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TALKOFTHETOWN “


WE WERE the fi rst retailers with Cardgains! I started 28 years ago and then Cardgains came along and said “were starting this company where we’ll sign up suppliers and you’ll pay us and get discounts’, I thought was a win-win idea. We were the fi rst ones, our number is 002 because, despite what anyone tells you, there never was a 001. I’m very happy to be part of Cardgains. They didn’t have very many suppliers in the beginning, there were probably only a dozen or so and now it’s very exciting because Cardgains come to us and show the trends and all the different new suppliers, and tell us how we’re progressing with the business. And it makes the work for the offi ce staff much easier because we only pay in one place. It’s just very much easier. They tend to have suppliers that we deal with anyway so it’s great when they join Cardgains, I’m very happy with it and I would recommend anyone in my position to go with them.


I became a retailer when my husband John had the shop next door as a newsagents and my shop became vacant. He came home one day and said “I’ve got a shop for you”! I hadn’t a clue what I was doing but started as a very small card and gift shop and over the years we’ve taken over his shop – I turfed him out – and have had fi ve extensions so it’s nearly 3,000sq ft now. It’s over 200sq ft of cards and loads of gifts


from the normal soft toys to gardening and bits of furniture, lots of fashion and jewellery. I love going off on buying trips. If I see something and think it will make me some money then it’s in the shop.


My manager Dawn Stathers has been with me since the shop opened and we’re great friends – we’re off in the morning for a week’s holiday in Spain together. I do the buying along with Dawn, and we love it. We get a real kick out of it. We go to the NEC for six days for Spring Fair, it’s pretty exhausting but well worth it. Birmingham in February is probably my favourite show because we do a great deal of the buying then, and I also love Harrogate as well as usually scorching. There are a lot more smaller companies now exhibiting than when we fi rst started going to shows and really that’s the kind of people that I want to sign up with as I want to have different stock from everyone else. From every show we manage to come home having signed up 15 or 20 new suppliers as I like to regularly change the stock – we have customers come in when we’re off on a buying trip and they’ll say “oh good, that means there’ll be lots of new stock soon”! There are several publishers I’ve been with since the beginning but I’m also not frightened to fi nish with someone if I think it’s looking a bit stale. I want to keep it looking fresh and new. These days there are so much more exciting cards, and some brilliant new card companies.


First


We do a lot of handmade so Five Dollar Shake, and Jonny Javelin is right up there for me, also ICG. Of course we didn’t have them originally but they’re great sellers now. We also have the staples of Hallmark – love their new Hall & Co brand, we had them here yesterday showing us everything – and UKG, but I do like the quirky little card companies.


And we have a naughty section both in cards and gifts which goes very well.


First among


among equals


equals


We have the everyday cards, the Carte Blanche and that sort of thing but also have the extraordinary and the personalised Five Dollar Shake ranges which go down well, we can also personalise gifts, bags, candles so someone can come in for a gift and get exactly what they want. We’re open 8.30am to 9pm seven days a


week – it’s very busy early in the mornings and a lot of people need gifting in the evenings and parking is very easy so it’s very good for us. I must add I’m not here seven days a week nor is Dawn but we have it covered very well.


At the moment we’re doing so many absolutely beautiful scarves all in different colours, and bought some especially beautiful ones from a company in Ireland with jewels on. Handbags are going very well,


We did carry gifts from the beginning but


I didn’t have the selection we have now, people didn’t so much back then. So it was basically soft toys and companies like Andrew Brownsword and all their gifts with very little in the way of way of jewellery and the like.


As we’ve expanded I’ve been able to


progress the choice and we’ve got lots of window space so I’m big on window dressing. It means I can put furniture in there and


really sell it from there, and I’ve gone big on the fashion and jewellery. It’s given me a lot more opportunities as the years have gone by. Gifts are really huge for me, but the cards


haven’t dropped off at all. We have people come in and buy six handmade cards at a time at around £8 each because we have something different.


probably because it’s coming up to the holiday season, and jewellery – and gardening stuff, garden ornaments, candles for the garden. We do quite a lot with Flame now, we’re on to our


fourth order already.


Soft toys without a doubt are on the way out. They’re dying a death apart from baby toys. We do still have them but not in the vast quantities we used to have.


I personally never liked the padded cards but at Christmastime we had them in boxes and all the men who were in trouble would come and get them for their wives! We don’t have them now.


Jonny Javelin, Five Dollar Shake and ICG


are my three favourites now. It used to be Andrew Brownsword and Carte Blanche. I used to absolutely love Carte Blanche and I do still like them as they’ve evolved very well, but my tastes have changed. T: 01482 300762 www.sweetheartonline.co.uk


www.greetingstoday.co.uk 51 ”


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