Chris Houfe outlines two-year plan for Greeting Card Association

chris houfeGreat British Card Company sales director Chris Houfe took the helm of the UK Greeting Card Association at last weeks’ Annual General Meeting, which took place on October 3 at The Ironmongers’ hall in London.

At the start of his two year presidency Chris outlined his ambitious plans for the industry, whose representatives were in an upbeat mood as the UK shows definite signs of economic recovery and greeting cards prove themselves to be as relevant as ever in an evolving society.

After thanking outgoing president Bill Greeno of Paperlink, Chris said: “This is a brilliant, vibrant industry to be involved with and I’m extremely honoured to lead the Council and Association over the next two years. So what does the road ahead hold in store for us?

“In short, we need to look at every opportunity to promote our fantastic industry and remind people of the importance and emotional connection of sending and receiving a greeting card.  With the addition of the Associate Members this will allow the Association to look at ways to pro-actively invest in publicity initiatives and activity”.

As one of the first Associate members, Gifts & Greetings Review is delighted at the opportunity to help with these promotional activities at every opportunity.

“There seems no shortage of creativity with an estimated 800 publishers of which 455 of these are members of the GCA,”  Chris continued. “This creativity needs to be encouraged and harnessed, and we need to find a way of promoting our industry into local schools and colleges. Innovation in card design needs to be seen as a genuine career choice for aspiring young artists

“We know that one in six shops sell greeting cards but too few of these really do our industry justice. Retailers who prosper are those who recognise that sending a card is part of our culture and bring a sense of theatre to their greetings card displays to cater for consumer demand. We need to ensure that this trend is encouraged, supported and improved otherwise greetings cards will be seen to be worth £0.79 or free on-line with a gift”.

The need to instill and continually reinforce the true value of greetings cards into the consumer psyche is an ongoing quest for the majority of publishers and retailers, although as Chris points out these efforts are frequently frustrated by aggressive discounting and loss-leading exercises by budget retailers, supermarkets and larger online sellers.

Looking at the wider mechanics of card sending, Chris said that “Royal Mails recent announcement of part-privatisation is concerning and we will be working on further and genuine improvements in our relationship with them, helped by the greater voice of the Association. We are also looking at lobbying all the main political parties plus the CBI and again, the greater voice of the Association will help.

“We are looking at the possibility of employing a PR agency to examine the many different channels in which greeting cards can bring so many positives into people’s homes and people’s lives. Within the membership we have some very talented Social Media operators and we will be seeking their advice of the best way of promoting the whole industry.  Plus this will be another way of getting many more Facebook friends than my wife!

Chris rounded off his inaugural speech by inviting members to contact himself or GCA secretary Sharon Little with any thoughts and ideas they might have to help move things forward in the next two years.

Chris is pictured here at the Great British Card Company head office in Gloucester