Greetings Today magazine, giving you the bigger picture

18 June, 2010

LIVE and kicking

The exhibition landscape changed dramatically last year when PG LIVE was launched. The show, at the Business Design Centre in London, was billed as the only dedicated greetings exhibition in the UK.

One year on, PG Live once again opened in its May timeslot with a few adjustments and new features and a desire to improve on last year’s debut attendance from retailers.

Conventional greetings wisdom suggests that hosting a show in May isn’t exactly ideal. Buyers like to make the bulk of their choices at the beginning of the year, make some additions in the summer and top-up in the autumn in time for Christmas. That’s why Spring Fair, Harrogate Home & Gift and Autumn Fair dominates those datelines. It also helps that Spring and Autumn Fair are both centrally located in Birmingham and Harrogate, is well, Harrogate. Around those key events sit the London gifts and greetings shows, Top Drawer and Pulse.

Into this accepted order of things has stepped PGL with a very defined brief to showcase the best of British greetings talent to not only UK retailers but global buyers as well.
It’s a move full of bold intent and it certainly seems to have garnered strong support from the industry with over 240 card publishers and greetings suppliers (70 more than the inaugural year) including industry heavyweights like UK Greetings and Hallmark who simply don’t do any of the other events.
This year PGL also added a new section for up and coming, publishers called Springboard, which was designed to give smaller outfits the chance to rub shoulders with the big boys and get their product in front of quality buyers.

Put all that together and what you get is as comprehensive a cross-section of the UK greetings industry as you could wish for. As our show preview proved last month, PGL was stuffed full of exciting and innovative product, making it a must-visit for any serious retailers looking to refresh their racks.
PGL’s organisers have adopted a quality not quantity approach to attendance at the show with a restricted admission policy, where only genuine UK and overseas greeting card buyers, retailers, wholesalers and retail sales agents are invited to attend free of charge.

Emphasis has also been placed on attracting strong export and overseas support, which paid off with representation from nearly 40 countries as far flung as Hong Kong and Russia as well as from Europe, America and Australasia (the latter leading the field, along with the Dutch, in terms of visitor numbers).

“The UK leads the world in greeting card publishing and it was our dream to create a trade show which celebrated this and made it an enjoyable and inspiring event in which to do business for greeting card stockists and distributors of all shapes and sizes,” commented Ian Hyder, director of Progressive Greetings LIVE.  “This second show has proved to us that this is achievable, and also proved that, through Springboard we can offer a step up onto the ladder for new publishers, as well as deliver retail customers to the established publishers.”

One of the interesting things to speculate on with PGL is whether it will change the publishing dynamic and encourage publishers to launch new product specifically for this point in the calendar. So far, the feeling is yes – and no.

Card publishing is a complex business with some very set patterns so while new product was in evidence a lot of it was extensions to existing ranges or previews of upcoming collections rather than major launches. This may change in time but for now the traditional release programme seems to be holding sway with most publishers sticking to their set programmes.

For retailers the question is whether PGL offers a more comprehensive selection of greetings publishers than the other shows and whether they will bite the bullet and attend them all or start making choices about which ones to drop. Going to exhibitions is an expensive business for standalone retailers, particularly if they are making the long trek from the north or Scotland, so they need to know that when they get there it will be worthwhile.

With PGL you’d have to say it’s more than worth the visit if you want to see the broadest, most diverse range of product available.

But it might take time for retailers to cotton onto the fact. And then there’s the added element of it being a dedicated greetings show: Is that what retailers really want? A large part of the other major shows’ appeal is the gift element, because most card-based businesses can’t survive on greetings alone. They need to balance their retail offer with gift lines, which is what SF, AF and Harrogate offers in spades.

Time will tell whether this is an issue but for now those retailers who made the trip to North London were rewarded with a visual feast and probably the best array of greetings talent and design possible.

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