It’s been a funny old time at Go La La during the past weeks.
My mum died.
One day she was happily going about her business; fit and seemingly healthy; the next day she wasn’t. A few weeks later she had died. A bit of a shock, but this will explain why we’ve been a little quiet recently; work hasn’t been the most pressing thing on our minds, and attending PG Live 2018 Trade Show, with this going on was especially stressful – in fact we came close to not going.
One thing that has helped us is the many sympathy, thinking of you and condolences cards we have received. In these days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat it is great to see that many people can still find the time to write a brief message into a card and post it or even hand deliver it.
From experience I know that actually being able to write a message of condolence can be a difficult thing to do. Despite being someone who rarely has a problem with writing things down, when it comes to an intimate message of support, it can be overwhelmingly tricky – it feels awkward, and conveying exactly what you mean is hard, but so many people have done just that for me, and for that I thank them.
My father is currently not so well either, so for him sitting quietly, reading the hand-written messages in the numerous cards he received, was extremely comforting and showed him that other people were empathising with his and our loss at this difficult time.
At Go La La we’ve never designed a sympathy card; we tend to produce our cards for happier times, and the silly irreverent humour we churn out doesn’t always sit well with that type of card, but I must say we have received some beautifully designed cards, and being in the industry it is especially good to receive ones from fellow publishers, or to be sent a card that was produced by one of our industry friends. Maybe further down the line we will turn our hand to them.
Anyway, normal service has now resumed, back to the knob gags.
Here’s a funny little story I’ve written about on my other blog, about Richard Curtis, one of his films and a Cornish village which might amuse – a little incident which happened this week while I (Laura) was mustering some inspiration for our cards.
For me it was serendipitous, fate, or something, but could simply be called coincidence by others….
We’ve just signed up to a new social media platform, Vero, which is a mobile app much like Instagram and promises all kinds of fabulous benefits, the main one (for us) is them not buggering about with algorithms and thwarting attempts to network your business. I don’t know about you, but we’ve found it increasingly difficult to have our social media accounts perform effectively once you’ve either paid for advertising or have crossed over onto the dark-side of USING THE SAME HASHTAGS TOO OFTEN (Instagram, and I kid you not).
We found ourselves ‘shadow banned’ on Insta, which from what we can glean, is largely to do with posting and tagging the same things all the time – now I kinda thought that using #greetingcards on pretty much most of our IG posts was fairly innocuous and also highly relevant. But it seems as though the Insta Police doesn’t favour this kind of behaviour. Shadow banning means that you basically have your posts blocked from being visible to the wider world. So our posts were suddenly being mainly unnoticed. It made us feel miserable and lonely….for a short time and then we just realised we had to just suck it up and get on with trying to fix it.
But with so many SM platforms now to maintain, I’m not even sure whether they’re worth the time investment. Once Upon A Time, making good use of SM for your business was strongly encouraged, in fact, you were deemed to be a bit ignorant for not having SM. But with everyone out there using every platform out there, it feels like content – and not just our content – has reached saturation point. And probably about 18 months ago.
Scheduling posts through a third party platform such as Hootsuite works well for us – but is still time consuming of course. We have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin and now Vero. And this blog. Seriously?! I mean, this is quite a lot to do on a daily basis, and again, the message is that you need to keep content updated and fresh. Sigh.
So we think maybe a SM cull is needed…I would rather have a couple of accounts and maintain them well, rather than seven which are generally neglected. Much like our house plants. Give me a couple of house plants to look after and I can keep them alive and healthy. Give me more than that, and, well, they’ll be brown and crispy before you can say hashtagfail.
I have always been a fan of jokes, humour and comedy; my grandfather had a dry wit, my father carried on the trend, although his was often spiked with sarcasm, and I love a good pun as well as the darkest and most twisted black humour.
Last week I saw 2 of my favourite comedians live. On Monday, I went to watch the political comedian Mark Thomas, who’s current show Showtime from the Frontline is about starting a comedy club in Jenin, Palestine; and then a few days later Go La La hosted our own comedy show with the rude and crude Australian comedian Brendon Burns and his Mansplaining show.
I would like to have been a stand-up comedian, but never had the confidence; it’s quite daunting standing on stage and talking nonsense in front of a bunch of strangers, especially if it’s not going well, but now I am working as a humorous card publisher, and my products amuse and entertain people, but don’t require me to potentially embarrass myself in front of an audience.
Laura and me spend day after day, week after week coming up with new ideas for ranges, bouncing ideas around our studio, and find taking a walk in the country or along the beach really gets our creative mojo working……people we encounter must think we are a couple of nutters as they see us randomly laughing in public.
A couple of days ago a TV actress posted pictures of two of our cards on her Instagram account, and she had obviously found them hilarious. Every time someone buys one of our cards, four or five people have probably laughed: they have, hopefully the intended recipient will laugh and maybe a few of their friends or family will laugh too.
So, if we’ve sold 30,000 cards, maybe 100,000 people have been entertained, and while I may not quite the Michael McIntyre of the greeting card industry, I am chuffed by the fact that a few people have giggled.
Having been trading for just over 18 months, Go La La! is fairly new to this trade show malarkey; we’ve exhibited at PG Live twice (2016 was our launch show) and Spring Fair, and plenty of people suggested that Top Drawer is a good show to do, so a little later than we should have we booked our stand (ZA59 in the Gift area to be precise).
Top Drawer takes place at Olympia in Kensington, London and is one of the UK’s leading retail trade events for lifestyle buyers. As a result there are some beautifully designed and crafted trade stands brimming with amazing products – for me The Sex Pistols – 1977: The Bollocks Diaries coffee table book was the top item on display.
Getting to the venue for us is easy to from Glastonbury – the coach outside our house runs into Hammersmith and then it’s just a short taxi ride to the venue; we would have walked but laden down with so many bags it was impossible. We travelled up on Friday, anticipating 2 days to set up, but once we had actually found our stand in the cavernous building, Laura painted it in about an hour – I just watched the paint dry (about an hour), and the velcroed shelves took us another hour to put up; so, by early evening we were in the pub; and then had most of Saturday to explore West London.
We weren’t turning cartwheels when we saw our stand, but that is no-one’s fault but our own; we had booked late, and there was very little choice left, so we ended up with a 2m x 1.5m stand, which as you can picture is a bit boxy and uninviting – even worse when we measured it, as it was actually 2m x 1.46m – in the sneered words of Johnny Rotten “it’s a swindle”. We were probably conned out of 50 quid by the measurements – though I’ve not drilled down into it ;-). Our stand also looked a bit cluttered to us (it’s amazing how much stuff you can chuck into it, and that we did), although others said that it looked fine.
Finding somewhere to position yourself on a trade stand like that is tricky – I felt I was always in the way wherever I stood, but I guess that’s nothing new! I personally felt it seemed like a bit of a backwards step for us, as we really would have liked a 3m x 1m stand which looks more stylish and demonstrates our excellently designed and presented cards perfectly.
We launched 3 new ranges at Top Drawer (Blunt Instruments, Nice Little Ditties and Laugh a Minute), as well as additions to our bestselling Bawdy Banter range, and a totally revamped Rules of Engagement. We also had our non-humour range, Found in Translation which we released in December. Feedback for all ranges was extremely positive, and we managed to attract several lovely new stockists as well as some great potential leads, as well as renewed orders from previous customers. It is always satisfying when you see people stop to look at your products and burst out laughing. One lady was actually crying with laughter at Nice Little Ditties, while explaining HRT and the word Cumbubble to a German distributor was a challenge I left to Laura.
The Greeting Card industry is a friendly one and we had great and creative neighbours in our area; these lovely people included Memelou, Arch & Ivy, Paper SoleandKapelki Art who kept us smiling with silliness and laughter (as well as being very professional with the customers of course). We also managed to catch up with old friends from previous shows: Jelly Armchair, Papagrazi, Pabuku, Sarah Lovell Art and Objectables. All of these publishers have created a wide range of cards and some really fantastic offerings to appeal to the most classy and discerning retailers.
It was also interesting to talk to 2 old pros in the area, Penny of Penny Lindop Designs and Ge Feng of Forever Cards; both have been in the industry for 20 years, and had some useful knowledge to impart; they also told me how Trade Shows have evolved over the years, and unfortunately how much more difficult the industry is now. Ge was also hilariously funny and kept me entertained with jokes and quips throughout.
Weirdly there was one publisher nearby appeared to have a severe allergy to the show. Despite having a beautifully presented stand, they turned up late and went home early on the first 2 days and didn’t even materialise on the final one. They made little attempt to socialise with anyone around them, and were pretty non-communicative with customers. I assume they paid for their place at the show and had money to squander.
At the moment, we haven’t decided on whether to return to Top Drawer; on balance we think we preferred Spring Fair, and we would also like to trial other shows like Glasgow or Harrogate. Shows are very expensive and time consuming at the relatively young stage of our business we’re not sure if we can spare the time or the money, so ask us again in a few months.
Michelle and Rob – Memelou
Lara of Arch and Ivy
Jenny and Susan of Paper Sole
Liz and Cat – Jelly Armchair
Tim of Objectables
One of our well received new ranges – Blunt Instruments
Revitalised and relaunched for Christmas 2017 is the Go La La range of Vegan Christmas cards – Seasonal Veggies – Eight cute but not sickly designs. We launched and sold 4 of these from our website and eBay last year and they sold like (dairy free) hot cakes, and the customers were very pleased with them.
I’ve been a vegan for over 3 decades; and vegetarian longer, and I have seen the movement evolve and grow over that time. Veganism is growing month on month here in the UK, and every few days there is an article in the national press about it; celebrities are also endorsing a plant based diet as a lifestyle choice (although veganism is really about the non-exploitation of animals) and people are rethinking their attitude to animals.
Shops are full of vegan products, food, clothes, cosmetics, shoes etc. yet there are still very few vegan Christmas cards and we are attempting to change that.
Our local card shop took some Seasonal Veggies last year but didn’t really know what to expect, and were extremely happy at the sales, and have already snapped up all of the new range, yet the difficulty we face is persuading new retailers to stock what I guess is still a niche product, although I assume in a few years’ time Vegan Christmas cards will be mainstream, so if you are a retailer who would like to try them, take a look here and contact us if you are interested email@example.com or 01458 835415
Alternatively, if you are just a regular punter who would like to buy one for a friend or relation, you can do that too from our website.
Although Laura launched Go La La in May 2016, I officially joined the company on 1st August, exactly one year ago today, and it has been somewhat a rollercoaster ride with a lot to learn, but it has been great fun; we have exhibited at three trade shows, produced three catalogues and are starting to get our our name out there so now find our ranges in independent shops across England, Scotland and Wales, as well as in two chains: Scribbler and House of Cards.
Because we are quite creative people, we have quite an eclectic portfolio using various media, and one thing I worry about is that we don’t necessarily have an identifiable brand; having been doing this stuff for a year I could be handed a card by each of Dean Morris, Brainbox Candy, Modern Toss, Buddy Fernandez and Emotional Rescue and I would know which was which. But then I think that a year ago, before I was in the industry, would I have known which was which, probably not, and most of the card buying public choose a card because they like its sentiment, its picture or its humour, rather than worrying about who published it.
The great thing about Go La La, is that we like to innovate and continually come up with new stuff and luckily we don’t have to copy other people’s style, as unfortunately there does seem to be a lot of repetition out there, and much of the feedback we have received is that we are offering something new and refreshing to the humour side of card publishing.
For example, our most recent range is called “Nice Little Ditties”, which is a selection of seemingly rude yet innocent poems; they made us laugh a lot as we created them, and they’ve made the audience that have seen them laugh a lot too and that is the main reason we wanted to do them; it is a range that started with a dirty dozen, but they are so silly and amusing to make, that we will be rapidly expanding the range with a selection of occasions and relations, all designed to make people giggle. After all, laughter is the best medicine…unless you have constipation….in which case it is probably syrup of figs.
See more about us at www.golala.co.uk, and get in touch if you are a retailer that would like to stock us.
First of all a disclaimer. I am fairly new to the Greetings Card industry, and the following information is purely my thoughts and observations gleaned over the past year. I may be incorrect in some of my assertions, but it is how my experience over the year relates to my own business.
Talking to some of the Stand holders around us towards the end of PG Live 2017, I became aware of a sense of disappointment from some of them. They had made few or no sales, maybe had a bit of positive feedback, but saw most people just whizz buy with barely a glance, and hadn’t achieved the services of an agent and felt that things weren’t really that great. I guess it’s part and parcel of the trade, and when you consider there are hundreds of other card publishers vying for the buyers’ attention, it is not surprising that you may feel disillusioned.
I’m a nice guy, and a helpful chap, so I’ve decided to use our experiences at our two PG Live outings to hopefully reassure those people.
Last year we were total n00bs, launching our business at the show and didn’t know what to expect. We had some tentative targets: to get 2 agents, have half a dozen shops buy from us, and get our product out there and loved by everyone, but it didn’t really work like that. Sure, we acquired 2 agents, and we made a few sales, but it seemed like hard work, especially when one agent dropped us a few days later as they’d found a humour publisher with a bigger range. We were disappointed but not defeated, as that made perfect sense.
But we learned several valuable lessons from the first show, which probably made it more worthwhile than anything else.
To launch your business at PG Live, you need to have at least 50 designs, and they need to stand out from the rest. For our first show, we had around 60, but 2 ranges (12 designs in each) were rushed and a bit weak. People said that one range was too wordy and the font too small, and the other just didn’t seem to work. It’s easy to get demoralised when you hear that; I don’t like it much when I am criticised, but of course when you are close to your product, you don’t necessarily see its faults, but in retrospect it is good to get negative feedback when it is deserved. There are many things that can hinder your cards in selling well: it may be the font, the colour, the style, or the fact that they are just too like something else out there. Sometimes, it could be just a tiny tweak that’s needed, and you need to take it on the chin and move on.
Another very important thing to consider is that buyers like to see you’ve been around a while and aren’t going to go bust any time soon; if it’s your first show they may not want to invest if they think a year later that can’t reorder. They also like to see you develop the brand. If it is stagnant and there’s not much happening to It at your next show, it’s not going to be worth their time. If they like what you do they will perhaps be keeping an eye on your progress in the background, and eventually will come to you. Another things to consider is that some buyers will have looked at publishers in the catalogue and pre-show blurb, and will have already made their mind up on who they want to see.
Following the feedback at PGL 2016 we took stock of all that and took time to take a long hard look at our offerings; we binned a couple of ranges straight away, and worked on improving another; we also started work on several other ranges that we now felt happy with and felt would sell. Things were still moving slowly, and everything seemed a challenge. It took a while for sales to happen and we weren’t getting much feedback from our second agent so a few months later we got shot of him. Looking back on it, it may have been due to the product, or he could have just not been trying too hard; he was a likeable guy but without the sales he’s no use.
After a few months of sitting back and getting our ducks in a row, we sort of relaunched our bigger and better business at Spring Fair at the NEC in February. This is a mammoth 5 day endurance test of a show, and required a week in Birmingham. I had no idea what to expect, but it sells everything to do with gifts and occupies pretty much the whole of the NEC. It’s impossible to get round everything. Nevertheless, we got more valuable feedback, some great sales, fantastic leads and although we didn’t quite manage to cover the costs in terms of show sales versus show expenses, all the additional soft outcomes have been hugely beneficial. Initial conversations with distributors, talks with some of the bigger buyers, talking to industry gurus, agents and another opportunity to increase brand awareness.
We are still only a year or so into our development, but we are seeing a confidence in our products from the buyers, and they are seeing that we are increasing and improving our ranges. For some I guess we are still too young, but more and more are now buying from us.
At PGL 2017, it was good to see buyers from our first 2 trade shows returning to see what we are up to and we have made massive inroads, so we are now stocked in shops around the country including in a couple of multiples. We also have a great agent off the back of Spring Fair, and he is getting our cards into shops across his patch.
The first year or two are always going to be incredibly difficult for any new business; in publishing you are going to need to work extremely hard on your designs, and there is so much quality competition. For the two of us, it is a full time business, and we work well over a 40 hour week each, and find ourselves working in the evenings and weekends too. If you don’t like the prospect of that, then it is probably not the industry for you. If you cannot adapt and innovate, then it is probably not the industry for you. If you can’t accept the knockbacks, then it is probably not the industry for you.
A few things to think about, but they do require financial outlay which can be a struggle when you have so much more to invest in:
Invest in a decent website to best showcase your designs.
A brochure is useful but they can be expensive. The best printer I have found in terms of both price and quality is Mixam.
Join the Greetings Card Association. It costs £114 incl VAT and £10 joining fee for a small publisher to join for first year, but the information and resources available make it pretty much a no brainer, and Sharon Little is always at the end of the phone for any query however big or small.
Join the Ladder Club; it is a non-profit organisation and was founded about 18 years ago by Lynn Tait, a lovely lady who sadly lost her battle with cancer a few days before PGL 2017. She was passionate about the industry and really tried to help new publishers climb the ladder (obviously). The Ladder Club will continue and is valuable and teaches young publishers so much. The annual seminar takes place in September of this year. To attend one day of the seminar will cost £65 + VAT per person.
Go La La has just returned from PG Live 2017, the Greeting Card Trade Show at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, and I thought I’d tell you all about it.
PGL is a 2 day International Greeting Card Show, and is the only trade show that is solely dedicated to the greeting card industry; so if you want to buy or sell cards then you really need to be here. It attracts buyers and distributors from all over the UK, as well as rest of the World, and is the show where just over a year ago we formally launched our business at the very same event; you can read about that here.
A year on, and we were far more prepared, we have a portfolio of cards we are much more confident in and happy with, including some great new ranges we launched at the Show and quite importantly, a greater knowledge of how the greetings card industry works, and thus we felt much more comfortable with our brand. Of course, in the interim we’d also attended Spring Fair in Birmingham in February where we’d further honed our skills, worked on the feedback that we’d received, and due to the large amount of social media we’ve undertaken, we have also got our name out there a bit.
On Sunday morning, we jumped onto the coach from outside our house armed with one case for clothes, one case for cards, samples and brochures, while a second hand golf carry case (off eBay for a fiver) contained our 34 shelves and other bits and bobs. Three hours later we were at Hammersmith coach station. Due to a terrorist attack in London the previous night we were expecting some travel issues, but from there to the Business Design Centre was all plain sailing, and throughout our stay everything seemed business as usual.
This year we’d moved from the Springboard corridor into the Springboard lounge on Stand 826, with a 3 x 1 rather than 2 x 1 stand to showcase our designs. Last year we had 58 cards to display, but now well over 200 (plus our 2 rudest ranges which were not displayed but hidden away from public view, for viewing in request). Setting up took only a couple of hours, and Warren Lomax (one of the organisers) popped round to say hello and take a look at our new offerings, which was good of him. Following a quick drink or 2 with our buddies from Jelly Armchair, we were off to the Gate (a vegetarian restaurant 10 minutes down the road that they recommended). Following a delicious meal, including a vegan Eton mess with meringue made from chickpea juice – yes really) it was back to the pub and in typical Go La La fashion we eventually hit the hotel at 2am…it’s not our fault that there was a pub with a late licence just down the road from us, is it?
Monday was a day of leisure and tourism; we went on a self-guided ghost walk, took a tour of the Courts of Justice, walked over the Millennium bridge; wandered round the Tate Modern, dozed on deckchairs in the sunshine outside Saint Paul’s, and ambled around before popping into the BDC for a check on our stand before a meal with a load of other Card Publishers from the Ladder Club at the Ask Italian restaurant next door. It was a good opportunity to put names to faces, and chat to old friends, although the booming acoustics in the room made conversation tricky.
On Tuesday morning we were at the Business Design Centre bright and early (well about 5 minutes before the doors opened), and waited for the show to start. We’d caught up with our neighbouring Publishers from previous trade shows Jelly Armchair, Choco Greetings and Katie Phythian, but now we had new neighbours to get to know: Bold Bunny, Pool Cat and the Taste Buds and Jusna Ahmed Designs, and jolly nice they all were too.
The first day went really well; we had plenty of interest, several new orders, further strengthened relationships with some bigger buyers and chatted with the guys from Scribbler (a multiple that has just taken us on) and House of Cards ( a multiple that is trialling us, and had confirmed the previous week). So that’s all exciting stuff. We were visited by several current customers and had some really great feedback from a national buyer who particularly liked 2 of the new ranges we’d launched here, so that was fantastic news. We’re still a bit young for them and they want to see our development, but we wouldn’t want to jump in just yet anyway – it’s a little daunting, but it was very good to get such feedback from a very experienced buyer. Other similar comments commended our strength in the humour market, and we are now cracking on with further development of the Go La La brand. One thing we didn’t get, that we were aiming for was a new agent or two, so that is something we need to continue to work upon….so if you are one, or know one….you know how to reach us.
Tuesday evening was the PGL drinks reception, which gave us the opportunity to mingle with other publishers and buyers, as well as have a drink or two from the free bar. It was great to catch up with people and I did manage to talk to one retailer who, because of our conversation, came to us and placed an order on Wednesday, so that was lovely, and another new shop to add to our list.
Wednesday is the quieter of the 2 days, and the morning was very slow, but it did perk up after midday with a few more orders and some more leads so all positive stuff.
The show finished at 4.30pm, and we had an early coach to catch from Hammersmith. We had set ourselves a 30-minute target for breakdown, but we completed it in a mere 10 minutes, which surprised both of us. A quick scoot round to say goodbye to some of our mates and we were off back to Somerset.
For anyone new to the industry, who may be considering a trade show, PG Live is a great one; the organisers make you feel welcome; there is free tea and coffee all day, a delicious lunch, and the aforementioned drinks reception. Tracey Arnaud (one of the organisers) is always on hand if you have a query, pops round to check you are OK and will even look after your stand if you need to pop off for lunch, while Simon Boyd is in the organisers’ office for any stand related and technical queries. Of course, like any trade show it isn’t cheap, but it is not as scary an undertaking as it may seem.
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.