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Kathy Krassner reports on Top Trends at the 2011 National Stationery Show

At the recent National Stationery Show (NSS), held May 15-18 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, several product and design trends stood out – and many of these hot new trends could be found in the booths of U.S. Greeting Card Association (GCA) members.

Among them was American Greetings’ new “justWink” line (left) – an innovative concept that includes paper greeting cards as well as virtual cards. Designed to appeal to Gen Y, each paper card comes with a code on the back cover that, when scanned by a smart phone, provides access to an app allowing customers to create a custom greeting card online. This app can also be downloaded from the Android Market and iTunes Store. The virtual card can then be sent via text, email or Facebook.

Impressive, high-tech treatments were being used on several greeting card lines – adding both interest and value to these cards. The “A+ Motion” cards (right) from Avanti Press employ 3D movement effects to enhance humorous images; while Up With Paper’s new “Sight ‘n Sound” line adds a push-button sound effect to complement the cards’ clever pop-up designs.

Since the majority of consumers purchasing greeting cards is women, it’s not surprising that fashion accessories are a top theme on greeting cards, invitations and other stationery items. Images of shoes, hats and handbags dominate the stationery collection from Ann Scott Design. At the Bonnie Marcus Collection, new invitations and notepads were inspired by the fashionable royal wedding of the U.K.’s Prince William and Kate.

Personalized products, including those imprinted with names, monograms or single initials, remain hugely popular among buyers. At the Crane & Co. booth at the NSS, Crane master artisan Jackie Brown demonstrated how the company’s monograms are each handcrafted as she created personalized monograms for visitors, using the company’s new “Beach Glass” notes.

A seaside theme was also popular on new boxed stationery from William Arthur (left), whose boldly hued “Coastal Notes” are heavily embossed with images of a seahorse, scallop shell, crab and starfish.

Another eye-catching motif prevalent at the show was party banners, both as a design theme and as a product category. Design Design, Inc. offered “Birthday Pennants” giftwrap, gift bags and tissue printed with a decorative party-flag design. Festive party flags also appeared on “Pennant” cocktail napkins and a “Pennant Party Perfect” kit from the Madison Park Greetings division of The Madison Park Group.

Humorous cards tend to do well in a challenged economy, and several GCA offered some hilarious ones. Past LOUIE Award winner Bald Guy Greetings proved they have some of the funniest (and brutally honest) cards around; while NobleWorks – which won a LOUIE Award this year for its humorous Christmas card in the $3.50 and below category – debuted “High Notes” cards that were “smoking hot.”

At the show, new GCA member Shirt Sleeve Greetings launched its line of intricately folded, handcrafted cards (right), which come in the shape of shirts, dresses, teacups, turtles and more. Another attractive, intricately crafted line was Masterpiece Studios’ aptly named “Intricuts” collection of laser-cut holiday cards.

Many retailers visiting the NSS are there to find new and innovative Christmas cards, and there was certainly no shortage to be found at the show. A noticeable trend in this category was the addition of holiday imagery that goes beyond the traditional Santas and snowmen. Birds were one of the most popular motifs on new Christmas cards, as evidenced by the silkscreen-printed line from Great Arrow Graphics. Cityscapes were another trend for Christmas, exemplified by the “Urban Stockings” die-cut card from The Museum of Modern Art. Additionally, many contemporary holiday cards, featuring nontraditional colors such as purple and lime green, were available from the new “CARTE” line of Calypso Cards.

A number of card and stationery companies have successfully expanded their lines beyond paper into other gift categories, such as the new jigsaw puzzles introduced by Bob’s Your Uncle (left), which feature colorful, artful photography. Also adding jigsaw puzzles to its line was Paper House Productions, whose “Shaped Puzzles” feature cut-to-shape images that include a peace sign, baseball glove and Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Each year, the National Stationery Show offers a plethora of new products representing the latest industry trends; and every year, you can expect to find members of the U.S. Greeting Card Association at the show and ahead of the trend curve. For more information on the NSS, please visit www.nationalstationeryshow.com.

Kathy Krassner, Director of Communications, U.S. Greeting Card Association