporary) respite from the woes of the world.
We’re often asked why we do what we do – create funny cards. We have relatives that would be much more comfortable if we designed pretty, glittery cards which evoke feelings of beauty and love. And we could do that. Part of me would like to do that. But we adore humour in all its forms and ours can be pretty immature but we love the power of comedy and the escapism it can bring. We LOVE IT, when we see people shaking with laughter while studying our cards at a trade stand. We know that some people truly don’t get our brand of humour, who don’t like the rude and risque edge we bring to some of it, but there are plenty who do, and what can be better than having the means to put a smile on someone’s face when they might otherwise be having a really shitty day. That’s why we do what we do.
Since starting Go La La! we have found ourselves getting out and about a fair bit from our base in Somerset, and during the past year we have visited London several times; as well as taken short trips to Brighton and Canterbury; spent a week in Birmingham and also a night in Southend-on Sea.
This week I found myself in Glasgow for the day, meeting a new sales agent.
I could have driven, or jumped on the train or I guess even gone by coach, but weighing up the differences flying seemed the best bet. There wasn’t much in it between flights to Edinburgh or Glasgow airport, so I decided upon the latter.
Bristol to Glasgow on Easyjet is straightforward, and at a fraction under 50 quid it is a damn site cheaper than other options; better still the flight is only about an hour and so I was in Glasgow by 10.40am. Getting through security into the departure lounge was the hardest part of the journey; I was frisked, put through their new scanner as I’d set the buzzer off and then had my bag x-rayed twice as they’d spotted a mystery object….obviously dildo Greeting cards are a bit of a no no through customs; or maybe I just looked so suave and sophisticated they assumed I was James Bond; I’ve never seen him use a budget airline though…maybe his disguise really is that good.
Despite the dreary and foggy day when I Bristol, by the time we were having coffee outside in the sun, in Central Glasgow, it was extremely sunny, warm and spring like; best day of the year thus far; who says Scotland is all doom and gloom?
Later we went for lunch. I think the agent was a little surprised to find himself in a somewhat shabby and hidden away basement café/bar called the Flying Duck, especially as it only served vegan food and drink; I guess I should have mentioned earlier that I had been vegan for 30 years. Still he seemed to like the food and that’s what matters. What’s not to like with a wheat gluten based burger thing called Seitan Worshipper.
I didn’t get to experience much of the culture of Glasgow as I had hoped, apart from a busker playing amped up Bowie numbers, but it was nice to have a change of scenery, as I’d not been to Glasgow for many years.
Suffice to say, the meeting went well and we now have a fab new agent in Scotland, so if you have a shop there, please let us know and I can put you in touch with him.
Greetings Cards are funny things aren’t they. Folded sheets of card with pictures, words or both on them. Sometimes foiled, or flittered or otherwise embellished they are given for all manner of reasons.
Cards are given to celebrate a special occasion: a birthday, a new baby, passing a driving test or moving home; to express a get-well wish or a message of sympathy; to thank someone for an act of kindness; or maybe just to show a person that you care or are thinking of them. The British public buy millions of them every year as you can see from this Greeting Card Associationreport.
My favourite ever card was a Christmas card, given to me by Laura. I loved it so much that she gave me the same card the following Christmas, and again the year after. And when she ran out of space to write her thoughtful Christmas messages she bought another card exactly the same….and I received that one for another 4 or 5 years….until they both got lost in preparation for a house move. We were both extremely annoyed, yet it shows that something that can in many cases be seen as a throwaway item can sometimes mean so much to the recipient.
Today, out of the blue, we received an email from a customer, which really touched us both. It said “I came across your Alf Skitten/ Mick Jagger card this week: it made me laugh and cry as he is practically a doppelgänger for my beautiful cat who was put down the day before. I love your style of drawing so thank you for making me smile/cry every time I look at the card”.
As cat lovers ourselves it brought tears to our eyes – after all the Alf Skitten range is based on our two four legged boys – so for one of our cards to have evoked such an emotional response was touching. We tend to design our cards to be humorous rather than sentimental, so it is great to see that they can be appreciated as so much more than just a piece of printed cardboard.
I watched the recent episode of Dragons Den which featured a pitch from two young entrepreneurs promoting their product from companyDAME. They supply a subscription service of boxed sanitary products which can be delivered to the home. The proposal for investment was unanimously rejected by the Dragons. Deborah Meaden’s ‘I’m Out’ reason was that she had never struggled to find her own supply of tampons and towels in shops everywhere, and in machines in public loos etc.
But now I understand that sadly, we didn’t get to see some of the alternative proposals for this product, notably that it could be used to supply homeless women. What riled me while watching, were the irresponsible and at times, childish reactions from some of the male Dragons, notably Peter Jones, who essentially squirmed his way through the pitch, summarising with ‘I found that quite uncomfortable actually’.
Now, I’m pretty certain that as PJ has numerous children, he must be familiar with gynaecology. And I would presume that he may have witnessed a birth or three so has understanding that a woman’s reproductive organs perform various different functions. So what I would have liked Peter Jones to be that day, was someone who could have talked unflinchingly about the subject of periods, discussing maturely and objectively the issues of menstruation and the associated sanitary products. You know, things that affect his wife and daughters.
It’s pretty tiresome for most of us women, who are still made to feel that periods are a taboo subject. Get over it! We do, on a monthly basis. It’s not a big deal. But there is a more serious side to the whole concept of breaking the ‘taboo’. Women’s health charities advocate the normalisation of ‘period talk’ in order to give confidence that discussion about the menstrual cycle and gynaecology is vital to the detection and treatment of cancers which affect the uterus. As women are still made to feel uncomfortable about talking ‘periods’, those conversations are not as easy as they should be and can often mean that unusual changes to a healthy cycle might go undisclosed to a GP, because of embarrassment and unease at discussing the subject. Crazy, that in 2017, women are still ashamed to talk about a completely natural body function.
When I launched my greeting card business, I wanted to create a range of designs around the subject of periods. John and I use our humour mainly to inspire designs but we’re also keen to work on social issues from time to time. It’s what we’re all about I guess. I created the range ‘Period Drama’ to bring the subject matter to the shelves, in a way that could poke a bit of fun at periods, and highlight menstrual issues which are familiar and try just to normalise the subject a bit. I guess it called be called a feminist move.
Whatever it is, it’s interesting to see the responses the cards get. They’re brash, bold and rude. Crude, as well, some of them. But that has nothing to do with the subject matter rather than it’s merely our style of design and way of translating our humour. We have some independents that stock them and they sell. But wouldn’t it be great to get them into the mainstream?! Could it be that WHSmiths or Cardzone or Clintons would be bold enough to take them on? Partner up with a women’s health charity and start to advocate the normalisation of period talk and breaking the period taboo? Wouldn’t they just sit nicely on the high street shelves where fathers, brothers, sons, nephews and uncles might be compelled to pick one up and have a laugh? Time will tell….
For further reading check out Laura Coryton’s blog on Huffington Post:
Spring Fair at the NEC in Birmingham is one heck of a massive event, and this year it took place from 5th to 9th February.
Billed as the UK’s No. 1 home and gift show for the retail industry it is spread across 20 Halls and showcases everything there is to offer to the Gift trade, and this year Go La La! was exhibiting for the first time; a somewhat daunting prospect for us as relative newbies, and with only one other show under our belts, but unphased by the prospect, we spent several months planning; refining our ranges, designing our stand, and promoting ourselves, before cramming our cards, our shelves, paint, tools, clothes, an ottoman, food, laptops, 2 stools, a stepladder and finally ourselves into the Mini. It is surprising what will fit into a car of that size, yet the faithful old girl managed to take the lot….and us 120 miles to Birmingham, without complaint, and we arrived at lunchtime on Friday.
The Go La La! stand before work began
The first person we saw on arrival was Warren Lomax of Progressive Greetings. PG had their stall dead opposite, and Warren was a great help and very supportive throughout the show, as were his colleagues Sue and Tracey, and of course the endless supply of sweets, as well as the free drinks at the end of the day were a welcome relief.
I’d never been to the NEC before, although Laura went along last year to check it out, and it really is massive; besides the exhibition halls there are sprawling car parks, hotels, restaurants, shops and concert venues: Donny Osmond had a show on Thursday, and local band Black Sabbath was playing its final concert on Saturday, and the contrast in fans was amusing; although there was a predominantly older crowd for each everyone was in pink and glitter one night, and black leather and denim the other…I’ll leave you to decide which was which.
Away from this, we were in Hall 3 in the New Debut Card section, part of a special scheme to help GCA member publishers try out Spring Fair for the first time, and it was an ideal place to be situated.
All the Debut stands were a 3m x 1m traditional shell scheme with white wooden walls. We spent Friday afternoon painting ours with Farrow and Ball paint (only the best will do) and on Saturday attached our shelves of the same colour, before dressing the stand and putting up our cards etc. It looked very sophisticated and stylish and the shelves were pretty straight. They didn’t fall down either, which was an added bonus!
Our next-door neighbour was the lovely Katie Phythian and her partner Mike, of Katie Phythian Design, with their delightful hand finished cards; and we couldn’t have hoped for better neighbours; funny, friendly, supportive and easy to get on with.
The Show started on Sunday morning; as were staying in Digbeth (near the Bullring), we caught the train in…although didn’t realise that the first one to the NEC on a Sunday was at 8.30, and the show started at 9.00; nevertheless it was an efficient 10 minute service followed by a short walk from the station to Hall 3, and we made it to our stand with minutes to spare.
The Show was very good to us. We had set ourselves what we considered to be realistic goals, but of course being our first show we didn’t meet all of them, yet we far surpassed others, in particular we have some very positive, exciting and encouraging leads to follow up in the next few days/weeks. We also made sales to some lovely small shops across the country, including our first shops in Wales and Scotland, which was one of our aims.
Look at those fantastic Go La La Cards
I don’t think the Show was as busy as I expected overall, and this was the general view of those that we spoke to afterwards; some Halls seemed exceedingly quiet on the Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday some of the bigger buyers were around, but the final day was painfully slow, although we did make sales and it wasn’t without its merits.
By the end of the week our feet ached and our backs ached but there was a great feeling of achievement and we were invigorated by the extremely positive comments from many of the big Card Buyers – even those like John Lewis and Wilko who we knew we wouldn’t be right for popped by and said hello. So many loved our product and their feedback was valuable. Our humour cards did cause a bit of a stir, but there is nothing better than seeing people belly laugh at them, or watch their shoulders shake with amusement, and that is fantastic to observe.
The Go La La buzz
We were dreading dismantling and taking down the stand, then loading the car; but this was much easier and less time consuming than we expected; Laura fetched the car and got it to the back door promptly, while I cleared up. Loading was straight forward and we were off site in just over an hour.
We’d love to return next year…we’ll be evaluating the return on all our leads over the next 6 weeks or so, but overall it was a very worthwhile and enjoyable event!
Here at Go La La! HQ we’d really love to be winding down for the Festive break, but things are still very hectic here. Even today we are sending out Christmas orders to customers who are leaving their card shopping to the very last minute, but it has been heartening to see that one of our more niche Christmas card ranges has gone down superbly with them. As a result, we have revamped the range and added another 4 designs for Christmas 2017.
Meanwhile our printer has just returned proofs for two more ranges which we will be launching at Spring Fair, and they are both looking great. One is somewhat risqué, and will appeal to a younger market while the other is suitable for all the family.
In media news this week we had a four question feature in the lovely local Somerset Cool blog and a few days later one of our saucy new ranges appeared in a feature in the industry’s Greetings Today Magazine, and we have been receiving some great feedback off the back of that.
This forthcoming week we will be completing design work on new cards for 3 of our most successful ranges as well as totally redesigning one range which we like, but is a little wordy. There’s also our Spring/Summer catalogue to work on. We are still finalising our planning for the aforementioned Spring Fair, and we will need to look into that quite carefully before Christmas is over. Bear in mind that if you are attending Spring Fair, we can be found on Stand 3K43, so please feel free pop over and say hello.
With Go La La!, this is the first time Laura and I have worked together full time, although we did work part time together for a few years, and our works Christmas Party will just involve the two of us, so snogging the other staff under the Christmas tree, and photocopying our genitals is probably going to be right at the top our of priorities…but I just hope we don’t end up talking about work all night.
We will be taking a short break over the year, when we will be heading to a small piece of granite with no TV, no wi-fi and no mobile phone signal, and hopefully there we can relax and forget about the business for a few days, before returning fully charged and raring to go in early January.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all.
So Go La La! attended its first Ladder Club this week, and what a great experience it was.
As fairly new publishers on the scene, we were keen to attend but were unsure as to whether the first or the second day would be more beneficial to us. It seemed that we are better placed for day one and a half, as we have been around only since the middle of April; exhibited at PG Live in May; have found ourselves agents; are in numerous shops and have discussed licensing with a company in New York. Alas day 1.5 doesn’t exist, so we opted for Day 2, preceded by the Tuesday evening dinner.
Westcliff-on-Sea is around 200 miles and 4 hours from Go La La! HQ and we also had to face the daunting Dartford Crossing on the way. Despite this our journey was trauma free with no severe hold-ups, apart from getting from one side of Southend to the other, which seemed to take ages, and thus we arrived in plenty of time. It was most disconcerting when we arrived in “Sarfend” that our SatNav suggested we straight away make a U-turn, but we ignored that advice.
On Wednesday morning we arrived at the Cliffs Pavilion in plenty of time, and over coffee I had a quick look at the day’s itinerary. For a moment or two I was concerned that in fact we had made a mistake in choosing day two over day one, but as the day progressed I realised that ALL of the speakers had something to offer us and were incredibly knowledgeable and insightful about the Greetings Card industry. The subject matter was varied, never boring and we came away with great advice.
First up Jakki Brown and Lynn Tait, the co-founders of the Ladder Club welcomed everyone, introduced the speakers and sponsors and advised on how the day would pan out, and they then popped up throughout the day to announce speakers, keep us in check, close off the day and send us on our way.
Hannah and Jack of Wrendale spoke about the challenges of growing a business. It was clear from the start that they were not used to public speaking, as they appeared to be quite nervous, but despite this they were very engaging and came across as a truly likeable couple who through determination and focus have managed to grow their business massively in just a few years.
Next up were Hazel Walker and Tish Bas from Paperchase (Senior Buyer Frances Burkle was also there, although not speaking, and it suddenly dawned on us that we had bumped into her first thing in the morning as we were all trying to locate the Maritime Room where the function was being held). It was interesting to hear about the workings of a company that to us appear to be big players in the industry with their 130 UK stores; they imparted some interesting information and were far more human and approachable than we expected.
Following coffee Jessica Hogarth of Jessica Hogarth Designs gave an overview of licensing and included information about marketing overseas as well as advice on protecting yourself from design copying, as well as giving tips on things to consider when contemplating a licensing deal.
Final speaker of the morning session was Jeremy Corner, Managing Director of Blue Eyed Sun, who is a well-respected, confident and established speaker, and he gave a really interesting analysis for those thinking about moving into the export market, and with his company having recently been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade, he does know what he is talking about. His advice about cashflow, and the dangers of discounting is something that we all need to be mindful of.
Over lunch there was a chance for us to chat to the lovely Sharon Little, the CEO of the Greeting Card Association (although there was more talk of veganism than the card industry) and Julie Brightley of Enveco (supplier of our envelopes), which is a company we find incredibly easy and friendly to deal with.
The afternoon session kicked off with a very interesting talk by Mark Coulson of Coulson Macleod, who discussed the pros and cons of warehousing in-house, versus using a fulfilment company, and I really enjoyed his presentation, even though we are still at the stage of boxes of cards in the oven and fridge in our home level of business.
There was definitely a lot to consider, and this progression, if and when it happens seems one worthy of careful consideration.
Next up Bob Short of The Imaging Centre (our card printing company) gave an overview of their recently launched fulfilment service, Simplicity, which is definitely something that Go La La! will be looking into in the near future, as it seems to be a simple and intuitive system which could make our life much easier. I know a few other publishers who use it, and they seem to think it is very good.
Before the final coffee break, Gale, Jakki and Warren of Progressive Greetings gave a brief spiel about how they can help publishers to increase their public profile through the PG magazine.
After coffee, Sharon Little talked about the Greetings’ Card Association, and advised how to make the most of it. As a fledgling company that has previously phoned and emailed Sharon, we are aware of how helpful she is, and will do her utmost to answer your query or find someone else who can. The GCA seems a no brainer to join if you are a publisher, and as newbies we found it invaluable.
The day concluded with a question and answer session featuring some of the aforementioned speakers, as well as sales agent Ian Bradley who had spoken on Day 1, Miles Robinson from House of Cards and folk from paper supplier G F Smith. There was some interesting info about potential price increases across the industry following Brexit; and contracts for Agents.
This was a thoroughly worthwhile and valuable Seminar, and it sure feels good to be a small part of such a friendly and inclusive industry. It gave us the chance to reflect upon the fact that many of the speakers and delegates, just like us, came to the industry from totally different backgrounds, started off with their homes filled with cardboard and bubble wrap, swamped by the pull off strips from cello bags that get everywhere (I had chuckled earlier in the day when I had looked down onto the Pavilion carpet and seen few of those strips – if anyone knows the technical name for them I’d love to hear it) and developed their businesses with mistakes upon the way, and that in itself was very comforting to know.
I went to the cinema last week with John to watch Inferno starring Tom Hanks. We settled into our back row seats with our smuggled sweets and drinks just as the lights dropped for the first fifteen minutes of trailers and advertising.
Normally, I don’t take much notice of the ads. I’m too busy wondering how I’m going to make a bag of fruit pastilles last for an hour and a half when I’m eating them at a rate of 2 per minute. But anyway, on this occasion, I was somewhat distracted. My attention was gripped by the opening bars of a haunting and beautiful melody, which happens to be from one of my all-time favourite songs.
‘Round…….like a circle in a spiral…..like a wheel within a wheel……….’
Transfixed, I gazed at the giant screen as a masterpiece of advertising unfolded before me. Now the track, ‘Windmills Of Your Mind’ sung by Dusty Springfield is always going to be a winner for me. But coupled with a beautifully filmed sequence of a wheel-spinning Autumnal orange Audi, and not only did I find myself with shivers down my spine, but with an unexpected pair of nipple erections as well. The only other thing I can recall having the power to do that to me (apart from a bit of tweaking, and Winter) is the theme from that 70’s TV show, Black Beauty.
I do love Audi cars, I have to say. I would love an Audi. I’ve not contemplated owning an orange car before, but that advert made me want one without question (if black wasn’t available. Or grey, silver, white or dark blue). This ad is for the Audi Sport R8 Spin. Oh and it’s lovely…
I may have dribbled a bit of fruit pastille as this masterful and commanding ad unfolded. A beautifully filmed, moody, dramatic minute or so with a colour palette of monochrome and orange. I was utterly transfixed.
‘Bloody hell’ I whispered to John, ‘that was incredible’. I was half hoping for an ad break in the middle of the film just so I could watch again. I came home and found it on You Tube. It was definitely spectacular on a big screen with the volume that only a cinema brings but whack the volume up, and take a look (below).
And as for whoever created that ad concept for Audi – very well done, you deserve a hefty pay rise or some kind of award. Tell me who to write to.