Features Industry Profiles

July 1, 2019 •
Summer 2019 Editor’s Letter: Modern Card Politics

Rock Paper Scissors Charlottesville store display

As I write this, I’m recovering from not one but two quick jaunts to the Big Apple: first to the inaugural Noted at the Brooklyn Expo Center, then to UnBound at Book Expo at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center. The former had a definite greeting card focus, while I trekked to the other to see how stationery and gifts function in the independent bookseller market.

Both trips were invigorating, and I find myself appreciating not only our industry, but ancillary markets as well. First, Noted lived up to its promise and enabled publishers, suppliers and retailers to connect on a personal, immediate level — mirroring the exchange of a greeting card, in fact! Everyone that played a role in putting it together should be proud.

I was so flattered to be asked to give two seminars there, a trends presentation and a panel. The trends presentation revealed the breadth of design and talent under the Noted roof, while the panel allowed my brilliant guests to explore the effect of the women’s movement on the cards.

Called Modern Card Politics: The Women’s Movement, my panelists, pictured here left to right, included: Sadie Piller, Paper Source; Victoria Venturi, Paper Epiphanies; and Stephanie Clarke, Dahlia Press. Both Victoria and Stephanie said that their femininity has assumed a new importance in their output as women seek to connect with one another authentically and honestly. And Piller noted that one of their bestsellers, a card reading “I am strong because a strong woman raised me,” can be sent by a child of any gender!

At UnBound, I moderated a panel there featuring Grace Kang, A Pink Olive, and two independent book retailers: Chris Doeblin, Book Culture, and Kim Saltzstein, Changing Hands. It was fascinating to hobnob with Kim and Chris, as their world has returned from the brink of ruin. The American Booksellers Association had 1,835 members operating from 2,470 locations in 2018, up from 1,401 members and 1,651 locations in 2009. That’s quite impressive!

What’s behind that turnaround? Partially what all smart retailers have been doing for a while now: telling stories. Book sellers literally have these at their fingertips, and Chris pointed out that nearly every book category can be merchandised alongside gifts: think tableware by cookbooks, kites by Curious George, wine glasses by book club selections.

Meanwhile, in gift and card shops, books add dimension to less literary selections. Broadly speaking, although bookstore customers are looking inward to feed their imaginations, and card and gift shop customers are looking outward to the loved ones or the home, we can all learn a lot from the other’s approach.

Until next issue,

Sarah Schwartz

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