June 30, 2016 • Sarah Schwartz
A Maker’s Market
While the idea of personalized product and custom merchandise remain key in the stationery and gift markets, it is those ranges that distinctly embody the makers behind them that tend to resonate most. So, while general industry trends help consumers make sense of what’s out there — lately, for example, watercolor and gold-foil have become industry buzzwords — it is those makers who deftly integrate them into their own style, as opposed to the other way around, that tend to stand out most.
That means finding what to present to your customers is a matter of knowing what they like. Or, as Timothy Mikkelson, co-founder of MikWright Greeting Cards, put it: “Classy trumps flashy everyday … unless you’re selling flashy.”
Whatever makers you do carry, learn the story of the person and artist behind it — and be sure to share it with your customers. And, keep reading to get a sense of market trends in the bridal, baby, greeting card, holiday and gift markets.
Every couple is different, and every couple wants their invitation to reflect only them. Offer something for every soon-to-be-newlywed with selections that are grounded in tradition as they nod to current trends.
What’s Hot: Anything that adds an unexpected pop while still feeling classic, from rose gold foiling to wooden substrates. “By updating small details, for example, using contrasting colors on a monogram, the design gains a new freshness, while still respecting tradition,” noted Kerry Amidon, product manager, Checkerboard.
Tried & True: “Calligraphy has had a huge comeback,” observed Katie Leamon, founder of Katie Leamon Luxury Cards and Stationery.
Amidon wholeheartedly agreed. “We love pairing loose and whimsical styles with a more traditional block font for a modern look,” she added. “Of course, doing this in foil adds a stunning effect we can’t get enough of right now.”
“We see couples start with an overall vision, but we also see how overwhelmed they can be with images and ideas. During this process, our dealers work with the customers to bring a focus to their event planning. Our most successful dealers are those who are open to creating truly custom products and guiding couples to create their dream event. The design elements and style of the invitation are now just the beginning.” — Kerry Amidon, Checkerboard
“The baby market tends to follow very closely after the bridal market in design traits, described Cristy Fernández, creative director and owner, Lucky Onion.
This makes perfect sense, as many a new mom is a recent bride.
What’s Hot: “Blush tones are very popular, (as are) champagne, mint green and gender-neutral grays,” commented Melissa Danaher of Bella Ink. “Watercolor washes, foil finishes and stripes seem to be popular across the board for invitations and announcements.”
Also look for hand-lettered scripts, simpler geometrics, hand-painted florals and artisanal brush strokes and drawings.
Tried & True: Traditional themes such as rattles, baby buggies and baby animals continue to star in baby announcements, shower invitations and custom stationery. Photo cards continue to be a popular choice in birth announcements, often sharing the design with large simple phrases such as “hello,” “love” or “joy;” body text takes a backseat to both elements.
“While colors mostly stay ‘soft,’ I’ve found a deviance from the traditional pink and blues. Pinks have become peaches, blushes, mauves, and by contrast, hot pinks. Blues have become turquoise, teal and the like. Even ‘non-baby’ colors, such as mustards for girls and purples for guys, have begun to filter their way in. I like to think this may be attributed to the breaking of the stereotypical concept that colors have to be gender-biased/specific. That said, there’s still a strong place for the traditional pink and blues.” — Cristy Fernández, creative director and owner, Lucky Onion.
There is something about this category that can’t be replicated digitally. “World events require a belly laugh. Texture is big and swiping an iPad can’t get you that,” emphasized Mikkelsen. “From millennials to grandparents, who doesn’t like something ‘touchy-feely?’”
What’s Hot: “Consumers will always gravitate toward differentiated cards that reflect their own personality, while also speaking to the sending situation, tastes and interests of the recipient,” explained Monika Brandrup, VP and creative director, UWP LUXE. “Serene and softer colors with an unexpected pop of color excite the eye. Artisan-driven handmade designs combined with finer paper and envelopes, and a metallic range of foil finishes continues to trend. The boundaries of how far a simple piece of paper can be manipulated into a work of art are being explored more then ever, resulting in an array of stunning cards on the market.”
Also look for organic abstract forms, crests and hand-lettering. “We’re still head over heels for foiling … the love affair is here to stay,” remarked Bailey Rivera of Antiquaria.
Tried & True: “Looser freeform styles with hand-painted or -drawn looks continue to resonate with consumers,” continued Brandrup. “The companies that excel at this create illustrated styles exhibiting a vintage edge blended with clever printing techniques for a fresh modern appeal.”
“Inspiration that I pull from everyday objects, art, and music, that resonates with my personal interests, continue to drive the direction of the latest designs that we are working on. I am getting more and more excited about Postmodernism trends that are moving throughout the fashion industry — and how I can translate that into our latest paper products and stationery.” — Monika Brandrup, UWP LUXE.
The winter holiday category is not unlike bridal in that tradition has to find a middle ground with novelty. “Christmas products come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and finishes,” said Elizabeth Lorentz, Vice President Midwest Seasons Product Development. “The products that stand out are those that evoke emotion and heartfelt responses.”
What’s Hot: “More and more customers want their product to say something. They want to give a gift that is personalized, and one way we see this is through the use of typography, (that is), motifs and graphics that are made up of words,” said Annemarie Kelley, marketing associate, Design Imports. “Our best-selling items always seem to be products that have a little personality to them.”
Also look for sophisticated, rustic looks; vintage or nostalgic iconography; metallics; Nordic and Scandinavian designs; even coastal Christmas collections. Ornaments have become a way to spotlight one’s passions. “Our Specialty Ornament collection features ornaments for all life’s celebrations, personal interests and special hobbies,” detailed Lorentz.
Tried & True: Continuing to draw admiring glances and sales are classic holiday patterns such as plaids; natural materials like burlap; neutral gray and white tones; rich metallics in champagne, gold and platinum; woodland- and nature-inspired themes; plus plenty of snowmen and Santas.
“Our design team draws inspiration from our own past collections; looking at what worked and what didn’t — and taking our successes and mistakes and rebuilding a collection that is consistent, yet fresh.” — Annemarie Kelley, Design Imports
This is an enormously broad category, and as such, caution is warranted. For deeper sales, try to translate the looks that sell well in stationery into their gift counterparts.
What’s Hot: “We are very excited about all things tropical, from palms to cacti to tropical birds,” noted Tamra Bryant, senior vice president of product & merchandising, Creative Co-Op. “Natural materials and tonal layering continue to be a big trend. Ring holders are one of our top gift items and growing.”
Meanwhile at Claudia Pearson, Scandinavian design still runs strong, and mid-century style is a big influence.
Tried & True: “Food and drink is always current, but supporting local farmers, eating seasonably and close to home, knowing produce and where it comes from is a massive trend and more and more ubiquitous,” observed Claudia Pearson of Claudia Pearson.
“Vintage reproductions continue to be in-demand,” added Bryant. “Also, we find that many animal motifs continue to work well as gifts, especially birds and dogs.”
“I take my inspiration from my Brooklyn neighborhood where innovation and enterprise are highly valued and artisanal creativity thrives. From daily walks in Fort Greene Park to shopping at the weekly famers market, I find ideas in the surprisingly accessible natural world that surrounds this metropolitan and urban hub.” — Claudia Pearson, Claudia Pearson